Vintage Computers

Microcomputer
Before computers became “personal,” they were called microcomputers. Learn how a tiny company in Albuquerque set the world ablaze, inspired Paul Allen and Bill Gates to create Microsoft, allowed a pair of guys named Steve to form Apple, and awoke a sleeping giant named IBM.
 
Microcomputer
MITS Altair 8800
Introduced in 1975

The Altair was a kit computer for the hobbyist market. Demand outstripped even the most optimistic projections. 
 

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Microcomputer
IMS Associates IMSAI 8080
Introduced in 1975

The IMSAI capitalized on the success of the Altair and Microsoft BASIC by copying it. 
 

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Microcomputer
Processor Technology Sol-20
Introduced in 1976

The Sol-20 was a highly successful early microcomputer. It was designed by Lee Felsenstein of Homebrew Computer Club fame.

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Microcomputer
North Star Horizon
Introduced in 1977

The NorthStar Horizon was an S-100 kit computer that ran the CP/M operating system. It was one of the first microcomputers to have built-in floppy and hard disk drives.
 

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Microcomputer
Commodore PET
Introduced in 1977

The PET featured an integrated “datasette” for loading and saving programs. It had a built-in analog-to-digital converter and so was not interchangeable with the audio cassette players that other computers used.
 

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Microcomputer
Pertec MITS 300/55 Business System
Introduced in 1977

The MITS 300 was the first product released by Pertec after their acquisition of MITS. The system was designed to handle a variety of business applications, including word processing, inventory control, and accounting.

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Microcomputer
Radio Shack TRS-80
Introduced in 1977

The TRS-80 was a bold adventure for consumer electronics retailer, Radio Shack. The TRS-80’s low cost, simple design, and broad availability of software written in BASIC contributed to its wide appeal.

 

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Microcomputer
Apple II
Introduced in 1977

The culmination of Steve Wozniak’s vision for a home computer, the Apple II was one of the first personal computers sold as a complete, ready-to-use product. It was praised for its clean design, high-resolution color graphics, and ease of expansion.

 

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Microcomputer
Exidy Sorcerer
Introduced in 1978

The Sorcerer’s “ROM PAC” cartridges contained a circuit board with a program in read-only memory. These programs were available to the user immediately, unlike programs on cassette tapes or floppy disks.
 

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Microcomputer
Cromemco Z-2D
Introduced in 1978

 

The Cromemco Z-2D was a high-end, S-100 microcomputer. Cromenco started as a supplier of add-on components for the MITS Altair, but eventually moved to manufacture their own systems. Cromenco produced the Dazzler, the first color graphics card available for personal computers.

 

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Microcomputer
Atari 400
Introduced in 1979

A successor to its popular microprocessor-based game consoles, the Atari 400 established the microcomputer as an item of consumer electronics.
 

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Microcomputer
Commodore VIC20
Introduced in 1980

The VIC, or Video Interface Chip, was a video-display chip intended for video terminals and game displays. It failed in that market before being adapted to the VIC-20.
 

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Microcomputer
IBM Personal Computer
Introduced in 1981

IBM originally thought this machine would be used as a front end for its mainframe computers and only intended to sell a small number of them...

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Microcomputer
Osborne Executive
Introduced in 1982

Osborne produced a microcomputer positioned as a professional tool, not a game console. It was also designed to be portable—spawning the description, “luggable.”
 

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Microcomputer
Commodore 64
Introduced in 1982

The Commodore 64 dominated the early home-computer market. Its low price and targeted marketing to both home-computer and game-device consumers kept it relevant for years.
 

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Microcomputer
DEC Rainbow 100
Introduced in 1982

The Rainbow was Digital Equipment Corporation’s entry into the microcomputer market. It contained two microprocessors, which allowed it to run CP/M and MS-DOS. It could also serve as a terminal for larger systems.
 

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Microcomputer
Sanyo MBC-550
Introduced in 1983

Sanyo released its IBM clone at the unheard-of price of $995 when most PC-compatible computers were twice that much or more.
 

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Microcomputer
Kaypro 10
Introduced in 1983

Kaypro made their mark by producing consumer-friendly systems, packed with software, including applications for word processing, creating databases, and Microsoft BASIC. In 1983, Kaypro was briefly the fifth-largest computer maker in the world.
 

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Microcomputer
Compaq Portable
Introduced in 1983

Though similar in appearance to other “luggables”, the Compaq Portable had one crucial advantage: it was 100 percent IBM compatible. The Portable was Compaq’s founding product and propelled the company to record revenue of $111 million the first year.
 

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Microcomputer
Apple IIe
Introduced in 1983

The Apple IIe—the most popular of the Apple II line—almost never happened. It was released after the failure of the Apple III, and remained in production for 11 years, longer than any other Apple computer.

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Microcomputer
Apple Macintosh SE
Introduced in 1984

Steve Jobs’ fascination with the ideas presented by the Xerox Alto led to the Lisa, the Lisa II, and, finally, the Macintosh. Apple’s strategy of discounts to educational buyers, combined with the introduction of graphics software such as PageMaker, helped it gain a small but fiercely loyal customer base.
 
 

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Microcomputer
Apple Lisa 2
Introduced in 1984

The $4,995 Lisa 2 was much less expensive than the original Lisa ($9,995) and featured a 400 kB Sony Micro Floppy and a 5 MB or 10 MB hard drive.
 

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Microcomputer
Apple IIc
Introduced in 1984

The IIc integrated several expansion components into a single-board computer. The most significant of these was the IWM, or Integrated Woz Machine, Steve Wozniak’s eight-chip Apple Disk II card reduced to a single chip.
 

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Microcomputer
IBM PCjr.
Introduced in 1984

The PCjr was IBM’s first entry into the market for home computers. Announced to enormous fanfare, the PCjr turned into an enormous flop as customers recoiled at the computer known as the “Peanut.”
 

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Microcomputer
Tandy 1000
Introduced in 1984

The Tandy 1000 had a graphical interface called DeskMate that ran on MS-DOS. It also included word processing, spreadsheet, and database programs.
 

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Microcomputer
Amiga 500
Introduced in 1985

The Amiga Corporation, cofounded by former Atari engineer Jay Miner, created such a sensation with its innovative computer that it was quickly bought by Commodore, which continued the Amiga line into the 1990s.
 

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Microcomputer
Atari 1040 ST
Introduced in 1985

In addition to being popular with musicians because of its Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), the ST was also a popular gaming machine, with hundreds of games written for it.
 

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Microcomputer
Windows 1.0
Introduced in 1985

When Microsoft Windows 1.0 arrived in 1985, it seemed crude and awkward. Initially snubbed by application writers and customers, Windows grew into the world’s most popular desktop operating system.
 

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Microcomputer
Sun 3/160
Introduced in 1986

In the late 1980s, Sun briefly offered a competitor to the X Window System called NeWS, for Network extensible Window System. NeWS was an adaptation of PostScript—the language used to render pages in laser printers—for use in displaying on-screen graphics.
 

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Microcomputer
Amstrad PC 1512
Introduced in 1986

The PC1512 is an IBM-compatible produced by British-based computer maker Amstrad.
 

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Microcomputer
Compaq DeskPro 386S
Introduced in 1989
 
Compaq introduced the Deskpro 386 seven months before IBM’s own 386 machine, demolishing the perception that IBM was the leader in PC technology.
 

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Microcomputer
Dell Dimension XPS B733
Introduced in 1999

In 1984, Michael Dell began building PCs from stock parts and selling them by mail order out of his dorm room at the University of Texas. In 1999, Dell Computer Corporation surpassed Compaq as the world’s largest PC maker.
 

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Microcomputer
Gateway 2000 4DX-33
Introduced in 1999

Gateway, a personal computer manufacturer based in Iowa, copied Dell’s successful direct-to-consumer business model. The 4DX-33 was built around an Intel 486 chip.
 

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Microcomputer
Microsoft PixelSense
Introduced in 2007

When introduced, the Microsoft PixelSense—then called Microsoft Surface—grabbed attention with its multi-user, multi-touch interface, as well as its ability to recognize objects placed on its surface.
 

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Mainframe
Relive the experience of “big iron” in our climate-controlled computer room, home to our mainframe computers and our CDC 6500—a supercomputer introduced in 1967.
 
Mainframe
CDC 6500
Introduced 1967

Control Data Corporation (CDC) provided the United States government with the fastest computers in the world during the Cold War. This included the CDC 6500, the third supercomputer in the 6000 series.
 
It was designed by legendary computer architect Seymour Cray, the “father of supercomputing.”

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Mainframe
Xerox Sigma 9
Introduced in 1971

In 1969, Xerox purchased a small but successful company, Scientific Data Systems, to become the nucleus of their new computer division. Xerox Data Systems saw limited success and was ultimately sold to Honeywell in 1975 at a significant loss. 


 

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Mainframe
DEC PDP-10: KI-10 (DECsystem-10)
Introduced in 1971

The DECsystem-10 (KI-10) was the second model of the PDP-10 family of computers.
 
Unlike computers from larger companies like IBM and Burroughs, which were designed for batch-oriented data processing, these were designed as time-sharing systems for interactive computing.

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Mainframe
DEC PDP-10: KL-10 (DECSYSTEM-20)
Introduced in 1974

The KL-10 was a new implementation of the PDP-10 architecture, intended for high-end time-sharing in data centers.

Its TOPS-20 operating system provided demand-paged virtual memory, which allows programs to be larger than the physical memory of the system.

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Mainframe
IBM 4341
Introduced in 1979

The IBM 4341 was introduced as an intermediate business-oriented machine. Compatible with the System/370 instruction set, its modest power and cooling requirements meant it could operate without a cold room environment.
 

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Mainframe
XKL TOAD-1 System
Introduced in 1995

The Toad-1 System was built as an extended version of the DECSYSTEM-20 from Digital Equipment Corporation. The original inspiration was to build a desktop version of the popular PDP-10 architecture; indeed, the name began as an acronym for “Ten on a Desk.”

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Mainframe
XKL TOAD-2 System
Introduced in 2005

The TOAD-2 is a single chip reimplementation of Toad-1 and was used as redundant control processors in networking equipment from XKL. It can be configured for a TOPS-20 time-sharing operation, as demonstrated here at the museum.


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Minicomputer
Small is relative. In the mid-1960s the Digital Equipment Corporation introduced a series of small and inexpensive computers that popularized a new form of real-time, interactive computing.
 
Minicomputer
Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-7
Introduced in 1964

The PDP-7 holds an important place in history: in 1969, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie wrote the first UNIX kernel on a PDP-7 at Bell Labs.
 
Living Computers’ PDP-7, previously installed at the University of Oregon in 1966, served the Nuclear Physics Department for decades.
 

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Minicomputer
IBM 360/20
Introduced 1966

The Model 20 is the smallest member of the IBM System/360 family—and the most successful in terms of the total number of units sold.

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Minicomputer
Data General Nova
Introduced in 1969

Edson de Castro left DEC to form Data General, which released the Nova as the first 16-bit minicomputer.
 

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Minicomputer
Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-12
Introduced in 1969

The PDP-12 wed the PDP-8 with the LINC computer, built at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. It runs programs for either and provided researchers with a rich set of interfaces for the laboratory environment.
 

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Minicomputer
Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8/e
Introduced in 1970

The PDP-8/E allowed for connection of many types of peripherals, making it a true general-purpose computer.

 

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Minicomputer
Xerox Alto
Introduced in 1973

The Alto was an experiment in how people might use a computer. It featured a bit-map display, a graphical user interface (GUI), and even a simple pointing device: the mouse. 
 

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Minicomputer
Interdata 7/32
Introduced in 1974

The Interdata 7/32 was the first non-DEC computer to run the UNIX operating system. Its “port” validated the idea of platform-independent software—the core idea behind the business model of selling software as a stand-alone product.
 

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Minicomputer
Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11/70
Introduced in 1975

The PDP-11 line of minicomputers was sold in small, medium, and large models; the PDP-11/70 exemplified “large.” Its features established it as DEC’s flagship computer for science, engineering, and industry.
 

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Minicomputer
DEC PDP-10: KS-10 (DECSYSTEM-2020)
Introduced in 1979

The KS-10 was a “department-sized” computer designed to support 10 to 20 users. It was the last version of the PDP-10 produced by Digital Equipment Corporation. 
 

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Minicomputer
DEC VAX-11/780-5
Introduced in 1982

The VAX architecture was designed to handle larger programs on larger collections of data than DEC’s previous workhorse, the PDP-11. 

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