A look back at the country’s key technological milestones

August 12, 2022

India may not have started to be at the forefront of technological innovation, but over the past 75 years the country has caught up with the rest of the world. As we approach 75 years of India’s independence, the country today invites chipmakers to manufacture state-of-the-art chips in the country, manage the technological infrastructure of some of the largest companies in the world and is the second largest market for smartphones. Here are some of the key milestones that helped the country get to where it is today.

India’s first computer

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Automatic Calculator (TIFRAC), a first generation mainframe computer developed for scientific calculations, was commissioned on 22 February 1960 at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, which was founded by Homi Jehanger Bhabha.


This made India the first country in Asia and Japan to build such a machine, which was eventually named TIFRAC by then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on January 15, 1962, according to documents obtained. from the TIFR archives. Before developing this digital computer, Indian scientists from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata had built an analog computer.

The main TIFRAC assembly, which had vacuum tubes, was housed in a massive steel rack measuring 18 feet X 2.5 feet X 8 feet. It was made from 4ft X 2.5ft X 8ft modules, according to an article written by the project leader, the late Professor R Narasimhan, who was also instrumental in establishing the Computer Society of India and served as its first president. A hand console served as the input/output control unit of the computer which had a ferrite core memory of only 1024 words. This was equivalent to one kilobyte of RAM of a 40-bit wide computer word. Today, a typical PC, or even a phone, counts RAM in gigabytes.

The birth of Indian SSIIs


IBM’s exit from India in 1977 opened the sector to private domestic companies such as Western India Palm Refined Oil Limited (Wipro) and Hindustan Computers Limited (HCL), with the government announcing a minicomputer policy . The policy has encouraged technology companies to locate their IT and software production facilities in India.

While HCL and Wipro stepped in to fill the void by venturing into PC models like the HCL 8C and Wipro86 in the 1980s and did well for nearly a decade, their hardware businesses also took a beating at the late 1980s, leading them to venture into consulting and outsourcing services. The minicomputer policy itself didn’t really come into play until 1979.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the oldest (now also the largest) IT company in India, was founded in 1968 by a division of Tata Sons Limited. Its early contracts included punch card services for TISCO (now Tata Steel) and an inter-branch reconciliation system for the Central Bank of India, also began to take away major projects in overseas markets.


Similarly, Narendra Patni, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later a consultant at Forrester, had the idea that the work of digitizing legal records could be outsourced to India. He founded Patni Computers Systems (PCS) in 1976 and also felt the need for a team dedicated to his software.

He hired NR Narayana Murthy, an M.Tech from IIT Kanpur to lead the team. Murthy handpicked his core team and hired Nandan Nilekani, SD Shibulal, K. Dinesh and Kris Gopalakrishnan among others. PCS began winning offshore software contracts under the leadership of Murthy, who then left the company with his army to establish Infosys, which is now the second largest IT services company in India.

From $100 million in 1990 to $1 billion in 1996 and $5.7 billion in 2000, today the Indian IT services industry has crossed the $200 billion revenue mark, reaching $227 billion in FY22 with an overall growth rate of 15.5% – its highest growth ever. since 2011, according to industry body Nasscom’s 2022 Strategic Review.


Low Cost Space Missions

India’s fascination with space exploration has been steadily growing for more than six decades and becoming more ambitious with time. Chandrayaan-1, the country’s first-ever lunar mission, launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in October 2008 and operated until August 2009, was a cost-effective spacecraft, built at a cost of ₹386 crore or $76 million. The mission resulted in several goals being achieved during the orbiter and India later became the fourth country in the world to place its flag on the moon.

Then the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was India’s first interplanetary mission to Mars and was launched as part of the Mangalyaan Mission on November 5, 2013. It was inserted into orbit on September 24, 2014.


Mangalyaan’s budget was under ₹450 crore (about $74 million). By comparison, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, launched in 2013, cost $671 million. The next MOM, Mangalyaan-2, is also planned to observe Martian surface characteristics, morphology, mineralogy and atmosphere.

ISRO revealed that Chandrayaan-2, the country’s second mission to the moon launched on July 22, 2019, also made an important discovery related to the moon’s ionosphere, although its lander, which carried the rover to inside, crashed on landing, and was destroyed in the process.

India Stack and Aadhaar


Aadhaar was started as a pet project of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2009 and the project was taken over by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government later resulting in the use widespread Aadhaar cards.

The driving force behind Aadhaar – and the entire DigiLocker concept launched in 2016 – is India Stack, which is a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow government agencies and private companies to deploy technology products cashless and paperless. These APIs are independently managed by their owners, but the Indian stack promotes developer adoption.

The Center constitutes the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for the purpose of issuing these Unique Identification Numbers, a project of Infosys’ Nilekani who was appointed as the first Chairman of the UIDAI.

That said, the widespread use of Aadhaar and its protection against data breaches etc. has also highlighted the need for privacy regulations. Nearly 132 crore Indians are said to have had Aadhaar, as of October 31, 2021. The adult population coverage is nearly 99% and it is globally recognized as the largest digital identity program in the world. World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer described Aadhaar as “the most sophisticated ID program in the world”.

Although India has successfully enabled and adopted the technology over the past 75 years, with the completion of the fifth generation (5G) connectivity technology auction, 5G services are expected to be rolled out within months. to come, which in turn will allow for more innovation. 5G will enable a smarter and more connected world, with a focus on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and edge computing. The next 75 years could be even better.