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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
Personal Computer by Steve Jobs and
Steve Wozniak in 1976.
PERSONAL COMPUTER

Personal Computers, microcomputers were made possible by two technical innovations in the field of microelectronics: the integrated circuit, or IC, which was developed in 1959; and the microprocessor, which first appeared in 1971. The IC permitted the miniaturization of computer-memory circuits, and the microprocessor reduced the size of a computer's CPU to the size of a single silicon chip. 

The invention of the microprocessor, a machine which combines the equivalent of thousands of  transistors on a single, tiny silicon chip, was developed by Ted Hoff at Intel Corporation in the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco, California, an area that was destined to become known to the world as Silicon Valley because of the microprocessor and computer industry that grew up there. Because a CPU calculates, performs logical operations, contains operating instructions, and manages data flows, the potential existed for developing a separate system that could function as a complete microcomputer.

Early Altair Cmputer The first such desktop-size system specifically designed for personal use appeared in 1974; it was offered by Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS). The owners of the system were then encouraged by the editor of a popular technology magazine to create and sell a mail-order computer kit through the magazine. The computer, which was called Altair, retailed for slightly less than $400.
The demand for the microcomputer kit was immediate, unexpected, and totally overwhelming. Scores of small entrepreneurial companies responded to this demand by producing computers for the new market. The first major electronics firm to manufacture and sell personal computers, Tandy Corporation (Radio Shack), introduced its model in 1977. It quickly dominated the field, because of the combination of two attractive features: a keyboard and a cathode-ray display terminal (CRT). It was also popular because it could be programmed and the user was able to store information by means of cassette tape.

Soon after Tandy's new model was introduced, two engineer-programmers—Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs—started a new computer manufacturing company named Apple Computers.

First Apple Computer  In 1976, in what is now the Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created a homemade microprocessor computer board called Apple I. Working from Jobs’ parents’ garage, the two men began to manufacture and market the Apple I to local hobbyists and electronics enthusiasts. Early in 1977, Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple Computer, Inc., and in April of that year introduced the Apple II, the world’s first personal computer. Based on a board of their design, the Apple II, complete with keyboard and color graphics capability, retailed for $1290.

Some of the new features they introduced into their own microcomputers were expanded memory, inexpensive disk-drive programs and data storage, and color graphics. Apple Computers went on to become the fastest-growing company in U.S. business history. Its rapid growth inspired a large number of similar microcomputer manufacturers to enter the field. Before the end of the decade, the market for personal computers had become clearly defined.

In 1981, IBM introduced its own microcomputer model, the IBM PC. Although it did not make use of the most recent computer technology, the PC was a milestone in this burgeoning field. It proved that the microcomputer industry was more than a current fad, and that the microcomputer was in fact a necessary tool for the business community. The PC's use of a 16-bit microprocessor initiated the development of faster and more powerful micros, and its use of an operating system that was available to all other computer makers led to a de facto standardization of the industry.

In the mid-1980s, a number of other developments were especially important for the growth of microcomputers. One of these was the introduction of a powerful 32-bit computer capable of running advanced multi-user operating systems at high speeds. This has dulled the distinction between microcomputers and minicomputers, placing enough computing power on an office desktop to serve all small businesses and most medium-size businesses.

Another innovation was the introduction of simpler, "user-friendly" methods for controlling the operations of microcomputers. By substituting a graphical user interface (GUI) for the conventional operating system, computers such as the Apple Macintosh allow the user to select icons—graphic symbols of computer functions—from a display screen instead of requiring typed commands. Douglas Engelbart, invented an "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System": the prototype of the computer "mouse" whose convenience has revolutionized personal computing. New voice-controlled systems are now available, and users may eventually be able to use the words and syntax of spoken language to operate their microcomputers.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Steve Jobs Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
Steve Wozniak Biography
   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Computing   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages (1983)
/ Bluewood Books 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.

Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer
by Douglas K. Smith, Robert C. Alexander / Paperback: 276 pages /  iUniverse.com;   (May 1999)

Those within the high-tech community certainly appreciate the open ended research that Xerox PARC conducted which has lined the pockets of so many that were never in any way associated with Xerox.

Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer
by Paul Freiberger, Michael Swaine / Paperback: 463 pages / McGraw-Hill Trade; 2nd edition (1999)
Fire in the Valley is an accurate, insightful, and often entertaining look at the many accidents and mistakes that eventually led to the computer you have on your desktop today.

Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company
by Owen Linzmayer / Paperback: 323 pages / No Starch; 2 edition (January, 2004)
Apple Confidential examines the tumultuous history of America’s best-known Silicon Valley start-up – from its legendary founding almost 30 years ago, through a series of disastrous executive decisions, to its return to profitability, and including Apple’s recent move into the music business.

American Computer Pioneers
by Mary Northrup / Library Binding - 112 pages (July 1998) / Enslow Publishers, Inc.
This entry in the Collective Biographies series covers major players in the development of the computer, from Herman Hollerith, the inventor of punch cards, through the inventors of ENIAC and UNIVAC, as well as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Marc Andreessen of Netscape. Each section, approximately ten pages long, briefly profiles the subject's early life, then moves on to cover their contribution to the industry.

ON THE SCREEN:
The Creation of the Computer
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / 73090 / Less than $25.00
Trace the technological advancements that led to the first true modern "computers" and the rapid progress that saw computers shrink from room-sized monsters to the desktop units that are revolutionizing life in the '90s.
 Computers
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
The incredible breakthroughs and refinements that have marked the development of the computer are so familiar that they have lost some of their power to amaze.
Digi-tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
See how the computing capacity of World-War II era room-sized computers is now surpassed by hand-held devices; visit Zenith to see a side-by-side comparison of regular television and HDTV; discover how a Cold War era NASA program is transforming personal photography, and get the inside story about MP3s.

Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, (VHS) NTSC / Rated: NR
Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Noah Wyle (as Steve Jobs) / Director: Martyn Burke
This dramatization of the tangled history of Apple Computer and Microsoft, based on a book by Paul Frieberger, hits enough of the right notes to make its failures all the more frustrating.

ON THE WEB:

American Computer Museum
Located in Bozeman, Montana, USA is one of the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of computer and information age history anywhere on public display!
(URL: www.compustory.com/)
Personal Computer
From the Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia.
(URL: encarta.msn.com/)

Computers
SciTech, Carbons to Computers series from the Smithsonian Institution.
(URL: www.si.edu/science_and_technology/computers_and_communications/)

Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Featured Steve Jobs and Steve Woziank for their invention of the Personal Computer.
(URL: web.mit.edu/invent/iow/apple.html)

Apple History
This site is intended to provide a broad history of Apple Computer, Inc., from the invention of the Apple I in 1976 to the troubled times of the past few years to the current revival.
(URL: www.apple-history.com/)
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds. Steve Wozniak was inducted in 2000 for his invention Microcomputer for Use with Video Display Personal Computer Patent # 4,136,359.
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/155.html)
What was the first personal computer?
Edmund Berkeley first described Simon in his 1949 book, "Giant Brains, or Machines That Think" and went on to publish plans to build Simon in a series of Radio Electronics issues in 1950 and 1951. Presented by the Blinkenlights Archaeological Institute.
(URL: blinkenlights.com/pc.shtml.)

DID YOU KNOW?

  • On Novenber 9, 1982 patent D266,848 iddues to Richard Dickinson for Sinclair Computer
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised January 30, 2007.
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