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Natural Science
NATS 1700
Zbigniew Stachniak

Lecture 8: Addendum What Does The MCM/70 Story Tell Us? - It was the introduction of Intel’s first microprocessors that triggered world- wide efforts to commercially develop personal computers (in Canada, France, and the US). - The historical mission of the creation of the first microprocessor-powered PCs was fulfilled by small, obscure electronic firms (such as Micro Computer Machines of Toronto or a small French electronic systems housealisations ´ ´ et Etudes Electroniques (R2E)) as well as by the computer hobbyists’ move- ment of the mid 1970s – the subject of the next lecture. - From the start, it was clear to the MCM management that the microproces- sor technology would create a new computing paradigm based on individual use and ownership of computers. Fig. 1. The MCM/70 computer designed and manufactured by the Toronto-based Micro Computer Machines (1973). Source: York University Computer Museum; photograph by Paul Stachniak. 1 The microprocessor and the PC The advent of the microprocessor had a profound impact on the consumer electronic market (e.g. pocket calculators and digital watches) and on the creation of the personal computer industry. Mers Kutt’s knowledge about the microprocessor developments at Intel al- lowed his company (Micro Computer Machines) to start its work on the world’s first PC even before the Intel’s chip (the Intel 8008) was available commercially. As the former MCM software engineer Gordon Ramer explained, In designing the MCM/70 we totally bet on the emerging microprocessor technology, we just proceeded, even before the first [8 bit] microprocessor was built. The microprocessor was a radically new electronic device whose effective- ness in implementing computer equipment surprised many engineers. As the former MCM hardware engineer Jos´ e Laraya recollected: Mers [Kutt] brought it [the microprocessor] in and said ‘here, see what it does’. It was really computing, it really did things, one little chip... I was very impressed with what Intel had done with the chip and I wanted to be one of the first to put together a processor [computer] with it. And indeed he would become one of the very first engineers to build a general purpose computer powered by a microprocessor. It was Laraya who designed most of the MCM/70’s hardware. 2 The MCM/70 and the new personal computing paradigm MCM was possibly the earliest company to fully recognize, articulate, and act upon the immense potential of microprocessor technology for the develop- ment of a new generation of cost-effective, individual user-oriented computing systems – personal computers. There seems little doubt that Canada has stolen an early world lead in the new era of ’distributed processing’ which will bring the dream of a computer in every home and office closer to reality. [Electronics Communicator, 1973] In spite of the many ways in which one might render the term ‘personal computer’, the present day personal computing reality is the consequence of the invention of the microprocessor and of the rapidly growing demand for public access to interactive computing in the 1970s. Already in 1973, Mers Kutt professed that in the coming years, the computer field is going to be made up of millions of small computers and a limited number if large com- puters... With that trend developing, the MCM/70 could, in a few years, become as familiar as calculators are today. [1973] Fig. 2.
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