Lecture 9. The Computer Hobby Movement
Informal and unedited notes, not for distribution. (c) Z. Stachniak, 2011.
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In the last lecture we looked at the world-wide activities aiming at designing
inexpensive microprocessor-based computers for personal use and ownership.
The companies such as the Canadian MCM, French R2E, and American
Scelbi were among the rst rms to announce and manufacture such com-
While these early microcomputer manufacturers were able to attract small
and medium-sized businesses, corporations, agencies, and educational insti-
tutions, they were unable to attract the general public to their products (to
both, computers and software). The main three reasons for that failure were:
early PCs were too expensive for an average individual (in 1974, the
cost of an MCM/70 in basic conguration was approximately $4,000
which would suce to buy a new Ford Mustang and a few other items);
general public was not well educated about computers and their ben-
ets; the early PC manufacturers were not interested in computer lit-
eracy programs; instead, some companies, such as MCM, insisted that
their computers are as easy to use as pocket calculators;
none of the early PC companies could oer a killer application that
would make their computers a highly-desirable consumer electronic
gadget (note that there was no computer gaming market!!).
1 The hobbyists
The historical mission of explaining computers to the general public, of stim-
ulating the development of the personal computer industry, and of helping to
introduce computers to homes was fullled by a movement initiated in 1974
by the North-American electronic hobbyists interested in computers. This
movement is referred to as computer hobby movement.
Fig. 1. Computer hobbyist Howard Franklin constructed his rst computer in Toronto in
1974. Photograph by Z. Stachniak, 2004.
Who were the computer hobbyists? In short, these were enthusiasts of elec-
tronics interested in computers. Some of them were electronics profession-
als, others were high-school students interested in build-your-own-gadgets
most were just curious about electronics and what it had to oer. The hob-
byists were ocking around popular electronics magazines, such as Radio-
Electronics and Popular Electronics which were important catalysts in the
formation of the microcomputer hobbyists movement.
2 These magazines oered not only information about electronics novelties but
also, and frequently, detailed construction projects such as: build your own
calculator, build the rst Low-cost ALL-SOLID-STATE TV Camera! Of
course, not everybody was interested in everything and only some embarked
at these construction projects.
Neither the MCM/70, the Micral, nor the Scelbi computers made it into
the hobbyists hands. The hobbyists would nd their rst computers not in
computer stores (there were none!) but in electronics magazines presented
as construction projects.
Fig. 2. Build the rst low-cost all-solid-state TV camera project announced on the
cover of Radio-Electronics, February 1975.
3 The Mark-8 computer
In July 1974, Radio-Electronics (RE) published a construction project un-
like any other in the magazines history: Build The MARK-8 Your Personal
Minicomputer. Its author, Jonathan Titus, oered a small, microprocessor-
based computer to the hobbyists.
Fig. 3. The Mark-8 computer on the cover of the July 1974 issue of Radio-Electronics.