Plyojump - Computer History

Computer History - Microcomputer Era (1978-1994)

Visions of the Personal Computer - Alan Kay's Dynabook (1969)

Alan Kay 1 Alan Kay 2

Dynabook 1 Dynabook3 Apple iPad 2010

Alan Kay's Dynabook concepts from the 1970s and early 1980s (on left), versus the 2010 Apple iPad (on right). Note that Kay predicted the form factor of a portable notebook computer, as well as tablet computers, over 30 years ago as early as 196s (topmost photo). The Dynabook on the far left is functional, and uses a 1970s flatscreen display. However, since the electronics were too large for the model, it was connected to a much larger computer to simulate a mobile device.

Today, the iPad also replicates "fast computer" behavior by connecting to a bunch of "big computers" - in other words, the Internet.

BYTE Magazine 1976-1982

Byte MagazineByte Magazine 2Byte Magazine 3Byte Magazine 4Byte Magazine 5

Images from BYTE magazine in the 1970s and early 1980s, providing a vision of small computers used as word processors, computers used in the stock market, a wrist-computer similar to a SPOT watch, and computers applied to music and the arts. The filesystem image shows the analogy of computer data to paper documents.


Computers as tools of liberation and the Baby Boomer "counterculture"

Computer Lib cover

Microcomputers were not simply promoted as "the next great technology", but were rather seen in the social and political lens of the 1960s and 1970s. During the rise of the PC, the oppression-liberation thesis familiar from the civil rights, black power, and women's movement was applied to computers. The personal computer was marketed as a way for the people to "fight the system" and gain individual freedom. This attitude of "think different" and "question authority" is still part of Apple's marketing strategy today.

Links to the "Computer Lib" and "Dream Machines"

Page from an early issue of BYTE magazine


More pages at Digibarn


Altair 8800 (1976)

Altair 8800

This is the computer that Microsoft wrote and sold its first programs for. It had no mouse, keyboard, or printer, or even a monitor. Programs were entered by flipping switches on the front panel, and blinking lights showed the program's execution.


Pirates of Silicon Valley

Bill Gates in jail Steve and Steve'

The early pioneers of personal computing considered themselves rebels in the 1960s counterculture sense. Here we see Bill Gates in jail, and Steve Jobs shortly after he left the hippie commune (where he fathered his daughter).


Apple I (1976)

The Apple I was originally designed by Steve Wozniak, but his friend Steve Jobs had the idea of selling the computer. 50 units of the original Apple I were sold at a price of $666.66 (because Wozniak liked repeating digits and because they originally sold it to a local shop for $500 and added a one-third markup). To make a working computer, users still had to add a case, power supply, keyboard, and display. An optional board providing a cassette interface for data storage was later released for $75.

Apple IApple I computer inside




Sold through Radio Shack, using a cassette player for its memory and a TV for a monitor, the TRS-80 was an early hobby computer.

OSBORNE portable computer (1981)

Osborne portable computer

An early entry into the world of business computing, the Osborne was the first computer that could be carried onboard and used on a plane.


The IBM PC (1982)


The IBM PC helped to convert the microcomputer from a hobbyist geekland to a serious business tool.


Gates and Allen

Microsoft didn't make hardware - but they did make the operating system for the IBM PC.This is a picture of Paul Allen and Bill Gates standing next to one of the computers running their new OS, MS-DOS, a direct adaptation of an earlier OS called CP/M.

Interfaces of Early PCs

Visicalc Wordstar 1981

The Apple Macintosh (1984)

Created by Apple computer under Steven Jobs, with brilliant programming by Steve Wozniak, the Macintosh user interface borrowed heavily from the Xerox Star but was affordable (~$2,000 in 1984 dollars) by the masses. It was similar to the Apple Lisa, but had reduced features (particularly RAM). The user interface of the Mac is remarkably similar to the design of current Macintosh computers, despite the 500x slower operating speed of its CPU.

Steve Jobs Steve Jobs iphone

Steve Jobs as a young visionary in 1984, and and old one in 2009.

Byte Magazine Macintosh Macintohs front viewMacintosh Inside


The user interface of personal computing was complete by 1984

Pictures of the original 1984 Mac, showing external floppy and keyboard.

Macintosh control panel Macintosh Screen

The Macintosh operating system, showin the windows, menus, control panels, calculator, and other features found on all GUI (Graphical User Interface) computers today.

Macintosh MacDrawMacintosh Alice game

Macdraw (an ancestor of Adobe Illustrator) and Alice, a simple 3D animated game on the original 1984 Mac.

Screen shot of Macpaint, the ancestor of Adobe Photoshop and bitmap-drawing programs.

Macintosh Microsoft Excel

An early version of Microsoft Excel - note the similarity to the current Excel user interface.


New is not always better...Macintosh from 1986 BEATS a 3.0GHz Duo-Core AMD computer from 2006!

For the functions that people use most often in Microsoft Office, the 1986 vintage Mac Plus beats the 2007 AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+: 9 tests to 8! Out of the 17 tests, the antique Mac won 53% of the time! Including a jaw-dropping 52 second whipping of the AMD from the time the Power button is pushed to the time the Desktop is up and useable.

We also didn't want to overly embarrass the AMD by comparing the time it takes to install the OS vs. the old Mac. The Mac's average of about a minute is dwarfed by the approximately one hour install time of Windows XP Pro.

PC mac plus compare 2 PC Mac compare 3 PC Mac compare 4 PC mac compare 5

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