WELCOME TO THE MICRO AGE Part 1
Nowadays we are so accustomed to carrying tiny but powerful computers in our pockets (i.e. our smartphones), that we may forget about the time when computers could fill entire rooms and had a significantly lower computing power than a single iPhone.
The history of the personal computer as mass-market consumer electronic devices effectively started in 1977 with the introduction of microcomputers.
Now I would like to go back to that exciting time, the late seventies, when personal computers first appeared on the scene and take a closer look at how journalists, who witnessed firsthand the transition, introduced this affordable new technology to the public and explained its immense potential. Here follows an extract from the magazine "Byte Shopper", Spring 1978, Issue N. 3:
« The microcomputer, a product of new-age technology, has brought computing power into the hands of everyone. Once shrouded in mystery and beyond the price of all but the most prestigious corporations, universities and the government, in 25 years the computer has now found its way into the average home, where children and adults alike can delight in its application to entertainment, education, housekeeping, checkbook-balancing and problem solving at a price comparable to a quality stereo system.
The most recent developments in the field have been aimed at adapting microcomputers to perform business and accounting tasks. The past year has seen a blossoming of new and sophisticated micro business software. »
But what exactly is a microcomputer? Let’s keep on reading:
« A microcomputer is a very small, but versatile, low-cost and extremely powerful general-purpose machine that can be programmed in a language designed by humans to perform specific tasks with extreme accuracy and lightning speed (on the order of 500.000 additions per second).
A computer can do simple repetitive tasks, remember things better and calculate numbers much faster than a human being. And the cost of computers has now, through the technology of microminiaturized electronics, come within reach of the average hobbyist, homemaker and small businessman. We are witnessing the dawn of the age of Personal Computing.
In the 1950’s computers were made of vacuum tubes, an entire computer typically consisting of some 3000 vacuum tubes, filling huge rooms and requiring air onditioning n huge power supplies, ata cost over $5 million.
By the early 1960’s computers had become transistorized, with discrete components soldered on printed circuit boards, and with a typical costof $2.5 million for large machine. By the late Sixties, these transistor circuits had the first incorporated into small integrated semiconductor circuit packages, commonly called “chips”, “bugs” or “TTL” in minicomputers, and in the Seventies” microminiaturized t the point where a complete microprocessor, or computer-on-a-chip, could be packed into a space less than ¼ inch square at a retail cost of less than $20, requiring less energy than a 100-watt lightbulb to run a large microcomputer system. »