Go BackNexttimeline indexinformation about this sectionGo to main page
click on the home button to go to the home page

The Industrial Era

1976 - 1977

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


pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

1947 1950 1952 1955 1958 1961 1963 1965 1969 1970 1972 1974 1976
1978 1980 1981 1982 1984 1986 1989 1991 1993 1994 1996 2000 2002


here you can buy our CD ROM
to support our work buy our CD


timeline of Spam

history of videogames



Z80 microprocessor from Zilog was available in February. The first computer that used this CPU was the Z-1 from Cramenco.

The 6501 and 6502 micro processor was developed by MOS Technology Corporation. Its relative low price (25US$) was the reason why Steve Wozniak selected this processor for his first computer the Apple I (the predecessor of the Apple II).  The 6502 processor was soon to be used in Commodore computers. At this point the Intel 8080 cost about US$150.


The Homebrew computer club

That summer in 1975 at the Homebrew Club the Intel 8080 formed the center of the universe. The Altair was built around the 8080 and its early popularity spawned a cottage industry of small companies that either made machines that would run programs written for the Altair or made attachments that would plug into the various kinds of micro computers.

homebrew computer club
A gathering at the Homebrew computerclub.



It is on the Homebrew Computer club in Palo Alto, California (Silicon Valley), that Steve Wozniak, 26 years old, working at Hewlett-Packard and a long time hacker, wished to have his own computer. He already designed several computers on paper and even wrote FORTRAN and Basic interpreters for these theoretical machines, but lack of money left these machines in the theoretical phase. He was interested in the Intel 8080 chip (the heart of the Altair), but decided that $179 was too much money. This decision not to use the 8080 was regarded as a stupid move by the other members of the club.
The thing with microprocessors was that a program or device designed for it would not work on any other processor. The "connection" for devices for the Altair was known as the S-100 bus because it used one hundred signal lines. Disciples of the 8080 made attachments to the 8080 and S-100 even though they readily admitted that the s-100 bus was poorly designed. The people who wrote programs or built peripherals for 8080 computers thought that later competing microprocessors were doomed. The sheer weight of the programs and the choice of peripherals, so the argument went, would make it more useful to more users and more profitable for more companies. The 8080, they liked to say, had critical mass which was sufficient to consign anything else to oblivion."


Casio CQ 1

In Japan the worlds first calculator was sold that had combined functions: clock and calculator the Casio CQ 1

The market demanded floppy disks with a larger capacity. As a reaction on this IBM launched a floppy disk that could use both sides what brought the capacity to a whopping 360 Kb.

More than 50 different microprocessors were on the market at this time. Examples: AMI, Mostek, Motorola, National Semiconductor, RCA, Rockwell, Signetics, Teledyne Systems and Toshiba.

lOptical diodes Inc. (Frontier Inc) and MOs Technology Corp. produced the 6502 micro processor and the KIM a 6502 evaluation kit that could, with a lot of effort and creativity, be turned into a computer. The kit has a 1 MHz 6502 CPU, 1 Kb RAM, 2 Kb ROM, a 23 key keypad, LED  readout, cassette and serial interfaces. All this for only US$245.

Digital shipped WPS-8 a word-processor program.

sol terminal computer

Lee Felstein build the SOL-20 computer (10K RAM), named after a Popular Electronics editor Les Solomon. The typewriter machine keyboard-cum-computer used a TV as monitor. It sold for $1649 as a kit, but if you wanted to avoid the soldering you had to pay $2129 for a complete assembled kit.

The first software written for the Sol-20 machine was 'Electric Pencil, a word processor written by Michael Schrayer (December). It seemed that the program is still available in 2000!

cray 1 super computerThe first supercomputer was created by Seymour Cray the Cray 1, to be superseded quickly by the supers of Control Data (CYBER) and Japanese firms like NEC (SX), FUJITSU, and HITACHI.
The CRAY-1 was however the first commercial available machine that broke the barrier of the magical 1 MIPS.
If you went the conventional route and tried to build one yourself using PC's it would take 200.00 of them all cross connected (5), or you could just purchase 33.33 Sun4s. CRAY Research INC made at least 16 of their fabulous CRAY 1's A typical CRAY 1 would cost about 700,000 dollars. You could order the machine in any color you wished and that still holds true today.

RCA introduced the 1802 microprocessor. Later it is used in a RCA COSMAC VIP system developed by Joseph Weisbecker. It included 2 Kb RAM, 512 bytes of ROM, and an interface for Video, Cassette and Audio.

Ethernet, which allows coaxial cable to move data extremely fast, is described by Robert M. Metcalfe. This is a crucial component in development of LANs. (local area network)

First issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal in January 1976, a magazine primarely devoted to system programmers.




Dennis C. Hayes invents the PC modem, establishing the critical technology that will allow online and Internet industries to emerge and grow.(9)

apple_1_boardapple_1On 1 April Apple Corporation is founded by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. They developed the Apple I and introduced the term: Personal Computer. Their first production facility is the family garage.
The Apple 1 had a motherboard into which expansion cards could be plugged. The programming language was BASIC which was licensed by Microsoft BASIC to Apple and burned into a EPROM chip.


In April Apple introduced the Apple II on the West Coast Computer Fair in San Francisco. The computer contained an integrated keyboard, graphical screen, 8 expansion ports and a EPROM containing BASIC. Some innovations such as a "higher" programming language with graphic instructions will only be made available in other PC’s until the 90’s. The Apple II was based on the Motorola 6502 processor and could hold up 64 Kb RAM. The introduction price of the Apple II was 298 US$. The newer color model: 1250 Sterling Pound. The Apple II produced brilliant color graphics when hooked up to a color TV.

In a fast pace 8 bit microprocessors (such as: Intel 8080/6/8, Motorola 6800, Zilog Z80 and MO's 6502) were integrated into Personal Computers.

Atari vcs2600 (7)

Atari releases the Atari 2600 home video game console, another but very succesfull one based on the 8 bit 6502 chip.(6)

Interactive System Corp. starts selling Unix commercially. UNIX is introduced into the IBM 360 System. Up to this time UNIX could only run on DEC PDP minicomputers. The University of California at Berkeley released its own version of the UNIX operating system called version 4xBSD. The package included a Pascal interpreter, a Pascal shell and a selection of hardware drivers.

The first implementation of TCP (Transaction Control Program) was a fact. TCP is a protocol or tool that allowed computers to be connected via different networks to communicate with each other.

In this year 100 hosts are connected to the ARPAnet .

Digital introduced the VAX-11/780 the first member of the succesfull VAX series of computers.

commodore pet

Although the KIM set sold well for evaluation boards, Chuck Peddle of Commodore was not pleased with the product. Instead he was looking for a more user friendly product that could be used by the masses. As a result Commodore developed the PET 2001 based on the 6502 chip. The Pet had a futuristic design and had a cream colored casing. On the mainboard you could find: 4Kbyte of memory (expandable to 32 Kbytes), a 8 Kbyte Microsoft Basic EPROM, a Keyboard, Display and Cassette interface. The PET had a 40 characters wide screen. The computer caused an enormous sensation on the Consumer Electronic show in Chicago (January). It is the first personal computer with color display.
Overnight the complete market for evaluation boards disappeared. The demand for the PET computer was so huge that the delivering period stretched up to 5 months even though people had to pay 795 US$ beforehand.


tandy_trs80Tandy (Radio Shack)   introduced their version of a Personal Computer the TRS-80-1. Undeserved the computer receives the name: TraSh 80. The standard model consisted of a console with a keyboard and cassette deck for data storage but was delivered without a monitor. It had 4Kbyte RAM and 4Kbyte ROM containing BASIC. The TRS-80 was the first ready to go computer. The TRS-80 sold for $599.95 and came with "easy to understand" manuals for beginners.

The idea of Open Systems (OSI) came in sight. Open Systems Interconnection started to research possibilities how to let different types of computers to communicate with each other.

1978-floppyUnder the management of Allen Shugart the IBM research team reduced the 8inch floppy to a 5.25inch size. These smaller floppy’s were more stable and easier to carry and handle. This size became a defacto standard for many brands of micro computers. The initial prize for the diskdrives was 390U$

Intel introduced the 16bit 8086 chip and the 8087 co-processor. These chips caused a lot of excitement but were not quickly adapted because they were ahead of their time (2). Only years later descendants of these chips would dominate the market.

First 64Kb RAM chip become mass produced by IBM.

Paul Allen and Bill gates signed an agreement to officially found the Microsoft company(3)

First computerized word processor introduced by Wang Laboratories. Price: $30,000.(8)


Another of those: "he could not be wrong more"

Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, states:

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.




First issue of Personal Computing Magazine in January 1977,

Go BackNextindex Last Updated on October 25, 2004 For suggestions please mail the editors

Footnotes & References