Chronology of Personal Computers (1972)




  • Hewlett-Packard introduces the HP-35 calculator, the first pocket scientific calculator. [202.178] [1298.187]
(month unknown)

  • Federico Faggin urges Intel management to allow him to begin development of a successor to the 8008 processor. Management decides to wait to see how reception of the 8008 goes first. [1038.150]

  • Intel introduces its 200 kHz 8008 chip, the first commercial 8-bit microprocessor, part of the MCS-8 product family of chips. It accesses 16 kB of memory. It uses 3500 transistors, based on 10-micron technology. Speed is 60,000 instructions per second. The processor was originally developed for Computer Terminal Corporation (later called Datapoint). [9] [62] [106.104] [208.66] [266.13] [296] [556.10] [900] [953.28] [1038.150] [1064.246] [1280.41] (1971 [208.70] [266.xiv]) (1973 [1146.50])
(month unknown)

  • At Xerox PARC, Alan Kay proposes they build a portable personal computer, called the Dynabook, the size of an ordinary notebook. PARC management does not support it. [716.84] (1971 [910.218] [1141.67])
  • Xerox PARC engineers Chuck Thacker and Butler Lampson ask Alan Kay if they could try building the Dynabook. (They proceed, but the result is the Alto, a large desktop workstation.) [1141.67]
  • Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie develop the C programming language. (C becomes perhaps the most popular language for professional software development, and is the basis for the C++ object-oriented extensions ten years later.) [176.121] [865.48] (1974 [9]) (1975 [132])
  • Wang Laboratories introduces its first small business computers, the 2200 series. [202.185]
  • Intel management allows Federico Faggin to begin work on an improved 8008 processor. [1038.150]

  • Scelbi Computer Consulting Company begins design work on what would be the Scelbi-8H microcomputer. [208.71]
(month unknown)

  • The People’s Computer Company is founded. [266.xiv]
  • Xerox decides to build a personal computer to be used for research. Project “Alto” begins. [263.58] [266.267] [716.85]
  • Canada’s Automatic Electronic Systems introduces the world’s first programmable word processor with a video screen, the AES 90. The computer system uses magnetic disks for storage, and a custom-built microprocessor. [615.94]
  • Gary Kildall implements the PL/I programming language for the Intel 4004 processor. [266.xiv]
  • At Xerox PARC, Jack Hawley develops the first digital mouse. [1304.C4]
  • Rockwell announces the PPS-4 microprocessor family, similar to Intel’s MCS-4 (with 4004 processor). [1038.150]
  • Traf-O-Data develops a primitive microcomputer based on Intel’s 8008 microprocessor for recording automobile traffic flow on a highway. [266.xiv] [346.12]
  • 5.25-inch diskettes first appear. [346.28] (1978 [971.F9])

  • The first issue of People’s Computer Company magazine is released. [353.172]

  • Researchers at PARC begin work on a prototype Alto personal computer. [716.93]
(month unknown)

  • At Texas Instruments, Gary Boone and Michael Cochran create the TMS1000 one-chip microcomputer. It integrates 1 kB ROM and 32 bytes of RAM with a simple 4-bit processor. [556.11] [1064.246] (1974 [110])



  • Intel files a patent application for a “memory system for a multichip digital computer”. [556.30]

  • The first prototype Alto workstation computer is turned on at Xerox’ Palo Alto Research Center. Its first screen display is a bitmapped image of the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster. [203.59] [714.95,167] [716.14,93] (completed in 1974 [266.267])
(month unknown)

  • In France, Fran├žois Gernelle releases the Micral-N microcomputer, created by the R2E company. The unit is powered by an Intel 8008 microprocessor. It is the first commercial non-kit computer based on a microprocessor. Price is 8500 Francs (about US$1300). The term “microcomputer” is first used in print in reference to the Micral. [900] [1112.146] [1299.65] [2063.94]
May 22

  • At Xerox PARC, Bob Metcalfe invents the Ethernet computer connectivity system, describing in a memo how the technology would work. The name “Ethernet” refers to medium-independent transmission of data packets, and is based on a discredited physical theory of an existing “ether” in space allowing transmission of light rays from the sun to the Earth. [156] [1559]

  • At the Lakeside prep school in Washington state, Bill Gates tells a friend “I’m going to make my first million by the time I’m 25.”. [1149.51]
(month unknown)

  • Texas Instruments enters the pocket calculator field with the introduction of the Texas Instruments SR-50 Slide Rule Calculator. It sells for about US$75. [202.179]
  • Gary Kildall creates the PL/M programming language for the Intel 8008, based on PL/I. [266.137]
  • IBM introduces the IBM 33FD floppy disk drive. The drive can read and write both sides of an 8-inch disk, storing atotal of 400 kB. Code-name during development was Igor. [1089.392]
  • IBM introduces the IBM 3340 hard disk unit, known as the Winchester, IBM’s internal development code name. The recording head rides on a layer of air 18 millionths of an inch thick. It uses four 8-inch diameter platters, giving it a capacity of 70 MB. [202.170] [838.S3] [1310]
  • Shugart Associates announces the SA901 disk drive, an 8-inch floppy drive compatible with the IBM 33FD. [1089.392]
  • Shugart Associates announces an 800 kB version of its SA901 8-inch floppy drive. [1089.392]
  • Scelbi Computer Consulting Company offers the first computer kit in the U.S. using a microprocessor, the Intel 8008-based Scelbi-8H, for US$565, with 1 kB programmable memory. An additional 15 kB is available for US$2760. The name Scelbi stands for SCientific, ELectronic, and BIological. [9] [208.66] (1974 [1299.65])
September 8

  • In Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mers Kutt of Micro Computer Machines officially introduces the MCM-70 personal computer. It features Intel 8008 processor, plasma screen, cassette drives, keyboard, 2 to 8 kB RAM, 14 kB ROM. Weight is 20 pounds; price is CDN$4500. [1558.12] [1783.77]

  • At Intel, the first fabrication run of the 8080 processor is made. [1038.150]
(month unknown)

  • Gary Kildall writes a simple operating system in his PL/M language. He calls it CP/M (Control Program/Monitor). [266.138] (Control Program for Microcomputer [346.50]) (Control Program / Microprocessor [1076.18]) (1974 [443.433] [1298.187])



  • Intel releases its 2 MHz 8080 chip, an 8-bit microprocessor. It can directly access 64 kB of memory via 2-byte memory addressing. It incorporates 6000 transistors, based on 6-micron technology. Speed is 0.64 MIPS. [9] [41] [108] [176.74] [266.30] [296] [346.19] [879.116] [953.28] [1298.187] (1973 [208.70]) (March [1038.150])
(month unknown)

  • Rockwell introduces the PPS-8 microprocessor family, similar to but slower than Intel’s 8080 processor. [1038.150]
  • In a desperate act to save his failing calculator company, MITS company owner Ed Roberts begins building a small computer based on Intel’s new 8080 chip, with plans to sell it for the unheard-of price of US$500. Roberts is able to buy 8080 chips from Intel for US$75 each in large volume. [185.109] [266.31] [1149.72] [1299.66]

  • Intel receives a patent for a “memory system for a multichip digital computer”. [556.30]
(month unknown)

  • Southwest Technical Products Company introduces the TVT-11 kit for US$180, and ASCII keyboard kit for US$40. [208.67]
  • National Semiconductor introduces the 16-bit IMP-16 microprocessor. [1064.246] (1972 [208.70])
  • Gary Kildall, of Microcomputer Applications Associates, develops the CP/M operating system for Intel 8080-based systems. [9] [176.64] [258.224]
  • RCA releases the 1802 processor, running at 6.4 MHz. (It is considered one of the first RISC chips.) [32] [556.12]
  • Engineer David Ahl suggests Digital Equipment produce an inexpensive version of its PDP-8 minicomputer, for US$5000. Top management call the idea foolish. [203.10]

  • Radio Electronics magazine publishes an article on building a Mark-8 microcomputer, designed by Jonathan Titus, using the Intel 8008 processor. [208.67]
(month unknown)

  • Federico Faggin and Ralph Ungermann leave Intel to form a competing microprocessor company. [1038.150]

  • MITS completes the first prototype Altair 8800 microcomputer. His original name for the computer is “PE-8”, in honor of the Popular Electronics magazine. [744.2] [900]
  • Bill Mensch, Chuck Peddle, and others leave Motorola to work for MOS Technology. [824]
(month unknown)

  • Ed Roberts decides that the programming language of his new microcomputer should be BASIC. [1149.74]
  • David Bunnell, MITS technical writer, suggests the name “Little Brother” for the new MITS computer. [1149.72]

  • Creative Computing, the first magazine for home computer users, is founded. [9]
  • Hal Singer starts the Micro-8 Newsletter for enthusiasts of the Mark-8 microcomputer. [208.67]
  • Bravo is developed for the Xerox Alto computer. It is the first WYSIWYG program for a personal computer. [477.158]
  • Despite being US$300,000 in debt, Ed Roberts is able to borrow an additional US$65,000 from the bank to complete work on what would become the Altair computer. [266.33] [1299.66]
(month unknown)

  • Gary Kildall and John Torode begin selling the CP/M disk operating system for microcomputers. [266.xv] [1149.175]
  • Motorola introduces its 6800 chip, an early 8-bit microprocessor used in microcomputers and industrial and automotive control devices. The 6800 was designed by Chuck Peddle and Charlie Melear. [556.11] [1038.150] [1146.50]

  • Hal Chamberlin and others begin publishing The Computer Hobbyist magazine. [208.67]
  • Zilog is founded. [1038.150] (1975 [233.194])
(month unknown)

  • Railway Express loses Ed Robert’s only prototype Altair computer, en route to New York for review and photography for publishing by Popular Electronics magazine. [266.34] [353.190] [1149.73] [1299.66]
  • MITS engineers create an empty Altair box with switches and lights on the front, send it to Les Solomon for display on the cover of Popular Electronics. [1149.73]
  • Lauren Solomon, 12 year old daughter of Les Solomon, publisher of Popular Electronics, suggests the name “Altair” for Ed Robert’s new microcomputer. Altair was the name of where Star Trek’s Enterprise was going that night on TV. [266.34] [353.190] [930.31] [1149.72]

  • Scelbi sells its last Scelbi-8H, discontinuing hardware to concentrate on software. [208.71]
  • Popular Electronics publishes an article in its January 1975 issue by MITS announcing the Altair 8800 computer for US$397 in kit form, or US$439 assembled. It features a 2 MHz Intel 8080 processor, and 256 bytes of RAM. The Altair pictured on the cover of the magazine is actually a mock-up, as an actual computer was not available. [9] [106.104] [123] [185.109] [192.3] [208.67] [218] [205.18] [1298.187] [1299.63] (US$397 [266.35] [346.19] [353.190] [415.15])
  • Paul Allen sees the Popular Electronics issue with the Altair story, and tells Bill Gates that the microcomputer revolution is just beginning. [346.21] [1149.67]
(month unknown)

  • Intel introduces the 3000 series of microprocessor chips. [949.361]


End of 1972-1974. Next: 1975.

1947-1968 1969-1971 1972-1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981
1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
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