The computer is now as likely to be found being used by a toddler as it is a travelling executive. Computers perform billions of calculations a second to enable humans to perform at a level never anticipated by ‘futurists’ of the pre-computer era.
Computers are now even making computers. Both single purpose robots and what TV would declare as ‘real’ humaniod robots are becoming common place.
Advancements in computer technology did not come easily but without them humans would not be where we are today… whatever day today is 🙂 .
Below is a list of innovations in modern computer history which we will define as 1970 to 2015:
- Intel 4004 Chip – The worlds first microprocessor or CPU (Central Processing Unit). Chuck Peddle is the inventor of the Personal Computer and he will argue that the Intel 4004 did not meet all of the technical criteria to be the first CPU. He believes that credit goes to Tom Bennett’s 8 bit Motorola 6800.
- MOS KIM-1 – The worlds first single board computer and one pretty little machine, which a keyboard and small LCD display.
- Altair 8800 & IMSAI 8080 – These computers are often considered the “first real computers” because they used a single chip microprocessor and came in a small case, but they did not have screens or even keyboards and required additional boards to do anything useful.
- LCD Display – LCD is an acronym for Liquid Crystal Display and much of the early work on this now ubiquitous technolgy was completed by RCA and Westinghouse. Who do you think used the first LCD; IBM, Apple… wrong. Commodore Computer was the first company to use the LCD. Without LCD technology, modern cell phones/watches would have been impossible and our collective energy consumption would be even more staggering than it already is.
- MOS 6502 CPU – MOS was a small chip manufacturer (aka ‘Fab’) in 1975 until Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch left Motorola to work with MOS and engineer the amazing MOS 6501… wait, what is a 6501 you ask? Well, according to Motorola’s laywers, it is a nearly 100% clone of the Motorola 6800. After a few quick revisions the 6502 was born. The 6502 was still a $25 version of the amazing $200 Motorola 6800. Motorola had been told repeatedly by potential clients like Ford that they would love to use their technology but $200 (> $1000 in 2015 dollars) was just too much, so Chuck Peddle left Motorola, cloned it with MOS and then sold the whole company to Jack Tramiel’s Commodore Computer! The 6502 was used in an absolutely astonishing list of the worlds first personal computers:
- the Commodore PET Commodore 64, Commodore 128, VIC 20, Commodore SuperPET, KIM-1
- Apple 1, Apple II, Apple III
- Atari 400, 600, 800, 1200, 7800, 2600, Lynx
- Rockwell AIM-65 and Sym 1
- Acorn Atom, BBC-A B and B+, Electron, System One
- Ninendo Enterainment System (NES), Super Nintendo, Nintendo Gameboy
- Arcade games like Asteroids, Battlefild, Defender and Tempest
Today the MOS 6502 is STILL under large scale manufacture and is in everything from pacemakers for your heart, to calculators, to televisions, to microwaves, all under license from Bill Mensch’s Western Design Center in Texas.
- Commodore PET The Worlds first Personal Computer – This amazing macine was first shown in January 1977 of the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago half a year BEFORE the Radio Shack TRS80 or Apple. It came with a 9″ integrated screen, a real input device (a keyboard) and a cassette tape storage device. Truly and amazing innovation that became the darling of business and education from its inception through the early 1980’s. It spawned a line of PC’s sold worldwide with ever increasing functionality including the 4016, 8032 and even the worlds first multiple CPU and Multiple Operating System computer, the SuperPET. The SuperPET was developed by Commodore with Waterloo University to run 5 different languages including Fortran, Pascal and BASIC.
- Osborne 1 – The worlds first portable computer released in 1981 and was wildely successfull for its day. The ‘Osborne effect’ is still studied by business students around the world. Adam Osborne made a massive stratigic mistake by announcing the NEXT Osborne computer before it was ready. This caused, um…. EVERYONE to wait for the next portable PC and sales of the existing Osborne one evaporated. Unexpected delays in the development of the new new machine caused the company to hemorage its cash reserves and eventually drove the company to bankruptcy in 1983.
- Zilog Z80 CPU – The Z80 was similar to the Intel 8080 as it was designed by the Intel 4004 engineer, Federico Faggin. Faggin left Intel in 1974 to form Zilog. Zilog was so important because it was licenced to so many companies and flat out stolen by many others. The Russians for instanace manufactured the KR1858VM1 and the T34VM1 without payment or credit ro Zilog. Through both licensing and theft, the Z80 became enormously popular from 1976 to 1985, which formed the basis of the modern computer industry.
- Microsoft Windows 3 (and 3.1) – After 20 years of working with command line Disk Operating System (DOS) the world was ready for a Graphical User Interface (GUI). You may say, well, didn’t Apple have a GUI and the answer would be yes, but it was not near as popular or important as Commodore and IBM. In those days, DOS ruled the world and Windows 3.1 took the world by storm openning up computers to users that would have never considers writing command line code.
- Worlds First Smart Phone, the RIM Blackberry – Ok, this should be labled the Worlds First Smart Mobile Device, which was really more of a crazy smart ‘pager’. Canada’s Research In Motion (RIM) Blackberry invented the notion of push email to a mobile device. Blackberry beat all the major players of the day including Microsoft and Palm OS (Kyocera 6035) device to market by years and trully showed us all what was possible.