MICRO HISTORY
AND PREHISTORY

An Archaelogical
Beginning

by
H. A. Layer

1989 article from the

Annals of the History of Computing
Vol. 11, pages 127-130

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--sometines 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 forty-five machines--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 as shown in the illustration.

Photo of part of collection

1. High-tech archaeologist (date unknown) Typical of the species, found often in dusty warehouses, surplus stores, flea markets, garages, etc. 2. Burroughs Adding and Listing Machine 1890 A landmark calculator that featured the first paper printout to supplement its mechanical display. 3. Britannic calculator c 1900 A very compact, efficient design for the time. 4. Monroe calculator, Model LA-5 c.1925 5. Facit calculator, Model NTK c.1930 6. Heath Electronic Analog Computer kit 1956 Front panel to the first computer kit ever marketed for serious applications. Consisted of six power supplies, fifteen operational amplifiers, and thirty coefficient potentiometers. ($945) 7. Hasbro Think-A-Tron computer toy c.1964 One of the first computer toys. Reads tiny punched cards to display digital answers to questions. 8. Friden 132 Electronic Calculator 1964 One of the first electronic calculators. Features a four- register CRT display and a single square-root key. ($1950) 9. Wang programmable calculator system, Model 380 1968 Successor to the LOCI series. Features magnetic tape or punched card I/O. One of the first calculators that could generate logarithms and exponentials. ($3800) 10. Compumedic desktop analog computer 1971 At 48 pounds, one of the smallest, full-featured analog computers made. Plug-in, patch-connected modules include differential, summing, and integrating amplifiers with resistive and capacitive feedback networks, and comparators. 11. Pulsar LED digital watch 1971 The first digital watch and perhaps represents the beginning of consumer applications for microchips. Contains 44 MOS ICs. 12. Magnavox Odyssey 1972 The first home video game. A historic product that launched the entire industry. Designed entirely with transistors--no ICs. Uses plastic overlays to establish playing fields on TV. ($150) 13. Intel Intellec-8 microcomputer 1973 The first complete microcomputer. Contains front panel programming with 48-instruction set, paper-tape or teletypewriter I/O, 16 slots, PL/M compiler, 16k RAM and Intel's revolutionary 8-bit CPU, the 8008. ($2398)
14. Sanyo minielectronic calculator, Model ICC-82D c.1973 An early handheld calculator with pop-up Nixie digital display. The beginning of the end for the slide rule industry! 15. Marx TV Tennis toy 1975 A completely mechanical version of the arcade version of Pong, in which the "ball" is an illuminated flashlight bulb connected by long rubber springs to the player's control knobs. 16. Hewett Packard electronic calculator, Model 9815A 1975 One of the last, great, tabletop calculators that began with the 9100A in 1969. Features built-in 96k data cartridge, 16-char. LED display, thermal printer, and capacity of 2008 program steps. ($2900) 17. Atari Pong video game, Model C-100 1975 One of Atari's first dedicated video games for home use. Pong and Breakout were two classic games that launched the video game industry. 18. Magnavox Odyssey 200 1975
Layout diagram of overview of collection

19. IBM 5100 Portable Computer 1975 At a cost of $20,000, truly an American Duesenberg! The innovative 5100 has been overlooked as the first integrated, transportable computer. Features a built-in CRT monitor, tape cartridge, APL and BASIC languages and startup diagnostics in its 48k ROM, 16k to 64k plug-in RAM, slots, serial I/O, and leather case. In spite of its flaws, it paved the way for future PC designs. 20. MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer 1975 The most famous of all personal computers--the machine that launched the PC industry. Features the Intel 8080 CPU, a standard memory of 256 bytes, four expansion slots, and 78 machine-language instructions. (kit: $439; assb: $621) 21. Sphere-1 microcomputer 1975 Its integrated packaging options were advanced for the inexpensive personal computer market. CPU: 6800, 4k RAM expandable to 16k on the motherboard, 1k EPROM, built-in video board, cassette I/O. (kit: $860; assembled: $1400) 22. MITS Altair 680b microcomputer 1976 One of the last MITS computers. CPU: the Motorola 6800, 1k RAM (kit: $425; assb: $610) 23. IMSAI IMSAI 8080 microcomputer 1976 The first clone of a microcomputer (the Altair 8800!). CPU: 8080A, 4k RAM, six S-100 expansion slots. 24. Processor Technology Sol Terminal Computer--20, 1976 Perhaps the most handsome personal computer ever made. Functionally equivalent to Altair 8800. CPU: 8080A, 1k ROM, 2k to 64k RAM, five S-100 slots. (kit: $1350; assb: $1850) 25. National Semiconductor SC/MP Development System 1976 A single board development microcomputer built around the SC/MP CPU. Includes 20-key keyboard and 512-byte ROM. ($499) 26. Intel single board microcomputer, Model 80/10 1976 Offered programmable parallel and serial I/O, 1k of RAM, 4k of ROM, and an 8080A CPU. ($295) 27. Intersil Intercept, Jr., tutorial microcomputer 1976 A single board microcomputer with an instruction set similiar to a PDP-8 mini. Uses 12-bit words. CPU: IM6100, 1k ROM, 256-byte RAM, 8-digit numeric display, 12-key keypad. ($250)

28. Microelectric Systems Ricochet, 1976 One of the best of the first-generation, black-and-white game systems, four built-in, Pong-type games with 72 variations possible, General Ind CPU . ($120) 29. Digitek Electronics DIGITEK 2001 1976 A clone of Enterprex's Apollo 2001 video game. 30. Unisonic Tournament-2000 TV game 1976 Six built-in games, b&w display, CPU: General Industries AY-3-8500. ($120) 31. Fairchild Channel F Video Entertainment System 1976 The first programmable TV game system using plug-in cartridges. Designed around most powerful CPU used to date in a game: the Fairchild F8. Color display. ($170) 32. Byte Inc. Byt-8 microcomputer 1977 An S-100 microcomputer kit using the 8080A CPU. ($539) 33. RCA COSMAC VIP microcomputer 1977 Uses 16-key numerical keypad, 3 LED display, 512-byte ROM containing operating system and Chip-8 interpretive language, cassette and video I/O ports, 2k RAM. A popular computer kit for the RCA 1802 CPU. ($250) 34. Atari Brain Game, Model C-700 1977 Possibly a prototype--that had limited marketing--of the Atari VCS, most popular of all games. Programmable with cartridges. 35. Bally Bally Computer System video game / computer 1977 Another attempt to design a dual-purpose home system. Uses the powerful Z80 CPU. Contains built-in 24-key keypad, 8k ROM with a "mini-BASIC", 4k RAM and allows plug-in 8k ROM cartridges, memory expansion box and full aphanumeric keyboard. ($300) 36. Coleco Telstar Ranger, Model 6046 1977 TV home game features a pistol input device. ($50) 37. Hometronics Telecourt TV Game, 1977 38. RCA Studio II Home TV Programmer 1977 Programmable game machine with twin 10-key, numeric keypads. Features RCA 1802 CPU, 2k ROM, & 512-byte RAM. B&W TV display. ($150) 39. Sands Electronics Sands 2200 game 1977 40. Atari prototype video game 1977 A sleek version of the Atari VCSwith two self-contained joysticks. Apparently never sold. 41. APF Imagination Machine system 1978 Dual-purpose, game and computer, home system with full alphanumeric keyboard, two joysticks with numeric keypads, 9k RAM, built-in cassette recorder, and 5-1/4" disk drive option. Uses 6800 CPU. ($599) 42. Tomy HIT AND MISSILE game 1978 An early version of a handheld "electronic" game. Dozens of LED and LCD dedicated games were marketed since 1978. Many were simple versions of large arcade action games. ($20) 43. Tomy BLIP-the Digital Game 1978 A handheld, non-electronic, mechanical, Pong-type game. ($12) 44. Signetics Instructor-50 desktop microcomputer 1978 A small training computer system designed for the Signetics 2650 CPU. Includes 2k ROM, 640-byte RAM, 8-digit LED display, and parallel and audiotape cassette I/O. ($350) 45. Synertek SYM-1 single board microcomputer 1978 Successor to the popular KIM. A training system for the MOS 6502 CPU. Includes 4k ROM containing system monitor, lk RAM, cassette and 20mA teletype I/O, 6-digit LED display, and 28-key keypad. ($239)

Sorry, but I am no longer a collector and do not have further information.
Most of these items are now part of the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn, Germany
See: http://www.hnf.de/en/ueber-uns.html


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