Archive for the ‘Personal Computing Tiers’ Category

Texas Instruments TI-99

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A

Texas Instruments has always been a leader in microprocessor technology. After a few years as a top manufacturer of electronic calculators using their custom microprocessor technology, and a foray into minicomputer systems using their 16-bit TI-990 processors, Texas Instruments decided to throw its hat into the ring of the home computer market in 1979 with the TI-99 computer system. Continue reading Texas Instruments TI-99…

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Sinclair ZX80

Sinclair ZX80 Ad

Sinclair ZX80 Ad

What happens when you strip most of the metal from those earlier homebrew computers, toss in a third-party Z-80 clone CPU, and have what’s left expertly bound together by a disciple of a miniaturization luminary? You get the compact ZX80 personal computer!

The Sinclair ZX80 was released in 1980 and was arguably the first British personal computer, though the company had previously released the MK14 in 1977, and Acorn had released a similar product, the System 1 in 1979. However, both of those were simply single-board computers and the ZX80 was complete in a case. It was named after its CPU, along with an “X” for “the mystery ingredient.” Clive Sinclair (now Sir Clive) willed it into existence at Science of Cambridge, his company later be known as Sinclair research. It was targeted to individual, ordinary users, and it was the first British micro to go on sale for under £100. It was available in kit form for £79.95, and as a ready-built version for £99.95. Some 50,000 would be sold before the ZX80 was discontinued in 1981. This was significant, and the UK lead the world in personal computer ownership throughout the 1980s. It was succeeded by the barely different ZX81 in 1981, which was also sold in the US as the Timex Sinclair 1000. The ZX series of computers went on to sell over 1.5 million units by 1984, before being discontinued. A large cottage industry of programs, magazines and products arose around it. This commercial success made Sinclair Research one of Britain’s leading computer manufacturers and earned a fortune and the eventual knighthood for the company’s founder. Continue reading Sinclair ZX80…

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Sharp MZ-80K

Sharp MZ-80K Ad

Sharp MZ-80K Ad

Debuting in Japan in 1978, then in Europe in 1979, the Sharp MZ-80K series of computers were some of the most popular personal computers in those regions. The series continued well into the mid-1980s. Its name stands for “M” as in microcomputer and then “Z-80” for the microprocessor that it uses. From the first model to the MZ-2200 released in 1983, all of the MZ series included the CPU, monitor, keyboard and tape recorder in a single unit, similar to the early Commodore PET. Continue reading Sharp MZ-80K…

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Commodore PET

Commodore PET 2001

Commodore PET 2001

So far on the History of Personal Computing website, we have covered two of the three computers that are a part of the Personal Computer Trifecta. We covered the Apple II and the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I. We have covered these computers in the order of their release date. Since the term “Trifecta” denotes three of something, that leaves the third and final “home computer system” to be released in the same year as the others. As the world was finally getting over the hype of the 1970’s quintessential “Pet Rock”, Commodore began producing the first “PET Computer”, known as the Commodore PET 2001. Continue reading Commodore PET…

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TRS-80 Model I

TRS-80 Model 1

TRS-80 Model 1

There were three of what we consider the first real consumer computers, or “out-of-the-box” micros, all released in 1977. These were arguably the first personal computers that could be purchased, brought home, taken out of their boxes, setup, and then used in some productive way – right away. the computer in this post is the second of the computer for the masses, the Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 Micro Computer System, later to be called the TRS-80 Model I. Continue reading TRS-80 Model I…

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