Personal Computing

Altair 8800 microcomputer, 1975

The Altair, designed around Intel’s 8080 microchip, launched the personal computer industry in the United States. By 1977 a host of companies produced microcomputers.

View object record

Personal computing gave individuals access to tools previously available only to businesses and corporations. The advent of microprocessors, which included all the basic functions of computers on a single chip, brought prices down and expanded the market. Hobbyists eagerly bought machines they had to program themselves. Most consumers, however, waited until PCs could play games, do word processing, and manage spreadsheets.

Altair 8800 advertisement, Byte magazine, June 1976

Altair 8800 advertisement, Byte magazine, June 1976

This drawing imagined a future of computing where information was stored, not on punch cards or tape, but on microchips.

Popular Electronics, 1974

Popular Electronics, 1974

Intel 8080A 8-bit microprocessor, 1974

Generally considered the first usable microprocessor CPU design, this chip became the central processing unit in traffic lights and the Altair computer.

View object record
“The Chip,” National Geographic, 1982

“The Chip,” National Geographic, 1982

TRS-80 model 1 monitor, 1977

Produced and sold by Radio Shack, the TRS-80 offered consumers a complete and easy-to-use microcomputer.

View object record
The TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids, DC Comics, 1980

The TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids, DC Comics, 1980

In this cross-promotional advertainment comic, Superman taught kids to use the TRS-80 and helped Radio Shack reach a younger market.