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A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PERSONAL COMPUTER

 

The term personal computer was coined by a computer scientist, Alan Kay, in a 1972 paper titled "A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages." As a result of Kay's work in this area, Xerox built a personal computer called the Alto, though they never put it on the market. Other established computer companies also considered the concept of a personal computer but decided that there was no market for such a machine. As a result, it was not until 1975 that an Albuquerque, New Mexico, company called MITS released the first personal computer in kit form. This machine, named "Altair" after a planet in the "Star Trek" TV series, had just 1K of memory and was very slow by today's standards. MITS had 5.000 orders for the Altair after it was pictured on the cover of Popular Electronics. A pioneer in the field, the current computer science publisher Rodney Zaks, remarked that "Never before had such a powerful tool been invented and so few people realized what it could do."

While MITS was the first to come out with a personal computer, it was up to Apple, Radio Shack, and Commodore to popularize its use. These were among almost 100 companies that rushed to put out personal computers in the years immediately after MITS offered the first one.

An amazing success story of this period is that of the Apple Company, formed by two young Californians, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, when they built the first Apple computer in their garage.

With all these infant companies competing for the emerging computer market, Apple made a real breakthrough in 1978 when it disk drive to go along with the original Apple II. This was the key addition that, along with the VisiCalc software package offered only on the Apple, allowed Apple to leapfrog over Radio Shack and Commodore into first place among the pioneer companies.

The next breakthrough came when IBM offered its PC in 1981. While not an innovation technologically, the IBM PC almost immediately became an industry standard and legitimized the concept of a personal computer. It was followed by the Apple Macintosh in 1984, the IBM PS/2 line in 1987, and the NeXT computer in 1988. These introductions have divided the industry roughly into five types of computers: IBM PS/2, IBM PC AT compatibles, Apple II series, Apple Macintosh series, and others (Commodore, Atari, NeXT, and so on).

Source: John Hillkirk, "Computer Whiz Kids Recall Magic," USA Today.

 

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Date: 2015-02-03; view: 475


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