The Microcomputer Revolution
Texas Instruments 2500 (1972)
- first patent to J.S. Kilby in 1959.
by Texas Instruments and Westinghouse in the early 1960s,
commercial use in 1964 with Fairchild Semiconductors 702
- The first desktop electronic calculators
were introduced about 1963. In 1965 Texas
Instruments began work on a four-function pocket
based on a single IC--they
patented that design. They had trouble getting their
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
initial interest from big companies than the personal
also had a tremendously steep price curve--by 1975 you could
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
- the idea of creating an entire simple
integrated circuits began with amateurs
- The first microprocessor was the Intel
Nov. 1971 and the 2 MHz 8080 in 1972. The 8080 was an
microprocessor that could access 64 k of memory.
- Atari ships Pong
, 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
16 toggle switches and read the results in binary form on an
pairs of panel lamps. Users had to develop their own
- Gary Kildall
was already at work writing the CP/M operating system
- in 1975 a BASIC interpreter was
the Altair, and IBM introduces a 55 lb. luggable computer
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
a BASIC interpeter. This expanded the potential
market, though it
still hobbyists, and all sorts of small companies lept into
In 1977 the home computer began to move past the
- Apple II and
Commodore PET came to the market in 1977--both
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
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
games until the floppy disk became available as a low cost
medium in the late 1970s--allowing the rapid storage of 100
Kb of data.
- the 8086 microprocessor in 1978 had a
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.
Wordstar were released in the same year--they had been
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
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
drive, monochrome graphics, and the new DOS operating
a small company called Microsoft. Despite the fact
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
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 primarily for games.
- Lotus 1-2-3 introduced in 1982 was the
killer business application--the microcomputer became more
toy. dBase was the
first data base program. WordPerfect was introduced in
to dominate the business word processing market.
- Apple tried to compete with the IBM PC
Macintosh, introduced in 1984 at a price of $2495. A
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
- Commodore released the Amiga in 1985 with
improved graphics and sound, but people didn't see any use
- Windows was first released in 1985 but
earn a following until Windows 3 in 1990. Apple sued
copying the Macintosh user interface, but lost.
a major change in the way people used PCs.
For more details on the history of microcomputers
The History of Computers During My Lifetime .
- the importance of applications--the
caught on when people didn't have to write their own
- 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