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Personal Computer

In 1974, calculators were the hot item in consumer electronics. A little calculator company in Albuquerque was struggling to compete, but a price war threatened to bankrupt it. Its owner, research engineer Ed Roberts, determined to make it all or nothing. He decided to build a small computer based on the recently developed, inexpensive microprocessors from Intel, and sell it to electronics hobbyist at the amazingly low price of about $500. Roberts called his computer the Altair 8800 and offered it as a kit.

The Altair didn't actually do much as a computer. It didn't have a screen or a keyboard or any software. But it filled a hole. It was the very first personal computer on the market. The larger computer companies were busy developing mainframes and improving computer systems for industry, and couldn't really see why anyone would want a home computer. They also failed to see the implications of the new microprocessors that were small and cheap.

Users had to program Altair in machine code using toggle switches. A Harvard student and his friend, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, realized Altair would be a lot better if users could program it in BASIC, a popular, easy-to-use computer language, instead of machine code.

The enterprising pair called Roberts offered to develop a BASIC interpreter for the Altair. He agreed and within six weeks bought the program from Gates and Allen. He hired Allen as software developer. Allen and Gates later established Microsoft Corporation.

Altair sparked an entire industry, as new personal computer companies popped up in its wake. One of these companies was the creation of a hobbyist who couldn't afford an Altair kit, so he created his own from scratch. Stephen Wozniak polished up his creation in 1976. With his friend Steve Jobs, he began to sell it and then improve it. In 1977, they introduced Apple II and made Apple Computer Company the fastest growing business in American history.

In 1977 Ed Roberts sold his company. Two years later, like many others entering the volatile market, it had folded. In 1982, IBM entered the fray with its own personal computer, the PC, which became Apple's biggest competitor.(1823)

Computer Mouse:

First Introduction

Years before personal computers and deskpot information processing became commonplace or even practicable, Douglas Engelbart had invented a number of interactive, user-friendly information access systems that we take for granted today: the computer mouse was one of his inventions. At the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco in 1968, Engelbart astonished his colleagues by demonstrating the before mentioned systems using an utterly primitive 192-kilobyte mainframe computer located 25 miles away! Engelbart has earned nearly two dozen patents, the most memorable being perhaps for his "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System": the prototype of the computer "mouse" whose convenience has revolutionized personal computing.(667)

Date: 2015-01-29; view: 1580

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