Onto the Desktop...
The Alto was an experimental machine built by boffins in Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) in the early 1970s to explore new thinking in user interface design, and while never made available commercially - Xerox would sell the Star, a version of the Alto, in 1981 - a couple of thousand were made for use by Xerox staff and some were donated to universities and research facilities. Arguably the first personal computer - though some historians consider it a minicomputer - it was also the first to feature a graphical interface controlled by a mouse and to incorporate networking.
MITS Altair 8800
The Altair 8800 may not have been the world’s first personal computer aimed at hobbyists rather the scientists and engineers - that was 1973’s Scelbi-8H - but it was the first of the switches’n’lights home micros to gain wide appeal. Manufacturer MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) had been founded in 1969 to build electronics for tracking model rockets, though it soon turned its attention to programmable-calculator kits. A single-user computer was the logical next step, and work began in 1974 on an Intel 8080-based machine to be sold in kit form. A crucial tie-in with US magazine Popular Electronics helped put the Altair in front of thousands of potential users in December 1974. The assembled unit was a pain to program: instructions were fed in by flipping switches on the front. That changed when a small, two-man company called Microsoft was hired to write a Basic interpreter for the machine, fed in on paper tape.
Launched in April 1977 and shipped two months later, the Apple II is probably the member of a small group of first personal computers launched that year - others include the Commodore Pet and Tandy’s TRS-80 - that did the most to take the technology beyond the reach of hobbyists and into the mainstream. The work of Steve Wozniak (1950-) and Steve Jobs (1955-2011), the Apple II was equipped with a 6502 CPU and 4KB of Ram, colour graphics and - an interesting innovation - expansion slots, the Apple II proved hugely popular, despite being priced well above the competition, largely because it quickly established an extensive library of third-party software users could run to get things done.
In Part Two, Tomorrow: Objects 11-20 - the 1980s and beyond
0. The Antikythera mechanism?
Any reference to Leo always reminds me of the story my father-in-law (95 and still going strong) tells. Lyons offered the use of Leo to the Inland Revenue to calculate the tax tables after a budget change. One year he was selected to go to Lyons, taking with him the highly confidential envelope that contained details of the tax changes to be announced in the budget. The rule was that the changes were secret until the budget announcements were made and the chancellor had sat down. Which meant waiting for the phone call to say that the chancellor had sat down. The envelope could be opened and the details given to the Lyons' techies. He opened the envelope, took out the paper that was inside and read it - "No Change".
> The Apple machines really weren't that important or successful
Maybe, but I used one in the office back in the early 80s. Great little machine, 48kb memory, twin floppies and the killer app, Visicalc.
When the company acquired its first IBM PC it seemed inferior in every sense. "It'll never catch on", thought I. Thus starting my ability to be 100% wrong about new technology.
DOS or CCPM? - no question, Concurrent CPM was superior in every way!
Future PC with CCPM or IBM PC with PC-DOS? - no brainer, I can multitask on my Future pc and store data on my 800kb floppies rather than 1 thing at a time with 360kb storage.
Word Perfect of MS Word? - easy. MS Word is so clunky it's all but unusable
Apple Lisa and a mouse? No-one needs a mouse
If only I had bet against myself
Oh, no it wasn't.
The IMSAI 8080 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMS_Associates,_Inc.) and MITS Altair 8008 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altair_8800) both allowed third-party plug-in cards, and were launched in 1975.
That predates the Apple ][ by two years.
The Apple machines really weren't that important or successful until the Mac came out.
Try looking at the other home computers of the era, especially those from Commodore. Don't believe the Apple revisionists, even Apple lied about who sold a million machines first (it was Commodore, not Apple).