"Whence Came the Personal Computer" (talk)

Here’s a 90 min talk from Brian Stuart on the perennial question of the genesis of personal computing

(There’s a dynamic transcript, which makes it watchable at 3x, but do pause for some of the slides: Whirlwind at 6:35, Ken Olsen’s Memory Test Computer at 14:30, DEC’s early system modules at 20:47, LINC at 22:30, Mary Allen Wilkes at 27:40, PDP-5 at 31:05, flip chip modules at 34:00, PDP-8 at 35:05, followed by a glance at the price list and handbook, PDP-8 in the back seat of a convertible at 41:50, PDP-8m demonstration at 43:30, including a look inside, then toggling in the bootstrap at 47:00, Focal prompt at 53:30, running a Focal program at 55:08, power down at 57:26, IC at 1:01:01, microprocessor at 1:01:44, Ed Roberts at 1:03:23, Altair 8800 at 1:04:00, IMSAI at 1:07:35, HP 9825 and 85 desktops at 1:10:25, Woz at 1:12:29, the 1977 trinity at 1:15:40, IBM’s late entry at 1:17:47, IBM’s 5100, System 23, and 5150 at 1:19:27.)

Via the links on @voidstar’s video featured in Mural (and poster) showing mini, personal, and home computers


Kudos for finding an image of the MTC, which are quite hard to find (relative to how influential the machine was for the idea of personal real-time access to a computer.)

Nice find! I’m half way through at the moment and am looking forward to watching the rest tomorrow. His enthusiasm for the subject really shines through in the way he presents it.

1 Like

I’ve updated the head post with more timestamps. Brian’s page on PDP-8m restoration is here:
PDP-8/M Restoration Project

1 Like

Thanks for those time indexes! Brian’s video is really great, I’m glad he was able to put that together and share it. After a very thorough start, he sort of skips 1965 straight to 1975, but that’s ok - the 1970s centric “domesticating” video fills that gap :slight_smile:

Speaking of early 1970s, I came across a couple of things:

A “lost” article by (I think) Daniel Alroy on first-hand account of the 8008-based Q1 of 1971. I’m still thinking very few of these were ever actually made (making it more of a proof-of-concept, not really a commercial product – no known user manual). That original Q1 looks like a Daedalus.
Q1/Q1 Daniel Alroy Story.pdf at main · TheByteAttic/Q1 · GitHub

Scott Adam’s brother, Richard, making a “first graphical home computer” (based on a National Semiconductor IMP16 processor) in 1974. They maybe weren’t aware of the Tek 4051 at the time. But still, Richard’s system is a very representative example of the VTV and Mark-8 influence:

Secret History: Creating the World’s First 16-Bit Home Computer and First Interactive Video Game - Florida Tech News (fit.edu)


And as an extra bonus: the Talos ES, as a “modern build of a minicomputer” is pretty neat too!
Talos ES™, the modern RISC mini-computer | The Byte Attic™
(needs some flip switches though!)

1 Like

If people want to read a book that covers a lot of this history, and then some, I recommend “The Dream Machine,” by M. Waldrop.

1 Like

Yes, this is a great book, recommended.