The Microcomputer Revolution
- first patent to J.S. Kilby in 1959.
by Texas Instruments and Westinghouse in the early 1960s, came into
commercial use in 1964 with Fairchild Semiconductors 702 linear IC.
- The first desktop electronic calculators
were introduced about 1963. In 1965
Texas Instruments began work on a four-function pocket calculator
based on a single IC--they
patented that design. They had trouble getting their invention
production--it came out in 1972 at $150 (the Japanese got copies on the
as early as 1970).
- these had a more predictable market and got
initial interest from big companies than the personal computer.
also had a tremendously steep price curve--by 1975 you could buy a
4-function calculator for under $20.
- Integrated circuits were also used for
special-purpose word processors by Wang (1971) and IBM (the
the key step for the computer was the introduction
- the idea of creating an entire simple
integrated circuits began with amateurs
- The first microprocessor was the Intel 4004
Nov. 1971 and the 2 MHz 8080 in 1972. The 8080 was an 8 bit
microprocessor that could access 64 k of memory.
- Atari ships
, the first commercial video game, in 1972 (
History of Home Videogames )
- Scelbi Computer Consulting offered a
kit in 1973 for $565 with Intel's first microprocessor, the 8080,
and 1 kilobyte
- In April 1975
Altair starts selling a kit (called the Altair 8800) with a 8080
and 1 kilobyte of memory for $375--users entered data in binary form
16 toggle switches and read the results in binary form on an array of
pairs of panel lamps. Users had to develop their own applications
- Gary Kildall
was already at work writing the CP/M operating system
- in 1975 a BASIC interpreter was demonstrated
the Altair, and IBM introduces a 55 lb. luggable computer with BASIC,
KB of RAM, and tape storage for the price of $9000
- In June 1976 Southwest Technical Products
offered a machine with an editor and assembler, and shortly afterwards
a BASIC interpeter. This expanded the potential market, though it
still hobbyists, and all sorts of small companies lept into the
In 1977 the home computer began to move past the
- Apple II and
Commodore PET came to the market in 1977--both included keyboard,
game paddles, BASIC
in ROM, and storage of data via audiocassette recorder. The Apple
cost $1300 and had 4 KB RAM--175 kits were sold in the first 10
The first model didn't include a monitor--you hooked it to a TV set for
Only in Jan 1977 did Apple Computer move from Steve Jobs's garage to an
- In Aug. Radio Shack announced the
TRS-80 microcomputer with 4 KB RAM, keyboard, video display, and
for $600--10,000 are sold in the first month.
- around the same time Bill Gates and Paul
sign a partnership agreement to form Microsoft.
- these early microcomputers were mostly used
games until the floppy disk became available as a low cost data storage
medium in the late 1970s--allowing the rapid storage of 100 Kb of data.
- the 8086 microprocessor in 1978 had a speed
4.77 MHz, 16 bit processing, and could access 1 MB of memory
- The first application was VisiCalc in
first spreadsheet--creating a business market. Applewriter and
Wordstar were released in the same year--they had been preceded by
Electric Pencil in 1977.
- In the 1979 fiscal year Apple sold 35,000
II computers, 78,000 in 1980
- In 1981 the
Osborne I was the first complete portable microcomputer, with 64 K,
two floppy discs,
the CP/M operating system, and BASIC for $1795.
- IBM got in the business (after much internal
resistance) and announced the IBM PC in 1981. The first IBM PC
cost $3000 and had
the 8080 16 bit processor with a speed of 4.77 MHz, 64 K of RAM, a
drive, monochrome graphics, and the new DOS operating system, licenced
a small company called Microsoft. Despite the fact that better
were available IBM quickly came to dominate the market.
- the most popular computer of the time was
the Commodore 64, introduced in 1982, which sold an estimated 22
million units. It
had color graphics and 64 K of RAM and cost only $400 (it hooked to a
set for display) and was used primarly for games.
- Lotus 1-2-3 introduced in 1982 was the
killer business application--the microcomputer became more than a
toy. dBase was the
first data base program. WordPerfect was introduced in 1984 and
to dominate the business wordprocessing market.
- Apple tried to compete with the IBM PC with
introduced in 1984 at a price of $2495. A revolutionary new
way of using a computer,
with a graphical user interface, a mouse, and
What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get word processing.
- The IBM AT in 1985 went in a different
with a speed of 6 MHz, 512 KB of RAM, and a 20 MB hard drive for about
- Commodore released the Amiga in 1985 with
improved graphics and sound, but people didn't see any use for it
- Windows was first released in 1985 but did
earn a following until Windows 3 in 1990. Apple sued Microsoft
copying the Macintosh user interface, but lost. Windows
a major change in the way people used PCs.
For more details on the history of microcomputers I
The History of Computers During My Lifetime .
- the importance of applications--the
caught on when people didn't have to write their own programs
- independent inventors vs. big companies
- how does change happen?
- what is the impact?
This page written and copyright
Pamela E. Mack
last updated 11/30/2005