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The Industrial Era

1972 - 1973

The Third Generation computers started approximately in this era. These computers were mainly characterized by electronic models and were fully programmable.

The first consumer game is published, diagramming techniques for software development were defined, the Hewlett Packard handheld scientific calculator HP35 is now available.

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pre-industrial era
Industrial era





In January Magnavox (USA), member of the North American Philips group, started selling a game computer running "Odyssey". This game was already written in 1968(1) for a mainframe computer by the American Ralph Baer. But as with most advanced ideas it was too early for consumers, not ready at that time to adapt something like a video game.
Commercially it meant a disaster and the 100 U$ game console gathered dust.

intel 8008On 24 August 1972 INTEL released the 200 kHz 8008, an 8 bit version of the 4004. The speed was 300.000 instructions per second, could address 16Kb memory. It contained 3500 transistors based on 10 micron technology. It was the first processor able to recognize all characters of the alphabet (letters and numbers).
The processor was originally built for Computer Terminal Corporation,- later called Datapoint. This processor will instantaneously be popular with manufacturers of small computers.

A so called "die" photo of the 8008 processor.

As a result of the speed in development of minituralization several pocket calculators appeared on the market. (Texas Instruments brought out the types TI2500, 3000, 3500) but they were still very expensive. All basic functions ( + - / : *) and a percentage key were present. Numbers were displayed by a special kind of LED's, at the same time the reason for high battery consumption. Rechargeable batteries only existed in laboratories yet.hp35 calculator

Hewlett Packard released the first scientific calculator: the HP 35. This machine would wipe out the use of what is left of slide rulers. The use of these ancient "calculators" became extinct over night. This calculator had inherited many of the functionalities of the HP 9100A model and it influenced the way mathematicians and engineers would calculate. The HP35 contained 8 IC's and was sold at 395 U$. A lot of money for that time.

Hewlett Packard also wanted to make a move on the business market and brought out the HP 3000 minicomputer.


pong playing machineIn November 29 1972, Nolan Bushnell(17) and Al Alcorn wheeled a strange apparatus into Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, Calif. Bushnell, the founder of a new company called Atari, and Alcorn, Atari’s first engineer, set up the cube-like device on a barrel and switched it on. Two dials were set below glowing rectangles on a screen. The instructions read: “1. Insert quarter. 2. Ball will serve automatically. 3. Avoid missing ball for high score.” Curious patrons began to follow step one.

Not before long, the machine stopped working. Alcorn returned to the bar to check it out. Opening it up, he saw that the side-mounted coin mechanism (from a Laundromat) was jammed—brimming with quarters. Pong was already on its way to being the first commercially successful video game.
The game was called "Pong". A very simple contraption build from 2 knobs, logic modules and connectors for a TV. Pong was the first to combine the critical elements: a simple interface, amusing play and technology that was cheap and easy to manufacture. A decade after that first coin slot jammed, arcades full of Pong progeny were bringing in $5 billion a year. The video-game industry crash of the mid-1980s shook Atari and the rest of the gaming arena. But by that time arcade games had introduced an entire generation to playful computing.

 3pong.gif (1350 bytes)

The game looked like playing Ping Pong or "squash". A cursor type of "ball" moved from left to right over the screen and should be hit back by an electronic bat. This bat was controlled by turning the knobs on the game console so the bat goes up or down to "hit" the "ball" (cursor)
Look at the little point at the right hand side: the ball. The two little verticals are the bats. The center line is the net and at the top "row" are shown the points.

atarlogo.gif (3892 bytes) To market their machine Bushnell and Alcom founded Atari.

One of the first digital microcomputers available for personal use in the USA was the MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) 816. Though not equipped with a display or keyboard, the 816 was of considerable interest to the amateur enthusiast who wanted a personal computer. (31) It is also the first computer to use the Intel 8008 CPU.


ARPAnet demonstrated at CS-ACM ICCC in Washington (31)

Xerox decided to build a personal computer to be used for research. The project "Alto", as it was called, started in November at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). The result will be the Alto personal computer. But the machine did not sell many copies because of its extreme high price. Nonetheless it served its research purposes very well.

Also at PARC Gary Starkweather presented after 9 months of research the worlds first working laser printer. In 1973 there were several models of the laser printer at the center. And in 1977 Xerox will put the first commercial laser printer on the market, the Xerox 9700.(3) Ten years later HP will put the first personal laser printer on the market.

A Canadian firm Automatic Electronic Systems introduced the world's first programmable word processor with a video screen" the AES 90. The system used magnetic disks for storage and a custom built processor.(20)

MAA (predecessor of Digital Research) defined together with Intel a new system-programming language called PL/M (Programming Language for Microcomputers) to replace assembly-language programming for Intel's 8-bit processors .(16)

The first implementation of PROLOG (Programming in Logic) was developed at University of Aix-Marselle. It will be the preferred language for the 5th generation of machines. It's a descriptive and declarative language.(16)

Dennis Ritchie from Bells Labs. created C, a programming language derived from BCLP. To become the most popular language for professionals, not recommended for beginners.(16)

FORTH was developed, a medium-level language which used a small number of very brief instruction words. Forth was originally designed for telescope control and it would become the standard language used in astronomy.

The first e-mail program for Arpanet is created by Ray Tomlinson of BBN.(2)



Jonathan Titus from Blackburg, Virginia (USA) developed the MARK-8 that was built on the basis of an Intel 8008(26) micro processor. However it is a kit, something you had to build yourself. It had no power supply, monitor, keyboard or housing to be bought separately. The publication in Radio Electronics Magazine described however exactly how to built one.
The machine was programmed by setting eight (flip) switches, one for each bit. One could imagine that programming the Mark 8 is still a time consuming business. However since this computer was geared to the private market and only "computer freaks" or hackers as they were often called did want to buy this computer. The tedious way of programming did not matter. All what counted was that they could do the programming in any way they liked. And the kick of having your own computer was something you could not even start to explain.
Throughout the USA  user groups were established and the computer newsletter was a result thereof

Gerry Killdahl

Gary Killdahl wrote a simple operating system in his PL/M and he calls it CP/M   (Control Program/Monitor

UNIX was rewritten in 'C' and became thus available for a large range of different machines.
UNIX became, because of its translation into "C",  a very important factor in the Operating System arena. About all computer networks were running with Unix or a variant of it, or something that had the feel and working like UNIX. Two of them are  XENIX or  Linux. Even micro computers ( ATARI, Commodore Amiga) adapted a form of Unix for these OS's.

Paul Fiedl a chemical engineer at IBM develops SCAMP : the Special Computer APL Machine Portable(18). When this machine had interested John Opel (president of IBM) enough IBM would have had un contended supremacy in Personal Computing. The SCAMP had a build in cassette tape drive, a selectric type keyboard (standard keyboard for electric typing machines), 64k memory, and a very small screen. Fiedl even wrote a spreadsheet program for financial modeling, a full three years before VisiCalc came out for the Apple. But Opel thought it to be too complicated and too much ado about!

Again engineers of IBM came with a new first and equips the newly released IBM 3740 with floppy drives that can read single sided 8" diskettes. The floppies had twice the capacity of the previous one's of 1971: 250.000 characters.

Sharp (Japan) developed the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology which was intended for amongst others calculators. Many years Sharp will stay market leader in this field. The technology is going to evolve to large flat screens for portable computers, but before that will happen another 20 years will pass.

The LCD technology

This technology is build on the principle that crystals will be oriented in a particular direction when there is electrical current influencing them. It is like when a magnet it set close to a compass needle. The needle will than take a different direction. Because of the different orientation of the crystal in a particular LCD cell the screen in that part is no longer transparent. That is how pictures (and characters by the way) are represented or composed.


Twenty-seven years after the unveiling of the ENIAC, and many years after the US Patent Office had issued the patent for the computer to Eckert and Mauchly, the Judge Earl Larson of the US District Court in Minneapolis invalidated it. In a suit between Honeywell Information Systems and Sperry-Rand Corp. regarding the payment of royalties for the use of the concept of the computer, Larson found that Mauchly had derived his ideas for the computer from "one, John Vincent Atanasoff". Neither Eckert nor Mauchly ever gave up their opposition to this finding, believing that their invention was true. For many this was the first time they had heard of the work of Atanasoff, or of the ABC.

Nassi and Schneider develop a diagramming technique that produces "program structure diagrams" (PSD). It enhances the analysis methodology for information systems enormously.
A NSD diagram is a graphical representation of mostly a small part of the program by means of a limited set of symbolic graphics. The picture you see below represents a simple NSD diagram.

Nassi Scheider diagrams how you use them

Say you put a question to yourself like: "is a particular car too expensive for me to buy or not".

Depending on your bank account and possible financing you could go through the following example

bachmann_diagram.jpg (25844 bytes)

Suppose a car cost 20.000 US$ and you are not a millionaire, but you have the money. Going down through this diagram you would come to the conclusion that you will be able to buy that car. Just follow the Yes and No's.

In this way your problem is broken down to little "yes" and "no" questions and answers. And that is how a computer program solves problems too.

Only by answering with yes or no, most problems can be solved by a computer. Because the action to follow depends on the answer of the question in only two ways: yes or no, Zero or One.

A simple:

if "yes" then buy the car
if "no" get some more money.

gets a simple answer.


While the concept of a wide area network has been effectively developed as a part of the ARPAnet project, the basis for a "local area net" is Ethernet, created at Xerox PARC by Robert Metcalfe. In some ways Metcalfe invents Ethernet three times, the first time as part of his dissertation at MIT (as part of Project MAC), at Xerox PARC, and then again later again at 3COM, a company he founds to exploit his invention.
This protocol manages a Local Area Networks called LAN. And is a design that allows computers to communicate to each other over a local area network.

Internet consist of 25 computers.

Digital developed DEC Data Communication Message Protocol (DDCMP) as a standard for its future computer-to-computer communications.


Barcode from times magazineThe Bar code - Universal Product Code - is developed. This unique code consisted of black stripes of two different thicknesses that could be read by special bar scanners.
Almost all products in the world will have such a code, even magazines in the next few years.
In shops cashiers and other point of sales ( POS19) units will be equipped with barcode scanners in various forms, portable or built in etc. Through this the price is always correct ( when the database in the computer was correct at least). As a bonus the client will find much more information on his sales slip than before.

In France the first complete, not as a do it yourself kit, micro computer was introduced: the Micral. The design was based on the Intel 8008. But it will not be a commercial success. Micrals most important contribution to the scene was that during a meeting about the computer the term Micro Computer was coined.(20)


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Footnotes & References