Wednesday, December 23, 2015

First Microprocessor ? The Central Air Data Computer in the F-14 Tomcat late 60's

The First Microprocessor Chip: The transistor was invented in 1947, the integrated circuit in 1958 and in 1968/70 one of the first microprocessor chip sets was designed by Ray Holt - Here is some of his story.  Ray will be speaking at the Vintage Computer festival SE in April 16 - hope to see you there. 

Ray Holt by F-14 Tomcat 
The Intel 4004 microprocessor was not the first microprocessor to be developed. The 4004 microprocessor was the first to be commercially available in November 1971.

Update - 1-20-16 Ray just sent me copies of his design notes and final report on this project - very interesting. I ask Ray if he could give a talk at the VCFSE in Roswell - early April 2016 and he may be able to do that. I will be giving a talk about my 45 years of teaching and collecting historical computers.  Dave

Ray Holt developed one of the first microprocessor chip sets for Garrett AiResearch's Central Air Data Computer for use in the F-14 Tomcat from 1968 to 1970. The F14 chips were coming off the production in mid-1969 this was classified information and was not made public until in the 90's.  Ray did not get the credit as the designer of one  of the first microprocessor  chip sets until 30 years after he had completed his design work on the F-14.

Ray continued in the computer field after the F-14 project. Ray worked for Intel in 1973-74 as a consultant. He was co-founder with Manny Lemas of Microcomputer Associates, Incorporated,[1] later known as Synertek Systems where he designed the Jolt[1] and SYM-1 microcomputer. During the past 15 years Ray Holt has donated his talents to Christian ministries and churches by helping them with computer problems, Internet web pages, and teaching low-income students engineering and robotics in Mississippi. Mr Holt is currently President of Mississippi Robotics [5] serving rural schools and ministries teaching STEM/Robotics curriculum. ( Much of the information in this blog is from Ray Holt email and Wikipedia ) 

Ray sent me some very interesting photos recently about some of his early design projects and I am sharing them in this blog.

Hi David, In the last 15 years I have been speaking to university students and they are always amazed at the circuit boards and chips and don't understand how we did them. Today they design on the computer, push a button to send it to China and in a week get their encapsulated module back. (Ray Holt)

To enlarge "Click on photo"
David Larsen KK4WW

Central Air Data Computer (CADC)

All photographs furnished by Ray Holt.

Central Air Data Computer (CADC)  prototype..... F14 microprocessor prototype before releasing chip design. Used to test logic and programming.  1968-70.

David Larsen , KK4WW
F-14 CADC actual box

F-14 CADC actual box

This was a major advancement and the first time a digital computer was used to control some of the aircraft flight and control operations.

David Larsen KK4WW
Very first microprocessor chip 

Very first microprocessor chip  ... off the production line ....  circa mid-1969.

Bugbook Computer Museum
Bill Holt

Bill Holt .... in-flight test programmer on the F-14 CADC
Bill Holt, Ray's brother, passed away within one year of the completion of the F14 project from a brain tumor. Info from Ray Holt.

Take a look at Ray Holt's web site for much more information on the F-14 Tom Cat CADC
microprocessor development - ""

David Larsen
Ray Holt and others Intel 1973
Comment by Ray Holt: (Rare photo) Intel course (left to right) ...  Phil Tai (Intel), Ray Holt, Bob ??? (Intel), Manny Lemas in 1973. Promo shot for Intel flyer. Intel hired Manny and I for two years to teach microprocessor design and programming to USA engineers. It was a week course in the 4004, 8080, and PL/M (Gary Kildahl). Intel could not sell microprocessor unless engineers understood programming. This course was a HUGE shot in the arm for their sales.

We have 2 of the development systems you see in this photo in our Bugbook Computer Museum.

David Larsen, Bugbook
Microcomputer Digest ~ first publication ... 1000 paid subscribers ... 1974-76
PO BOX 1167, CUPERTINO, CA 95014 • (408) 247-8940
Copyright© 1975 by Microcomputer Associates Inc., All Rights Reserved. M.R. Lemas, President. Published monthly. Subscription
$28.00 per year, overseas $38.00 per year. DARRELL D. CROW, Editor; LILLIAN LAU, Associate Editor; PATRICIA L. DREISBACH,
Circulation Editor; RAY HOLT, Applications Technical Advisor; MANNY LEMAS, Applications Technical Advisor.
Volume 1, Number 10/ April, 1975

David Larsen, KK4ww
Ray Holt Press ID card

Ray Holt Press ID card for the Microcomputer Digest.

David Larsen, Ray Holt
Corner Stone software
prices 1980-82

Software Price list from my (Ray Holt) Cornerstone Software distributor business (I think 2nd software distributor) . ~  1980-82


JOLT/Super JOLT add-on cards ... 4K RAM and Audio Card (I think very first audio card design) Ray Holt.  Photo courtesy of Mark Holt, Ray's son.

Ray Holt - The Super Jolt was still in production at least until 2005 (maybe even today) by SYM SYSTEMS in San Jose.

Concerning the JOLT series. We sold about 5000 of each, mainly to OEM manufactures. The PROM 1 and PROM 2 sockets were used for Microsoft Basic.  We (Microcomputer Associates were the 4th customer of Bill Gates. He visited use when he was around 18 and forced the first contract on us.  Here is a link to the story told by my programmer after the MS Basic contract and program.  50,000 SYM's were sold. (Ray Holt).

We have a Super Jolt Computer in the Bugbook Computer Museum - view now

David Larsen KK4WW
Robart I

Robart I ... 1st military robot that used the SYM-1 card (Robart II also used the SYM-1).  Both and more in military robot museum in San Diego.

Link to Robart I. Robart I & II used the SYM card. "CLICK"

David Larsen KK4WW
SYM1 microcomputer 
Ray Holt comments: We (Microcomputer Associates were the 4th customer of Bill Gates. He visited use when he was around 18 and forced the first contract on us.  Here is a link to the story told by my programmer after the MS Basic contract and program.  50,000 SYM's were sold.
"Bonnie Sullivan writes:
I worked on software for the SYM-1 project, and I can add some details.
The software was written by Nelson Edwards and students in Walla Walla. They hand-assembled the 6502 code.
There was an option to have the SYM-1 with Microsoft Basic. Bill Gates himself came to see us and provided the Basic. He was arrogant, baby-faced, and he wrote buggy code, then refused to believe that it didn't work.
I think that he assembled it with macros in a PDP-10 assembler. We would provide him with hardware specs, he would customize Basic, send us the code, we would burn an EPROM, and it wouldn't work. "That's impossible!", he would say, despite the fact that he didn't have the hardware, so he hadn't tested it. "

Computer Museum, museum
Tom Cat F-14 design story

Design of the F-14 Tom Cat Central Air Data Computer (CADC)  story.

Bugbook Computer Museum
Tom Cat F-14 design story

More of  F-14 Tom Cat design story  Central Air Data Computer (CADC)

About the first microprocessors from Wikipedia - Three projects delivered a microprocessor at about the same time: Garrett AiResearch's Central Air Data Computer (CADC), Texas Instruments (TI) TMS 1000 (1971 September), and Intel's 4004 (1971 November).

 Over the years who gets credit for the very first microprocessor is not clear take a look  here as the Four-Phase Systems AL1 is described as the first - short video (from Computer History Museum )

Gil Carrick - Director of the Museum of Information Technology at Arlington has some good information about the first microprocessor. 

Here is some good information about the first microprocessor's on
Ken Shirriff's blog "CLICK"

David Larsen
We are so fortunate today to have some of the very earliest microcomputer engineers and developers like Ray Holt still living and being creative. I hope their are folks  getting stories and interviews with these early pioneers. Thank you for reading my blog and have a wonderful holiday Christmas season 2015. Dave

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