Classic Computer Rescue Squad

From: Allison J Parent <>
Date: Sat Nov 8 15:51:46 1997

<> IE: altair was importnat because it was relatively cheap.
<And it spawned a bus architecture that begat the micro-computer

There is something to that but on closer inspection the SWTP, SouthWest
Technical Products SS50 bus was far cheaper and much easier to interface
to. The 100 pin connector was expensive and the redundant signals were/are
a pain. It would take several years to sort out things like bus noise and
compatability. No S100 was a bandwagon and the technology was not at issue
as there were better busses and even at the current time of the altair.
When IMSAI also did it nearly the same people sayw that as important enough
that there were two systems with a similar bus that wasn't too bad to
connect to. Now that is historically significant. When two companies
compete using similar hardware or software that is when it takes
significance as it just became an industry.

As to spawning a revolution, no. That started when the machines became
small enough and cheap enough to be attainable. I still remember in 1970
hanging out in highschool with the guys debating processor wordlength and
actually developing on paper a possible sequencer for one. I could have
had a CIM2000 in '72 (bout the size and performance of an 8e) for $2000!
That was the price of a new ford pickup then! It was there I was in it.
What it did was give us early computer hackers and engineers something
useful without some of the teething cycles of homebrewery. It was also
the industry cranking out components that had potential at attainable
prices. I built my first logic design using a RAM (1101, 256x1) in late
'71 and it was at $23 each. In a year the 2102 (1kx1) would be $16.
Imagine a 1kx8 memory for $128!!! By 1974 that would be 4kx8 for under
$100. This along with TTL prices dropping to pennies for a 7400 gate
made assembling a pdp-8 or somesuch within reach, then the 8008 chip at
$180 (over a weeks take home pay in 1972) made it come a bit closer. A
year before the DEC 1974 Popular Electronics Altair article were the Radio
Electronics articles for the Mark-8 a 8008 machine. So it wasn't a single
event is as much the cumulations of many small events. We would get out
of the basement/garage and started on the next level. Better said we
stopped trying to build a machine and started doing things with it. It
was an accelerator.

There were many of accelerators. There would be many more, the z80 would
be the next one. I also think the 16bit battles that started soon after
would push the envelope some more, as did the 32bit systems. In the middle
of the 8/16 battle graphics started to be seen and that pushed the CPUs
harder and demanded more memory and left a huge vacuum for software.

Received on Sat Nov 08 1997 - 15:51:46 GMT

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