Chronology of Personal Computers (1979)



January 2

  • Software Arts is incorporated. [1056.327] [1149.146]

  • Xerox president replies to John Ellenby’s proposal to market the Alto, turning down his proposal. [716.213]
  • Personal Software’s Daniel Fylstra shows Apple Computer’s Mike Markkula and Steve Jobs a prototype Applesoft program called Calculedger (later released as VisiCalc), written by Daniel Bricklin and Robert Frankston. Fylstra offers the program to Apple for $1 million. No deal. [2605.14]
(month unknown)

  • Microsoft decides to create an implementation of the BASIC programming language for the 8086 chip. Bob O’Rear is assigned the job. [1149.142] (fall 1978 [346.62])

  • Don Williams in Hixson, Tennessee, publishes the first issue of ’68’ Micro Journal, covering 68xx and 68xxx processor applications. [1133.12]
  • Apple Computer releases DOS 3.2. [218]
(month unknown)

  • In England, the Cambridge Processor Unit company is renamed Acorn Computers Ltd. [2583.127] [2651.15]

  • Acorn Computers launches the System 1 microcomputer in England. The kit includes 256 bytes RAM, 512 bytes ROM with monitor program, LES display, keypad, and cassette interface. Price is 69 pounds. [2583.127] [2651.15]
  • IMSAI Manufacturing files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, owing US$1.5 million. [1702.113]
  • Zilog ships samples of the 16-bit Z8000 processor. [234.118]
April 4

  • The International Computer Programs awards Microsoft the Million Dollar Award for its 8080 BASIC. This is Microsoft’s first corporate recognition from the industry, and the first microprocessor product to win this award. [123] [1299.130]

  • Intel introduces its first magnetic bubble memory chip capable of storing up to 1 megabit of info. [902.60] [962.28] (May [1153.D2])
  • Bob Frankston, Dan Bricklin, and Dan Fylstra sign a contract for Software Arts to continue development of Visicalc, and for Personal Software to market the software. [1340.S3.12]
(month unknown)

  • Microsoft completes initial work on BASIC for the Intel 8086 processor. The simulated BASIC is running on a DEC 20, but an 8086-based computer is not available for testing the software. [346.62] [1149.143]

  • Software Arts demonstrates the VisiCalc spreadsheet software at the 4th West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco, California. Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston wrote it during 1978-79, under the company name Software Arts, under contract to Personal Software. [9.202] [80.126] [176.64] [203.9] [218] [266.xv] [346.102] [1299.132] [1886.64] [2605.14] (June [41] [1149.145])
  • At the West Coast Computer Faire, Corvus Systems introduces an interface between an Apple II and a US$5000 10 MB IMI Winchester hard drive. To their surprise, they receive orders for 60 units. [995.ss48]
  • Seattle Computer Products makes the first prototype of its 8086 microprocessor card for the S-100 bus. [2] [1149.143]
  • Microsoft tries out its 8086 BASIC on Seattle Computer Products’ 8086 processor card for the first time. By the end of the month, the 8086 BASIC is complete and working. [346.63] [1149.143]
  • Processor Technology closes. [266.124]
  • Tandy/Radio Shack announces the TRS-80 Model II. [266.198] [548.413]
June 1

  • Intel introduces the 4.77 MHz 8088 microprocessor. It was created as a stepping stone to the 8086, as it operates on 16 bits internally, but supports an 8-bit data bus, to use existing 8-bit device-controlling chips. It contains 29,000 transistors, using 3-micron technology, and can directly address 1 MB of memory. Speed is 0.33 MIPS. (A later version operates at 8 MHz, for a speed of 0.75 MIPS.) [296] [477.124] [536.502] [540.64] [203.12] [62] [879.116] [900] [947.102] [1279.39] [1635.52] [2252.75] (February [177.102]) (1981 [120])

  • Apple Computer introduces the Apple II Plus, with 48 kB RAM, additional color capabilities, Applesoft in ROM, for US$1195. [46] [200.1] [218] [593.350] [2605.14]
  • Apple Computer introduces its first printer, the Apple Silentype, for US$600. It is a Trendcom Model 200, released under the Apple name. [46] [218]
  • Bob Metcalfe founds 3Com Corporation. [156] [618.234]
  • Texas Instruments introduces the TI-99/4 personal computer, for an initial price of US$1500. It uses the TI 9940 16-bit microprocessor. Code-name during development was SP-70. [9] [202.209] [1299.110] (late 1979 [714.135]) (US$1150 [246.81])
  • MicroPro International releases the WordStar word processor, written by Rob Barnaby. It is made available for Intel 8080A and Zilog Z-80 based CP/M systems. [266.153] [346.259] [862.202] [1033.171] [1149.146] (written by Seymour Rubenstein [176.64])
  • The National Computer Conference is held in New York City. [346.63] [1149.144] [1299.135]
  • At the National Computer Conference, Lifeboat Associates shares its 10ft x 10ft booth with Microsoft and Seattle Computer Products. Microsoft announces Microsoft BASIC 8086 running it on the 8086 card of Seattle Computer Products. [123] [346.63,259] [389.28] [1149.144] [1299.135]
  • Microsoft begins a new Microsoft Consumer Products division, headed by Vern Raburn. [1149.146] [1299.132]
June 22

  • A group of programmers (Al Vezza, Joel Berez, Marc Blanc, and Dave Lebling) from the Dynamic Modeling Group at Massachusettes Institute of Technology incorporates InfoCom. [548.435] [1026.63] [1524.20]
(month unknown)

  • Alan Shugart and Finis Conner found the Seagate Technology company (hard disk maker), in Scotts Valley, California. [227] [587.25] [971.F9] [999.ss62]
  • Shugart Associates publishes the Shugart Associates Systems Interface (SASI). [543]
  • Apple Computer begins work on “Sara”, the code-name for what will be the Apple III. [203.49] (1978 [266.232])
  • Apple Computer releases the word processing program AppleWriter 1.0. [218]
  • Michael Shane founds Leading Edge Products. [203.24]
  • Vector Graphic introduces the Vector Graphic System B system. [202.203]
  • Apple Computer releases Apple Pascal. [912.136]
  • Automated Simulations releases the Temple of Apshai game for microcomputers. [809.20]
  • Niklaus Wirth invents the Modula-1 programming language. [132]
  • IBM introduces the IBM 3800 laser printer, capable of printing 20,000 lines per minute. [202.171]
  • Hayes Microcomputer Products introduces the 110/300 baud Micromodem II for the Apple II, for US$380. [218]
  • Xerox shows its Alto personal computer in TV commercials. [716.13]
  • After airing a TV commercial for the Alto several times, Xerox decides not to market the Alto. [716.19]
  • A researcher at Canon accidentally discovers technology for inkjet printing, by touching a hot soldering iron to a syringe full of ink. The hot iron causes an air bubble to push out a drop of ink. [1228.49]
  • McGraw-Hill buys Byte magazine. [1238.108]
  • The Avalon Hill Game Company forms its Microcomputer Games Division, and releases games B-1 Nuclear Bomber, North Atlantic Convoy Raider, Nukewar, and Planet Miners. [1532.10]
  • The Strategic Simulations company is formed. [1537.28]
  • The US Government begins restricting exports of super computers. [1711.22]
  • Microsoft releases the Flight Simulator game for the Apple II. [1732.90]
  • Apple Computer creates three projects: Apple III for business, Lisa for high-end business, and Macintosh for research experiments. [2605.15]

  • MT MicroSystems releases the Pascal/MT language compiler for CP/M. Price is US$50. It features direct to machine code compilation, support for burning code into ROM chips, I/O port access, and in-line assembly code. (Over its lifetime, over 100,000 copies are sold of all versions (MT, MT+, MT+86).) [1167]
  • Apple Computer releases DOS 3.2.1. [218]
  • CompuServe begins a service to computer hobbyists called MicroNET, offering bulletin boards, databases, and games. [218]
  • Apple Computer hires Ken Rothmuller as project manager of project Lisa, which is to be a $2000 business computer to ship in March 1981,, with built-in display, keyboard, traditional user interface, and bit-slice microprocessor. [2605.73]
  • In England, Clive Sinclair creates Sinclair Research. [624.170]

  • Ross Perot of Electronic Data Systems and Bill Gates discuss EDS buying Microsoft. (Gates recalls wanting US$6-15 million. Perot recalls Gates wanting US$40-60 million.) [734.111] [1299.138]
  • NEC releases Japan’s first microcomputer, the NEC PC 8001, partly designed by Microsoft. It includes Microsoft BASIC in ROM. [346.55] [1149.135] [1299.131,140]
  • Microsoft releases its Assembler language for 8080/Z80 microprocessors. [346.260]
  • Wayne Ratliff develops the Vulcan database program. (Ashton-Tate later markets it as dBase II.) [9] [346.259]

  • Motorola introduces the 68000 16-bit microprocessor. It incorporates 68,000 transistors, giving it its name. [176.75] [423.136] (1980 [120])
  • IMSAI declares bankruptcy. It owes Microsoft US$60,000 in licensing fees for FORTRAN and BASIC. The assets of IMSAI are purchased by Fischer-Freitas. [251.174] [266.xv,77] [647.95] [1299.125]
  • Apple Computer’s board of directors approves a research project into building an all-in-one computer targeted at an average user. (The Macintosh computer will emerge in 1984.) [1886.64] [2605.88]
(month unknown)

  • Schlumberger Ltd. sells Heath Company to Zenith Radio Corp. for US$64.5 million. [246.81] [1151.S3.15]
  • Xerox and Microsoft sign a contract for Microsoft to supply a version of Stand-alone Disk BASIC for a Xerox – Convergent Technologies personal computer, Project Surf. The deal is worth US$150,000, about double to Microsoft’s previous largest contract. [1149.150]
  • Microsoft begins developing an 8086 version of FORTRAN. [346.72]
  • The first issue of COMPUTE! magazine is published. [628.4] [629.6]

  • The United States’ Federal Communications Commission’s set of rules for radio frequencies of personal computers is enacted as Subpart J of Part 15. [769.352]
  • 2.5 years after the introduction of the Apple II computer, 50,000 units have been sold. [218]
  • Atari begins shipping the Atari 400 and Atari 800 personal computers. The Atari 400 comes with 4 kB RAM, selling for US$549. The Atari 800 with 8 kB RAM sells for US$999. [249.110] [2583.234] (early 1980 [713.12])
  • Radio Shack begins shipping the TRS-80 Model II to users. [250.116]
October 17

  • Personal Software releases VisiCalc for the Apple II, for US$99. (Over its lifetime, over 700,000 copies are sold.) [46] [140] [218] [266.230] [346.102] [618.70] [1033.171] [1056.327] [1112.139] [1149.146] [2605.14] (November [120])
(month unknown)

  • Alan Ashton and Bruce Bastian found Satellite Software International. (The company is later renamed to WordPerfect Corporation.) [346.133] (1980 [330.102])
  • The first Computer Dealers’ Exposition (COMDEX) show is held, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Approximately 150 companies show products to some 4,000 visitors. [734.335] [1466.244]

  • Xerox Office Products Division president, Don Massaro, decides to champion the Star office system (based on the Alto). [716.228]
  • Texas Instruments begins shipping the TI 99/4. [249.110]
  • Seattle Computer Products begins shipping its 8086 CPU boards. Stand-alone BASIC from Microsoft is offered an an option. [1149.183]
  • ComputerLand grows to include 100 franchises. [266.195]
  • A group of Apple Computer engineers and executives is given a demonstration of the Alto computer system at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. In exchange, Xerox buys 100,000 Apple Computer shares for US$1 million. [180.77] [266.xv] [346.146] [582.205] [618.189] [734.45] [741.210] [1112.142] [1886.64] [2605.75]
(month unknown)

  • DRAM market share: Japan about 25%, US over 70%. [606.109]
  • Morrow Designs advertises the 26 MB DISCUS M26 hard drive system for US$5000. [248.69]
  • Digital Research begins packaging Gordon Eubanks’ CBASIC with CP/M. [1149.177]
  • Apple Computer’s Trip Hawkins negotiates a deal with Dan Fylstra of Personal Software to buy his company and VisiCalc for US$1 million in Apple Computer stock. Apple’s president refuses to approve the deal. [618.72]

  • Atari contracts with MT MicroSYSTEMS to create a 6502 Pascal compiler to support both P-Code and native code for Atari 800 and 400. [1167]
  • Xerox first proposes Ethernet as a standard for communications among office equipment. [1063.21] [1335.D1]
  • Microsoft Consumer Products releases its first products: TRS-80 Level III BASIC, Typing Tutor, and Adventure. The Adventure game was written by Gordon Letwin, the only Microsoft employee to be paid royalties for a product written off company time. [1299.133]
  • Sears begins selling Atari home computers. [269.14]
December 31

  • Number of floppy disk drives manufactured to date: 2.5 million. [248.116]

  • Number of electronic BBSs operating in the United States: 60. [247.103]


End of 1979. Next: 1980.

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