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History of the Personal Computer: Leading up to Intel's 4004, the first commercial microprocessor

By Jos ยท 18 replies
Sep 17, 2014
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  1. history microprocessor personal computing part amd intel cpu

    The personal computing business as we know it owes itself to an environment of enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and happenstance. Before PCs, the mainframe and minicomputer business model was formed around a single company providing an entire ecosystem; from building the hardware, installation, maintenance, writing the software, and training operators.

    The invention of the microprocessor, DRAM, and EPROM integrated circuits would spark the widespread use of the BASIC high-level language variants, which would lead to the introduction of the GUI and bring computing to the mainstream. The resulting standardization and commoditization of hardware would finally make computing relatively affordable for anyone.

    This is the first installment in a five part series. Over the next few weeks we'll be taking a look at the history of the microprocessor and personal computing, from the invention of the transistor to modern day chips powering our connected devices.

    Read the complete article.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2015
    cliffordcooley and Steve like this.
  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,453   +1,732

    As a developer who started from Zilog back in the days, I really enjoy these walks down memory lane. Thank you!
    Jos and dividebyzero like this.
  3. I learnt everything I need to know from 'Halt and Catch Fire'. That chick blows.
  4. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    LOL, I do love that series :)
    Amazing article BTW!
    dividebyzero likes this.
  5. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    Sounds like a recommendation - I'll have to check it out. It's about the PC clone biz ? Compaq and ComputerLand etc?
    Cheers. You'll have to wait awhile for the attack of the clones though!
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  6. Really enjoyed the article, thank you!
    Julio Franco likes this.
  7. Egon Spengler

    Egon Spengler TS Rookie Posts: 19

    This would make a great book. Two thumbs up!
    Jos and Julio Franco like this.
  8. Loved the article. The 4004's pMOS logic is just really beautiful to look at.
    Jos likes this.
  9. Really nice well written article. Thank you.
  10. Ranger12

    Ranger12 TS Evangelist Posts: 621   +122

    It's called The Intel Trinity if you want to read more. Excellent book.

    Also, Fairchild is a fantastic study in corporate culture. A true precursor to modern Western, Silicon Valley type corporate cultures, the semi-conductor division of Fairchild was very much like today's Google's and Facebook's. The very horizontal corporate structure clashed with Fairchild Camera and Instruments Eastern vertical structure. When Fairchild's semiconductor division started bleeding talent all over what would be Silicon Valley the West coast corporate culture and structure followed giving the place its uniqueness.
    dividebyzero likes this.
  11. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    Yes it is. I would also recommend "Inside Intel" by Tim Jackson, "The Semiconductor Business: Economics of Rapid Growth and Decline" by Franco Malerba, and "History of Semiconductor Engineering" by Bo Lojek (more personalized).
    There is of course a pretty comprehensive (and free) oral histories series being compiled at the Computer History Museum. History through the interviews of people who made it.

    I am indebted to all these sources and many, many more for providing some of the background and inspiration for the article series.
  12. This makes some fascinating reading, esp going back to the 60s where a lot of the hard and pioneering work was done.
  13. gregzeng

    gregzeng TS Enthusiast Posts: 48

    "Clones" include Zilog, AMD & NEC? All tried to leapfrog Intel's efforts in the 8-bit CPU afaik.
  14. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    I was referring to IBM Model 5150 clones actually.
    As for CPU's, the Zilog Z80 wasn't a clone - Federico Faggin improved the Intel design he created. NEC originally just copied the 8086 (16-bit) from photographs - so "clone" is correct for the early 16-bit parts, but the later V20 and V40 also improved the basic design (which is why NEC won their later patent case against Intel).
    AMD were a second-source licensee of the 8-bit 8085 and used Intel masks as did NEC, Siemens, OKI, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi , so less clones than a rebranded licensed copy.
    The earlier 8080 (also 8-bit) was also built as licensed second-source (the same IHV's as for the 8085 with the addition of National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Signetics, and NTE)
    As far as I'm aware the only "clones" (unlicensed Intel copies) came out of the Eastern Bloc
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2014
  15. Excellent, thank you. Looking forward to part two next week.
  16. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

    Fantastic read. Thanks.
  17. Mugsy

    Mugsy TS Guru Posts: 394   +15

    Maybe it's just me, but how does a story entitled "History of the Microprocessor" never even mention the ubiquitous 6502?
  18. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    I can't help it if you stopped reading at the end of part 1.
    The article clearly states the timeframe of 1947-1974 for the first part of the series. MOS Tech's 6502 didn't arrive until just after mid-1975.
  19. Mugsy

    Mugsy TS Guru Posts: 394   +15

    I'm reading Part 2 now. Still greatly understates the influence of the early chip.

    Yes it was in the Apple ][ and the few others mentioned. But the damn thing was the heart & soul of everything from smart toasters to the famed Atari VCS. You couldn't find a home w/o a 6502 in it somewhere in the late 70's.

    To read the article, one might think the Z80 and CP/M were as commonplace as the 6502.

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