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Microcomputer History and Prehistory -- An Archaeological Beginning

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129594D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 4 page(s) / 21K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

HAROLD A. LAYER: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Calculators, computers, and video games are all high-tech tools of the mind. Teachers find students fascinated by early examples and willing to engage in high-tech archaeological searches in their local community. The cost is usually low -- sometimes nothing -- since companies are willing often to give away or donate surplus equipment, and old video games are common garage sale items. These artifacts, combined with their disks and cartridges, may be disassembled and analyzed, restored and displayed or operated as functioning units -- an archaeological challenge that motivates students and gives them a historical perspective about the computer revolution, both its software and hardware.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Microcomputer History and Prehistory -- An Archaeological Beginning

HAROLD A. LAYER

(Image Omitted: Author's Address: San Francisco State University. 1600 Holloway Ave. (AV/ITV Ctr.), San Francisco, CA 94132.)

Calculators, computers, and video games are all high-tech tools of the mind. Teachers find students fascinated by early examples and willing to engage in high-tech archaeological searches in their local community. The cost is usually low -- sometimes nothing -- since companies are willing often to give away or donate surplus equipment, and old video games are common garage sale items. These artifacts, combined with their disks and cartridges, may be disassembled and analyzed, restored and displayed or operated as functioning units -- an archaeological challenge that motivates students and gives them a historical perspective about the computer revolution, both its software and hardware.

Antiques are traditionally at least 100 years old, but given the rapid, unprecedented changes in microcomputing, any high-tech artifact 10 or more years old might be considered antique. In fact, the hobby computer became the personal computer only eleven years ago. It is incredible that all 45 machines in Figure 1 -- many still usable -- are already considered obsolete even though most date from the 1970s. The following descriptive list includes original prices when known and is keyed in Figure 2.

1. High-tech archaeologist (date unknown) Typical of the species, found often in dusty warehouses, surplus stores, flea markets, garages, etc.

2. Adding and Listing Machine (1890): A landmark calculator featuring a paper printer. Adding wheels display nine digits. (Burroughs, $300)

3. Britannic calculator (c. 1900): A compact, efficient design for the time. (Guys)

4. High Speed Adding Calculator (1950): Model LA-5 manufactured by Monroe.

5. (Facit) calculator, Model NTK (1951).

6. Electronic Analog Computer kit (1956): Front panel for the first computer kit ever marketed for serious applications. Consisted of six power supplies, 15 operational amplifiers, and 30 coefficient potentiometers. (Heath, $945)

7. Think-A-Tron toy (c. 1964): Possibly the first computer toy. Tiny punched cards trigger digital answers to questions. (Hasbro)

8. 132 Electronic Calculator (1964): One of the first electronic calculators. Features a four- register CRT display and a single square-root key. (Friden, $1950)

9. (Wang) Calculator System (1968): The 300 Series was a successor to the LOCI series. Features magnetic tape or punched card I/O. One of the first programmable calculators that could generate logarithms and exponentials. ($3800)

IEEE Computer Society, Mar 31, 1988 Page 1 IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 11 Number 2, Page 130

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Microcomputer History and Prehistory -- An A...