LGR – Strangest Computer Designs of the ’70s

LGR – Strangest Computer Designs of the ’70s

(synthesized music) – [LGR] The 1970s. The decade where the home computer first found a foothold. Although for most of those years, the very idea of a personal computer wasn’t yet fully defined, with many machines appearing strange simply because they were the first of their kind. There were plenty of fascinating steps along the way to the famous Apple II,
TRS-80 and Commodore PET. So let’s take a look. These are the ’70s computers that stand out for their weirdness in regards to look, usability, and specifications relative to their contemporaries. The CTC Datapoint 2200. Developed by the Computer
Terminal Corporation in 1971, the 2200 was designed to
be a cost-efficient terminal compatible with multiple mainframes. Intel was originally contracted
to design the processor for it, but CTC ended up using their own bit-serial processing solution made up of transistor-transistor logic, or TTL, components. emulating mainframe terminal
connections through software. This also meant that users could actually use it as a true personal computer,
not just a terminal. Oh, and that original processor
CTC asked Intel for? Well it turned into the legendary 8008 CPU, the basis of x86 architecture
used in PCs for decades. The Triumph-Adler TA-1000. Released in 1973 by German document management
company Triumph Adler, the TA-1000 is one of
several computing systems from the time that aren’t simply desktops but are also the desk itself. The 1000 series was an all-in-one
accounting computer solution for small-to-midsize businesses using 8-bit TTL logic, but with a 16-bit address bus. It had a whopping one kilobyte ROM, two kilobytes of RAM, a built-in assembly language interpreter, a full-size dot matrix printer, and support for CRT displays, compact cassette tape storage, and even hard drive and
floppy disk support later on. The MCM/70. The Micro Computer Machines Model 70 hails from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and is often considered to be the
first portable personal computer, weighing in at 20 pounds. Shipping in Fall of 1974, the fully-loaded MCM/70 came spec’d with a one-line plasma display, and the brand-spanking-new Intel 8008 CPU, running at 0.8 MHz, making it one of the
forerunners of personal computers using a microprocessor. It was meant to provide a convenient solution for educators and businesses to use the APL programming language And so the fully-loaded Model 70 with 8K of RAM and dual cassette drives was a bargain at just shy of $10,000 Canadian. The SWTPC TV Typewriter. Well here’s a crazy concept. How about instead of printing out results on paper or buying an expensive CRT display, you build the display hardware into the computer and use a standard television? Well that idea is exactly what makes the Southwest Technical Products
Corporation TV Typewriter a milestone in personal computing, even if it wasn’t exactly a computer. It was a kit of super low-cost terminal hardware that let you display 16 lines of
32 uppercase characters on a TV. But it wasn’t long before hobbyists figured out how to integrate this setup, designed by Goodyear Aerospace
engineer Don Lancaster, into their home PCs as well, a solution used in many home
computers years afterward. The Xerox Alto. This machine was so far ahead of its time that it’s a wonder that Xerox didn’t dominate the personal computer marketplace
in the latter part of the decade. Released in 1973, the Alto was the first computer with an operating environment
designed from the ground up to use a graphical user interface, inspiring a generation of GUIs
introduced a decade later. It also pioneered the
what-you-see-is-what-you-get style of document preparation, which made full use of its
portrait-orientation CRT display. And of course, driving much of this interaction
was a revolutionary device called a mouse, something that wouldn’t go mainstream in other computers until many years later. And all of this was available with 96K of RAM starting at just $40,000. The IASIS ia-7301. Also known as the computer-in-a-book, the ia-7301 is one of many
training computers in 1976 based on the Intel 8080 CPU. But this one was unique since it came packaged in a three-ring binder alongside a 250-page programming course. It was a bit more expensive and fully-featured than other CPU trainers, though, costing $450 for a model
with 1K of RAM and ROM, and support for program
storage through a tape recorder and even S100 cards through the use of an external expander board, making it decidedly less portable. The ISC Compucolor II. Sometimes called the Renaissance Machine, Intelligent Systems Corporation of Norcross, Georgia first released this in 1976. Not only does it have a colorific keyboard, but it’s the first home computer
to house a color display. While its predecessor, the Compucolor I, was a professional computer
with a color vector monitor, the Two was a home micro with a 13-inch General Electric TV that displayed its 128×128 eight-color graphics. It even featured CD storage, but it’s not what it sounds like. The Compucolor Drive, or CD, was a custom-built 5 1/4-inch floppy drive the let its FCS operating system save up to 51.2 kilobytes on each disk. The APF Imagination Machine. By 1979, game consoles were all the rage, right alongside home computers, and APF Electronics placed their bets on a combination of the two
with the Imagination Machine. The first part was the APF-M1000 game console featuring two controllers and a
built-in game called Rocket Patrol. But it could be dropped into the IM-1, a home microcomputer with
a 3.579 MHz Motorola 6800 a stereo cassette deck, internal speaker and five-octave sound chip, and APF OS with its own
BASIC language interpreter. It could even be augmented with RS-232 serial, floppy drives, modems, and extra RAM, making it one of the most
expandable consoles ever made, and setting the stage for later
machines like the Coleco Adam. And finally, The Seattle Computer Products Gazelle. Making its debut right at the tail end of 1979, the SCP Gazelle is one of the very first computers to sport the Intel 8086 CPU. It was also physically massive, with support for dual 8-inch
1.25 meg floppy drives, an 8-inch Winchester drive, and 18 S100 expansion boards inside. And if Seattle Computer
Products sounds familiar, that might be because it
was their own Tim Paterson who programmed the quick-and-dirty
operating system on the Gazelle. This went on to become 86-DOS, which was infamously purchased
by Microsoft for $50,000, and became the operating system for the IBM PC. MS-DOS, Windows and Microsoft itself owes its very existence to the Gazelle, even if the machine itself is just a footnote in the history of computing. (synthesized music) If you enjoyed this episode of LGR, perhaps you’d like to see some of my others. There’s new videos every Monday and Friday, as well as previous ones that I’ve made on the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, so check ’em out if you’d like. And as always, thank you very much for watching.

100 thoughts on “LGR – Strangest Computer Designs of the ’70s

  1. I recognized a few of these, great video though, very informative and pleasant to watch. The only thing I personally owned out of these was the SWTP TVTII kit, just the boards, no case. Keyboard was somebody' elses kit offering, think I may have bought it at RS.
    Was hopeing substitute that for a teletype, to interface to my SC/MP.
    Life happens and none of it was connected together. I still have the Evaluation Board, and am really interested in going retro thanks to videos like yours.

  2. I love how a computer named the Gazelle is just an absolutely massive, ungainly brick of a machine, even by 1979 standards.

  3. 2:35… You mean even that aardvark of a machine had more memory than my VIC20? <sigh> Man, everything had more RAM than my VIC.

  4. These are so retro futuristic looking that it actually makes me want to own one! …I don't care how big and heavy they are….I don't care how slow and how limited their use is…..I mean just look at them….you can't honestly tell me those are not super cool to look at in a weird old school hi-tech way

  5. So if Microsoft never happened and Xerox became the dominant computer company, we'd all be using portrait screens today?

  6. No wonder Xerox didn't dominate the personal computing world. Xerox Alto cost only $40,000 then in early 1970s, which is a large amount even today.

  7. LOL He says they're the "weirdest computers" but then his descriptions of them are pretty matter of fact.

  8. sigh…they'll NEVER catch on…computers are the size of closets, weigh usually a ton, heat up a lot and, well, don't really do much more than computations for businesses…

  9. I remember Jeremy Clarkson did a program about the history of computers which mentioned the Xerox Alto, and it was just so insanely ahead of its time. But I guess back then people just couldn't see why you would want to spend the cost of a Ferrari on a computer that's main selling point was essentially fancy looking graphics at a time when most people who knew how to use a computer were professional IT people who weren't concerned with that kind of thing.

  10. MS-DOS OWES ITS EXISTENCE TO GARY KILDALL'S CP/M. Search YT for "Computer Chronicles" channel and watch the 1995 Kildall Special and/or buy the paperback edition of "They Made America" – a chapter is devoted to Gary Kildall, the true father of the personal computer operating system – the California Computer History museum also agrees. CP/M was the Windows of its day, with thousands of programs running under it. Gates bought a clone of CP/M and sold it to IBM before Kildall had finished negotiating with them. Kildall had said: "Bill's a friend of mine. He wouldn't cut my throat." Kildall could have sued, but said let the market decide, but IBM played dirty and priced CP/M for the IBM PC at $240 vs $40 for DOS (the CP/M clone) to kill it.

  11. Yeah, with that 1k of ram u can play RDR2, Doom 2016, GTA 5 and The Witcher 3 in ultra without lag.

  12. I’d say no decade was more important for the development of computers than the 1970s that decade was like an electronics renaissance. Just think we went from electric tube computing, tape decks, records, and at the beginning of the decade color tv and touch tone dialing were revolutionary.

    This decade gave us

    • calculators
    • LED displays
    • video games
    • microprocessors
    • microwave ovens
    • VCRs
    • 8-track tapes
    • cassette tapes

  13. The MCM/70 looks like a man's face. The cassette drives are his eyes, the space bar is his mouth and the rest of the keyboard is a 70s style super bushy moustache.

  14. Excellent video, I like how you apparently avoided the standard computers and showed us some really interesting models that we probably had never seen before.

  15. thats when they all started ..and 2 top pc won that time was >>>GUESS WHO…MICROSOFT DIRTY TRICKS OS..and STEVE JOBS HIPPIE PEOPLE LOVE AND KNOW FOR HIS AWESOME PRESENTATIONS

  16. 19 years, 7 months, 12 days ago I stopped using a computer that used a teletype printer for input and output. Guess why my employer replaced it.

  17. My face is the time travel computer.used by John titor. Of course he never mentioned apple commodore¹or àpple² .steins gate.¹

  18. The Alto's revolutionary GUI/OS was Smalltalk, developed by Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls and Adele Goldberg. Smalltalk is an object-oriented, dynamically typed reflective programming language that is still in use today. You can download a free, modern implementation that runs in a VM at squeak.org if you'd like to try it yourself.

  19. i was working for Xerox in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and got to play with some of the first Alto systems – later morphing into the Xerox Star. Screens were a little fuzzy.

  20. My junior high school had two CompuColor 2's. The problem: the two computers could not read each other floppy disks. Apparently the manufacturer never did any sort of head alignment before shipping them. Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of commercial software available for them!

  21. Jobs and Apple STOLE the mouse concept and design from xerox and then that arrogant prick told the world that he invented it !

  22. 特定の目的に特化する事を考えてデザインされているのだから、際もの扱いはやめようぜ。

  23. My first pc was an Apple ][e. I remember the first time I ever heard the word "computer' at the age of 5. In 1979 our first grade class went to a local university to check out their computers. They didn't have monitors though, they just had paper printers for the output. They had a simple program set up for us to type in our name and the program would say hello using our names etc, probably running on something like Basic. It obviously left a permanent impression on us all, I know it did for me being obsessed with computing ever since.

  24. They appear strange because those were the years of flaired Bell bottom trousers, flowered floppy collered shirts and the colour beige 🤢

  25. For the full story on Xerox PARC and the Alto, I recommend <i>Dealers of Lightning</i> by Michael Hiltzik.

  26. I programmed on a computer like iasis ia-7301 in my russian university. It is also based on i8080. To be honest, it was the sovies chlone of 8080. The bright sun makes plaspa display unreadable and old buttons work very bad. But in was fun experience.

  27. $40,000 in 1970 would be valued at something like $266,560.21 in 2019 dollars, so a hefty piece of change in 1970.

  28. Xerox had it all, but the short sighted leadership gave it all away and many of the engineers left to start their own companies.

  29. It looks like the majority of these computers would cause anyone to have serious neck and eye strain looking at very tiny monitors so close to the keyboard at a flat angle even after short term use.

  30. Нахуя без перевода выкладывать с русским названием? Гондон.

  31. The cost of computers back then to the general public is similar to what the cost of electric cars is today to the general population. Once the early adopters with deep pockets are out of the way, the capitalist economy then decides to move to the lower and lower rungs with the lowest of rungs being last. For example, one can buy a Smart Phone from textnow.com with more computing power that PCs had even in the 1990s now at only $52 a pop. We've come a long ways.

  32. What made the computer evolution so revolutionary in the past 30 years? What made us "jump" from primary-school-students-made computer to nowadays' beautiful PC ?

  33. The $40K price tag for the Altos sounds ridiculous today, but that's because we are viewing it from today's "Personal" computing perspective. That wasn't how computers were viewed back in the 70's. Back then no one expected for everyone to have a computer on their desk – they were viewed as a "shared" resource. The expectation being that you would buy one of these machines for one or two dozen people to share time on. In that view the price tag per person comes down dramatically.

  34. people that was the latest technology of that day,,,,,,years from now our technology will look just as strange,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  35. My first computers were those IBM towers in the 90's. We rarely had anything older because they couldn't play DOS games quite like the IBM machines.

  36. It's amazing how in the 1970s and 80s computers were built in all sorts of countries… Germany, USA, UK, Canada, even Brazil.

    But now? They're mostly made in China.

  37. This was the computing technology we had back then, so there was nothing really weird about it. It should be remembered that computers have evolved over the years because of our technological advances; it's all relative.

  38. If you are wondering what that tower object is @0:56 into the video, that is a memory storage tape drive for mainframe computers. From what I recall of that era, such tapes, depending on length and data compression, could hold anywhere from 3 MB to 140 MB per reel; where those tape reels can also been seen @3:35 as those white upright objects on the right.

  39. I kind of think that it was computer games that made home computing more popular. Why would anyone buy one of those computers back then? THey didn't do much and they didn't have the internet.

  40. @1:20 – This isn't technology's only try at selling massive combos of electronics all in one. The Cartrivision from 1972 housed – not just a video player device – but its own color television set and cabinet all in one. The price tag and its less-than-straightforward interface kept it from being a success. The Betamax soon dominated it, though even the Betamax was still too expensive to be considered nothing more than a "luxury item"; VHS overtook Betamax in the second half of the 1970s.

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