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The Industrial Era

1972 - 1973

The Third Generation computers started approximately in this era. These computers were mainly characterized by electronic models and were fully programmable.

The first consumer game is published, diagramming techniques for software development were defined, the Hewlett Packard handheld scientific calculator HP35 is now available.

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1947 1949 1950 1952 1955 1958 1961 1963 1965 1969 1970 1972 1974
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In January Magnavox (USA), member of the North American Philips group, started selling a game computer running "Odyssey".

This game was already written in 1968(1) for a mainframe computer by the American Ralph Baer. But as with most advanced ideas it was too early for consumers, not ready at that time to adapt something like a video game. Commercially it meant a disaster and the 100 U$ game console gathered dust.

intel 8008On 24 August 1972 INTEL released the 200 kHz 8008, an 8 bit version of the 4004.

The speed was 300.000 instructions per second, could address 16Kb memory. It contained 3500 transistors based on 10 micron technology. It was the first processor able to recognize all characters of the alphabet (letters and numbers).
The processor was originally built for Computer Terminal Corporation,- later called Datapoint. This processor will instantaneously be popular with manufacturers of small computers.

A so called "die" photo of the 8008 processor.

As a result of the speed in development of minituralization several pocket calculators appeared on the market.

Sinclair's Executive, picture courtesy nvg.org

Clive Sinclair is the first (August 1972) to bring a pocket calculator - the size of a package of sigarets - based on intel's new CPU on the market, only the basic calculations were possible though. Pricing: expensive but lower than others: 79 UK pounds.(9) Power consumption is compared to other calculators extremly low due to a smart power switching technique. The reason why this calculator has a small footprint.

(Texas Instruments brought out the types TI2500, 3000, 3500) but they were still very expensive. All basic functions ( + - / : *) and a percentage key were present. Numbers were displayed by a special kind of LED's, at the same time the reason for high battery consumption. Rechargeable batteries only existed in laboratories yet.

hp35 calculator

Hewlett Packard released the first scientific calculator: the HP 35. This machine would wipe out the use of what is left of slide rulers.

The use of these ancient "calculators" became extinct over night. This calculator had inherited many of the functionalities of the HP 9100A model and it influenced the way mathematicians and engineers would calculate. The HP35 contained 8 IC's and was sold at 395 U$. A lot of money for that time.

Hewlett Packard also wanted to make a move on the business market and brought out the HP 3000 minicomputer.


In November 29 1972, Nolan Bushnell(17) and Al Alcorn wheeled a strange apparatus into Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, Calif.

pong playing machine

Bushnell, the founder of a new company called Atari, and Alcorn, Atari’s first engineer, set up the cube-like device on a barrel and switched it on.

Two dials were set below glowing rectangles on a screen. The instructions read: “1. Insert quarter. 2. Ball will serve automatically. 3. Avoid missing ball for high score.” Curious patrons began to follow step one.

Not before long, the machine stopped working. Alcorn returned to the bar to check it out. Opening it up, he saw that the side-mounted coin mechanism (from a Laundromat) was jammed—brimming with quarters. Pong was already on its way to being the first commercially successful video game.
The game was called "Pong". A very simple contraption build from 2 knobs, logic modules and connectors for a TV. Pong was the first to combine the critical elements: a simple interface, amusing play and technology that was cheap and easy to manufacture. A decade after that first coin slot jammed, arcades full of Pong progeny were bringing in $5 billion a year. The video-game industry crash of the mid-1980s shook Atari and the rest of the gaming arena. But by that time arcade games had introduced an entire generation to playful computing.

 3pong.gif (1350 bytes)

The game looked like playing Ping Pong or "squash". A cursor type of "ball" moved from left to right over the screen and should be hit back by an electronic bat. This bat was controlled by turning the knobs on the game console so the bat goes up or down to "hit" the "ball" (cursor)
Look at the little point at the right hand side: the ball. The two little verticals are the bats. The center line is the net and at the top "row" are shown the points.

atarlogo.gif (3892 bytes) To market their machine Bushnell and Alcom founded Atari.


Read history of video games on the history of video games


One of the first digital microcomputers available for personal use in the USA was the MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) 816.

Though not equipped with a display or keyboard, the 816 was of considerable interest to the amateur enthusiast who wanted a personal computer. (31) It is also the first computer to use the Intel 8008 CPU.


ARPAnet is demonstrated at CS-ACM ICCC in Washington (31)

Xerox decides to build a personal computer to be used for research. The project "Alto", as it is called, starts in November at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).

The result will be the Alto personal computer that uses a mouse, Ethernet, and a graphical user interface. But the machine will not sell many copies because of its extreme high price. Nonetheless it serves its research purposes very well.

Early production Xerox laser printer(5)

Also at PARC Gary Starkweather presents after 9 months of research the worlds first working laser printer.

In 1973 there were several models of the laser printers at the center. And in 1977 Xerox will put the first commercial laser printer on the market, the Xerox 9700.(3) Ten years later HP will put the first personal laser printer on the market.

A Canadian firm Automatic Electronic Systems introduced the world's first programmable word processor with a video screen" the AES 90. The system used magnetic disks for storage and a custom built processor.(20)

Wang, VYDEC, and Lexitron also introduce word processing systems.

MAA (predecessor of Digital Research) defined together with Intel a new system-programming language called PL/M (Programming Language for Microcomputers) to replace assembly-language programming for Intel's 8-bit processors .(16)

The first implementation of PROLOG (Programming in Logic) was developed at University by Alain Colmerauer of Aix-Marselle.

It will be the preferred language for the 5th generation of machines. It's a descriptive and declarative language.(16) Prolog will popularize key logic programming concepts.

Dennis Ritchie from Bells Labs in New Jersey, created C, a programming language derived from BCLP. To become the most popular language for professionals, not recommended for beginners.(16)

FORTH was developed, a medium-level language which used a small number of very brief instruction words. Forth was originally designed for telescope control and it would become the standard language used in astronomy.

The first e-mail program for Arpanet is created by Ray Tomlinson of BBN.(2)

Smalltalk is developed by Xerox PARC's Learning Research Group, based largely on the ideas of Alan Kay.

Analytic complexity theory develops the idea of NP-completeness, showing that a large class of computing problems, such as the "traveling salesman problem," may be computationally intractable.

In Wimbledon, England, an experimental computerized axial tomography imager finds a brain tumor in a patient.

DEC's PDP 11/45 is introduced, its circuitry encased in chips.

Steve Wozniak builds a "blue box" tone generator to make free phone calls and sells them in the dorm at UC Berkeley.

Warren Juran develops the first search engine in APL, an early programming language for the IBM 360. While demonstrating the search engine to customers it left the spectators bewildered.

In Mr. Jurans own words:

Warren Juran 2004

“Our customers’ jaws dropped when they saw the online search application. It was predominately the punch card era, so they had never seen anything like it before.” Many early adopters were Carnation (now part of Nestle), Rockwell, Chevron, Price Waterhouse, Exxon as well as several government agencies.



listing of search results; click on picture to enlarge

 At Xerox PARC, Alan Kay proposes they build a portable personal computer: the Dynabook

Dynabook will have the size of an ordinary notebook and other features considered standard at the end of the 20th century. But PARC management does not support the idea and the project is put off.

 Michael J. Flynn publishes Flynn's taxonomy.

This is a classification of computer architectures. The four classifications defined by Flynn are based upon the number of concurrent instruction (or control) and data streams available in the architecture:

Later there will be extensions to this taxonomy or classification.(10)


Cullinane, led by John J. Cullinane, ships IDMS, a network-model database for IBM mainframes.

Jonathan Titus from Blackburg, Virginia (USA) develops the MARK-8 that was built on the basis of an Intel 8008(26) micro processor.

However it is a kit, something you had to build yourself. It had no power supply, monitor, keyboard or housing to be bought separately. The publication in Radio Electronics Magazine described however exactly how to built one.
The machine was programmed by setting eight (flip) switches, one for each bit. One could imagine that programming the Mark 8 is still a time consuming business. However since this computer was geared to the private market and only "computer freaks" or hackers as they were often called did want to buy this computer. The tedious way of programming did not matter. All what counted was that they could do the programming in any way they liked. And the kick of having your own computer was something you could not even start to explain.
Throughout the USA  user groups were established and the computer newsletter was a result thereof

Gerry Killdahl

Gary Killdahl wrote a simple operating system in his PL/M and he calls it CP/M   (Control Program/Monitor

UNIX is rewritten in 'C' and becomes available for a large range of different machines.

UNIX will be, because of its translation into "C",  a very important factor in the Operating System arena. Almost all computer networks are running on Unix or a variant of it, or something that has the feel and working like UNIX. Two of them are  XENIX and Linux. Even micro computers ( ATARI, Commodore Amiga) adapted a form of Unix for these systems.

Paul Fiedl a chemical engineer at IBM develops SCAMP : the Special Computer APL Machine Portable(18).

When this machine had interested John Opel (president of IBM) enough IBM would have had un contended supremacy in Personal Computing. The SCAMP had a build in cassette tape drive, a selectric type keyboard (standard keyboard for electric typing machines), 64k memory, and a very small screen. Fiedl even wrote a spreadsheet program for financial modeling, a full three years before VisiCalc came out for the Apple. But Opel thought it to be too complicated and too much ado about!

Again engineers of IBM came with a new first and equips the newly released IBM 3740 with floppy drives that can read single sided 8" diskettes. The floppies had twice the capacity of the previous one's of 1971: 250.000 characters.

Sharp (Japan) develops the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology which is intended for calculators.

Many years Sharp will stay market leader in this field. The technology is going to evolve to large flat screens for portable computers, but before that will happen another 20 years will pass.

The LCD technology

This technology is build on the principle that crystals will re-orient in a particular direction when there is electrical current influencing them. It is like when a magnet it set close to a compass needle, the needle takes a different direction. Because of the different orientation of the crystal in a particular LCD cell the screen in that part is no longer transparent. That is how pictures (and characters by the way) are represented or composed.

LCD technology will be primarely used in small screens for gauging equipment, cars, and small appliances.
LCD technology will be replaced by TFT in the 1990's as computer screens and TV's are concerned.

Twenty-seven years after the unveiling of the ENIAC, and many years after the US Patent Office had issued the patent for the computer to Eckert and Mauchly, the Judge Earl Larson of the US District Court in Minneapolis invalidated it.

In a suit between Honeywell Information Systems and Sperry-Rand Corp. regarding the payment of royalties for the use of the concept of the computer, Larson found that Mauchly had derived his ideas for the computer from "one, John Vincent Atanasoff". Neither Eckert nor Mauchly ever gave up their opposition to this finding, believing that their invention was true. For many this was the first time they had heard of the work of Atanasoff, or of the ABC.

John Vincent Atanasoff is recognized as the creator of the modern computer when federal judge invalidates Eckert and Mauchly's ENIAC patent.

Nassi and Schneider develop a diagramming technique that produces "program structure diagrams" (PSD).

It enhances the analysis methodology for information systems enormously. A NSD diagram is a graphical representation of a small part of the program by means of a limited set of symbolic graphics. The picture below represents a simple NSD diagram.

Nassi Scheider diagrams how you use them

Say you put a question to yourself like: "is a particular car too expensive for me to buy or not".

Depending on your bank account and possible financing you could go through the following example

bachmann_diagram.jpg (25844 bytes)

Suppose a car cost 20.000 US$ and you are not a millionaire, but you have the money. Going down through this diagram you would come to the conclusion that you will be able to buy that car. Just follow the Yes and No's.

In this way your problem is broken down to little "yes" and "no" questions and answers. And that is how a computer program solves problems too.

Only by answering with yes or no, most problems can be solved by a computer. Because the action to follow depends on the answer of the question in only two ways: yes or no, Zero or One.

A simple:

if "yes" then buy the car
if "no" get some more money.

gets a simple answer.


While the concept of a wide area network has been effectively developed as a part of the ARPAnet project, the basis for a "local area net" is Ethernet, created at Xerox PARC by Robert Metcalf.

In some ways Metcalf invents Ethernet three times, the first time as part of his dissertation at MIT (as part of Project MAC), at Xerox PARC, and then again later again at 3COM, a company he founds to exploit his invention.
This protocol manages a Local Area Network called LAN. And is a design that allows computers to communicate between each other over a local area network.

ethernet prototype(35)

Internet consists of 25 computers.

Digital developed DEC Data Communication Message Protocol (DDCMP) as a standard for its future computer-to-computer communications.

Barcode from times magazine
example of UPC barcode

The Universal Product Code (UPC) is developed. This unique code consists of black stripes of two different thicknesses that can be read by special bar scanners.

The first company to produce bar code equipment for retail trade use (using UGPIC) was the American company Monarch Marking in 1970, and for industrial use, the British company Plessey Telecommunications was also first in 1970. UGPIC evolved into the U.P.C. symbol set or Universal Product Code, which is still used. George J. Laurer is considered the inventor of U.P.C. or Uniform Product Code.(8)

Almost all products in the world will have such a code, even magazines will have a code in the next few years. In shops cashiers and other point of sales ( POS19) units will be equipped with barcode scanners in various forms, portable or built in. Through this the price is always correct ( when the database in the computer is correct at least). As a bonus the client will find much more information on a sales slip than before.

In France the first complete, not as a do it yourself kit, micro computer is introduced: the Micral. The machine is designed by François Gernelle

Early model

The design is based on the Intel 8008 running at 500 kHz. But it will not be a commercial success. Micrals most important contribution to the scene is that during a meeting about the computer the term Micro Computer is coined.(20) Gernelle is awarded two worldwide patents on the machine in 1973 but the name "micro-ordinateur" or micro computer is not mentioned in the patents because of its novelty, as the story goes. Micral means "petit" in French slang.

Works begins on the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) at a Standford University laboratory headed by Vinton Cerf.

Alan Kay develops a forerunner of the PC. His "office computer," based on Smalltalk, employs icons, graphics, and a mouse.

Trough a technique called large-scale integration, 10,000 components are placed on a 1-sq-cm chip.

 The SCAMP is redesigned into the IBM 5100 but the price label, the 5100 sold for between $8,975 and $19,975, and the heavy reliance on APL and BASIC will not give it a long commercial life30

One of the earliest IBM attempts to move computing into the hands of single users was the "SCAMP" project in 1973. This six-month development effort by the company's General Systems Division (GSD) produced a prototype device dubbed "Special Computer, APL Machine Portable" (SCAMP) that PC Magazine in 1983 called a "revolutionary concept" and "the world's first personal computer." To build the prototype in the short half-year allowed, its creators acquired off-the-shelf materials for major components. SCAMP could be used as a desktop calculator, an interactive APL programming device and as a "dispenser" of canned applications. The successful demonstration of the prototype in 1973 led to the launch of the IBM 5100 Portable Computer two years later. (34)

Robert Metcalfe writes a memo on "Ether Acquisition," which describes the Ethernet as a modified Alohanet.

At the University of California, Berkeley, Michael Stonebraker and Eugene Wong use published information on System/R to begin work on their own relational database.

Their Ingres project will eventually be commercialized by Oracle Corp., Ingres Corp. and other Silicon Valley vendors. And in 1976, Honeywell Inc. will ship Multics Relational Data Store, the first commercial relational database. (7)

wabot 1At the Waseda university in Japan the Wabot-1 is built.

wabot 1

It is the first full-scale anthropomorphic robot built in the world. It consists of a limb control system, a vision system, and a conversation system. The Wabot-1 is able to communicate with a person in Japanese and to measure distances and directions to the objects using external receptors, artificial ears and eyes, and an artificial mouth. The Wabot-1 walkes with his lower limbs and is able to grip and transport objects with hands that used tactile sensors.(11)

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