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INB 201
Development of the Personal Computer
The Origins of the Personal Computer and Software
Development of the Computer Industry
Historical Epochs in Computers
1) Wartime Development – 1940-1947 Alan Turing and John von Newman
1947 – Invention of the transistor at Bell Labs
2) Development of Early Commercial Computers 1950-1958
3) 1958 – Invention of integrated circuit
4) Mainframe Era – 1960 – 1975
5) 1971 – Invention of Microprocessor at Intel
6) Early PCs 1975-1980
7) IBM PC 1981
8) Rise of the Clones and Wintel 1983-1990
9) The Decline of Apple and IBM and the Rise of Microsoft – 1986 – 1995
10) Early Mobile Phones – 1992 - 2000
11) The Rise of the Internet – 1994-2000 – E-commerce
12) Apple Comes Back from Near-Dead – 1997 – 2003
13) Miniaturization of Computers – Pagers 1996; iPod 2001; BlackBerry 2003;
iPhone 2007
14) Emergence of AI – Deep Blue 1997; Watson 2011; Barbie 2015
15) Computers in Products – 1990 Lexus LS 400 antilock brakes; 2015
World War II and aftermath
US military and need for large computations for codebreaking and
calculating trajectory for firing large guns
Partnership between US military and major US universities to build first
electronic computers
Research support to design the most efficient and effective electronics for
Leads in 1947 to invention of the transistor at ATT Bell Labs
Antitrust actions against ATT and patents transferred to many firms
Alan Turing and Computer as Enigma code breaker: Bombe
World War II’s Greatest Hero: The True Story of Alan Turing
A computer pioneer who helped defeat the Nazis, Turing was a war hero working in
secret, a gay man in an era of extraordinary prejudice and a genius before his time
Alan Turing in 1928. Sherborne School, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
WHEN ALAN TURING DIED IN 1954, a modest obituary in the Manchester Guardian spoke of an
academic who pioneered the creation of the new electronic calculating machines. He liked long-distance
running, chess and gardening, and entertained the idea that “electrical computators” would one day “do
something akin to thinking.” No writer of the time could fathom the true nature of Turing’s life and genius,
which are still being deciphered decades later.
Unknown to the general public at the time of his death, Turing was a World War II code-breaking hero
who, as Winston Churchill would later recall, made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in
World War II.
Turing’s brilliant work in mathematics and logic laid out the blueprint for modern computers and, in turn,
the digital age. To honor his trailblazing contribution, the Turing Prize — considered the Nobel Prize of
computing — was established in 1966 as the field’s highest distinction.
A three-rotor Enigma machine in a wooden case that carries its serial number. Enigma Museum
Innovative, forward thinking and brave in the face of prejudice, Alan Turing was an enigma in his own
And, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown noted in a national apology a half century after Turing’s presumed
suicide, the war hero faced cruel and inhuman persecution for being gay, a fate shared by tens of thousands
of others.
Innovative, forward thinking and brave in the face of prejudice, Alan Turing was an enigma in his own
time, one that we are only just beginning to figure out.
World War II
Turning the Key: Turing’s Wartime Code-Breaking
Working in secret as part of the massive Bletchley Park cryptology operation, Alan Turing helped crack the
Nazi military’s vexing Enigma machine. Since it possessed a set of rotors that were constantly scrambled to
confuse the Allies, the encryption device had quintillions of possible settings. German military assumed
there simply wasn’t enough time to break it. Turing’s breakthrough came from observing that morning Uboat communications included a weather report, a pattern to be exploited. He then built a gargantuan
machine that could quickly sort through millions of possibilities to divine the code. The first of many, the
device set the stage for a massive computing operation that would eventually crack up to two messages a
Alan Turing’s office at Bletchley Park. Tom Jamieson for The New York Times
Making the Atlantic safe for British shipping was a massive accomplishment. No less steely a Brit than
Winston Churchill admitted the U-boat menace was his biggest fear. Turing’s next wartime advance was
cracking the Tunny codes, a high-powered cipher the Fuhrer used to communicate with commanders in the
field. The system allowed the Allies to read “what Hitler and his generals were saying to each other over
breakfast,” according to one of Turing’s contemporaries. Open access to various levels of encrypted
German communication allowed British intelligence to plant false rumors and run a stable of successful
double agents, undermining the Nazi war machine.
An R.A.F. officer in charge of distributing “Ultra Secret” information intercepted
from the German Enigma machine during World War II recounts just how valuable
this information was to British and American war efforts. Published by The New
York Times, December 29, 1974
The Ultra Secret [1974] READ MORE
The Enigma machine encodes characters by completing a circuit through a series of a plugboard, rotors,
and a reflector. Type any message into the input box to trace how the connection is made. @
Rotors: The signal is relayed through a series of mechanical rotors. Each rotation
further scrambles the letter.
Reflector: A special final rotor sends the coded letter back through the gears, to be
re-encrypted one last time.
Gay Persecution in Mid-Century England: “Evil Men”
Committing “Gross Indecency”
Arrested in 1952, Alan Turing was charged with “gross indecency” under the Victorian-era Criminal Law
Amendment Act, once used to imprison Oscar Wilde. Turing’s punishment came during a backlash against
homosexuals, a “drive against male vice” the Home Secretary enacted to “rid England of this plague.” The
persecution intensified after two of the Cambridge Five spy ring defected to the Soviet Union in 1951.
Deeply embedded in the British government and Secret Service, the saboteurs had been passing classified
information for decades. Turing’s trial occurred months after the British Secret Service asked him to help
crack Soviet codes.
Alan Mathison Turing by Elliott & Fry, 1951
© National Portrait Gallery, London
ONE OF 49,000
During sentencing, a judge offered Turing the choice of prison or “organo-therapy,” a type of chemical
castration via estrogen injection that killed a man’s sex drive. Turing’s choice, hormone therapy, caused
him to grow breasts and become depressed, triggers for his suicide. He was far from alone. More than
49,000 men, including politicians and celebrities were arrested or experienced similar punishments during a
dragnet compared to McCarthyism. In 1962, an allegedly gay Army captain was killed during a course of
doctor-supervised aversion therapy. Injected with a vomit-inducing drug while being shown pictures of
naked men, he died of dehydration. His death certificate said natural causes.
This widespread persecution created a climate where newspapers ran stories about “how to spot a homo,” a
gay slang (“polari”) evolved to evade surveillance, and many gay men, marginalized and blackmailed,
committed suicide. Turing refused to cower. He was arrested only after self-reporting a burglary and telling
the police about the relationship he had with a man he suspected was involved. In both 1952 and 1953, he
traveled to Norway and Greece to get out from under English law and pursue relationships as he saw fit. It
wasn’t until 1967, after thousands of its gay citizens had been persecuted, that gay relationships began to be
decriminalized in the United Kingdom.
Pardon all 49,000
To join a petition to pardon the 49,000 men who, like Alan Turing, were persecuted under British law for
being gay, click here.
How Turing Imagined The Modern Computer
When the Cambridge scholar initially spoke about his landmark 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers,
with an Application to the Entschiedungsproblem,” few attended Turing’s lecture, and only two asked for
reprints. Few then could appreciate the radical nature of his ideas. His Universal Turing Machine concept,
an abstract calculator that performed multiple tasks by changing software, stands as the evolutionary
forebear of modern computing, primogeniture of the first crude arrays of cathode tubes and ancestor of
today’s sleek laptops. Nearly every early model — from the Army’s ENIAC to Princeton’s EDVAC to the
ACE, built from Turing’s designs at the National Physical Laboratory in London and the first real example
of utilizing software and programming — owes a debt to Turing’s paper.
The “Baby,” designed and built at The University of Manchester in 1948, was the first machine that had all
of the components now classically regarded as characteristic of the basic computer. The University of
While Turing all but established the field of computer science with a clever tool that utilized both software
and hardware, he constantly turned over the question of how to define this new intelligence he helped birth.
In 1950, his paper “Computer Machinery and Intelligence” grapples with this concept of “artificial
intelligence,” and advances the “imitation game,” or the Turing Test, which posits that for a computer truly
to think, it must fool a human interrogator into thinking it’s another human during conversation. Rather
than suggest there’s “no mystery about consciousness,” as he put it, Turing’s concept has become the
benchmark used to measure our pursuit of intelligent machines.
Tracing back contemporary understanding of electronic digital computing in the
1960s to the foundational principles of George Boole, Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing,
John von Neumann and Claude E. Shannon discovered decades prior. Published by
The New York Times, January 9, 1967
The Electronic Digital Computer: How It Started, How It Works and What It
Does [1967]READ MORE
By developing algorithms and the philosophical and practical underpinnings of the digital age, Turing’s
influence continues to be felt. His ACE designs, used as blueprints by the British to create a device to track
Soviet aircraft, served as the DNA of the first home computer, the Bendix G-15. These days, Turing’s
legacy lives on in Silicon Valley, where the founders of high-tech’s most iconic companies have praised his
elemental contributions to the field of computer science.
Remington Rand and the first corporate computer – UNIVAC
Use in 1950 census and prediction of the 1952 election
IBM helps build early computer at Harvard
Leverages knowledge to build better fully digital computer – 1952-1954
Mainframes were leased - $3000 – $10,000 per month in the 1950s and
Buy software from IBM - proprietary
IBM dominates the industry – 70% global market share by 1960
Computer industry 1960-1975
IBM was a vertically integrated firm – what does this mean?
Proprietary systems – top to bottom
How else could firms be organized?
Main competitors were Sperry Rand, ATT, GE, RCA: IBM and 7 dwarfs
Huge barriers to entry – especially economies of scale
European firms supported by national governments are weak
Japanese firms supported by Japanese government are much stronger
1960s mainframe computer
1970s VAX Minicomputer
The History of the Microprocessor and
the Personal Computer
By Graham Singer on September 17, 2014
The PC is a story of the creation of a new industry around a product that was
entirely new: a computer for anyone who wanted one. It led to:
A new way to organize production that led to globalization and the growth of
China and many emerging economies.
An industry created by small startup firms and individuals
Created a product that revolutionized the way business is conducted across
most industries
Many very smart people and many very good companies did not see the
opportunities in PCs and blew the chance to make hundreds of billions of
The people who did see the opportunities were very often not business
people at all
The new PC firms disrupted existing firms, bringing the largest mainframe
and minicomputer firms down
PC industry created the main patterns for technology and knowledge related
Intel and invention of the microprocessor
Intel and its founders worked for Fairchild Semiconductor but left to start a
new firm
Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Andrew Grove
Intel’s first great product was a DRAM memory chip
A Japanese firm need chips for a calculator and Intel decided to make one of
them do all the processing duties. Intel created the 4004:
Intel 4004, the first commercial microprocessor, had 2300 transistors and ran at a clock speed of 740KHz.
in the late 1960s and early 1970s computing was the province of mainframes and minicomputers.
Less than 20,000 mainframes were sold in the world yearly and IBM dominated this relatively
small market (to a lesser extent UNIVAC, GE, NCR, CDC, RCA, Burroughs, and Honeywell -the "Seven Dwarfs" to IBM's "Snow White"). Meanwhile, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)
effectively owned the minicomputer market. Intel management and other microprocessor
companies, couldn't see their chips usurping the mainframe and minicomputer whereas new
memory chips could service these sectors in vast quantities.
Thus Intel did not see the microprocessor they created as related to small
History of the Microprocessor and the
Personal Computer, Part 2
By Graham Singer on September 24, 2014
One of the most remarkable features of the PC industry is how slowly the
idea of a personal computer developed. Virtually no one worked to use the
Intel microprocessor to build a PC for almost 4 years
Computers were still seen as an expensive business and research tool, and the
markets for a new generation of relatively inexpensive personal machines and
industrial controllers didn't exist, nor was it imagined in many cases.
The imagination needed to see the future came mostly from a small number
of amateur technologists who wanted to have a computer of their own
Intel finally figured out what could be done and hired Gary Kildall to write an
O/S for a microcomputer CP/M; this fizzled
Intel saw the microprocessor as little more than a component of a package which could be
leveraged to sell more memory products.
A company making ham radio equipment in New Mexico owned by Ed
Roberts built the first PC using the Intel microprocessor: the Altair
News of this development prompted Bill Gates, 19 a sophomore at Harvard
and Paul Allen, 22 working in Boston to develop an O/S for the Altair. This
happened in 1975-1976 and the Gates-Allen version of BASIC was used on
many personal computers other than the Altair.
1975-1977 led to the birth of the personal computer
Gates – Allen software
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak - Apple
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak work on the original Apple I, powered by the MOS 6502 processor. While
still technically a kit, since the buyer had to source an enclosure and peripherals, the mainboard was sold
fully assembled.
Radio Shack – TRS 80
The market for PCs became clear in 1977-1980, with many new PC developed and
The Apple II;_ylt=AwrTcd6GXslUQEcA5gonnIlQ;_ylu
A large part of Apple's success in the business market -- a market not originally foreseen as being the
Apple II's primary focus -- stemmed from the close association with the hugely influential VisiCalc
spreadsheet software that was only initially compatible with the Apple machine. VisiCalc's appeal across
the entire business spectrum was such that it alone justified the purchase of the computers needed to run
The Xerox Alto
Many aspects of modern personal computing we now take for granted had been in development first by
SRI International's Augmentation Research Center (ARC) under the stewardship of Douglas Engelbart,
and later Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).
The primary focus of semiconductor companies (almost entirely U.S. derived) remained on high profit
DRAM circuits. The microprocessor was mostly seen as part of a range of chips that could be sold as a
multi-chip package. Intel, and more recently Mostek, were built on the profits of dynamic memory. That
changed as Japanese semiconductor companies with little regard for U.S. patents and copyrights
received generous tax breaks, low interest loans, and institutionalized protectionism from a
government desperately trying to keep the Japanese computer industry from falling into the abyss.
Demand for new integrated circuits, particularly in the U.S., had been growing at an average of 16% a year
through the mid to late 1970s and Japan's government along with electronics companies saw ICs and
particularly the lucrative DRAM market as an ideal opportunity to build their industry. Backed by $1.6
billion in government subsidies, tax credits, and low interest loans as well as large private
investments, Japanese companies embarked on building state of the art foundries for IC
manufacturing. These same Japanese companies also needed increased imports of U.S. made DRAM
for their consumer and business products while their own plants were being built.
iPhone 6s inside