The history of computers

This post looks at the history of computers through the lens of Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignments. It also includes our notes about the birth charts of two computer giants: IBM and Apple. See also our post about the astrology of Steve Jobs's life.

The alignments related to the birth of the modern computer

The fathers of the modern computer, Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing and John von Neumann, were born during the Uranus-Neptune opposition of 1906-1910, which coincided with the scientific revolution of the early 20th century (Quantum Physics, the Theory of Relativity, Psychoanalysis...). They were, in the words of Richard Tarnas, the "great innovators in mathematical philosophy (...) who served at once the Platonic-Pythagorean realm of ideal mathematical forms and the development of set theory, game theory, information theory, and the design of computers" (Cosmos and Psyche, pp. 394-395).

The first concept of the modern computer, known as a Turing machine , was first described by Alan Turing in his seminal paper On Computable Numbers, published in 1936. That year coincided with the first designs by Konrad Zuse, who would finalise the first implementation of a Turing machine in 1941. The years 1936 and 1941 can both be seen as the birth years of the modern computer. In 1936, the concept of the modern computer was formulated on paper. In 1941, the modern computer was created: it became actual hardware that could be tested and demonstrated.

From an astrological perspective, both years are highly relevant:

  • 1936 was the year of a Jupiter-Saturn-Neptune T-square

  • 1941 was the year of a Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus conjunction

Understanding the difference between Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignments and Jupiter-Saturn-Neptune alignments

The correlations presented below illustrate how the alignments of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus consistently correlate with important milestones in the history of computing hardware, while the alignments of Jupiter and Saturn with Neptune are more specifically correlated to the history of the new mathematical concepts that made modern computing possible. These correlations also confirm or suggest that:

  • Uranus can be associated to

    • ideas or statements about how to apply a theory or concept to solve a specific problem or challenge

    • creativity, defined as the materialisation of an idea into a concrete form

    • Physics, the study of matter and its motion through space and time.

  • Neptune is connected to

    • visions, theories and concepts about reality

    • imagination, including artistic imagination but also scientific imagination

    • Mathematics, which includes the study of numbers and forms and operates at a higher level of abstraction than Physics.

The milestones in the history of computing hardware

The outline below summarises how the milestones in the timeline of computing hardware can be correlated to Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignments, marking the rhythm of innovation in the history of computing hardware.

  • 1623: the birth of the mechanical calculator coincided with the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus conjunction of August 1623.

    • Wilhelm Schickard, a German polymath, designed the world's first mechanical calculator. Remarkably, Blaise Pascal was born in June 1623 during that conjunction (and with Mercury conjunct Sirius!). His invention of the Pascaline calculator coincided with the Saturn-Uranus opposition of 1647-49.

  • 1782-1786: the first concept of the Difference Engine, coincided with a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction aligned with a Uranus-Neptune square in 1782-1783, which was followed in 1786 by a Jupiter-Saturn square not aligned with the Uranus-Neptune square.

    • In 1784 J. H. Müller, an engineer in the Hessian army, devised and built an adding machine and described the basic principles of a difference machine in a book published in 1786.

  • 1821: the first Difference Engine actually built coincided with the 1821 Jupiter-Saturn conjunction making a square to the Uranus-Neptune conjunction (also exact in 1821), a remarkable alignment of the 4 giant planets!

    • Charles Babbage, considered as the "father of the computer", began to construct his first difference engine in c. 1819 and had completed it by 1822. He announced his invention on 14 June 1822.

  • 1837-1838: the first mechanical general-purpose computer (never completed) coincided with the 1937 Jupiter-Saturn-Neptune T-square, followed in 1838 by a Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus T-square.

  • 1941-42: The birth of the first modern computers coincided with the 1941 stellium of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus which occurred in the context of the Saturn-Uranus conjunction of 1941-42:

    • On May 12, the world's first working programmable fully automatic computer, the Z3, was presented in Berlin. This happened only 4 days after the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction of May 8.

    • One year later, in 1942, the Atanasoff-Berry computer, the first automatic electronic digital computer was successfully tested.

  • 1952: the birth of the highly successful IBM 700/7000 generation of mainframe computers coincided with the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus T-square of February 1952:

    • The first model in that new generation of computers was the IBM 701, released in April 1952.

  • 1965: The rise of the first minicomputers coincided with the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus T-square of July 1965 (see the chart below):

    • the first commercially successful minicomputer, the DEC PDP-8, was released in March 1965.

    • IBM delivered the first models of its new generation of computers, the IBM System 360, in mid-1965.

    • In November 1965 and January 1966 IBM shipped additional models that were designed to replace the 7000 series machines.

    • Hewlett-Packard released its very first computer, the 2116A, in November 1966.

  • 1976: the birth year of the Personal Computer coincided with the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus T-square of April 1976:

    • the Apple I was released in April 1976, just a few days after Apple Computer was founded (see below).

    • the Apple II, the PET 2001 and the TRS-80 were released and 1977 and by 1978 had emerged as the most successful.

  • 1989: the birth of the first commercially successful tablet computer coincided with Jupiter's opposition to a Saturn-Uranus-Neptune conjunction in September 1989:

    • the GRiDPad was released in September 1989.

  • 2000: the first smartphones coincided with the May 2000 Jupiter-Saturn conjunction making a square to Uranus:

    • the first BlackBerry smartphone was released in April 2000.

  • 2010: the year when modern tablet computers became mainstream coincided with the Saturn-Uranus opposition and Jupiter-Uranus conjunction of June 2010:

    • the iPad was announced in January and released in April 2010.

  • 2021: this year will be a milestone in the history of computer, coinciding with a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn making a square to Uranus.

NB: It's important to note that not all technology breakthroughs occurred in years when Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus were aligned. As an example, 1969 was a year of major technology breakthroughs that coincided with a Jupiter-Uranus opposition not aligned with Saturn:

The chart for the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus conjunction of May 1941

The pace of innovation is set by the Saturn-Uranus synodic cycle

The timeline of milestones presented above suggests that the release of new generations of computers followed a certain pattern:

  • From the 17th to the 19th century, the pace of breakthroughs was very slow, with a few major innovations per century.

  • The Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus stellium of 1941-42 marked the birth of the modern computer, just as the stellium of 1443-44 marked the birth of the moveable type printing press.

  • From 1941 onwards, the pace of disruptive innovations follows an 11-year pattern, defined by the 4 steps in the 44-year Saturn-Uranus cycle (44 divided by 4 equals 11).

Gutenberg's moveable type printing press

There is a strong analogy between the Digital Revolution started in the second half of the 20th century and the Printing Revolution that started in Europe in the 15th century. Is that analogy visible in the astrology of those two phenomenon?

Johannes Gutenberg was born circa 1400, 2 years after the Saturn-Uranus conjunction of 1398, when Saturn was still within 10 degrees of Uranus, and Jupiter was reaching its waning square to Saturn and Uranus.

Gutenberg started using moveable type in 1439, and by 1450 his printing press was in operation. The timeframe for his invention fits with the 1443-44 Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus conjunction. The chart below shows the remarkable transits on Gutenberg's approximate birth chart during September 1443:

  • the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction is making an exact opposition to Gutenberg's natal Uranus;

  • Saturn is making an opposition to Gutenberg's natal Saturn.

It's also worth noting that:

  • the 1443-44 Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus conjunction occurred in sidereal Gemini, a sign ruled by planet Mercury, traditionally associated with all forms of communication, including writing and books.

  • the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of July 1444 was exactly conjunct Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, described as "the impetuous and blazing Great World Teacher, knowledge-holder of ancient hermetic wisdom" (Nick Anthony Fiorenza, An Introduction to Astronomical Astrology, page 32). This astronomical event is extremely rare, and may occur approximately every 800 years.

Johannes Gutenberg's (born circa 1400) approximate birth chart with the transits for the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction of 1443 that marked the beginning of the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus stellium of 1443-44.

Desktop publishing

500 years after Gutenberg's invention, the modern computer and the laser printer enabled another major evolution in the craft of publishing and printing. The emergence of desktop publishing in the 1980s and 1990s can be correlated to two Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignments:

    • the first successful desktop publishing software, PageMaker, was released in 1985-86, when Jupiter squared both Saturn and Uranus, before their conjunction of 1988.

    • the rise of QuarkXPress, which became the dominant desktop publishing software in the 1990s, started with the 1989 Jupiter opposition to the Saturn-Uranus conjunction.

Just as for the invention of the moveable type printing press, it is remarkable that this alignment occurred with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in sidereal Sagittarius and Jupiter in sidereal Gemini, the sign traditionally associated with communication, writing and books, together with Virgo, the other sign ruled by Mercury.

IBM: the rise and the transformation of a giant

Remarkably, IBM, the company that pioneered and dominated the business computer industry from the 1950s to the 1980s was founded in 1911 during another Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignment, when Jupiter was approaching its opposition to Saturn, and Saturn was moving beyond its waxing square to Uranus (1909-10). But IBM's birth chart has a deeper dimension, as it also features the Uranus-Neptune opposition of 1906-1910.

IBM's predecessor companies pioneered in the 1880s and 1890s employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, automatic meat slicers and electromechanical data processing machines. From the 1920s, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s IBM more specifically focused on its tabulating machines while adding electric typewriters in 1933. It grew into scientific computing in the late 1930s and created its first computer, the ASCC, in 1945. This allowed IBM to emerge in the 1950s as the dominant player in business and scientific computing, with its highly successful line of IBM 700/700 mainframe computers. IBM reached such a dominant position that in the 1960s the main computer manufacturers came to be known as "IBM and the seven dwarfs".

However, in the 1970s, while adding supermarket checkout stations to its portfolio (1973), there were already signs that its dominant position in the computer industry was challenged. As pointed out in Steve Jobs's 1983 keynote, IBM failed to recognise the importance of disruptive technologies such as xerography (1958), the minicomputer introduced the late 60s, and the personal computer introduced in 1977. IBM eventually introduced the IBM PC in 1981, but by 1990 Intel and Microsoft had become the dominant players of the Personal Computer industry. IBM's golden age ended on January 19, 1993, when it announced a US$8.10 billion loss for the 1992 financial year. In the 1970s and 1980s IBM had become one of the most prominent American corporations. Within a decade it had become a dinosaur.

Three important milestones in the story of IBM can be correlated to very specific planetary alignments:

  • IBM's birth coincided with a Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus T-square, and strongly resonates with Apple's birth chart, which helps to understand the strong dichotomy between the two companies.

  • IBM's transition rise into business computing and scientific computing in the 1950s coincided with its Uranus return (1956)

  • IBM's fall in 1993 coincided with the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of 1993 which was making an opposition to IBM's natal Neptune. Saturn was transiting its natal Moon and making a square to natal Saturn.

IBM had been born during the Uranus-Neptune of the early 20th century (1906-1910). At the Uranus-Neptune conjunction of 1993 it had to go through a major restructuring and turnaround of the whole company's strategy, with hundreds of thousands of employees losing their jobs. Remarkably, less than 20 years later, it has grown again to the size it had in 1985.

Transits on IBM's birth chart for January 19, 1993

The dichotomy between Apple and IBM

The transits on IBM's birth chart at the time of the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction of 1976 (see below) are impressive: transiting Jupiter is opposing IBM's natal Jupiter and approaching its natal Saturn, transiting Saturn in opposing its natal Uranus and transiting Uranus is transiting IBM's natal Jupiter and approaching an opposition to natal Saturn. This could easily be interpreted as a clash of titans! As early as 1976, when looking at the synastry between IBM's chart and Apple's chart, a skilled astrologer could have predicted that the next Zeus that would eventually overthrow Kronos had been born. ;-)

From its early years Apple took the role of David against Goliath (IBM). In his 1983 keynote Steve Jobs clearly expressed how IBM repeatedly failed to recognise the importance of emerging new technologies such as xerography, the mini-computer and the personal computer: "In 1977, Apple, a young fledgling company on the West Coast, invents the Apple II, the first personal computer as we know it today. IBM dismisses the personal computer as too small to do serious computing and unimportant to their business."

Many years later, Apple's obsession with IBM was still obvious in its marketing campaigns:

  • Apple's "Think different" advertising slogan was a direct response to IBM's slogan "THINK". Remarkably, the "Think different" campaign, which ran from 1997 to 2002, coincided with the transit of Uranus on Steve Jobs' natal Mercury, which can literally be interpreted as a transit inviting oneself to "Think differently".

  • Apple's "Get a Mac" advertising campaign (2006-2009) was based on the dichotomy between a "Mac Guy" and a "PC Guy". The PC guy represented the Windows PC, which was initially based on the combination of Microsoft's operating system and IBM's PC hardware.

At the time of those marketing campaigns, Apple could still be seen as David against Goliath, and Goliath had become Microsoft. But today Apple has become another Goliath as part of the GAFAM giants.

Transits on IBM's birth chart for April 18, 1976 (the day of the Jupiter-Uranus conjunction)

The birth chart of Apple

Why April 1976 was the perfect time for the foundation of a computer company

As presented in our post about the rhythm of innovation in the history of computers, the release of new generations of computers are strongly correlated to the alignments of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. That's why the years 1975-1977 were the perfect time for the birth of the personal computer.

However, it's worth looking closely at the sequence of alignments to fully grasp why April 1976 was such a special moment from an astrological perspective. The years 1975-1977 were the crossroads of four important cycles of the giant planets:

  • the 44.1-year Saturn-Uranus cycle, which reached its waning square between 1975 and 1977.

  • the 20-year Jupiter-Saturn cycle, which reached its waning square between 1975 and 1976.

  • the 13.5-year Jupiter-Uranus cycle, which reached its opposition in April 1976.

  • the 12.7-year Jupiter-Neptune cycle, which reached its opposition in June 1977.

1976 is the year when 3 of those cycles overlapped :

  • In 1975, two Jupiter-Saturn squares occurred in June and July and a Saturn-Uranus square in October.

  • In 1976, there was a third and final Jupiter-Saturn square in March, the Jupiter-Uranus opposition occurred in April, and there was a second Saturn-Uranus square in July.

  • In 1977 there were two more Saturn-Uranus squares in February and April, and a Jupiter-Neptune opposition in June.

Between March and July the combination of Saturn's squares to Jupiter and Uranus formed a wide T-square, a rare and complex alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. This T-square alignment was the climax of all the alignments of the giant planets that occurred between 1975 and 1977. Following this analysis, if we had to recommend an auspicious day for the foundation of a computer business in the years 1975 to 1977 we would have recommended the month between March 9 and April 18, 1976, when Jupiter had passed its square to Saturn and was applying to its opposition to Uranus. Apple was founded precisely in the middle of that timeframe. Perfect timing! Remarkably, Irish rock band U2 was formed a few months later, in September 1976, also a very good time, but not as perfect as April ;-)

Illustration of the 1976 Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignment, forming a wide T-square in April 1976

How the potential of the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus alignment is reflected in Apple's story

The foundation of Apple can be seen as one of the many manifestations of the Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus planetary alignment of 1976. This alignment is an important component of Apple's birth chart for April 1st, 1976, and plays an important role in its "astrological DNA". Apple's birth chart resonates with those three cycles of giant planets. Taken separately, each alignment of two giant planets provides important insights into Apple's destiny:

  • the Jupiter-Uranus opposition (applying within 5 degrees of arc): this alignment reflects one of the most obvious characteristics of Apple as a Technology Innovator. The alignment of Jupiter and Uranus can be regarded as highly auspicious for the foundation of a technology company, because Uranus is the planet associated with innovation, and Jupiter strengthens it and give the ability to democratise one's inventions. In a sense, this was the signature of Apple Computer when it was founded: to make the personal computer as affordable and user-friendly as possible, so that there would be one in every home and office.

  • the Jupiter-Saturn square (separating within 5 degrees): this alignment is related to the reorganisation and restructuring of organisations, industries and society in general. It strongly resonates with Apple's position as the challenger of computer industry giants such as IBM. Steve Jobs' 1983 keynote, before the Macintosh was introduced, is a vivid expression of the archetypal story of Zeus (Jupiter) trying to overthrow Kronos (Saturn).

  • the sign-based square of Saturn to Uranus: this is the most polarised of the six combinations of the giant planets, and resonates with the myth of Prometheus, with radical revolutions that break the status quo and create a "New World" by destroying the "Old World".

Taken together, the the combination of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus fully reflects Apple's unique ability to reorganise/revolutionise entire ecosystems and markets: the personal computer industry with the Macintosh, the music industry with the iPod, the tablet market with the iPad. But the best example to date has been the iPhone, which made the Blackberry and Nokia smartphones obsolete almost overnight, and put those companies out of the game within a few years following its introduction.

Apple's birth chart: April 1st, 1976 in Cupertino, CA, United States

Additional notes on Apple's birth chart

The following aspects add valuable information to draw a portrait of Apple as reflected in its birth chart:

  • the exact Sun-Mercury conjunction (within a few minutes) in opposition to Pluto (within 2 degrees) forming a T-square with Mars: this reflects Apple's character as an assertive communicator (Mercury-Mars), its strong ability for thorough research and its sense of secrecy (Mercury-Pluto). But this configuration also has a shadow potential related to the story of Faust and the approach of using Knowledge as a means to gain Power.

  • the Moon-Jupiter conjunction (in opposition to Uranus): this is an extremely lucky alignment.

  • the Venus-Saturn trine (applying within 4 degrees): this alignment can be associated with classical and traditional art forms. Apple had, from the beginning, a strong sense of design and a strong connexion to the liberal arts. Apple computers became the platform of choice for many visual artists and creative professionals.

  • Chiron is included in the Moon-Jupiter conjunction, which adds the topics of health and education associated to the mythology of Chiron. These may not seem directly related to Apple, but in fact, through its 40 years of existence, Apple has made multiple attempts related to Education. More recently, Apple entered the healthcare space with the Apple Watch and the Health app integrated into iOS. We can already speculate that Apple's strategy for the healthcare industry will start a new cycle in 2026, when Chiron will complete its first 50 year cycle started in 1976.