Timeline of Systematic Data and the Development of Computable Knowledge

How civilization has systematized more and more areas of knowledge, collected the data associated with them and made them amenable to automation and computation
Timeline of Systematic Data and the Development of Computable Knowledge: 1960 - 2010


1960: Hypertext

Imagining connectivity in the world's knowledge

The concept of links between documents begin to be discussed as a paradigm for organizing textual material and knowledge.

1960: Full-Text Search

Finding text without an index

The first full-text searching of documents by computer is demonstrated.

1960: Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

Organizing the world's medical knowledge

The first version of the MeSH medical lexicon goes into use.

1962: First GIS system

Computerizing geographic information

Roger Tomlinson initiates the Canada Geographic Information System, creating the first GIS system.

1963: ZIP Codes

ZIP (Zoning Improvement Plan) codes are introduced by the US Post Office.

1963: ASCII Code

A standard number for every letter

ASCII Code defines a standard bit representation for every character in English.

1963: Science Citation Index

Mapping science by citations

Eugene Garfield publishes the first edition of the Science Citation Index, which indexes scientific literature through references in papers.

1963: Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S)

A number for every business

Dun & Bradstreet begins to assign a unique number to every company.

1964: Abramowitz and Stegun

Collecting mathematical functions

The National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) publishes tables and properties of many higher mathematical functions

1966: Freedom of Information Act

US President Lyndon Johnson signs the act into law, mandating public access to government records.

1966: SBN Codes

A number for every book

British SBN codes are introduced, later generalized to ISBN in 1970.

1967: DIALOG

Retrieving information from anywhere

The DIALOG online information retrieval system becomes accessible from remote locations.

1968: MARC

Henriette Avram creates the MAchine-Readable Cataloging system at the Library of Congress, defining metatagging standards for books.


1970s: Relational Databases

Making relations between data computable

Relational databases and query languages allow huge amounts of data to be stored in a way that makes certain common kinds of queries efficient enough to be done as a routine part of business.

1970—1980s: Interactive Computing

Getting immediate results from computers

With the emergence of progressively cheaper computers, it becomes possible to do computations immediately, integrating them as part of the everyday process of working with knowledge.

1970—1980s: Expert Systems

Capturing expert knowledge as inference rules

Largely as an offshoot of AI, expert systems are an attempt to capture the knowledge of human experts in specialized domains, using logic-based inferential systems.

1972: Karen Spärck Jones

Inverse document frequency

Karen Spärck Jones, a computer scientist known for her work on information retrieval and natural language processing, is responsible for the concept of inverse document frequency, which underlies most modern search engines.

1973: Lexis

Legal information goes online

Lexis provides full-text records of US court opinions in an online retrieval system.

1973: Neil Sloane

Neil Sloane begins to catalog "interesting" sequences of integers.

1973: Black-Scholes Formula

Bring mathematics to financial derivatives

Fischer Black and Myron Scholes give a mathematical method for valuing stock options.

1974: UPC Codes

Every product gets a number

The UPC standard for barcodes is launched.

1976: International Standard Serial Number

Systematizing serial publications

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) implements an eight-digit coded system to serve as a bibliographic tool for students, librarians and researchers to uniquely identify articles, specific text volumes and other serialized publications.


1980s: Neural Networks

Handling knowledge by emulating the brain

With precursors in the 1940s, neural networks emerge in the 1980s as a concept for storing and manipulating various types of knowledge using connections reminiscent of nerve cells.

1982: GenBank

Collecting the codes of life

Walter Goad at Los Alamos founds GenBank to collect all genome sequences being found.

1983: DNS

The Domain Name System for hierarchical Internet addresses is created; in 1984, .com and other top-level domains (TLDs) are named.

1984: Cyc

Creating a computable database of common sense

Cyc is a long-running project to encode common sense facts in a computable form.

1988: Mathematica

Language for algorithmic computation

Mathematica is created to provide a uniform system for all forms of algorithmic computation by defining a symbolic language to represent arbitrary constructs and then assembling a huge web of consistent algorithms to operate on them.

1989: The Web

Collecting the world's information

The web grows to provide billions of pages of freely available information from all corners of civilization.


1990: IMDb

Indexing movies

The Internet Movie Database is launched.

1991: Gopher

Burrowing around the internet

Gopher provides a menu-based system for finding material on computers connected to the internet.

1991: Unicode

Representing every language

The Unicode standard assigns a numerical code to every glyph in every human language.

1993: Tim Berners-Lee

A catalog of the web

Tim Berners-Lee creates the Virtual Library, the first systematic catalog of the web.

1993: Secure Hash Algorithm

Specifications for the SHA-0 algorithm are published by NIST.

1994: Yahoo!

Jerry Yang and David Filo create a hierarchical directory of the web.

1994: QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) scannable barcodes are created in Japan, encoding information for computer eyes to read.

1995: CDDB

Indexing music

Ti Kan indexes CDs with CDDB, which becomes Gracenote.

1996: The Internet Archive

Saving the history of the web

Brewster Kahle founds the Internet Archive to begin systematically capturing and storing the state of the web.

1998: Google

An engine to search the web

Google and other search engines provide highly efficient capabilities to do textual searches across the whole content of the web.

1999: Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices embedded with connectivity and software that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.


2000: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Mapping every object in the universe

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey spends nearly a decade automatically mapping every visible object in the astronomical universe.

2000: Digital Object Identifier

DOI as a persistent handle is standardized

The fingerprint of any scientific document, the Digital Object Identifier has increased the visibility of and access to scientific publications while ensuring the intellectual property of each piece of work remains intact.

2000: Web 2.0

Societally organized information

Social networking and other collective websites define a mechanism for collectively assembling information by and about people.

2001: Wikipedia

Self-organized encyclopedia

Volunteer contributors assemble millions of pages of encyclopedia material, providing textual descriptions of practically all areas of human knowledge.

2002: A New Kind of Science

Exploring the computational universe

Stephen Wolfram explores the universe of possible simple programs and shows that knowledge about many natural and artificial processes could be represented in terms of surprisingly simple programs.

2003: Human Genome Project

The complete code of a human

The Human Genome Project is declared complete in finding a reference DNA sequence for every human.

2004: Facebook

Capturing the social network

Facebook begins to capture social relations between people on a large scale.

2004: OpenStreetMap

Steve Coast initiates a project to create a crowdsourced street-level map of the world.

2008: Blockchain

Cryptographic transactions and distributed ledgers

Satoshi Nakamoto invents blockchain as the public transaction ledger for Bitcoin.

2009: Wearable Biometric Device

Consumer electronics companies like Fitbit begin releasing activity trackers that track movement, steps and heart rate through signal processing, uploading data via the internet to a cloud service to be processed and analyzed.

2009: Wolfram|Alpha

An engine for computational knowledge

Wolfram|Alpha is launched as a website that computes answers to natural-language queries based on a large collection of algorithms and curated data.


2012: ORCID

ORCID uniquely identifies scientific and academic authors and contributors.

2014: Digital Assistants

Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa that perform digital speech recognition to automate a variety of consumer or industrial applications become popular.

2017: The Wolfram Data Repository

Making public data computable

The Wolfram Data Repository makes public data computable and accessible while also keeping it securely stored.

SEE ALSO: Stephen Wolfram's Blog Post: The Advance of the Data Civilization: A Timeline »