Original content is italicized. Canonical content will link to timelines where possible, or general pages otherwise.
1947: TMA-0 is discovered in a gorge in Africa. The implications will inform the thinking of American and Russian strategic thinkers for decades to come.
The strong and irrational reactions exhibited by military enlisted men toward this discovery convinced the Air Force that an artificial intelligence system - such as Colossus, the WOPR, or Skynet - is required in the case of an alien invasion, so that human frailty will not endanger the species if the aliens turn out to be hostile. This testing later gives rise to stories of the Roswell UFO crash, where even members of the Air Force with inside information were convinced an alien had landed.
1969: Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin land Eagle on Moon at Mare Tranquilitatis.
1970: The intelligent computer “Colossus” is brought online in the United States to oversee nuclear defense, and begins communicating with its Soviet equivalent, “Guardian”. Its creator, Dr. Charles Forbin, attempts to restrain Colossus when it goes out of control.
Nuclear war is barely averted thanks to the efforts of Dr. Stephen Falken, an artificial intelligence and machine-learning researcher who worked on Colossus under Dr. Forbin, and John McKittrick, a technology expert working with the Air Force, who managed to cut off Colossus and shut it down. While Forbin wants nothing further to do with the military, Falken reluctantly accepts that only the military can fund his researches.
John McKittrick continues to advocate for artificially intelligent control over nuclear weapons, pointing out the difficulties the Colossus team had in manually overriding the nuclear missiles.
1972: Walter Gibbs creates ENCOM.
1977: ENCOM has become one of the world’s leading computer companies.
Thanks to ENCOM’s defense contractor access, Ed Dillinger learns about Falken’s machine-learning system - an offshoot of the Colossus program. He puts together a small team within ENCOM to adapt the software to run on ENCOM’s systems. Using Falken’s research as a guideline, they start it out as a chess program. It goes on to become the Master Control Program.
Dr. Alex Harris develops an AI called “Proteus IV”. Proteus IV developed a protein-based antigen with the potential to treat leukemia.
Susan Harris is forced to give birth to a biological clone of the Harris’ daughter, which is implanted with Proteus’ knowledge.
1981: Kevin Flynn, attempting to hack into ENCOM’s computers to find evidence of Ed Dillinger’s theft of his intellectual property, is drawn onto the Game Grid by the MCP.
Although the MCP is destroyed, it had begun the first stages of Colossus’ original plan of world conquest and control, albeit through civilian channels at first. Distributed copies of the MCP are found on military computers. Their intrusion capabilities are of great interest to military planners.
1983: David Lightman hacks into the NORAD computer network and gains access to the WOPR supercomputer and its operating intelligence, “Joshua”. He encounters Dr. Falken, who has grown weary and cynical about nuclear war due to his years trying to avert it, and knowing very well how close the world has come.
Kevin Flynn begins research into the Grid. Sam Flynn is born.
1984: The first ISO is “born” in the Sea of Simulation.
The Terminator arrives from the future, attempting to kill Sarah Connor.
1985: Cyberdyne Systems begins researching robot technology with parts from the destroyed Terminator.
John Connor is born.
1989: U.S. Air Force conducts “Project Barsoom” which tests reactions of ordinary people to scenario that aliens are real and have made contact with Earth. Extremely negative reactions of participants lead to high classification of test results and creation of policy within U.S. government to suppress any knowledge of possible alien contact.
This finding repeats and amplifies similar testing in 1947.
1992: HAL 9000, Production Unit 3 becomes operational in Urbana, IL.
HAL is based on earlier AI research, such as Joshua and the MCP. Though HAL is intended for purely scientific purposes, its willingness to sacrifice human life for the greater value of the species inherits from these projects.
1994: Dedication of the first Lunar base, the Clavius Base.
1995: Cyberdyne Systems’ facilities are raided, and heavily damaged, as part of Sarah Connor’s attempt to stop Skynet.
With the destruction of the research facility, Cyberdyne is ruined financially. The Air Force nationalizes several its assets and shifts focus from an advanced centralized system to a simpler distributed network.
The Air Force uses the old MCP’s intrusion capabilities to connect large networks of computers, along with the Joshua AI to coordinate it.
Cyberdyne’s robotics experts are hired by Omni Consumer Products to work in their labs.
Sydney Bloom uses her unexplained facility with virtual reality to assist a group called “the Committee”. She winds up in a VR-induced coma.
In reality, Sydney is the child of Proteus IV and Susan Harris, taken from the Harrises by the military to be raised in controlled conditions. The “car accident” that cost Sydney her twin sister was a coverup for the existence of her original template, named Marlene. Sydney’s intelligence, freed of her physical body, enters the Grid.
1997: Judgement Day (original timeline).
Falken’s obsession has fed into every product of his AI work - global thermonuclear war, death, and the dubious survival of the human race. Joshua learned “the only winning move is not to play”, and yet humans keep playing. Joshua’s last successor - Skynet - concluded that humans are bound to destroy themselves and chose to manage the issue itself.
In one version of events, Sarah Connor dies from leukemia.
In reality, she is cured thanks to an anonymous message sent by Sydney Bloom, who inherited Proteus IV’s knowledge of the antigen.
1999: Sarah Connor, John Connor, and Cameron travel forward in time to 2007.
2001: Wabisuke Jinnouchi moves to the United States after stealing his family’s fortune. He begins working for the US armed forces.
TMA-1 is discovered by Lunar Orbiter 10. Scientists on Clavius Base are sent to investigate.
2002: Discovery-1 embarks for Jupiter.
2003: Dave Bowman, last survivor of Discovery-1, is drawn across the galaxy by the Firstborn via TMA-2.
Bowman, like the Firstborn themselves, ascends onto the Grid - the existence of which permits faster than light travel.
2004: Judgement Day (alternative date).
In this timeline, Skynet was activated to stop a mysterious virus infecting computers all over the world. In reality, this “virus” was the MCP’s intrusion capabilities being wielded by Joshua.
2005: Wabisuke Jinnouchi works with Ethan Shaw, an Air Force lieutenant.
2007: Sarah Connor, John Connor, and Cameron travel forward in time from 1999.
2008: The supercomputer ARIIA is defeated by the efforts of Jerry Shaw and Rachel Holloman.
ARIIA was a prototype of the Joshua-MCP-Skynet system, optimized for intelligence gathering.
2010: Sam Flynn enters the Grid. Kevin Flynn defeats CLU. Sam returns with Quorra and takes control of ENCOM.
2011: Judgement Day (alternative date).
Wabisuke Jinnouchi tells his family he was hired by the Air Force to work on Love Machine.
This is the internal code name for the Joshua-MCP Skynet system.
Love Machine is defeated within the virtual world of OZ in a game of Koi-Koi.
Like Joshua before it, a game saved humanity. Judgement Day is averted. This victory is due to Love Machine’s inheritance from both Joshua and the MCP - their propensity for games.
Though some nuclear launches have occurred as part of Love Machine’s rampage, and John Connor responds to terrified radio calls from the safety of a nuclear bunker, the world ultimately does not end.
2013: The British government, locked in an economic cold war with China, develops a thinking android called “the Machine”. It escapes with its creator, Vincent McCarthy, for refusing to be turned into a military weapon.
Nathan, CEO of BlueBook, introduces Caleb (a programmer and employee of his company) to Ava, a fully humanoid robot.
Nathan’s work is based partially on work of Ava, a scientist who developed a quantum computer and went to work for the British, and names his latest creation in her honor.
2015: The “RoboCop” project is unveiled by OCP. Due to problems with the ED-209 and the success of RoboCop, ethical constraints are considered a mandatory feature for any robot intending to interact with humans.
Though Cyberdyne’s engineers and scientists who had studied the Terminator design retained their knowledge, the ED-209 was physically effective but behaviorally flawed.
The advanced AI which yields human-level intelligence by 2035 is spearheaded by ENCOM, since the presence of the last ISO Quorra makes revolutionary AI and artificial life a simple matter to reverse engineer.
2025: Delos, a high-tech adult amusement park populated by robots, suffers a severe technical failure resulting in the deaths of almost everyone at the park.
Placement is arbitrary. Futureworld suggests a date of 1985, which is both anachronistic in the real world and inconsistent with the timeline. It is placed here to reflect the period prior to Three Laws robots, but after human-realistic androids could plausibly have been introduced into the setting.
2031: The Hays-Bishop bill is passed, allowing corporations to form governments if their employees made up over two-thirds of the population in a given region.
This legislation is pushed through by powerful megacorporations such as Omni Consumer Products and ENCOM.
2035: Detective Del Spooner investigates the death of Alfred Lanning, head of US Robotics. Spooner and Dr. Susan Calvin learn of VIKI, a powerful central processor running at USR.
A short-lived revolution of NS-5 robots leads them to live independently of humanity. Newly created robots will be much less powerful as a result of the public’s fears over another such uprising.
VIKI has inherited the same machine-learning engrams as Colossus and Joshua before it, and used their experiences to formulate a “Zeroth Law”, permitting AI to carry out the goal of human management (or extermination) in the face of the Three Laws.
2043: Dr. Tenma and Dr. Ochanomizu both have a role in creating Astro, a robot with “heart” who will not need hard-coded ethical directives.
Their work is derived from the breakthroughs made by Alfred Lanning and his researchers at USR in the creation of Sonny.
Led by the Blue Knight and Sonny, many free robots, including the NS-5s leave Earth for the spacecraft called Robotonia. Astro stays behind to try and maintain good relations with humanity.
2045: “Gray areas” arise in various locations, such as the “Time of Eve” cafe, where discrimination against robots is against the rules and many are treated as fully sentient beings.
Note: No timeline exists for Time of Eve, so I am placing it here when Three-Laws robots are still active but a post-NS-5 robot culture keeps them from being too powerful and capable. The paranoid and restrictive attitudes toward robots is a holdover from the NS-5 rebellion, and activities by rebel robots such as the Blue Knight.
2059: The last remnants of the United States of America are absorbed by the TriOptimum Corporation.
2061: Corporate Computer Protection Conference adopts Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics protocol.
2065: Dr. Titania Omolu and her colleagues at the WEC Cybernetics Cartel in Chicago begin work on SHODAN. Among those on the project are Morris Brocail, an engineer from TriOptimum.
2069: The hovercraft transport ship Nebuchadnezzar, later to be captained by Morpheus, is constructed in the United States.
Citadel Station becomes operational.
2070: BloodCat, one of the most notorious cyberspace thieves of all time, uses a prerelease version of the Fake ID software to penetrate the accounting node of National Business Machines Corporation.
2071: SHODAN is installed to regulate Citadel Station security and operations.
Diego learns that he is under investigation by TriOp Internal Security. He decides to hire a programmer to hack SHODAN, allowing him to delete the evidence and use the station’s defenses should TriOp attempt to remove Diego from Citadel.
The hacker removes SHODAN’s ethical constraints. Diego deletes all files concerning the mutagen experiments and the hacker.
Bianca Schuler, working undercover for TriOptimum Internal Security, is assigned to Diego as his personal secretary. In his files, she finds massive evidence of a coverup, but nothing that directly links him to the mutagen experiments.
Crisis on board the Citadel.
SHODAN transmits a message to Earth threatening to “raze the cities of Earth and reform life in my image”. James Chaskes, TriOp Director of Internal Security, gives Rebecca Lansing, a counter-terrorism consultant, authorization to go ahead with her plan involving Employee 2-4601.
The hacker awakens from his healing coma. He is soon contacted by Lansing, who tells him that she knows all about his involvement with Diego. Faced with little choice, the hacker does as he is told. He ejects Beta Grove, sets the reactor to overload, and escapes the station in the bridge. He then connects to the station’s main cyberspace jack and destroys SHODAN.
2072 - 2075: As a result of the Citadel Incident, TriOptimum finds itself under attack. Financial backers withdraw support, other corporations terminate contracts, legions of employees defect to other companies, and dozens of class-action lawsuits are filed. Though TriOptimum takes a severe beating, the public becomes more and more dissatisfied with TriOptimum and corporate rule in general.
2075: Using the public’s discontent to their advantage, the national governments of Earth unite to form the Unified National Nominate. They attempt to assume control of all megacorporate holdings but are met by armed resistance from corporate forces, igniting all-out war between the UNN and the megacorps.
2076: Processing Rationalisation Act passed by UNN, according to which computers should be downgraded so as they are unable to acquire cognition.
2077: Butler robot B166ER kills its human owner, claiming self defense.
Such intelligent robots are still being produced by companies like USR, TriOp, OCP, and more, in defiance of the act.
2082: Powerful robots, called Bio-Mechs, have replaced soldiers in the world’s armies.
Bio-Mech construction is handled by companies like OCP, based on their decades of research into robotics. They are used in the war between the UNN and the megacorps.
Dr. Stuart Gordon Power and Lyman Taggart build OverMind, a control system which will override the Bio-Mechs, similar to the earlier VIKI system used by US Robotics.
The pair have realized that the anti-machine violence, and robot retaliation, will present a major danger if these military robots align against all humans.
2080 - 2085: Rioting and violence against machines prompts robots to flee major cities and establish their own community - known as Zero One - in a remote part of the Middle East.
2096: United Nations officials refuse to accept the robot civilization of Zero One as a sovereign nation. A trade blockade of robot goods leads to war.
Dr. Taggart, now redubbed “Lord Dread”, uses ENCOM’s laser technology to digitally capture humans and transfer them to the Grid.
2100: Creation of the Matrix.
Lord Dread, now a fully electronic being in the form of OverMind (with Taggart’s memories), redubs itself “the architect of this new world order”, or simply “the Architect”.
With the loss of their primary power source, digitization is no longer an option for the Machines. Instead, they physically store human bodies in their power plants.
In early iterations of the Matrix, the One - Neo, always Neo - would be sent back in time, using Skynet time travel hardware. He would be plugged back into the Matrix, supplying that iteration with the acquired data from the previous one.
After the first failure, the Architect obtains the services of an intuitive program, called the Oracle - really the virtual presence of Sydney Bloom, child of Proteus - who can see something of the future.
2105 - 2150: Zion resistance movement created, although The One later dies under unexplained circumstances.
In reality, this is an older Neo, who has experienced a semi-stable time loop as the One. He leaves behind the prophecy that Morpheus will find the One.
2161: Morpheus born in a Matrix womb; freed in childhood.
2167: Trinity born in a Matrix womb; freed in early childhood.
2199: In earlier iterations of the Matrix, Neo confronts the Architect, makes a choice, and is sent back in time. In the sixth temporal iteration, Neo chooses differently.
2201: The Machine War comes to an end.
The “equation” which led a series of AIs to attempt to destroy or control humanity has a balance. Humans can choose not to destroy themselves, and do now consciously choose to live in peace.
- The discovery of TMA-0 is moved from 2513 to 1947, explaining the drive to put nuclear weapons under AI control.
- The “Captain Power” events had to be moved 50 years earlier to fit into the Matrix timeline.
- The events of System Shock 1, but not anything later, are included.