The history of the personal computer as a mass-market consumer electronic device began with the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. A personal computer is one intended for interactive individual use, as opposed to a mainframe computer where the end user's requests are filtered through operating staff, or a time-sharing system in which one large processor is shared by many individuals. After the development of the microprocessor, individual personal computers were low enough in cost that they eventually became affordable consumer goods. Early personal computers – generally called microcomputers – were sold often in electronic kit form and in limited numbers, and were of interest mostly to hobbyists and technicians.

Microprocessor introduction Edit

Main article: Microprocessor

Several revolutionary inventions would later pave the way to the modern personal computer, most importantly the microprocessor, a single-chip CPU.

The minicomputer ancestors of the modern personal computer used early integrated circuit (microchip) technology, which reduced size and cost, but they contained no microprocessor. This meant that they were still large and difficult to manufacture just like their mainframe predecessors.

In the 1960s, the development of electronic calculators and wristwatches helped make integrated circuit chips economical and practical. In the late 1960s, calculator and wristwatch chips began to show that small computers (compared to large mainframes) might be possible with large-scale integration (LSI). This culminated in the invention of the microprocessor.

The concept of the single-chip microprocessor originated from Sharp engineer Tadashi Sasaki, who in 1968 proposed the idea to Japanese calculator manufacturer Busicom and American manufacturer Intel, which both soon collaborated to produce the first microprocessor.[1] By 1970, Intel engineer Federico Faggin and Busicom engineer Masatoshi Shima had completed their design of the world's first microprocessor, the 4-bit Intel 4004.[2][3][4] Faggin and Shima later went on to design the Intel 8080, the first truly general-purpose microprocessor, released in 1974.

After the 1971 introduction of the Intel 4004, designed by Japanese Busicom and American Intel engineers, microprocessors started becoming common and computer costs declined rapidly.

After the "computer-on-a-chip" was commercialized, the cost to manufacture a computer system dropped dramatically. The arithmetic, logic, and control functions that previously occupied several costly circuit boards were now available in one integrated circuit, making it possible to produce them in high volume. Concurrently, advances in the development of solid state memory eliminated the bulky, costly, and power-hungry magnetic core memory used in prior generations of computers.

The invention of the microprocessor helped in creating a more powerful central processing unit than the ones used in computers at the time and shrunk it so computers could be smaller. The microprocessor was the major invention that gave birth to the microcomputer, or the personal computer as it is known today.

Early microcomputers Edit

Development of the single-chip microprocessor was the gateway to the popularization of cheap, easy to use, and truly personal computers. The first personal computers were microcomputers.

In April 1972, Japanese company Sord Computer Corporation (now Toshiba Personal Computer System Corporation) developed the SMP80/08,developed the SMP80/08,[5] the world's first microcomputer.[6] It used the Intel 8008 microprocessor, which it was developed in tandem with. Soon after the Intel 8080 was introduced in April 1974, Sord introduced the SMP80/x series, the first microcomputers to use the 8080,[5] in April 1974.[6] The SMP80/x series were the first microcomputers with an operating system,[7] and marked a major leap toward the popularization of microcomputers.[5]

The Altair 8800 was introduced in a Popular Electronics magazine article in the January 1975 issue. In keeping with MITS's earlier projects, the Altair was sold in kit form, although a relatively complex one consisting of four circuit boards and many parts. The Altair 8800 used the Intel 8080 as the CPU. Since the 8800 computer's main language was binary code and only had an output of flashing lights, the computer was unusable by the common person.

Another early microcomputer was released by NEC in 1976, the TK-80, which used the Intel 8080A, a variant of the Intel 8080.

Home computers Edit

1977 saw the release of the first true home computers, which came with monitor displays. The first to release was the Apple II, introduced by Steve Jobs in early 1977.

In Japan, Sord released the M200 Smart Home Computer, one of the first home personal computers, in 1977. It was a desktop computer that combined a Zilog Z80 CPU, keyboard, CRT display, floppy disk drive and MF-DOS operating system into an integrated unit.[8]

The Commodore PET, another early home computer, was released in late 1977.

In 1982, Sony introduced the 3.5" floppy disk format, with its Sony SMC-70 computer. 3.5" floppy disks would become the standard storage medium for personal computers up until the 1990s.

In July 1986, Sega announced the world's first home computer equipped with AI (artificial intelligence), intended for household and consumer markets.[9][10]

16-bit computers Edit

In 1977, Panafacom (a conglomerate of Fujitsu, Fuji Electric and Matsushita) released the Lkit-16, the first 16-bit microcomputer.[11] Its CPU was the Panafacom MN1610, the first 16-bit microprocessor, introduced in 1975.[12][13]

Some of the earliest 16-bit personal computers include the 1981 releases, Mitsubishi MULTI16 and IBM PC. The latter established the IBM compatible PC standard, which eventually became the dominant PC standard in the 1990s. Other leading manufacturers in the 1980s included Commodore and Atari in Western markets, and NEC, Sharp and Fujitsu in Eastern markets.


Main article: History of laptops

Yukio Yokozawa, an employee for Suwa Seikosha, a branch of Japanese company Seiko (now Seiko Epson), invented the first laptop (notebook) computer in July 1980, receiving a patent for the invention.[14] Seiko's notebook computer, known as the HC-20 in Japan, was announced in 1981.[5] In North America, Epson introduced it as the Epson HX-20 in 1981.[15]


Further readingEdit

  • Veit, Stan (1993). Stan Veit's History of the Personal Computer. WorldComm. pp. 304. ISBN 978-1-56664-030-5. 
  • Douglas K. Smith; Douglas K. Smith; Robert C. Alexander (1999). Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer. Authors Choice Press. pp. 276. ISBN 978-1-58348-266-7. 
  • Freiberger, Paul; Swaine, Michael (2000). Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer. McGraw-Hill Companies. pp. 463. ISBN 978-0-07-135892-7. 
  • Allan, Roy A. (2001). A History of the Personal Computer: The People and the Technology. Allan Publishing. pp. 528. ISBN 978-0-9689108-0-1. 
  • Sherman, Josepha (2003). The History of the Personal Computer. Franklin Watts. pp. 64. ISBN 978-0-531-16213-2. 
  • Laing, Gordon (2004). Digital Retro: The Evolution and Design of the Personal Computer. Sybex. pp. 192. ISBN 978-0-7821-4330-0. 

External linksEdit

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