Tech Trivia

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What was the first personal computer?

This is a subject open to interpretation. It’s tempting to say the Apple 1 (1976) or IBM PC (1981) and leave it at that. Some folks might say the Kenbak 1 (1971). But the website Blinkenlights traces the first personal computer — defined as digital, largely automatic, programmable and affordable — back even further.

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Answer: The Simon, in 1955. It used electric rotary switches and cost all of $19.95.

Blinkenlight’s stroll down memory lane makes plenty of stops along the way to Simon, including visits with the HP 9830 (1972), the Paperclip Computer (1970) and even the Honeywell Kitchen Computer (1967).

Got a better candidate? Let us know in the comments section below.

Posted on Jul 28, 2011 at 9:39 AM


Reader Comments

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 Rainer Pitthan Palo Alto

Really? I used in 1975 the Altair 8000 programmed with CP/M. As peripheral to control I used the data acquisition system of a 120 MeV Linear Accelerator. That was a year when Paul Allen and Bill gates went to Albuquerque http://www.freeenterpriseland.com/BOOK/KILDALL.html Am I so smart? Not really, but I was colleague of Gary Kildall on the Faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School, and with his, and Kathryn Strutinski's, help the whole thing was a cinch. Actually, most of the work was done by n electronic technician, Dan Snyder. I just got most of the glory. I was never interested in Computers per se, only in what they could do for physics. Money wise probably a big mistake, but satisfaction wise, exactly what I wanted to do. So no wonder a few years later I ended up at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, home of the "Homebrew Computer Club", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists a Place which had much better computers for Physics. Rainer Pitthan

Fri, Jul 29, 2011

Gee, I thought it was Robbie the Robot.Still waiting to get one of those for home use. :)

Fri, Jul 29, 2011

TRS-80 was Tandy Corporation's desktop microcomputer model line, sold through Tandy's Radio Shack stores in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Fri, Jul 29, 2011

Though your definition for a PC is what you decide I would like to suggest another computer that probably was the first processor based PC had may have been the impetus for the industry. The Altair 8800 with Intel 8080 and basic, i believe, by Microsoft. After that Apple, IBM and others got into it.

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