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The Industrial Era

1970 - 1971

This is a year that spawns more than one controversy: who invented the microprocessor first and what was the first microcomputer. The first controversy even has been fought out in court!

The first computers fully based on IC technology come on the market.

The programming language "C" is invented

The first Micro Processor is marketed

pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

1947 1949 1950 1952 1955 1958 1961 1963 1965 1969 1970 1972 1974
1976 1978 1980 1981 1982 1984 1986 1989 1991 1993 1994 1996 2000
2002 2005                      


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It is Gilbert Hyatt  who takes the IC technology a step further and files for a patent for the Micro Processor.

But the paperwork took a long time to get through the "windings" of the patent bureau. Three engineers from Intel Corporation were faster and they created the first commercially viable microprocessor. That is why those three are accredited to have invented the microprocessor, however Hyatt will be awarded the patent in 1990 after all. This seems to be a similar case to that of Atanasov with his first electronic computer.

Ray Holt, working with his brother - Bill holt - on an engineering team, designs the onboard main flight computer for the U.S. Navy's F-14A "Tomcat" fighter jet. It is a computer on a chip and this processor is more powerful than the 4004 designed by Intel. The project started in 1968.

Ray Holt is getting his chance to claim to be the father of the microprocessor not before 1999.
It will take Holt 30 years to have the Navy declassify the project and be able to make his invention known to the public.
Interviews with Holt's co-workers and his own documents confirm that their work preceded the 1969-1971 efforts of Santa Clara-based Intel Corp. that turned the microprocessor into a business empire. "It was very frustrating," says Holt, about keeping silent for so long. "I almost had to forget about it." (1)

Ken Thompson develops the programming language 'B' of which stems the language 'C'. It is said that the name like that is chosen because there already was a prototype of this or another language called "A".

Shakey, developed by SRI International, is the first robot to use Artificial Intelligence to navigate.

A first version of the UNIX operating system is running on the DEC PDP-7.

The theory of Relational Database is introduced by Ted Codd at IBM.

However algebraic laws for query optimization were not formulated here.(3) With this model though it became possible to work with data represented as a form to fill out without having to tell the computer how to store and were to find it back.

The eight inch (15) floppy disk is developed by OPIUM and IBM.

The first floppy disk measures 8 inch in diameter (1 inch = 25,4 mm). The first type is of a read only format. Officially the floppy will be announced one year later and used for the IBM mainframe's data storage cabinet IBM 3330

This disk is built from an 8" plastic disk on which a thin magnetic layer is applied on a single side. The storage capacity is 100-130 Kbytes, about 60 pages A4. The first versions were used without any external protection, soon dust forms a problem and the floppy is put into an square envelop lined with some protective material inside. A hole in the middle is for the driving spindle that turns the disk around and the slot to provide access to the floppy's data for the read and write head(16) of the disk drive. The drives and floppies are extremely expensive and only large companies can afford to buy them. This new medium will also not be received favorably at first because it is mainly used in a mainframe environment. In later developments so called hard disks and so called storage packs, also called Winchester disks, and tapes that can contain many mega bytes will dwarf this floppy disk, to render the floppy almost useless for large mainframes.
Alan Shugart at IBM invents the first regular use of an 8 inch "floppy" (magnetic storage) or diskette: for DisplayWrite an IBM word processor.(19) (see also the official release date in 1971)

Pascal-a is developed by Niclaus Wirth (Swiss).

Pascal supports development of software because it allowed the programmer to divide the program in various blocks called functions or procedures. It made the program code easier to understand and better to maintain. Pascal is going to be the programming language of choice by many universities and other colleges in the next 20 some years.
The story goes that Niclaus Wirth, member of the ALGOL committee, was not really satisfied the way the definition of ALGOL seemed to be going. He found the language got too complicated and designed the easier to understand Pascal.

Xerox establishes the Palo Alto Research Center at Stanford University for computer research. This research center will give birth to many first's: laser printer, mouse, graphical user interface etc.

Intel creates three chips that will form the cornerstones of future computers

Dec. 14: First mention of the concept behind teletext is made in a BBC internal memo.(4)


Another one of the understatements of the century

The British professor Desmond King-Hele stated in his book:

"The end of the 20th Century" (1970):

Most computers will still occupy a large room. Because of the space needed for software, tapes, punch cards and personnel that operate the computer as well as large stacks of paper to print the results on.



RCA’s MOS (Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) technology promises cheaper and smaller ICs.(8)

first commercial DRAM 1970First commercial DRAM - 1Kbit.

In approximately 1969, William Regitz of Honeywell was looking for a semiconductor company to share in the development of a novel DRAM cell developed by himself or one of his coworkers. Intel was very interested in the technology and started a development program that initially produced the i1102, and although working parts were produced there were problems with the 1102. Based on work Ted Hoff had done looking at possible 3 transistor DRAM cell topologies, and the idea of a buried contact, probably by Ted Rowe, a schematic for an alternative part was developed by Leslie Vadasz and Joel Karp and the chip design was assigned to Bob Abbott. The resulting product was the i1103 and was introduced to the market in October 1970. The part originally had yield issues and John Reed, the product engineer had to make several revisions to the part before "good" yields and performance were achieved. The i1103 was manufactured on a 6 mask silicon gate PMOS process with 8µm minimum features. The resulting product had a 2,400µm2 memory cell size, a die size just under 10mm2 and sold for around $21.(9)

first commercial DRAM 1970Poker on the computer will take a high flight in the next decennia. And will become a multi billion dollar business. Games such as Casino King and Casino Royale for the Commodore 64 had 8 bit graphics on machines that had a meager 64kb of Ram.

atari poker 1970modern poker
atari 1970 (21) video poker game 2010 (23)

To play an contemporary poker game on line you would need the combined Ram of 2,000 C-64's to play poker on one of the more popular poker sites (21)


May 1st 1971. (5) Alan Shugart and his team, headed by David Noble, at IBM announce the first “floppy disk” invented a year earlier.

This first disk officially referred to as "memory disk" is 8 inches in diameter and soon gets nicknamed as floppy disk by the IBM staff. It can hold as much as 81.6 Kb of data on 32 tracks (7). and it's first use is as read only disk to contain a bootstrap routine for the IBM/370. Six years later the (5.25") disk will hold 1.2Mb

So far the dates 1952 and 1970 turned up for the (actual) invention of the floppy.

De first is a Japanese gentleman and inventor by trade Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu (6) He claims to have invented the floppy in 1952 and to have sold the patent rights to IBM. Or at least IBM agreed to pay. But this statement is not confirmed by IBM, but is also not denied and there seems to be a non disclosure contract between the two.

The second date is 1970. IBM gave the storage facility headed by Shugart the assignment to create such a medium (floppy) in 1967. This task was assigned to David Noble. The system where it is first implemented or announced for is the IBM 370 (1971) mainframe computer's storage unit IBM 3330, first released in 1970.

The Computer Group becomes the Computer Society.

(The Computer Group promotes this name change to better represent the stature it and other IEEE groups has attained.) For the Computer Society, the seventies is a decade of significant growth in both the depth and breadth of services. Membership grows by a factor of over two-and-a-half.(19)

Russell D. Young invents the ‘scanning tunneling microscope’, an instrument that like a blindfolded person 'feels' the surface of an atom and scans it one by one.

In that way it is possible to create an image of any particular surface on atomic scale. Not long after this invention it will be possible to manipulate atoms in this way.

The first IBM computer fully constructed on IC's is system 370. Model 145 and has 262 Mb of memory and an access time of 200 Ns. Very fast for this type of machine.

Robert Noyce invents the MICRO PROCESSOR. A Microprocessor is the heart of a computer. It is the active brain. When combined with memory, in and output ports than it becomes a complete computer.

Gilbert Hyatt develops the first single chip microcomputer at Micro Computer Inc., Los Angeles. The work started in 1968.

pickette_wayneIt is Wayne D. Pickette (Intel) who claims to have invented the principle of the computer on a chip. His design eventually becomes the 4004 and forms the core of all the other Intel processors to come. To support his claim the original sketches made by Mr. Tai and Mr. Pickette are shown below, the scanned pages were sent to the editors by Mr. Pickette. (10)



Read Wayne Pickette's notes
(this file is 6MB)

intel 4004

This picture above is the drawing Wayne Pickette drew up together with Phil Tai for the 4004 demonstration board in 1971.

intel 4004 dataflow

The above picture is from late 1967, that pre-dates Gilbert Hyatt's original work which began in mid-to late 1968. Mr. Pickette handed that drawing to Dr. Noyce during his job interview at Intel. Noyce gave the drawing to Ted Hoff when introducing Wayne Pickette to him. Ted Hoff kept the drawing in his desk file until 1974 when he returned it to Wayne Pickette.

The team of Ted Hoff, S. Mazor, and F. Faggin develop the Intel 4004 Microprocessor.

Ted Hoff (Intel) decides that it would be easier to use that "computer on a chip" for a general purpose than to custom-develop a calculator chip. In response at the request from a Japanese company (Busicom) to create a chip for a calculator: Intel creates the 4004. Thus giving birth to a family of "processors on a chip". Busicom goes into bankruptcy before it can take the chip into production.

Marcian E. (Ted) Hoff will receive the IEEE Computer Society Pioneer Award in 1988.(19)

intel 4004

In February Intel releases the 4004 microprocessor to the market. It has 12 sq mm die size and 16 pins which fit in to a motherboard.


Intel creates the first EPROM short for: Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory.


This eprom can contain or store data or even entire programs. The data can only be erased by directing intense Ultra Violet light on the chip itself.

The world of personal computing has its roots in 1971, with two important products

Texas Instruments brings out their first microprocessor: the TI F8

UNIX is available for the Bell laboratories. UNIX is rewritten in 'B' and "ported" (= translated) to the newer  PDP-11 system family.

Dennis Ritchie (and Brian Kernighan(13)) (USA), another programmer working at Bell Labs, are fine tuning the language "B" and they call it "C"

This language now combines the properties of "Structured Programming" as this can be found in Pascal and Modula. But in the same time it contains the possibility to get to the innards of the computer, the bits and bytes or the nut and bolts so to speak, is needed to have, or create, an efficient operating system. The language 'C'  will be one of the most important programming languages for development of system and application software.

Commodore is the first manufacturer that will market a compact electronic calculator as mass product. Up till now calculators were heavy, clumsy and for the average person un payable. That is now over and out.

In this same year Commodore puts a rechargeable calculator on the market.

kenbak 1 first PC

The 1971 Kenbak-1 is one of the earliest form of a personal computer.

It uses 130 IC's with a 256 byte memory and 8-bit words, processed 1000 instructions per second, and cost $750.


Bob Bemer will be recognized as the first person in the world to publish warnings of the Year 2000 problem, and again in 1979. This got much attention in the USA media.

Project Gutenberg is founded by Michael Hart.

Its mission, according to its stated history and philosophy, is to "make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search." The project provide thousands of books (mostly novels) scanned by volunteers that are either free of copyrights or donated to the foundation. It will have over 10,000 titles on line by 2003


Ray Tomlinson of Bolt Beranek and Newmann sends the first network e-mail message.

Ray Tomlinson ca. 1985 & 2000

Within 30 years the number of emails sent will surpass the number of phone calls made on one day.

Don Hoefler writes a series of articles for Electronic News called Silicon Valley USA, using in print the name that had been adopted to describe the area.(8)

David Parnas describes the principle of information hiding.(8)


Niklaus Wirth (1934-) develops Pascal as a language for teaching structured programming concepts.

Program Hello (Input, Output);


Writeln (‘Hello World!’);



edgar dijkstra
edgar dijkstra

namegiving diijkstraEdsger Dijkstra(1930-2002) delivers his famous ACM paper dealing with naming conventions: ‘Excessive consonants considered hard to spell’.

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