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Chronology of Events - Pre-1700

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The following is a chronological listing of significant events in the development of the fields of Information and Information Technology prior to 1800 (many of the dates are necessarily approximate). For other time periods see:

3200 B.C. — The seal is invented in Sumer.

3000 B.C. — Papyrus scrolls and hieroglyphs are used in Egypt.

2400 B.C. — The abacus is invented in Babylonia.

1900 B.C. — Egyptian scribe uses non-standard hieroglyphs in inscription; first documented example of written cryptography.

1900 B.C. — Assyrian merchants use intaglio — a piece of flat stone carved into a collage of images and writing — to uniquely identify themselves when trading.

1350 B.C. — Cuneiform script is invented in Assyria.

1200 B.C. — The conquest of Troy is transmitted via torch signals.

1100 B.C. — Egyptians use homing pigeons to deliver military information.

900 B.C. — A postal service is created in China for governmental purposes.

600 B.C. — Persian emperor Cyrus the Great establishes a postal system.

600-500 B.C. — Hebrew scribe writing down the book of Jeremiah uses a reversed-alphabet, simple substitution cipher known as ATBASH.

500 B.C. — Greeks use a variety of devices, including drums, trumpets, beacon, fires, smoke signals, shouting, heliograph, and a hydraulic semaphore for message transmission.

487 B.C. — Greeks use a staff around which a long, thin strip of leather is wrapped (called a "skytale"). A message is written on the leather strip, which is taken off and worn as a belt. The recipient has a matching staff on which the leather strip can be wrapped to read the message.

400 B.C. — Aeneas Tacitus' invents an optical communication system. It combines water and beacon telegraphy. Torches are used to indicate the beginnings and the endings of a message transmission while water jars were used to transmit the messages.

400 B.C. — Herodotus reports on the use of steganography in reports to Greece from Persia.

300 B.C. — The oldest surviving counting board is the Salamis tablet used by the Babylonians.

300 B.C. — Wax tablets are used as writing material in Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and Etruria.

300 B.C. — Pingala invents the binary number system.

300 B.C. — Euclid releases Euclid's Elements — 13 books that summarize all mathematical knowledge of the Greeks to date.

200 B.C. — The Chinese develop the "modern" abacus.

200 B.C. — The Chinese invent paper.

100 B.C. — Codices (books) replace scrolls.

87 B.C. — The Antikythera mechanism is built in Rhodes to track the movement of the stars.

50 B.C. — Julius Caesar uses symmetrical enciphering by substitution for sending secret messages.

36 B.C. — Maya develop a base-20 system of mathematics and introduce the concept of zero.

60 A.D. — Heron of Alexandria invents machines that follow a series of instructions.

150 — Romans establish a smoke signals network throughout the Roman Empire. It is used for military communications.

724 — Liang Ling-Can invents the first fully mechanical clock.

750 — The Japanese use block printing for the first time.

800-900 — Arabic numerals are introduced into Europe.

868 — The world's first dated book, the Diamond Sutra, is printed in China.

1041 — Moveable types made from clay are invented in China by Bi Sheng.

1331 — The first english patent is issued to John Kemp.

1379 — Gabrieli di Lavinde (at the request of Clement VII), compiles a combination substitution alphabet and small code. This class of code/cipher remains in general use among diplomats and some civilians for the next 450 years.

1400s — A maritime flag semaphore is developed. A special code involving the positions of two hand-held flags is introduced. Each position and motion represented a letter or number. This made it simple for fleets to communicate.

1439 — Johannes Gutenberg completes development of the first printing press.

1455 — Johannes Gutenberg publishes the Bible using a movable metal font.

1470 — Leon Battista Alberti invents and publishes the first polyalphabetic cipher and designs the Cipher Disk, a simple cryptographic tool. This class of cipher is not broken until the 1800s.

1492 — Leonardo da Vinci makes drawing of 13-digit cog-wheeled adder.

1474 — The first known patent law is enacted in Venice.

1476 — William Caxton introduces the printing press to England.

1500 — Leonardo da Vinci invents the first mechanical calculator.

1518 — Johannes Trithemius writes the first printed book on cryptology.

1557 — Queen Mary of England grants the Stationer’s Company a monopoly on printing.

1585 — Blaise de Vigenère invents polyalphabetic enciphering.

1597 — The first newspaper is printed in Europe.

1599 — Agostino Ramelli designs a "reading wheel" that allows browsing through a large number of documents from a single location.

1613 — The word "computer" is first used; it is used to describe a person who performs calculations or computations.

1614 — John Napier introduces a system called "Napiers Bones," which consist of movable rods made from horn, bone or ivory. Based on algorithms, these rods are able to multiply, divide and calculate square and cube roots.

1621 — The circular slide rule is invented by William Oughtred.

1623 — The first known, workable mechanical calculating machine is invented by Wilhelm Schickard. it is based on the idea of Napier's Bones.

1624 — The Statute of Monopolies is enacted in England. It restricts the power of the sovereign in granting monopolies, i.e., patents.

1632 — William Oughtred makes a device that resembles a modern slide rule.

1642 — The first North American patent is issued by the Massachusetts General Court.

1642 — Frances Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) invents a machine, called the "Pascaline," that can add, subtract, and carry numbers with up to eight digits. Pascal's device uses base ten.

1662 — In England, the Licensing Act creates a registry for authors to obtain a license for their published work and requires submission of a copy of the work. The content of works is closely monitored by the Church. The Act is later repealed.

1671 — Gottfried Leibniz introduces the Step Reckoner, a device that can multiply, divide, and evaluate square roots.

1672 — Robert Hooke develops an acoustic telephone.

1679 — Gottfried Leibniz demonstrates binary arithmetic.

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