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Martin Campbell-Kelly, Computer Notes Chp 10.docx

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Natural Science
NATS 1700
Dov Lungu

Chp 10 The Shaping of the Personal Computer - First commercial application of radio broadcasting was in telegraphy o Morse signals were transmitted from one point to another – a telegraph without wires - Over years, wireless telegraphy was steadily perfected and incorporated into the world’s telegraph systems, and voce transmission and marine-based telegraphs were discovered - Wireless telegraphy was in the process of being institutionalized by the telegraph companies and gov’t, also began to draw attention of men and boy hobbyists - By 1917 there were 13 581 licensed amateur operations in US, and the number of unlicensed receiving stations was estimated at 150 000 - 3 key points emerge from radio broadcasting history in America o 1. Radio came from a new enabling technology whose long term importance was initially unrecognized.  Originally used for point to point communications technology, was reconstructed to broadcast entertainment medium for mass consumer o 2. Radio amateurs built the first receivers when there was no radio-set industry, thus enabling broadcasting to take off o 3. Once radio broadcasting was established, it was quickly dominated by a few giant firms Microprocessors - The enabling technology for the personal computer - Developed during 1969 to 1971 - Was suggested by Intel engineer Ted Hoff - Intel 1968 specialized manufacturing of semiconductor memory and custom-designed chips. Typically used in calculators, video games, electronic test gear and control equipment - 1969 Intel was approached by Japanese manufacturer to develop a chip set for a new scientific calculator o Job of designing chip set was assigned to Ted Hoff - Hoff decided that instead of specially designed logic chips for calculator, its better to design general purpose chip that could be programmed with specific calculator functions - New chip known as 4004 delivered to Japanese company in 1971 - Intel acquired rights to market new chip on its own account o First microprocessor sold for $1000 - 4004 was relatively low powered, processed only four bits of info at a time o Intel replaced with it with 8008, eight-bit version o 8080 released later, became basis for several personal computer designs, 1974 - Competition with other manufacturers brought price down to $100 - First personal computer emerged 3 years later, Apple II Computer Hobbyists and “Computer Liberation” - Most hobbyists had some professional competence o If not working with computers directly, they were often employed as technicians or engineers in electronic industry - Hobbyists wanted a computer at home for recreational use, o Cost of minicomputer was typically $20000, cost too much, non hobbyists didn’t understand why anyone wanted one - CPU was too expensive for amateurs, allure of microprocessor was that it would reduce price of CPU by vastly reducing the chip count in the conventional computer - A wild held desire to bring computing to ordinary people o Wanting to “liberate” computing o Computer liberation  Very strong in California, explains why personal computer was developed there - Most articulate spokesperson for computer liberation idea was Ted Nelson o Had idea called hypertext  He first described in 1960s, a system by which an untrained person could navigate through a universe of information held on computer  Before idea became reality it was necessary to make computing accessible to ordinary people at trivial cost - Personal computing in 1974 bore little resemblance to the pc that emerged 3 years later o Configuration of a self-contained machine, somewhat like a typewriter, with keyboard and screen, an internal microprocessor-based computing engine, and floppy disk for long term data storage - In 1974 the computer-liberation vision of personal computing was a terminal attached to a large, information-rich computer utility at very low cost, while the computer hobbyist’s vision was that of a traditional mini computing - Both these groups were brought together, with very different perspectives, was the arrival of the first hobby computer, the Altair 8800 The Altar 8800 and Bill Gates - January 1975 the first microprocessor-based computer, Altair 880 was announced. o Often described as the first personal computer  Only true in the sense that its price was so low that it could be realistically bought by an individual, under $400 as advertised  In every other sense it was a traditional minicomputer - Followed closely the marketing model of the electronic hobbyists o Inexpensive, and sold by mail order as a kit that the enthusiast had to assemble themselves o Often did not work when constructed, even when it did work, didn’t do anything very useful o Consisted of a single box containing the central processor, with panel of switched and lights on the front, no display or keyboard, not enough memory to do anything useful o No way to attach a device such as a teletype to the machine to turn it into a useful computer system - Only way it could be programmed was by entering programs in pure binary code by flicking the hand switched at the front o When loaded, the program would run, but the only evidence of its execution was the change in the shifting pattern of lights at the front. o This limited the Altair 8800 to programs that only a dedicated computer hobbyist would ever be able to appreciate o Entering the program was extraordinarily tedious, taking several minutes- but as there were only 256 bytes of memory, there was a limit to the complexity of programs that could be attempted - Altair 880 was in no sense a rational product, only would appear to hobbyists of the most dedicated kind, even then not guaranteed - Despite everything, Altair 8800 was what the computer industry grew around during the next two years - Limitations of it created opportunity for small-time entrepreneurs to develop add-on boards so that extra memory, conventional teletypes, and audiocassette recorders (for permanent data storage) could be added to the basic machine o Most of these people were hobbyists trying to make money off their past time o Few others developed software for Altair 8800 - The most important of the early software entrepreneurs was Bill Gates - Gates and Paul Allen heard of Altair 8800, recognized the software opportunity it represented and proposed to MITS’ Ed Roberts that they should develop a BASIC programming system for the new machine o BASIC was easy to develop o Was the language favored by the commercial time-sharing systems and minicomputers that most computer hobbyists had encountered, and would therefore be the ideal vehicle for the personal computer market - BASIC would need a lot more memory to run than was normally provided with Altair 8800, Roberts was enthusiastic, expected to sell extra memory - Gates and Allen formed partnership and named Micro-Soft - After six weeks of intense programming effort the delivered a BASIC programming system to MITS in Feb 1975 o Allen became software director at MITS - During next two years, hundreds of small firms entered the microcomputer software business, Microsoft was not prominent - The Altair 880, the add-on boards and the software that were soon available for it, transformed hobby electronics. o 1975 Homebrew Computer Club was established  Acted as a swap shop for computer components and programming tips, also provided forum for computer hobbyist and computer liberation cultures to meld - Launched first world-wide conference after receiving orders for Altair 8800 worth over $1 mill o Gates spoke at conference  Attacked hobbyists who pirated software, a dramatic position  Advocated a shift in culture from friendly sharing of free software among hobbyists to that of an embryonic branch of the well packaged-software industry  Gates encountered immense hostility, his speech was against exactly what computer liberation was  Eventually his position was accepted by producers and consumers, and over next two years it was instrumental in transforming PC from utopian ideal to economic artifact - 1975-77 dramatic fast moving period o Microcomputer was transformed from a hobby machine to consumer product o Instead of mail orders, computer shops opened, eventually turned into nation wide chains - Took mainframe decade to transform from laboratory instrument to business machine, PC was transformed in just two years Rise of Apple Computer - Only few firms survived beyond mid 1980s - Apple founded by Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs o Both attended Homebrew Computer Club early 1975 - Wozniak knew about microprocessors, had not realized that they could be used to build general- purpose computers and had not heard of Altair 8800 o But he had actually built a computer - Took up the new microprocessor technology, made a computer based on the MOS Technology 6502 chip o Him and Jobs called it Apple - Jobs convinced Wozniak to develop the Apple computer and market it initially through the Byte Shop o Consisted basically of a naked circuit board, lacking a case, keyboard, screen, even power supply o 200 sold eventually, each hand assembled by Jobs and Wozniak in Job’s parents garage - Jobs recognized that the microcomputer had potenti
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