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Monday, July 7, 2014

Vintage computing - Who started the Personal Computer Revolution ??

"The Lost Story of the Texans Who Invented the Personal Computer Revolution"  a 327 page book by Lamont Wood & published in 2010.
Click on photo to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Datapoint book by Lamont Wood 
This book is a fresh look at the early history of the microprocessor .  Specifically who had the idea for the first Intel 8 bit microprocessor chip. I just finished reading the book a found it to be fascinating and a new look at not only the Datapoint 2200 but also the start of the Intel microprocessor chips.

 July 10,1971 - The first desk top mass produced 8 bit computer with internal memory, keyboard, screen, mass storage, operating system, and communication ability. The Datapoint 2200 designed and marketed by "Computer Terminal Corporation" was really a personal computer that was priced way below the minicomputers that were the small computer market at that time. The idea for the Datapoint 2200 was based on plans as far back as 1968 - years before Bill Gate and Paul Allen started Microsoft or Steve Wozniak designed the Apple 1 microcomputer. The logic of the 2200 was the basis of the Intel 8008 chip.

bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Datapoint 2200 View Video "CLICK"
Lamont Wood tells a lot about the whole process of the Intel start up for the 4 bit and 8 bit microprocessors.  The developers at Computer Terminal Corporation took there design of the Datapoint 2200 to Intel. They contracted with Intel to develop a  single chip (Microprocessor ) version of the 8 bit computer in the 2200.   The  computer circuitry of the 2200 was made with about 100 small scale digital integrated circuits. A lot of Intel and other microprocessor history included in Lamont's book.

The founders of Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC)- Gus Roche, Phil Ray and Jack Frassanito  - had a great head start and could have been the current big boys in the personal computer business. However not being able to see the future of computing they gave up the rights to the microprocessor to Intel.  CTC did not redesign the Datapoint Terminal ( Computer ) to use the microprocessor chip and sold it for a many years with the original design using just small scale integrated circuits. Later models did use microprocessor chips but the company fell apart when some of the sales folks start to cook the books on sales. This underhanded operation by a few of the sales people caused the investors of Wall Street to pull the  plug on investment funds and this ended the great start of the Personal Computer business by CTC. February 1982 was the last good day for share prices of CTC.  CTC had over 9000 employees and was not a small company however it is only history at this time.

I recommend this book for people who are interested in the personal computer and microprocessor history before - Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and IBM.  This is really an amazing story that most of us missed  that were working in the computer field during the early years - 1970 + .

The CTC 2200 story in really fascinating and not well known - you will like the book.

Here is an original Datapoint promotional movie - about 1980 "CLICK" 

To take a close look at the inside of the Datapoint 2200 view this video "CLICK"

Here is a link to Amazon for the book.

I want to thank Gordon Peterson who suggested this book and worked for CTC for about 9 years as a major software developer. Gordon wrote  "Local Area Network"  (LAN) software for the 2200. This was way before LAN's were available for the Apple and IBM personal computers. See some of his information here "CLICK". Gordon corrected information I had about the Datapoint 1100 - I was in error about some assumptions and also miss named the 1100 in some of my text as a 2100.

Here are Gordon's comments about the Datapoint 1100
 Gordon Peterson wrote:
Of course you can use my comments!

The 1100 could do anything the 2200 could do, except for (of course) the cassette functions (since it lacked those).

The fact that this one was shipped with only a single diskette drive suggested that it wasn't doing a lot of data stuff... maybe serving more as a terminal or something... as opposed to (say) running Datashare with multiple terminals (a 2200 could support up to 8 serial terminals).  This 1100 might have been running DSREMOTE (perhaps) in a field office.  (These machines by the way were usually referred to as the "Diskette 1100").

It would have (almost certainly) been running DOS.C (2200 processor, diskette drive(s)) although in theory, one COULD have also attached a 2.5 (or even 25) Mb controller and drive(s) and then run either DOS.A or DOS.B (respectively) on it, although you would have had to boot from the floppy and then load the DOS.A or DOS.B bootstrap from the floppy.  I don't know that anybody ever actually did that.

BTW, just for point of interest, a 16K 2200 carried a list price of about $14,000 back then.

A (non-bundled) 2.5Mb disk controller and (DIablo Series 30-type) cartridge disk drive was about $9800 more.

David G Larsen
 During the late 80's I was able to acquire a fine example of the model 2200 and a model 1100. The CTC 2200 and 1100 now are part of the "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"