LGR – Strangest Computer Designs of the ’70s


(typing)
(synthesized music) – [LGR] The 1970s. The decade where the home computer first found a foothold. Although for most of those years, the very idea of a personal computer wasn’t yet fully defined, with many machines appearing strange simply because they were the first of their kind. There were plenty of fascinating steps along the way to the famous Apple II,
TRS-80 and Commodore PET. So let’s take a look. These are the ’70s computers that stand out for their weirdness in regards to look, usability, and specifications relative to their contemporaries. The CTC Datapoint 2200. Developed by the Computer
Terminal Corporation in 1971, the 2200 was designed to
be a cost-efficient terminal compatible with multiple mainframes. Intel was originally contracted
to design the processor for it, but CTC ended up using their own bit-serial processing solution made up of transistor-transistor logic, or TTL, components. emulating mainframe terminal
connections through software. This also meant that users could actually use it as a true personal computer,
not just a terminal. Oh, and that original processor
CTC asked Intel for? Well it turned into the legendary 8008 CPU, the basis of x86 architecture
used in PCs for decades. The Triumph-Adler TA-1000. Released in 1973 by German document management
company Triumph Adler, the TA-1000 is one of
several computing systems from the time that aren’t simply desktops but are also the desk itself. The 1000 series was an all-in-one
accounting computer solution for small-to-midsize businesses using 8-bit TTL logic, but with a 16-bit address bus. It had a whopping one kilobyte ROM, two kilobytes of RAM, a built-in assembly language interpreter, a full-size dot matrix printer, and support for CRT displays, compact cassette tape storage, and even hard drive and
floppy disk support later on. The MCM/70. The Micro Computer Machines Model 70 hails from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and is often considered to be the
first portable personal computer, weighing in at 20 pounds. Shipping in Fall of 1974, the fully-loaded MCM/70 came spec’d with a one-line plasma display, and the brand-spanking-new Intel 8008 CPU, running at 0.8 MHz, making it one of the
forerunners of personal computers using a microprocessor. It was meant to provide a convenient solution for educators and businesses to use the APL programming language And so the fully-loaded Model 70 with 8K of RAM and dual cassette drives was a bargain at just shy of $10,000 Canadian. The SWTPC TV Typewriter. Well here’s a crazy concept. How about instead of printing out results on paper or buying an expensive CRT display, you build the display hardware into the computer and use a standard television? Well that idea is exactly what makes the Southwest Technical Products
Corporation TV Typewriter a milestone in personal computing, even if it wasn’t exactly a computer. It was a kit of super low-cost terminal hardware that let you display 16 lines of
32 uppercase characters on a TV. But it wasn’t long before hobbyists figured out how to integrate this setup, designed by Goodyear Aerospace
engineer Don Lancaster, into their home PCs as well, a solution used in many home
computers years afterward. The Xerox Alto. This machine was so far ahead of its time that it’s a wonder that Xerox didn’t dominate the personal computer marketplace
in the latter part of the decade. Released in 1973, the Alto was the first computer with an operating environment
designed from the ground up to use a graphical user interface, inspiring a generation of GUIs
introduced a decade later. It also pioneered the
what-you-see-is-what-you-get style of document preparation, which made full use of its
portrait-orientation CRT display. And of course, driving much of this interaction
was a revolutionary device called a mouse, something that wouldn’t go mainstream in other computers until many years later. And all of this was available with 96K of RAM starting at just $40,000. The IASIS ia-7301. Also known as the computer-in-a-book, the ia-7301 is one of many
training computers in 1976 based on the Intel 8080 CPU. But this one was unique since it came packaged in a three-ring binder alongside a 250-page programming course. It was a bit more expensive and fully-featured than other CPU trainers, though, costing $450 for a model
with 1K of RAM and ROM, and support for program
storage through a tape recorder and even S100 cards through the use of an external expander board, making it decidedly less portable. The ISC Compucolor II. Sometimes called the Renaissance Machine, Intelligent Systems Corporation of Norcross, Georgia first released this in 1976. Not only does it have a colorific keyboard, but it’s the first home computer
to house a color display. While its predecessor, the Compucolor I, was a professional computer
with a color vector monitor, the Two was a home micro with a 13-inch General Electric TV that displayed its 128×128 eight-color graphics. It even featured CD storage, but it’s not what it sounds like. The Compucolor Drive, or CD, was a custom-built 5 1/4-inch floppy drive the let its FCS operating system save up to 51.2 kilobytes on each disk. The APF Imagination Machine. By 1979, game consoles were all the rage, right alongside home computers, and APF Electronics placed their bets on a combination of the two
with the Imagination Machine. The first part was the APF-M1000 game console featuring two controllers and a
built-in game called Rocket Patrol. But it could be dropped into the IM-1, a home microcomputer with
a 3.579 MHz Motorola 6800 a stereo cassette deck, internal speaker and five-octave sound chip, and APF OS with its own
BASIC language interpreter. It could even be augmented with RS-232 serial, floppy drives, modems, and extra RAM, making it one of the most
expandable consoles ever made, and setting the stage for later
machines like the Coleco Adam. And finally, The Seattle Computer Products Gazelle. Making its debut right at the tail end of 1979, the SCP Gazelle is one of the very first computers to sport the Intel 8086 CPU. It was also physically massive, with support for dual 8-inch
1.25 meg floppy drives, an 8-inch Winchester drive, and 18 S100 expansion boards inside. And if Seattle Computer
Products sounds familiar, that might be because it
was their own Tim Paterson who programmed the quick-and-dirty
operating system on the Gazelle. This went on to become 86-DOS, which was infamously purchased
by Microsoft for $50,000, and became the operating system for the IBM PC. MS-DOS, Windows and Microsoft itself owes its very existence to the Gazelle, even if the machine itself is just a footnote in the history of computing. (synthesized music) If you enjoyed this episode of LGR, perhaps you’d like to see some of my others. There’s new videos every Monday and Friday, as well as previous ones that I’ve made on the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, so check ’em out if you’d like. And as always, thank you very much for watching.

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