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The Industrial Era


The Third Generation of computers starts approximately in this era. These computers are characterized by mainly electronic models but now fully programmable.

A prototype of IBM's Personal Computer is constructed by a team under Don Estridge


pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

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pointer.gif (479 bytes)Epson's first dot matrix printer, TX-80 (80 from the number of columns it printed per line), was introduced in 1978.

However, this model didn't attract much attention - except from Commodore who uses it as the system printer for its PET computer. (51)

An improved version will be developed: the MX-80 dot matrix printer in this year, the project started in 1978. The printer establishes a new standard in high performance for printers with low price and is created by Chris Rutkowski. (50)

The TX-80 took three months to develop. The MX-80 took about two years. It quickly becomes the best selling printer in the United States, and eventually will be the industrial standard for microcomputers until the late 1990's. This was despite it being designed not to produce graphics. But within a year the Graftrax version with graphics will hit the streets.(51) 

sinclair zx80The Sinclair ZX80 is on the market. Made by Sinclair Research of Cambridge, UK. It is the first computer available under a hundred pounds (£99.95 / 225 U$ => 553 U$ 2006)(6). It is available in kit form and a more expensive fully assembled version. The ZX80 becomes very popular in Europe, there'll be a waiting list!(7)

sinclair zx80
Sinclair ZX80
click on image for hi-res

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Matra Datavision is created as part of Lagardere Group and starts to produce CAD/CAM software.(25)

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Apple introduces the Apple III for 3500 USD but this one will be badly received.

Initially the machine has practically a 100 % failure rate and almost dragged down the company.(25)

pointer.gif (479 bytes)The first Apple and TRS 80 clones (mostly refurbished apple machines in a new casing) appear on the market. Apples takes draconian measures against cloning manufacturers. This will be a policy that will be typically for Apple for the next decades.

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Texas Instruments makes huge profits with its early calculators and now enters the mini computer market with a machine based on the 16 bits TMS9900 chip.

This machine is fairly successful but has to compete with the big names like DEC and Digital Research.

texas instrument model 99/4ABut TI is looking for another killing machine that could sweep the exploding consumer market. This should be the TI99/A with databus(36) of 8 bits.

It is a technological marvel with connectors for a color monitor and a cassette recorder. Programs are stored in ROM cassettes that can be plugged right into the machine. But the price of 1200 US$ is very high when you realize that these machines are intended for home users.
The success is less then expected and TI will redesign the TI99/A what will result in the type 99/4A. The new model has a connection for a standard household color TV, a better keyboard and BASIC is build in. This machine is successful but appears too late on the market to claim a large chunk of the consumer market. Pricing wars are in full strength and in 1983 TI will terminate the production. But other producers will still make hard and software. It is one of those machines: 'That refuses to die'(37)

One curiosity: There was a PC-box for the TI 99/4a - a complete PC which could be connected to the TI. The only thing the TI got to do for the PC were the keyboard inputs.(48)

pointer.gif (479 bytes)The prototype of the IBM PC will be designed by a team of twelve people at IBM managed by Donald Estridge.(2)

The design team used the Datamaster System/23 as an prototype or example. This machine had diskdrives and a keyboard in one single housing. The prototype will be delivered to Microsoft by a team member (David J. Bradley) in December to create an Operating System for it.


commodore 8032pointer.gif (479 bytes)To stay competitive in the tearsome personal computer market Commodore releases in July the model CBM 8000 series.

A system with a 1 Megabyte (1Mb) disk and a monitor that can have 80 characters or column on one row. The price is just about a third of these sold by the competition and that it upset the market may speak for it self.

This is the father of all price wars ever in the future IT (Information Technology) industry.

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Seagate Technology introduces the first hard disk drive for microcomputers, the ST506.

It is a full height (twice as high as most current 5 1/4" drives) 5 1/4" drive, with a stepper motor. This first born can store 5 Mb(38). The access time is low: 180 - 240 milliseconds

pointer.gif (479 bytes)The optical disk is invented by Philips in the Netherlands. This disc can store 1.3 giga(39) bytes of information.

The information is "burned" into a thin metal layer (Gold, Silver or Aluminum) by a laser. The little dimples(holes) that are burned into the metal layer are representing binary information. With another type of laser these dimples are translated back to information that can feed a computer. Philips and Sony announced the first CD-DA (Digital Audio) device. The original specification is called Red Book.

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Hewlett Packard does not want to stay behind in the Personal Computer race and releases their version of a PC: HP-85

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Xerox has a track record on not to persue the commercial development of its own inventions - in this case the development of the laserprinter into a personal laserprinter.

As a result, the company was beaten to market by Hewlett-Packard, which introduced the first personal laser printer.(3)(4)

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Voulez-Vous Taper Avec Moi?: The French launch Minitel a text-only system accessible through "dumb terminals" supplied by the phone company. Originally intended to provide directory assistance and business information the Minitel system soon delivers all types of information.


This is the first national wide spread network which is accessible for every consumer in the world who has a telephone connection. Probably the most remarkable fact is that Minitel terminals are freely distributed by the state owned France telecom. In time more than 30.000 services will be offered through this network including Electronic Mail. Minitel almost immediately turns into a giant nonstop "hot chat". Having pioneered the Net in their own special way, the French showed little interest in its progress for the next decade. (shown is a modern minitel terminal, for lack of an "original" picture)

pointer.gif (479 bytes)IBM constructs the first 1 Gigabyte Harddisk. Its size is as big as a large refrigerator, weighs 150 kilo's and cost 40.000 USD

pointer.gif (479 bytes)Satellite Software (later Word Perfect Corp.) announces the first version of Word Perfect. By 1987 it will be the most dominant DOS word processor program.

pointer.gif (479 bytes)First issue Call Apple and Nibble, both magazines are dedicated to the Apple II.


Sol Libes quote in Byte magazine's ByteLines:

"The 32-bit machine would be 'overkill' for a personal computer."(5)



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