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Pre-IBM PC 1977-1979

By the late seventies, it was becoming clear to all chip makers that microprocessors were a big deal. At first, even Intel didn’t take microprocessors seriously, they were a memory maker. They sold millions of memory chips. How many microprocessors could their be a market for? Well, the answer was a lot. Electronics designers were using logic chips to build intelligence into products. These logic chips holding ANDs, ORs, NOTs, and what not, were used on circuits boards to program the intelligence into a machine. If the “program” needed to be changed, a new circuit board with different chips, in different circuits, would need to be created. Needless to say a bug on board was an expensive proposition. So, the idea that these physical circuits could represented “virtually” as microprocessor instructions held in memory, that could be easily changed, was huge. However, with a industry full of electrical engineers, how do you transition to “hardware programming” to “software programming”? Intel initially referred to the Intel 4004 microprocessor, as a random logic processor. The “random logic” being in opposite to the fixed methodology of chips on a board. Personally, I would have called it variable logic, not random logic, but no asked me. Intel did not make logic chips and, as I mentioned before, they made memory chips. When Intel execs finally got interested in microprocessors, it was because they realized that microprocessors, and memory, could replace whole boards of logic chips. Microprocessors were great, not for sake of the microprocessor’s bright future, it was because the microprocessor could sell more memory chips…

During this period we were on the 3rd and 4th generations of chip making technologies, yields were going up, costs going down. Companies were producing sets of chips that supported their microprocessor making designer’s jobs much easier, and we saw the beginnings of software development tools.


Year Qtr AMI AMD Fairchild GI Hitachi Intel


1977 1Q HCMS44, HCMS45 8035, 8048, 8748
2Q PIC 1650
4Q 29032910


1978 1Q 3870,9440 HCMS43,HCMS43C 8021, 8039,8049
2Q HCMS42 8086
4Q 8022


1979 1Q 4705/4708
2Q S2000,S2150 8088
3Q 100220
4Q 8089


Year Qtr Motorola NS NEC Panasonic SMC TI


1977 1Q 6802, 08 57140 uCOM-42(uPD548) SBP9900
2Q uCOM-43
3Q 8900 uCOM-44
4Q uCOM-45 MN1400 74481/ 74482, 54481/ 54482


1978 1Q
3Q TMS1000C, TMS1200C
4Q 6801, 03, 68701 COP402,COP420, 21, 22, 321, 22COP420, 21, 22 TMS9985


1979 1Q 3870, 6805, 6809, 14500B, TMS9940
2Q 68000 COP410, 11, 310, 11, COP404, 9980
3Q COP444, 45


Year Qtr WD Zilog


1977 1Q
3Q WD40(CR1872, 2872)


1978 1Q


1979 1Q CP9008 Z8000 (Z8001, 02)
3Q Z8 (Z8601, 02, 11, 12)


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