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
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.