April 2, 1980
Microsoft announces its first hardware product, the Z80 SoftCard. The SoftCard is a microprocessor that plugs into the Apple II personal computer allowing it to run programs written for the CP/M operating system. CP/M was a very popular OS for early personal computers along with much of the software written for it. In particular, the word processor WordStar is so popular that people will purchase the SoftCard and a companion “80-column card” just to run it on the Apple II. At one point, the SoftCard product will bring in about half of Microsoft’s total revenue. It will be discontinued in 1986 as CP/M’s popularity waned.
April 1, 1976
The Apple Computer company is formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in order to sell their personal computer kits, later known as the Apple I computer, launching the personal computer revolution. From this point on, the word “Apple” is associated as much for computers as it is for fruit.
March 29, 1983
Radio Shack introduces the TRS-80 Model 100, one of the first portable computers in a notebook-style form factor. The portability, simplicity, and built-in modem of the Model 100 made it very popular with journalists who could write stories in the field and transmit them back to their offices. Incidentally, in the early 90’s I acquired a Model 100 that had been used by a newspaper. I was able to use it to code simple programs, write papers, and use the modem to connect to bulletin board systems of the time. I recently found that I have 2 of these models among my tech junk – still in good working order! Good times, good times.
March 15, 1975
Issue number one of the Homebrew Computer Club’s newsletter is published. Only 21 issues are published through December 1977, but the newsletter is considered influential in the early culture of the personal computer industry.
March 14, 1955
AT&T Bell Laboratories announces the completion of the first fully transistorized computer, TRADIC. TRADIC, which stood for TRAnsistor DIgital Computer, contained nearly 800 transistors, which replaced the standard vacuum tube and allowed the machine to operate on fewer than 100 watts which was one-twentieth the power required by a comparable vacuum tube computer.
March 6, 1992
The Michelangelo virus, so-named because it activates on March 6, the birthday of Michelangelo, begins infecting computers. The virus will also make news in 1993. It was one of the earliest viruses to receive widespread media attention and also one of the first to prompt widespread hysteria. The irony of the name of the virus was that nothing in the virus’ code referenced Michelangelo. It is possible the virus author, who was never identified, did not know March 6th was Michelangelo’s birthday!
March 5, 1975
The Homebrew Computer Club holds its first meeting. Many people who played an important part in the early years of personal computing attended meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club during its history. Perhaps no meeting was more important than the one that took place almost exactly one year after the first: Steve Wozniak brought his design for what eventually becomes the Apple I computer.
March 4, 1977
The first Cray-1 supercomputer is shipped to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This supercomputer, which costs nineteen million dollars, will be used to design sophisticated weapons systems. The system is a cylindrical tower seven feet tall, nine feet in diameter, and weighs about 5.5 tons. The machine produced so much heat that it required a built-in freon-based refrigeration system. It requires its own electrical substation to power it, at a cost of about US$35,000 a month.