Details about IBM's early 'scientific' computers

Rick Bensene rickb at
Wed Nov 15 13:59:19 CST 2017

Grumpy Ol' Fred wrote:
>Yes, 1968-1973 had time-sharing for personal computing, but not
"personal computers"

We tend to forget about earlier "personal" computers...machines that
were generally designed for one individual to be able to sit down and
use interactively.  That isn't to say that said individual "owned" the
computer, nor did many of these end up originally purchased by
individuals for personal use.  However,  many of them did end up in
people's homes as "personal computers" after they aged enough that they
were no longer commercially viable and were inexpensive enough for an
enthusiast to purchase or even get for free..mainly the machines from
the 1950's and early 1960's that, by the late 1960's and early 1970's
were completely obsolete.

There were a number of small, generally single-user computer systems
built even in the 1950's.

- Royal McBee/Librascope/General Precision LGP-30 (1956) -- Tube-based
machine with magnetic drum memory and Friden Flexowriter
- Bendix G-15 (1956) - Tube based, drum memory, IBM I/O typewriter,
punched tape reader.  Numerous periperhals
- Monroe Monrobot III/V (~1958-1961) --  Desk-sized CPU,  drum memory,
decimal math, and punched tape programming
- IBM 650 Autopoint (1957) -- Tube logic, magnetic drum storage, paper
tape programming, decimal math
- Autonetics Recomp II (1958) -- Mini-refrigerator-sized, desk-side CPU,
IBM typewriter, paper tape, IBM I/O Typewriter 
- Clary DE-60 (1960) --  Transistor-based, drum memory, decimal math,
diode-ROM-based add-on math(Trig, etc.), small numeric printer
- IBM 1130 (1965) -- Transistor-based(SLT), core memory, cartridge
hard-disk, IBM I/O Typewriter, numerous peripherals
- DEC PDP-8 (1965) -- Transistor based 12-bit CPU, core memory, teletype
I/O, numerous peripherals
- Data General Nova (1969) -- IC-based 16-bit CPU, core memory, teletype
I/O, numerous peripherals
- Wang 2200 (1973) -- IC-based(TTL) deskside CPU, BASIC built-in,
cassette tape, solid state memory, CRT display
- HP 9830 (1972) -- IC-based desktop, BASIC built-in, cassette tape,
solid state memory, LED alphanumeric display, many peripherals

These are just a few examples of computers (or in some of the earlier
cases, highly programmable calculators) built before and during the
'68-73 timeframe  that were designed with the intent of an individual
interacting directly with the machine.  Most ran off of standard
residential/office power, required no special air-conditioning, and were
simple enough that only a moderate amount of training was required to
allow someone to make use of the machines.   

While the definition of the term "personal computer"  varies depending
on who is using the term, these machines, and others like them, were
designed to be used at a much more personal level than the large-scale
mainframe machines housed in the glass-walled rooms where only "special"
people were allowed anywhere near them.   

Rick Bensene
The Old Calculator Museum

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