CS timeline voting: the results are in!

The top ten:

1. Euclid’s Elements: 116 votes
2. Turing’s “On Computable Numbers”: 110 votes
3. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem: 107 votes
4. Gödel’s P vs. NP Letter to von Neumann: 106 votes
5. George Boole’s Logic: 88 votes
6. Shor’s Algorithm: 88 votes
7. Wikipedia: 85 votes
8. Claude Shannon’s Digital Logic: 82 votes
9. PRIMES in P: 82 votes
10. Cook-Levin Theorem: 80 votes

The rest:

Al-Khwarizmi’s “On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals”: 79 votes
Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley Invent Transistor: 79 votes
Babbage’s Analytical Engine: 77 votes
Tim Berners-Lee Invents WWW: 75 votes
Fast Fourier Transform: 73 votes
Brin and Page Create Google: 73 votes
von Neumann Architecture: 71 votes
RSA: 70 votes
Hilbert Calls for Mechanization of Mathematical Reasoning: 69 votes
Simplex Algorithm: 69 votes
Claude Shannon Formalizes Cryptography: 68 votes
Dijkstra’s Algorithm: 68 votes
Gaussian Elimination Described in Ancient China: 67 votes
Quicksort: 65 votes
UNIX and C: 65 votes
Newton’s Method: 64 votes
Leibniz Describes Binary Notation, Calculus Ratiocinator: 64 votes
First Program written by Ada Lovelace: 64 votes
Gauss’s Disquisitiones Arithmeticae: 62 votes
Monte Carlo Method: 62 votes
“Bit” Coined: 62 votes
TeX Typesetting: 62 votes
Ginsparg Creates arXiv: 61 votes
Kleene Invents Regular Expressions: 61 votes
McCarthy Invents LISP: 59 votes
“The Art of Computer Programming”: 59 votes
TCP/IP Protocol: 58 votes
Strassen’s Algorithm: 58 votes
PCP Theorem: 56 votes
Turing Test: 55 votes
Randomized Primality Testing: 55 votes
IP=PSPACE: 55 votes
Scott and Rabin’s Paper on Nondeterminism: 54 votes
Jacquard Loom: 54 votes
Colossus Begins Operation at Bletchley Park: 53 votes
Integrated Circuit: 53 votes
Chomsky Hierarchy: 52 votes
Pascal Builds Arithmetic Machine: 51 votes
First Genome Sequenced: 51 votes
Reed-Solomon Codes: 50 votes
Time Hierarchy Theorem: 50 votes
ARPAnet: 49 votes
Four Color Map Theorem Proved: 49 votes
Linux: 49 votes
Diophantine Equations Proved Undecidable: 46 votes
Feynman Suggests Quantum Computing: 46 votes
Deep Blue Defeats Kasparov: 46 votes
Solomonoff-Kolmogorov-Chaitin Complexity: 44 votes
Lempel-Ziv Data Compression: 43 votes
GPS: 42 votes
Marian Rejewski’s “Bombe” + Alan Turing’s Improvements: 41 votes
Diffie-Hellman Public Key Exchange Protocol: 41 votes
Zuse’s Z1: 40 votes
Viterbi Algorithm: 40 votes
First Email Message: 38 votes
Pseudorandom Generators: 37 votes
Oughtred Invents Slide Rule: 36 votes
FORTRAN: 36 votes
ENIAC: 35 votes
Semaphores: 35 votes
Gottlob Frege’s “Begriffsschrift”: 34 votes
Grace Murray Hopper Creates A-O Compiler: 34 votes
Conway’s Game of Life: 34 votes
Xerox Parc’s Alto With First GUI: 33 votes
Kuttaka Algorithm from Ancient India: 32 votes
Scientific Computing During Manhattan Project: 30 votes
Wilkes, Wheeler, and Gill Define Closed Subroutines: 29 votes
Stroustrup creates C++: 28 votes
Zimmermann creates PGP: 28 votes
Dartmouth Conference Popularizes Term “AI”: 27 votes
Moore’s Law: 27 votes
Boosting in Machine Learning: 27 votes
Codd Proposes Relational Databases: 26 votes
Ethernet Invented: 26 votes
Valiant Proposes PAC-Learning: 26 votes
Stallman Writes GNU Manifesto: 25 votes
Wiesner Proposes Quantum Money and Multiplexing: 24 votes
Antikythera Mechanism: 23 votes
BitTorrent: 23 votes
Low-Density Parity Check Codes: 23 votes
McCulloch and Pitts’ “A Logical Calculus Immanent in Nervous Activity”: 22 votes
Engelbart and English Invent Mouse: 22 votes
Dijkstra’s “Go To Statement Considered Harmful”: 22 votes
Back-Propagation: 22 votes
MIT SAGE Creates First Large-Scale Computer Network: 21 votes
Vannevar Bush Creates First Large-Scale Analog Calculator: 20 votes
IBM Introduces Hard Drive: 20 votes
Checkers Solved: 20 votes
First Packet-Switching Network: 20 votes
Atanasoff and Berry’s Vaccum-tube Computer: 19 votes
Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”: 19 votes
Hollerith’s Electromechanical Counting Machine: 18 votes
MIT Builds First Time-Sharing System: 18 votes
First Computer Virus: 18 votes
IEEE Floating-Point Standard: 18 votes
IBM PC: 18 votes
“Spacewar!”, First Computer Game: 17 votes
RISC Architecture: 17 votes
Intel’s 8086: 17 votes
al-Jazari’s Water Clocks and Musical Automata: 17 votes
Edward Lorenz (Re)discovers Chaos Theory: 16 votes
Apollo Guidance Computer: 16 votes
CAPTCHAs: 16 votes
VC Dimension: 16 votes
Macsyma    Computer Algebra System: 15 votes
Amazon.com: 15 votes
UNIVAC I: 13 votes
DaVinci Surgical Robot: 13 votes
Mark II Incident Popularizes Word “Bug”: 12 votes
Weizenbaum Creates ELIZA: 12 votes
ASCII: 11 votes
TI Handheld Calculator: 11 votes
Simula 67: 11 votes
MIT Whirlwind I Displays Graphics: 10 votes
Sketchpad, First CAD Software: 10 votes
NCSA Mosaic: 10 votes
Robert Morris’ Computer Worm: 9 votes
Pixar Releases “Toy Story”: 9 votes
Stuxnet Worm: 9 votes
IBM System/360: 8 votes
Mac Hack Chess Program: 7 votes
Microsoft Windows: 7 votes
Sojourner on Mars: 7 votes
BASIC: 6 votes
Apple Macintosh: 6 votes
SETI@home: 6 votes
IBM’s Watson Wins At Jeopardy!: 5 votes
Atari’s Pong: 4 votes
Atlas Computer in Manchester: 4 votes
Norbert Wiener Founds Cybernetics: 3 votes
First ATM in Tokyo: 3 votes
Youtube Launched: 3 votes
VisiCalc: 2 votes
Jevon’s Logic Piano: 1 vote
Apple II: 1 vote
Adobe PostScript: 1 vote
SABRE Travel Reservation System: 0 votes
Fischer-Lynch-Paterson Theorem: 0 votes
Facebook, Twitter Use in Egypt Revolution: 0 votes
First Machine Translation Demonstration: -1 vote
Usenet: -1 vote
Akamai: -2 votes
TX-0: -3 votes
CDC 6600: -3 votes
Compact Disc Invented: -3 votes
Aiken’s Mark I: -4 votes
CM-1 Connection Machine: -4 votes
Whirlwind I Displays Graphics: -5 votes
Floppy Disk Invented: -6 votes
MITS Altair Microcomputer and Microsoft BASIC: -6 votes
Axelrod’s “The Evolution of Cooperation”: -7 votes
Microsoft Office: -7 votes
Pentium FDIV Bug: -7 votes
EDSAC: -8 votes
UNIMATE, First Industrial Robot: -9 votes
CLU Programming Language: -9 votes
1ESS Switching System: -11 votes
UNIVAC Predicts Presidential Election: -12 votes
Stanford Arm: -13 votes
“2001 A Space Odyssey” Introduces HAL: -15 votes
“Spam” Coined: -16 votes
First Denial-of-Service Attack: -17 votes
Y2K Bug: -18 votes
Facebook Launched: -18 votes
Nintendo’s Donkey Kong: -19 votes
“Robot” Coined: -21 votes
CSIRAC    -21
Apple’s iPhone: -21 votes
Slashdot: -27 votes
Godwin’s Law: -29 votes
Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics: -32 votes
Match.com: -34 votes
de Vaucanson’s Mechanical Duck: -39 votes
von Kempelen’s Mechanical Turk: -52 votes

A few comments:

  1. It’s (just-barely) conceivable that the results could have been slightly skewed by the quantum- and complexity-loving readership of this blog.
  2. Voters really didn’t like fiction/pop-culture references, mechanical contrivances, or anything that sounded like a publicity stunt.  They were much keener on conceptual advances (even to the extent of putting Gödel well ahead of the transistor).

I need to catch a plane to give the Buhl Lecture at Carnegie Mellon tomorrow, so I’ll leave you to draw any further conclusions.

25 Responses to “CS timeline voting: the results are in!”

  1. Kemper Boyd Says:

    Dear Scott: I wish you had trumpeted tomorrow’s lecture at CMU a bit earlier! I live in Des Moines and am going to have to drive most of the night to make it on time…I only hope I’m not too punch drunk from lack of sleep to appreciate the show. Well, got to go gas up the VW and buy some munchies. See you in Pittsburgh!

  2. Steve Huntsman Says:

    Maybe I miscounted, but isn’t the 150 mark at either machine translation or Usenet? If so it is amusing that these are the first two entries with negative vote totals.

  3. Scott Says:

    Kemper: Sorry about that! I had no idea anyone would drive to such a talk from outside Pittsburgh; I would’ve just stayed home and watched it on the web… (I’m flattered, though!)

  4. Paul Beame Says:

    As far as we can tell Godel’s letter to von Neumann had zero influence on the direction of CS and it gets 106 votes.

    VisiCalc which introduced the spreadsheet gets 2 votes.


  5. Circe Says:

    Another anomaly, in my opinion, is the high position of Euclid’s Elements, as compared to the more algorithmic problem solving oreiented work of Diophantes, Aryabhata, and Al-Khwarizmi for example. Although Euclid founded the “theorem-proof” structure of mathematics, CS in my opinion owes more to the idea of a “mechanical algorithm’ which should not require any “intelligence” to use. Looked this way, I think the development of decimal arithmetic, and general algebraic procedures for the solution of equations is probably much more important in the history of CS.

  6. djm Says:

    Amazing, an online poll without a single L. Ron Hubbard or Ayn Rand reference in the top 10!

  7. Sniffnoy Says:

    Yes, could you please clarify where the 150 mark is?

  8. Sniffnoy Says:

    Oh, I feel silly. That’s easy to determine. The 150 mark falls “between” machine translation and Usenet. Except it actually can’t, since they have the same number of votes (-1). So more properly, the 149 mark falls between Egyptian revolution and machine translation/Usenet, and the 151 mark falls between machine translation/Usenet and Akamai, and it’s up to Scott whether he prefers to include machine translation or Usenet for #150…

  9. Alpha Omega Says:

    This is an absurdly academic list! Euclid’s Elements #1? And how is Konrad Suze, inventor of the world’s first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer, not on this list?? Please try again, this is an obvious fail!

  10. Alpha Omega Says:

    Excuse my dyslexia, of course that should be Zuse!

  11. Alpha Omega Says:

    Sorry, my post was an obvious fail! Dyslexia strikes again!

  12. Scott Says:

    Alpha Omega: Not only is Zuse on the list, he got 40 votes!

    Also, you do realize this was a poll, right? 🙂 When you say “please try again,” do you want me to try again with a different blog-readership?

  13. Alpha Omega Says:

    Ha yes I that’s why my post was an obvious fail. In any case, I feel that building the first computer deserves to be *much* higher! So yes, maybe a new blog-readership is in order! 😉

  14. mercury Says:

    Didn’t Kevin Spacey play Konrad Suze in the movie version?

  15. Mehmet Ali Anil Says:


    I couldn’t find any streams to the talk, you’re sure that there’s one? Only to guests?


  16. Ralph Says:

    How much of a bias was there to Euclid’s Elements by merit of it being at the top of the chronological list? When I saw the page I started voting, but almost stopped (or at least started going much more quickly) once I saw how long the list was

  17. Jan Says:

    Zuse’s Z1 was not a Turing-complete computer, it was program-controlled, but did only execute straight-line programs without any control structures. The program also was not stored in memory, but fed to the machine on hole-punched film rolls.

  18. Xamuel Says:

    Euclid probably enjoyed a little of an unfair advantage since the poll was sorted by time. A better poll would have been randomly sorted differently for every user (though I admit that would’ve have been so much fun). I myself gave Euclid an upvote when I first started, but then later went back and switched it to a downvote (this was before we could cancel a vote) after seeing what kind of stuff it was up against.

  19. Annony Mouse Says:

    Any thoughts about the New Yorker article on quantum computing?

    Is your talk online?

  20. Peter Shor Says:

    If I were Scott, I would throw out the Fischer-Lynch-Patterson theorem (because of the obvious bias towards theory of the poll participants) and stick in both Machine Translation and Usenet. Mike, Nancy, Mike, if you’re reading this, please accept my apologies — I still think it’s a wonderful result.

  21. rrtucci Says:

    So how was the Bull lecture?

  22. Scott Says:

    rr: Not bad! It’s always nice to have an opportunity to spout some Buhl. You can see my slides here; not sure when the streaming video will become available.

  23. A Says:

    From a theory person, it is very depressing to see how narrow-minded people are.

  24. Brian Wang Says:

    any comment about what appears to be solid peer reviewed proof that Dwave has been leveraging quantum effects (at least quantum annealing) in their adiabatic quantum computer



  25. T. Says:

    I visited the MIT museum today with a friend, and yes it could definitely use the timeline. There’s room in the hall!