We here at @Play pride ourselves on being reasonably conversant on the history of role-playing games and the evolution of their design trends. But when someone with greater experience comes along we can only bow to it. The CRPG Addict has been playing through all the surviving Western-developed CRPGs, in rough order, and has made an excellent post summarizing the field between the years 1975 and 1983.
While it doesn't cover the "lost" roguelikes of the Roguelike Restoration Project, his blog may be the most comprehensive treatment of the development of CRPGs in existence. It's important reading not just for the historical perspective, the time he's covered is one of amazing ingenuity in design, and lots of games of the time contain one-off features that haven't been followed-upon by any successors, sometimes simply for reasons of obscurity. It's a treasure trove for computer role-playing designers, and I'm not just saying that for his pick for 1980's most significant game.
Also of interest to CRPG designers: the early games of Nihon Falcom, such as the Dragon Slayer series and Ys, which are just as formative to the JRPG scene as Wizardry and Ultima are to western gaming.