- 1977 -
©1997-2003 - Donald
A. Thomas, Jr.
all rights reserved - http://www.icwhen.com
HISTORICAL BENCHMARKS (1977)
- APF Electronics offers the M1000 Microprocessor for $125.
- Altair introduces the Altair 8800b computer. Unlike its
predecessor, the 8800b has a serial interface for video and/or printer
- Warner "suggests" to Mr. Nolan Bushnell that professional
management talent should take over Atari, Inc.'s top decision making.
Outrageous spending is reduced and "perks" such as hot tubs are
eliminated. Many of Nolan's decisions are overruled.
- Atari, Inc.’s Pong is released as a dedicated game system that
connects to the television for about $99.
- ULTRA PONG DOUBLES is released by Atari, Inc. late in the year. It
featured 32-game variations and four controllers.
- Atari, Inc. leaks out a limited number of the Atari Brain Game Model
C-700 video game system. It is designed to be programmable with optional
- Atari, Inc. releases SURROUND for Atari 2600 Video Computer System
(VCS). It is the first video game Mr. Alan Miller produced for Atari after
joining them in 1976.
- Atari, Inc. ships a dedicated color video game system called Video
Pinball Model C-380 with a shelf price of about $80. The console has buttons
on either side for blocky pinball simulations when connected to a television. On
the top of the console is one rotary dial for BREAKOUT style games which are
also built-in the system.
- Axiom Corporation, based in Glendale, California, releases the first
low-cost electrosensitive line printer.
- Byte, Inc. ships the Byte-8 microcomputer at the shelf price of
$539. The kit is engineered around the 8080A Central Processing Unit
- Mr. Dave Rolfe graduates from California Institute of Technology
- Chrysler installs computer controlled robot welders in one of it’s
- Coleco begins shipping the Telstar Ranger Model 6046 for a retail
price of around $50. It features a pistol to be used as a shooting game on the
- Datapoint Corporation announces ARCNET as the first commercially
available Local Area Network (LAN). It transmits data over coaxial cable
at a rate of 3,000,000 bits per second.
- Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation releases their Videocart-4
featuring SPITFIRE for the Channel F Entertainment System.
- Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation releases their Videocart-5
featuring SPACE WAR for the Channel F Entertainment System.
- Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation releases their Videocart-8
featuring MIND READER and NIM for the Channel F Entertainment System.
- Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation releases their Videocart-9
featuring DRAG RACE for the Channel F Entertainment System.
- FORmula TRANslation (FORTRAN) is standardized once again as a popular
programming language designed specifically to solve scientific, mathematical and
engineering problems. The last time it was standardized was in 1966. The
development began in 1954 by Mr. John Backus and a team of International
Business Machines (IBM) designers. Through 1960, FORTRAN is thought of as the
only alternative to machine-level or assembly-level programming.
- Mr. Nolan Bushnell (Pong) and Mr. Ralph Baer (Odyssey) are recognized as
video game pioneers with awards at the Gametronic Conference in San
- Hanimex offers the Electronic TV Game Model 888G.
- Mr. Steven Ballmer, later to become an executive vice president at
Microsoft, graduates from Harvard with a degree in applied mathematics.
- The Homebrew one-bit computer based on the MC-14500B Central
Processing Unit (CPU) is released.
- Hometronics releases the Telecourt television video game.
- Lear-Siegler introduces the ADM-3A Video Display Terminal (VDT)
for $1,195. Originally offered as a fully assembled product, hobbyists demanded
and pursuaded the company to later offer in $995 kit form also.
- Magnavox introduces the Odyssey2 retailing at $199 and includes
an integrated membrane keyboard.
- The handheld electronics market generates $22 million with the likes of Mattel's
AUTO RACE and FOOTBALL. Early in the year, Mattel introduced MISSILE ATTACK;
the world's first use of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology in a handheld
- Nakamura Manufacturing Company, Ltd. changes it’s name to Namco, Ltd.
- SHOOT AWAY is released as a coin-operated game by Namco, Ltd..
- Ohio Scientific Instruments offers the first microcomputer that features
MICROSOFT BASIC in ROM.
- Quantel unveils the DSC 4002 as the world’s first portable
- Radio Shack offers the Science Fair Computer Kit Model 28-2818.
- RCA releases the COSMAC VIP microcomputer as a kit for $250. It
utilizes a 16-key numerical keypad, three Light Emitting Diode (LED) display,
512K Read Only Memory (ROM), 2K Random Access Memory (RAM). The ROM contains the
Operating System (OS) and a Chip-8 interpretive language.
- Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI) introduces the OMNI 800 Model 810
- Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI) introduces the TI-58 and the TI-59
programmable calculators which make use of solid-state modules. These are the
first to provide partitionable memories. The units housed a single MOS/LSI
Integrated Circuit (IC) containing the equivalent of 30,000 transistors. The TI-59
offers users 960 program steps or up to 100 memories. It is the first TI
calculator to offer both magnetic card storage and plug-in solid-state software
modules with up to 5,000 program steps. The TI-59 sells for $299.95.
- SPEED FREAK, created by Mr. Larry Rosenthal, is released as a coin-operated
arcade game by Vectorbeam.
- Mr. Charles W. Missler is named president of Western Digital. By
means of restructured financing he arranged through United California Bank, he
became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and chairman of a newly structured board
- Mr. Marc Blanc and Mr. Dave Lebling, co-author the original mainframe
version of ZORK. Later, Blanc and Lebling will co-author ZORK I, ZORK
II, ZORK III and ENCHANTER. Blanc will author of DEADLINE. Lebling will author
STARCROSS and SUSPECT. All of these titles will be popular adventure hits in
the early to mid 1980’s.
INDUSTRY I/O’s (1977)
- Acer America Corporation is founded.
- Axonix Corporation is founded.
- Mr. Jonathan Rotenberg, 13, founds the Boston Computer Society (BCS).
- CH Products is founded by Mr. Charles Hayes, an expert airplane builder
and designer who began making Radio Control (RC) controllers for hobbyist
- The Electronics Boutique is founded.
- Hendrix Office Equipment Company, Inc. is founded.
- Horizons Technology, Inc. is established.
- Jarvis Office Products is founded.
- Misco is founded.
- Namco Enterprises Asia, Ltd. is founded in Hong Kong.
- Nobody Beats the Wiz is founded.
- Online, Inc. is founded.
- Oracle Corporation is established.
- Atari, Inc. opens the first Pizza Time Theater based on Mr. Nolan
Bushnell's concepts featuring 3-dimensional computer animated (Cyberamic)
characters known as Chuck E. Cheese, Jasper T. Jowls and Harmony Howlette open
to entertain diners.
- R/Greenberg Associates (aka R/GA Studios) is founded by Mr.
- Stern Electronics acquires the stock of Universal Research Lab which
includes the subsidiaries of Electra Games (coin-op) and Video Action
- Sunset Stationers, Inc. is founded.
MERGES, PURGES and ASSIMILATIONS (1977)
- Pertec Computer Corporation acquires Micro Instrumentation and
Telemetry Systems (MITS) for $6.5 million in Partec stock.
FISCAL FINANCIALS (1977)
- Atari, Inc.'s coin-operated video games sales are up by 48%.
- Coleco sales almost double since 1975 to $137 million due, in large
part, to the popularity of their TELSTAR video game.
- International Business Machines (IBM) generates profits of $2.719
billion for the year on gross sales of about $7.09 billion and service/rentals
of $11.043 billion.
- Microsoft obtain a sales volume of $500,000 and grows to 5 employees.
- Apple Computer incorporates by Mr. Steven Paul Jobs, Mr. Steve Wozniak
and Mr. Mike Markkula. Markkula plots their marketing plan as their new
chairman and invests $250,000 to help get the plans rolling. Later, additional
financing will come from venture capitalists of the likes of Venrock
Associates, Arthur Rock and Associates and Capital Management Corporation.
- Apple Computer, Inc. relocates from Mr. Steve Jobs’ garage to a
building on Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino, Califiornia.
- Commodore intends to show a fundamental prototype of the PET
(Personal Electronic Transactor) computer at CES as the chief engineer, Mr.
Chuck Peddle, attempts to determine why it will not work with the shows’
monitors. On the last day of the show, Peddle discovers a misplaced jumper
- This would be the final year that the Winter Consumer Electronics Show
(CES) is held in Chicago. The next WCES show will be held in Las Vegas.
- General Instruments announces a new racing and war games computer chip.
Magnavox becomes their first customer and develops the Odyssey 2 as a
$100 four-player game console.
- Mr. William Henry Gates, III, permanently drops out of Harvard to work full
time at Microsoft. His parents were not happy about the decision.
- RCA releases the Studio II video game system. The programmable
game machine offers a pair of 10-key numeric keypads. It is engineered around an
RCA 1802 Central Processing Unit (CPU) with 2K Read Only Memory (ROM) and
512 bytes Random Access Memory (RAM). It offers black and white images on a
television only and sells for around $150.
- A handmade model of the precursor of the Tandy TRS-80 computer
- Mr. Steve Smith goes to work for Tektronix to start a microcomputer
- Mr. Michael Scott accepts a role as president of Apple Computer, Inc..
- Computerland opens its first store originally dubbed as Computer
- A formal partnership between Mr. Paul Allen and Mr. William Henry Gates,
III, both of Microsoft, is executed.
- Milton Bradley announces a new electronics division at the annual Toy
Fair in New York. They unveil COMP IV as an electronic video game not
requiring a TV set which challenges players to determine 4 or 5 digit random
numbers in as few guesses as possible.
- Mr. Steven Leininger, an ex-National Semiconductor engineer, debuts the TRS-80
Model 1 to Mr. Charles D. Tandy, head Tandy Corporation and of a
chain of 3,500 company owned Radio Shack stores. The Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80
was developed under Mr. John V. Roach’s guidance.
- International Business Machines (IBM) introduces the 3033
computer which is rated "twice as powerful" as the 360/168
and sold or leased for about two-thirds the price. IBM also announced 30%
price reductions with the 370/158 and 370/168 computers.
- Mattel debuts 9-volt battery handheld sports games; FOOTBALL, HOCKEY and
BASKETBALL. Since the electronic designer of FOOTBALL (Mr. Richard Chong) was
not a sports fanatic, he inadvertently designed the game with only a 90-yard
- On Wednesday, April 20, Microsoft’s Mr. William H. Gates, III
notifies Mr. H. Edward Roberts of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry
Systems (MITS) that Microsoft will terminate their exclusivity contract in
10 days citing MITS’ failure to provide accurate and timely royalty
schedules, failure to reasonably promote the product and failure to sustain
non-disclosure terms with third party licensees. The actual termination
becomes effective in November.
- Mr. Rob Janoff, art director for Regis McKenna Advertising designs the Apple
- Ms. Theresa Balderrama sets up the first Atari Company Store for Atari
Inc. in an eight-foot by fifteen-foot room.
- The Apple II and the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic
Transactor) personal computers are introduced publicly at the West Coast
Computer Faire in San Francisco. This is the first West Coast Computer
Faire. The Apple II (6502 CPU, 4KB RAM, 16KB ROM, keyboard, 8-slot
motherboard, game paddles and graphics/text display board; $1298) is the
first with color graphics and is demonstrated by Mr. Steve Wozniak and Mr.
Steven Paul Jobs. Mr. Chuck Peddle provided the demonstrations of the PET
(6502 CPU, 4KB, 14KB ROM, keyboard, display, tape drive and built-in
Microsoft BASIC; $600 MSRP) in the Mr. Calculator booth, one of Commodore's
authorized resellers and a wholly owned subsidiary of Commodore products.
- On Tuesday, May 22, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems
(MITS) is sold to Pertec.
- On Friday, May 25, George Lucas’ Star Wars opens in
theaters. The public becomes mesmerized by the mammoth use of technology and
effects as well as a captivating story line. The instant success becomes the
catalyst for a new evolution of technology-based special effect houses and
the inspiration for licensed video game products in the years ahead. Star
Wars is the noted for beginning the use of motion control cameras.
- Regis McKenna Advertising helps Apple Computer launch their first
formal advertising campaign target to electronics enthusiasts. Within a
short time, Apple will become known as one of the first companies to
advertise personal computers in consumer magazines.
- The world’s first application of fiber optics is tested in
Chicago proving that communications can be efficiently transmitted by
- Apple Computer’s Apple II begins selling to the public in
North America. The system includes two game paddles, demo cassette and RF
cable for hook-up to standard televisions.
- Mr. Nolan Bushnell purchases his own original Pizza Time Theater concepts
back from Atari, Inc. for $500,000.
- Commodore formally introduces the Commodore PET (Personal
Electronic Transactor) at the summer CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Chicago.
It has been reported that "PET" was inspired by the Pet Rock
phenomenon. Unlike the predecessor KIM-1, the PET integrated a power
supply, a programming language (BASIC) a CRT (video screen) and a keyboard; all
at an "affordable" package price. The show prototypes were actually
made of wood painted yellow to look metallic. The "monitors" were
stripped Zenith televisions purchased for $89.95 each on sale at a local
appliance store. Commodore's stock rises to 9 1/4 during the show. Demand
exploded within a short time after the press generously covered the product.
Following an article in Popular Science magazine, the PET began to
experience backorders for 4 to 5 months with 40 to 50 dealer inquiries piling in
per day. The demand permitted Commodore to become prejudicial with the selection
of which dealers it would permit sell their product. Preference was awarded to
full service dealers with on-site repairs, a good credit history and often
prepayment was required. Customers were required to pay for their systems in
advance and wait up to six months to take delivery. Original pricing for the PET
computer was to be at $495 for a 4K model, but over ambitious pricing estimates
forced the price to go to $595. There would be an 8K model for $795. The PET
becomes the world's first mass market computer. Before long, Mr. Jack Tramiel
will decide to double the price before marketing the computer in Europe and he
discovers they are happy to pay the higher costs.
- The first week-long computer camp is held in Terre Haute, IN; Camp
- Euroapple begins distribution of Apple II computers to Europe.
- Microsoft releases FORTRAN-80 as their second programming language
- On Wednesday, August 3, the TRS-80 Model I becomes the first
desktop computer and is debuted by Mr. Lewis Kornfeld, president of Radio
Shack, at New York City’s Warwick Hotel. Touted by Radio Shack’s press
release as "Not a kit…", it is made by Tandy and sold through
Radio Shack locations. It is based on the Z-80 8-bit microprocessor
made by a company called Zilog and it cost less than $150,000 to develop
including tooling. It features 4KB RAM (expandable to 16K RAM), 4KB ROM
(expandable to 12K ROM), 53-key keyboard, display and cassette tape-based
data recording all for $599.95. By themselves, the microcomputer is
available for $399.95, the 12" video display (made by RCA) is $199.95
and the Realistic CTR-41 cassette recorder is $49.95. Over 10,000 orders
were taken in within one month for the system. Optional programs include 12
EMPLOYEES ($19.95) as a payroll application, MATH I ($19.95) as an
educational application, KITCHEN ($4.95) with menus and conversion tables
and PERSONAL FINANCE ($14.95) as a finance application. A game package
including BLACKJACK and BACKGAMMON is included with the system purchase.
- On Thursday, September 29, Sega acquires Gremlin Industries.
- Mr. David Fox and Ms. Annie Fox found the Marin Center in Corte
Madera, California. The foundation of the center is to teach children
"the wonders of computing".
- On Tuesday, October 28, Atari, Inc. employees celebrate Halloween
at the Little New Yorker in Santa Clara.
- On Tuesday, October 28 through Thursday, October 30, the 1977
Amusement & Music Operator’s Association (AMOA) convention is held in
Chicago, Illinois at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. Atari, Inc. sends 24
coin-operated games to the event; five of which are new including 2-GAME
MODULE, DESTROYER, CANYON BOMBER by Mr. Howie Delman, ULTRA TANK and PLAYER’S
CHOICE. At Ye Old Company Store original PONG is available to employees for
$15 or SUPER PONG for $20. Debbie Boone’s You Light Up My Life
single is fifty cents. Rock star t-shirts are $2.50.
- Atari, Inc. formally introduces the Video Computer System (VCS).
The product codename was "Stella" and it later became known as the 2600
because it’s model number was CX2600. Designed by Mr. Joe Decuir, Mr.
Steve Mayer, Mr. Ron Milner, it is the first home video game with a Central
Processing Unit (CPU). (Mr. Jay Miner will become the eventual project
leader). The CPU is a 1.19 MHz 8-bit Motorola 6507 microprocessor.
About 340,000 systems are sold this year; each costing upward to $330. An
innovative switch permits players to toggle the best video output for black
and white or color televisions. Another switch permits players to select game
variations. Yet another set of switches allowed players to set handicaps on
themselves. The 2600 was "overengineered" with a full 4K of
memory although programs (cartridges) were not expected to exceed 2K. A rumor
has surfaced in subsequent years that the 2600 was named after a
prominent long distance access tone. One of the engineers from early Atari was
said to manufacture "blue boxes" as a hobby. A "blue box"
was a device that would trick pay telephones into granting long distance
access by replicating the tones of dropped coins when the unit was held to the
receiver. 2600 cycles was one of those tones. The Atari 5200 and 7800
game systems, which were introduced in later years, were simply factors of the
original 2600 model number.
- First shown at the January Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show, Commodore
releases the PET 2001 computer.
- On Wednesday, November 16, Close Encounters of the Third Kind
opens in theaters to show us how technology can help us come close to other
worlds. Info International, Inc. (Triple I) provided some of the tiny scenes
requiring computer enhanced effects.
- On Saturday, November 19 through Monday, November 21, the
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)
Exposition is held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- The November issue of St. Pong Revisited, the employee newsletter
of Atari, Inc., is released. This eight-page issue encourages
employees to purchase $2.50 tickets to the Company Christmas party to be
held Sunday, December 18 at the Le Baron Hotel. Mrs. Elia Garcia, one of
Atari’s original employees, is named Employee of the Month. Mr. Jim and
Mrs. Kathy Kelly are exposed for their impromptu elopement to Reno on
Saturday, October 22. Mr. Gary Slater, of the Pinball Division, wins the
grand prize; the first belt buckle made from his winning belt buckle design.
Ms. Joyce Erler received a singing telegram in celebration of her new
promotion to Supervisor of the Pinball Sub-Assembly Department. New births
for Mr. Chris and Mrs. Debbie Utt (Matthew), Mr. Michael and Mrs. Betsy Lee
(Trisha Ann) and Mr. Ken and Mrs. Crystal Pyka (Eric Alan). Ms. Linda
Goytil, Mr. Gerald Holcomb, Mr. Jeff Hansen Ms. Cathy Coughran and Ms. Linda
Esterlund are recognized for the best costumes at the Halloween party held
at the Little New Yorker in Santa Clara on Tuesday, October 28. Sick leave
bonuses are announced. Atari’s best Foos ball players are sent to St.
Louis Missouri for the ’77 Tournament Soccer Foos Festival.
- An exclusive license held by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems
(MITS) for Microsoft BASIC is terminated by Microsoft.
- The board of directors of Hewlett-Packard Company, Inc. (HP) name
Mr. John Young as president.
- On Tuesday, December 13, Mr. William Henry Gates, III, age 21, is
arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico on bad driving charges.
- On Sunday, December 18, Atari, Inc. celebrates the holidays with an
employee Christmas party at the Le Baron Hotel.
- Computerland advertises the Apple II computer with 4K of RAM
for $1,298 or $1,698 for 16K of RAM.
- The Atari 2600 is selling for $199.95 and includes one game
and two controllers.
- Computer Graphics World magazine debuts.