Home computer

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Home computers were a class of microcomputer
Microcomputer
A microcomputer is a computer with a microprocessor as its central processing unit. They are physically small compared to mainframe and minicomputers...

s entering the market in 1977, and becoming increasingly common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single nontechnical user. These computers typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented computers of the time, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business computers and, by far, their most common use was playing video games.

Advertisements for early home computers were rife with possibilities for their practical use in the home, from cataloging recipes to personal finance to home automation
Home automation
Home automation is the residential extension of "building automation". It is automation of the home, housework or household activity. Home automation may include centralized control of lighting, HVAC , appliances, and other systems, to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and...

, but these were seldom realized in practice. For example, using a typical 1980s home computer as a home automation appliance would require the computer to be kept powered on at all times and dedicated to this task. Personal finance and database use required tedious data entry. If no packaged software was available for a particular application, the home computer user was required to learn computer programming
Computer programming
Computer programming is the process of designing, writing, testing, debugging, and maintaining the source code of computer programs. This source code is written in one or more programming languages. The purpose of programming is to create a program that performs specific operations or exhibits a...

; a significant time commitment many new computer owners weren't willing to make. Still, for others the home computer offered the first opportunity to learn to program.

Today the line between 'business' and 'home' computer market segments has blurred or vanished completely, since both categories of computers now typically use the same processor architectures, peripherals, operating systems, and applications. Often the only difference may be the sales outlet through which they are purchased. Another change from the home computer era is that the once-common endeavour of writing one's own software programs has almost vanished from home computer use.


Background


As early as 1965, some experimental projects such as Jim Sutherland's ECHO IV explored the possible utility of a computer in the home. In 1969, the Honeywell Kitchen Computer was marketed as a luxury gift item, and would have inaugurated the era of home computing, but none were sold.

Computers became affordable for the general public in the 1970s due to the mass production of the microprocessor
Microprocessor
A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...

. Early microcomputers such as the Altair 8800
Altair 8800
The MITS Altair 8800 was a microcomputer design from 1975 based on the Intel 8080 CPU and sold by mail order through advertisements in Popular Electronics, Radio-Electronics and other hobbyist magazines. The designers hoped to sell only a few hundred build-it-yourself kits to hobbyists, and were...

 had front-mounted switches and blinkenlights
Blinkenlights
Blinkenlights is a hacker's neologism for diagnostic lights on old mainframe computers and modern network hardware.The Jargon File provides the following etymology:...

 to control and indicate internal system status, and were often sold in kit form to hobbyists. These kits would contain an empty printed circuit
Printed circuit
Printed circuit may refer to:* Printed circuit board* Printed Circuit Corporation, an electronics manufacturer...

 board which the buyer would fill with the integrated circuit
Integrated circuit
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material...

s, other individual electronic components, wires and connectors, and then hand-solder
Solder
Solder is a fusible metal alloy used to join together metal workpieces and having a melting point below that of the workpiece.Soft solder is what is most often thought of when solder or soldering are mentioned and it typically has a melting range of . It is commonly used in electronics and...

 all the connections.

While two early home computers (Sinclair ZX80
Sinclair ZX80
The Sinclair ZX80 is a home computer brought to market in 1980 by Science of Cambridge Ltd. . It is notable for being the first computer available in the United Kingdom for less than a hundred pounds...

, and Acorn Atom
Acorn Atom
The Acorn Atom was a home computer made by Acorn Computers Ltd from 1980 to 1982 when it was replaced by the BBC Micro and later the Acorn Electron....

) could be bought either in kit form or assembled, most home computers were only sold pre-assembled. They were enclosed in plastic or metal cases similar in appearance to typewriter
Typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

 or hi-fi equipment enclosures, which were more familiar and attractive to consumers and lower cost than the metal card-cage enclosures used by the Altair and similar computers. A keyboard was usually built into the same case as the motherboard
Motherboard
In personal computers, a motherboard is the central printed circuit board in many modern computers and holds many of the crucial components of the system, providing connectors for other peripherals. The motherboard is sometimes alternatively known as the mainboard, system board, or, on Apple...

. Ports for plug-in peripheral devices such as a video display, cassette tape recorders, joystick
Joystick
A joystick is an input device consisting of a stick that pivots on a base and reports its angle or direction to the device it is controlling. Joysticks, also known as 'control columns', are the principal control in the cockpit of many civilian and military aircraft, either as a center stick or...

s, and (later) disk drives either were built-in or available as add-on cards. Usually the manufacturer would sell peripheral devices designed to be compatible with their computers as extra cost accessories. Peripherals were not often interchangeable between different brands of home computer, or even between successive models of the same brand.

To save the cost of a dedicated monitor, the home computer often would connect through an RF modulator
RF modulator
An RF modulator is a device that takes a baseband input signal and outputs a radio frequency-modulated signal....

 to the family TV
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 set, which served as both video display and sound system.

Almost universally, home computers had a BASIC
BASIC
BASIC is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use - the name is an acronym from Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code....

 interpreter
Interpreter (computing)
In computer science, an interpreter normally means a computer program that executes, i.e. performs, instructions written in a programming language...

 combined with a line editor
Line editor
A line editor is a text editor computer program that manipulates text primarily by the display, modification, and movement of lines. Line editors precede screen-based text editors and originated in an era when a computer operator typically interacted with a teleprinter , with no video display, and...

 in permanent read-only memory
Read-only memory
Read-only memory is a class of storage medium used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM cannot be modified, or can be modified only slowly or with difficulty, so it is mainly used to distribute firmware .In its strictest sense, ROM refers only...

 which one could use to type in BASIC programs and execute them immediately or save them to tape or disk. In direct mode
Direct mode
Direct mode, also known as immediate mode is a computing term referring to the input of textual commands outside the context of a program. The command would be executed immediately and the results printed on screen, in contrast to programming mode where nothing would be executed until a specific...

, the BASIC interpreter was also used as the user interface
User interface
The user interface, in the industrial design field of human–machine interaction, is the space where interaction between humans and machines occurs. The goal of interaction between a human and a machine at the user interface is effective operation and control of the machine, and feedback from the...

, and given tasks such as loading, saving, managing, and running files. One exception was the Jupiter Ace
Jupiter ACE
The Jupiter Ace was a British home computer of the early 1980s, produced by a company, set up for the purpose, named Jupiter Cantab. The Ace differed from other microcomputers of the time in that it used FORTH instead of the more common BASIC.- Introduction :...

, which had a Forth interpreter instead of BASIC. A built-in programming language was seen as a requirement for any computer of the era due to the dearth of commercially-available productivity software as well as the widely varying applications users had in mind for the new devices.

After the success of systems like the RadioShack
RadioShack
RadioShack Corporation   is an American franchise of electronics retail stores in the United States, as well as parts of Europe, South America and Africa. As of 2008, RadioShack reported net sales and operating revenues of $4.81 billion. The headquarters of RadioShack is located in Downtown...

 TRS-80
TRS-80
TRS-80 was Tandy Corporation's desktop microcomputer model line, sold through Tandy's Radio Shack stores in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first units, ordered unseen, were delivered in November 1977, and rolled out to the stores the third week of December. The line won popularity with...

, the Commodore PET
Commodore PET
The Commodore PET was a home/personal computer produced from 1977 by Commodore International...

 and the Apple II
Apple II
The Apple II is an 8-bit home computer, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products, designed primarily by Steve Wozniak, manufactured by Apple Computer and introduced in 1977...

 in 1977, large numbers of new machines of all types began to appear during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some home computers sold many units over several years, such as the BBC Micro
BBC Micro
The BBC Microcomputer System, or BBC Micro, was a series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation...

, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Atari 800XL and Commodore 64
Commodore 64
The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer introduced by Commodore International in January 1982.Volume production started in the spring of 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US$595...

, and attracted third-party software development. By 1982, an estimated 621,000 home computers were in use in the United States, at an average sales price of $530.

Low-end home computers competed with video game consoles. The markets weren't entirely distinct, as both could be used for games. A common marketing tactic was to show a computer system and console playing games side by side, then emphasising the computer's greater ability by showing it running user-created programs, education software, word processing, spreadsheet and other applications while the game console showed a blank screen or continued playing the same repetitive game.

Some video game consoles offered "programming packs" consisting of a version of BASIC in a ROM cartridge. Atari's BASIC Programming
BASIC Programming
BASIC Programming attempted to teach simple computer programming on the Atari 2600. It was released for the Atari 2600 console in 1979 and it was one of only a few non-gaming cartridges released by the company...

 for the Atari 2600 was one of these. For the ColecoVision
ColecoVision
The ColecoVision is Coleco Industries' second generation home video game console which was released in August 1982. The ColecoVision offered arcade-quality graphics and gaming style, and the means to expand the system's basic hardware...

 console, Coleco
Coleco
Coleco is an American company founded in 1932 by Maurice Greenberg as "Connecticut Leather Company". It became a highly successful toy company in the 1980s, known for its mass-produced version of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and its video game consoles, the Coleco Telstar and...

 even announced an expansion module which would convert it into a full-fledged computer system. This never materialised, but a standalone computer, the Coleco Adam
Coleco Adam
The Coleco Adam is a home computer, an attempt in the early 1980s by American toy manufacturer Coleco to follow on the success of its ColecoVision game console...

 was eventually released.

Books of type-in program listings were available for most models of computer with titles along the lines of "64 Amazing BASIC Games for the Commodore 64". While most of the programs in these books were short and simple arcade-type games, some titles such as Compute!'s SpeedScript
SpeedScript
SpeedScript was a type-in word processor for various home computers. Approximately 5 KB in length, it provided many of the same features as commercial word processing packages of the early 8-bit era, such as Easy Script and Bank Street Writer....

 series, contained productivity software that rivalled commercial packages. To avoid the tedious process of typing in a program listing from a book, these books would sometimes include a mail-in offer from the author to obtain the programs on disk or cassette for a few dollars. Before the Internet, and before most computer owners had a modem
Modem
A modem is a device that modulates an analog carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a carrier signal to decode the transmitted information. The goal is to produce a signal that can be transmitted easily and decoded to reproduce the original digital data...

, books were a popular and low-cost means of software distribution. They also served a role in familiarizing new computer owners with the concepts of programming; some titles added suggested modifications to the program listings for the user to carry out. Modifying software to fit one's needs or be compatible with one's system was a skill every advanced computer owner was expected to have.

During the peak years of the home computer market, scores of models were produced, usually with little or no thought given to compatibility between different manufacturers or even within product lines of one manufacturer. The concept of a computer platform did not exist, except for the Japanese MSX
MSX
MSX was the name of a standardized home computer architecture in the 1980s conceived by Kazuhiko Nishi, then Vice-president at Microsoft Japan and Director at ASCII Corporation...

 standard.

Things were different in the business world, where cost-conscious small business owners had been using CP/M
CP/M
CP/M was a mass-market operating system created for Intel 8080/85 based microcomputers by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc...

 running on Z-80 based computers from Osborne
Osborne
- Places :Australia* Osborne, South Australia, an industrial suburb of Adelaide in South Australia* Osborne, New South Wales, a rural community in the Riverina regionCanada* Osborne Village, a neighbourhood in Winnipeg...

, Kaypro
Kaypro
Kaypro Corporation, commonly called Kaypro, was an American home/personal computer manufacturer of the 1980s. The company was founded by Non-Linear Systems to develop computers to compete with the then-popular Osborne 1 portable microcomputer...

, Morrow Designs and a host of other manufacturers. Soon after its August 1981 introduction, the IBM Personal Computer would eventually become the standard platform used in business, largely due to the system's open architecture
Open architecture
Open architecture is a type of computer architecture or software architecture that allows adding, upgrading and swapping components. For example, the IBM PC and Apple IIe have an open architecture, whereas the Apple IIc and Amiga 500 computers have a closed architecture...

, which encouraged production of third-party clones
IBM PC compatible
IBM PC compatible computers are those generally similar to the original IBM PC, XT, and AT. Such computers used to be referred to as PC clones, or IBM clones since they almost exactly duplicated all the significant features of the PC architecture, facilitated by various manufacturers' ability to...

 of the design. The 6502-based Apple II series
Apple II series
The Apple II series is a set of 8-bit home computers, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products, designed primarily by Steve Wozniak, manufactured by Apple Computer and introduced in 1977 with the original Apple II...

, which had carved out a niche for itself in business, largely by being the platform the first killer app, VisiCalc
VisiCalc
VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program available for personal computers. It is often considered the application that turned the microcomputer from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool...

, had been developed on, would be quickly displaced for office use, but Apple Computer
Apple Computer
Apple Inc. is an American multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad...

's 1984 release of the Apple Macintosh introduced a new model for interacting with the computer
Graphical user interface
In computing, a graphical user interface is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands. GUIs can be used in computers, hand-held devices such as MP3 players, portable media players or gaming devices, household appliances and...

 to the market, which IBM-compatible
IBM PC compatible
IBM PC compatible computers are those generally similar to the original IBM PC, XT, and AT. Such computers used to be referred to as PC clones, or IBM clones since they almost exactly duplicated all the significant features of the PC architecture, facilitated by various manufacturers' ability to...

 computers would eventually also adopt. Throughout the 1980s, PCs spread through businesses like wildfire, leading, by the end of the decade, to sub-$1000 IBM PC XT-class white box
White box
White box may refer to:*White-box testing, a specification conformance test*White box , a personal computer assembled from off-the-shelf parts*White box , a subsystem whose internals can be viewed...

 machines, usually built in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and sold by US companies like PCs Limited.

The declining cost of IBM-compatibles on the one hand, and the greatly increased graphics, sound, and storage abilities of fourth generation
History of video game consoles (fourth generation)
In the history of computer and video games, the fourth generation began on October 30, 1987 with the Japanese release of Nippon Electric Company's PC Engine...

 video game consoles such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a 16-bit video game console that was released by Nintendo in North America, Europe, Australasia , and South America between 1990 and 1993. In Japan and Southeast Asia, the system is called the , or SFC for short...

 on the other, combined to cause the market segment for home computers to vanish by the early 1990s in the US. In Europe, the home computer remained a distinct presence for a few years more, with the Amiga and Atari ST lines being the dominant players, but today a computer bought for home use anywhere will be very similar to those used in offices - made by the same manufacturers, with compatible peripherals, operating systems, and application software.

Technology





Many home computers were superficially similar. Most had a keyboard integrated into the case; sometimes a cheap-to-make membrane
Membrane keyboard
A membrane keyboard is a computer keyboard whose "keys" are not separate, moving parts, as with the majority of other keyboards, but rather are pressure pads that have only outlines and symbols printed on a flat, flexible surface...

 or chiclet keyboard
Chiclet keyboard
A chiclet keyboard or island-style keyboard is a computer keyboard built with an array of small, flat rectangular or lozenge-shaped rubber or plastic keys that look like erasers or "Chiclets", a brand of chewing gum manufactured in the shape of small squares with rounded corners...

 in the early days, although full-travel keyboards quickly became universal due to overwhelming consumer preference. Most systems could use an RF modulator
RF modulator
An RF modulator is a device that takes a baseband input signal and outputs a radio frequency-modulated signal....

 to display 20–40 column text output on a home television. Indeed, the use of a television set as a display almost defines the pre-PC home computer. Although dedicated composite
Composite video
Composite video is the format of an analog television signal before it is combined with a sound signal and modulated onto an RF carrier. In contrast to component video it contains all required video information, including colors in a single line-level signal...

 or "green screen" computer displays were available for this market segment and offered sharper text display and sometimes increased graphics resolution, a monitor was often a later purchase made only after users had bought a floppy disk drive, printer, modem, and the other pieces of a full system. This "peripheral
Peripheral
A peripheral is a device attached to a host computer, but not part of it, and is more or less dependent on the host. It expands the host's capabilities, but does not form part of the core computer architecture....

s sold separately" approach is another defining characteristic of the home computer era. Many first time computer buyers brought a base C-64 system home and hooked it up to their TV only to find they needed to buy a compatible disk drive (the Commodore 1541
Commodore 1541
The Commodore 1541 , made by Commodore International, was the best-known floppy disk drive for the Commodore 64 home computer. The 1541 was a single-sided 170 kilobyte drive for 5¼" disks...

 was the only fully compatible model) or Datassette
Datassette
The Commodore 1530 Datasette , was Commodore's dedicated computer tape drive.It provided access to an inexpensive storage medium for Commodore's 8-bit home/personal computers, notably the PET, VIC-20, and C64...

 before they could make use of it as anything but a game machine.

In the early part of the 1980s, the dominant microprocessor
Microprocessor
A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...

s used in home computers were the 8-bit
8-bit
The first widely adopted 8-bit microprocessor was the Intel 8080, being used in many hobbyist computers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, often running the CP/M operating system. The Zilog Z80 and the Motorola 6800 were also used in similar computers...

 MOS Technology
MOS Technology
MOS Technology, Inc., also known as CSG , was a semiconductor design and fabrication company based in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is most famous for its 6502 microprocessor, and various designs for Commodore International's range of home computers.-History:MOS Technology, Inc...

 6502
MOS Technology 6502
The MOS Technology 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor that was designed by Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch for MOS Technology in 1975. When it was introduced, it was the least expensive full-featured microprocessor on the market by a considerable margin, costing less than one-sixth the price of...

 (Apple, Commodore, Atari) and Zilog Z80
Zilog Z80
The Zilog Z80 is an 8-bit microprocessor designed by Zilog and sold from July 1976 onwards. It was widely used both in desktop and embedded computer designs as well as for military purposes...

 (TRS-80). A notable exception was the TI-99
Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
The Texas Instruments TI-99/4A was an early home computer, released in June 1981, originally at a price of USD $525. It was an enhanced version of the less-successful—and quite rare—TI-99/4 model, which was released in late 1979 at a price of $1,150...

 series, announced in 1979 with a 16-bit TMS9900 CPU.

Processor clock rate
Clock rate
The clock rate typically refers to the frequency that a CPU is running at.For example, a crystal oscillator frequency reference typically is synonymous with a fixed sinusoidal waveform, a clock rate is that frequency reference translated by electronic circuitry into a corresponding square wave...

s were typically 1–2 MHz for 6502 based CPU's and 2–4 MHz for Z80 based systems (yielding roughly equal performance), but this aspect was not emphasized by users or manufacturers, as the systems' limited RAM capacity, graphics abilities and storage options had more of an effect on performance than CPU speed. Clock rate was considered a technical detail of interest only to users needing accurate timing for their own programs. To economize on component cost, often the same crystal
Crystal oscillator
A crystal oscillator is an electronic oscillator circuit that uses the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal of piezoelectric material to create an electrical signal with a very precise frequency...

 used to produce color television compatible signals was also divided down and used for the processor clock. This meant processors rarely operated at their full rated speed, and had the side-effect that European
PAL
PAL, short for Phase Alternating Line, is an analogue television colour encoding system used in broadcast television systems in many countries. Other common analogue television systems are NTSC and SECAM. This page primarily discusses the PAL colour encoding system...

 and North American
NTSC
NTSC, named for the National Television System Committee, is the analog television system that is used in most of North America, most of South America , Burma, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and some Pacific island nations and territories .Most countries using the NTSC standard, as...

 versions of the same home computer operated at slightly different speeds and different video resolution due to different television standards.

Initially, many home computers used the then-ubiquitous compact audio cassettes as a storage mechanism. A rough analogy to how this worked would be to place a recorder on the phone line as a file was uploaded by modem
Modem
A modem is a device that modulates an analog carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a carrier signal to decode the transmitted information. The goal is to produce a signal that can be transmitted easily and decoded to reproduce the original digital data...

 to "save" it, and playing the recording back through the modem to "load". Most cassette implementations were notoriously slow and unreliable, but early 8 inch floppy disk
Floppy disk
A floppy disk is a disk storage medium composed of a disk of thin and flexible magnetic storage medium, sealed in a rectangular plastic carrier lined with fabric that removes dust particles...

 drives as found on more costly business-oriented microcomputers were large and prohibitively expensive. Smaller and cheaper 5.25" form factor drives gained popularity before mass production decreased prices still further, and 5.25" floppy disk drives would remain standard until the end of the 8-bit era. Though external 3.5" drives were made available for home computer systems toward the latter part of the 1980s, most software sold for 8-bit home computers remained on 5.25" disks; 3.5" drives were used for data storage. Standardization of disk formats was not common; sometimes even different models from the same manufacturer used different disk formats. Toward the end of the home computer era, drives for a number of home computer models appeared offering disk-format compatibility with the IBM PC. The disk drives sold with the Commodore 128, Amiga and Atari ST were all able to read and write PC disks, which themselves were undergoing the transition from 5.25" to 3.5" format at the time.

Various copy protection
Copy protection
Copy protection, also known as content protection, copy obstruction, copy prevention and copy restriction, refer to techniques used for preventing the reproduction of software, films, music, and other media, usually for copyright reasons.- Terminology :Media corporations have always used the term...

 schemes were developed for floppy disks; most were broken in short order. Many users would only tolerate copy protection for games, as wear and tear on disks was a significant issue in an entirely floppy-based system. The ability to make a "working backup" disk of vital application software was seen as important. Copy programs that advertised their ability to copy or even remove common protection schemes were a common category of utility software
Utility software
Utility software is system software designed to help analyze, configure, optimize or maintain a computer. A single piece of utility software is usually called a utility or tool....

 in this pre-DMCA era.

In contrast to modern computers, home computers most often had their operating system (OS) stored in ROM
Read-only memory
Read-only memory is a class of storage medium used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM cannot be modified, or can be modified only slowly or with difficulty, so it is mainly used to distribute firmware .In its strictest sense, ROM refers only...

 chips. This made startup times very fast - no more than a few seconds - but made OS upgrades difficult or impossible without buying a new unit. Usually only the most severe bugs were fixed by issuing new ROMs to replace the old ones at the user's cost. In another defining characteristic of the home computer, instead of a command line, the BASIC interpreter served double duty as a user interface. Coupled to a character-based screen
Visual editor
Visual editors or full screen editors are editing programs which display the text being edited on the screen as it is being edited, as opposed to line-oriented editors ....

 or line editor
Line editor
A line editor is a text editor computer program that manipulates text primarily by the display, modification, and movement of lines. Line editors precede screen-based text editors and originated in an era when a computer operator typically interacted with a teleprinter , with no video display, and...

, BASIC's file management commands could be entered in direct mode
Direct mode
Direct mode, also known as immediate mode is a computing term referring to the input of textual commands outside the context of a program. The command would be executed immediately and the results printed on screen, in contrast to programming mode where nothing would be executed until a specific...

. The operating systems provided little other support to application programs, but application programs usually accessed hardware directly to perform a specific task anyway, often switching out
Bank switching
Bank switching is a technique to increase the amount of usable memory beyond the amount directly addressable by the processor. It can be used to configure a system differently at different times; for example, a ROM required to start a system from diskette could be switched out when no longer...

 the ROM based OS completely to free the address space
Address space
In computing, an address space defines a range of discrete addresses, each of which may correspond to a network host, peripheral device, disk sector, a memory cell or other logical or physical entity.- Overview :...

 it occupied and maximize RAM capacity. As multitasking
Computer multitasking
In computing, multitasking is a method where multiple tasks, also known as processes, share common processing resources such as a CPU. In the case of a computer with a single CPU, only one task is said to be running at any point in time, meaning that the CPU is actively executing instructions for...

 was not common on home computers until late in the '80s, this lack of API support wasn't much of a liability.

In an enduring reflection of their early cassette-oriented nature, most home computers loaded their disk operating system
Disk operating system
Disk Operating System and disk operating system , most often abbreviated as DOS, refers to an operating system software used in most computers that provides the abstraction and management of secondary storage devices and the information on them...

 (DOS) separately from the main OS. The DOS was only used to send commands to the floppy disk drive and was not loaded to perform other computing functions. One notable exception was Commodore, whose disk drives actually contained a 6502 processor and Commodore DOS
Commodore DOS
Commodore DOS, aka CBM DOS, was the disk operating system used with Commodore's 8-bit computers. Unlike most other DOS systems before or since—which are booted from disk into the main computer's own RAM at startup, and executed there—CBM DOS was executed internally in the drive: the DOS...

 in ROM. Many home computers also had a cartridge interface which accepted ROM-based software. This was occasionally used for expansion or upgrades such as fast loader
Fast loader
A fast loader is a software program for a home computer - most commonly, the Commodore 64 - that accelerates the speed of file loading from the floppy disk drive.- Background :...

s. Application software on cartridge did exist, and eliminated the need for disk swapping
Disk swapping
Disk swapping refers to the practice of inserting and removing, or swapping, floppy disks in a floppy disk drive based computer system. In the early days of personal computers, before hard drives became commonplace, most fully outfitted computer systems had 2 floppy drives addressed as A: and B: on...

 on single drive systems, but the vast majority of cartridges were games.

From about 1985, the high end of the home computer market began to be dominated by "next generation" home computers using the 16-bit Motorola
Motorola
Motorola, Inc. was an American multinational telecommunications company based in Schaumburg, Illinois, which was eventually divided into two independent public companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions on January 4, 2011, after losing $4.3 billion from 2007 to 2009...

 68000 chip, which enabled the greatly increased abilities of the Amiga
Amiga
The Amiga is a family of personal computers that was sold by Commodore in the 1980s and 1990s. The first model was launched in 1985 as a high-end home computer and became popular for its graphical, audio and multi-tasking abilities...

 and Atari ST
Atari ST
The Atari ST is a home/personal computer that was released by Atari Corporation in 1985 and commercially available from that summer into the early 1990s. The "ST" officially stands for "Sixteen/Thirty-two", which referred to the Motorola 68000's 16-bit external bus and 32-bit internals...

 series. Graphics resolutions approximately doubled, and color palettes increased from dozens to hundreds or thousands of colors available. Stereo sound became standard for the first time. Clock rates on these systems were approximately 8 MHz with RAM capacities of 256 kB (for the base Amiga 1000 system) up to 1024 kB (1 megabyte, a milestone, first seen on the Atari 1040ST). These systems had built-in 3.5" floppy disks from the beginning but 5.25" drives were made available to facilitate data exchange with IBM PC compatibles and the manufacturers' older 8-bit systems. The Amiga and ST both had GUIs inspired by the Apple Macintosh, but at a list price of $2495 (over $5000 in 2007 dollars), the Macintosh itself was too expensive for most households.

Radio frequency interference


After the first wave of computers landed in American homes, the United States Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

 (FCC) began receiving complaints of electromagnetic interference
Electromagnetic interference
Electromagnetic interference is disturbance that affects an electrical circuit due to either electromagnetic induction or electromagnetic radiation emitted from an external source. The disturbance may interrupt, obstruct, or otherwise degrade or limit the effective performance of the circuit...

 to television reception. By 1979 the FCC demanded that home computer makers submit samples for radio frequency interference testing. It was found that "first generation" home computers, which often included their own screens, emitted too much radio frequency noise for household use. Some companies appealed to the FCC to waive the requirements for home computers, while others (with compliant designs) objected to the waiver. Eventually techniques to suppress interference
Electromagnetic compatibility
Electromagnetic compatibility is the branch of electrical sciences which studies the unintentional generation, propagation and reception of electromagnetic energy with reference to the unwanted effects that such energy may induce...

 became standardized.

The Home Computer "Revolution"


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, from about 1977 to 1983, it was widely predicted that computers would soon revolutionize many aspects of home and family life as they had business practices in the previous decades. Mothers would keep their recipe catalog in "kitchen computer" databases and turn to a medical database for help with child care, fathers would use the family's computer to manage family finances and track automobile maintenance. Children would use disk-based encyclopedias for school work and would be avid video gamers. Home automation
Home automation
Home automation is the residential extension of "building automation". It is automation of the home, housework or household activity. Home automation may include centralized control of lighting, HVAC , appliances, and other systems, to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and...

 would bring about the intelligent home of the '80s. Using Videotex
Videotex
Videotex was one of the earliest implementations of an "end-user information system". From the late 1970s to mid-1980s, it was used to deliver information to a user in computer-like format, typically to be displayed on a television.In a strict definition, videotex refers to systems that provide...

, NAPLPS
NAPLPS
NAPLPS is a graphics language for use originally with videotex and teletext services. NAPLPS was developed from the Telidon system developed in Canada, with a small number of additions from AT&T...

 or some sort of as-yet unrealized computer technology, television would gain interactivity. The "personalized newspaper" (to be displayed on the computer screen) was a commonly-predicted application. Morning coffee would be brewed automatically under computer control. The same computer would control the house lighting and temperature. Robot
Robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

s would take the garbage out, and be programmed to perform new tasks via the home computer. Electronics were expensive, so it was generally assumed that each home would have only one multitasking
Computer multitasking
In computing, multitasking is a method where multiple tasks, also known as processes, share common processing resources such as a CPU. In the case of a computer with a single CPU, only one task is said to be running at any point in time, meaning that the CPU is actively executing instructions for...

 computer for the entire family to use in a timesharing arrangement, with interfaces to the various devices it was expected to control.
All this was predicted to be commonplace sometime before the end of the decade, but virtually every aspect of the predicted revolution would be delayed or prove entirely impractical. The computers available to consumers of the time period just weren't powerful enough to perform any single task required to realize this vision, much less do them all simultaneously. The home computers of the early 1980s could not multitask. Even if they could, memory capacities were too small to hold entire databases or financial records, floppy disk-based storage was inadequate in both capacity and speed for multimedia work, and the graphics of the systems could only display blocky, unrealistic images and blurry, jagged text. Before long, a backlash set in—computer users were "geeks", "nerd
Nerd
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

s" or worse, "hackers". The North American video game crash of 1983 soured many on home computer technology. The computers that were bought for use in the family room were either forgotten in closets or relegated to basements and children's bedrooms to be used exclusively for games and the occasional book report. In 1977, referring to computers used in home automation at the dawn of the home computer era, Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Corporation was a major American company in the computer industry and a leading vendor of computer systems, software and peripherals from the 1960s to the 1990s...

 CEO Ken Olsen
Ken Olsen
Kenneth Harry Olsen was an American engineer who co-founded Digital Equipment Corporation in 1957 with colleague Harlan Anderson.-Background:...

 is quoted as saying "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home"

It took another 10 years for technology to mature, for the graphical user interface
Graphical user interface
In computing, a graphical user interface is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands. GUIs can be used in computers, hand-held devices such as MP3 players, portable media players or gaming devices, household appliances and...

 to make the computer approachable for non-technical users, and for the internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 to provide a compelling reason for most people to want a computer in their homes. Predicted aspects of the revolution were left by the wayside or modified in the face of an emerging reality. The cost of electronics dropped precipitously and today many families have a computer for each family member, or a laptop for mom's active lifestyle, a desktop for dad with the kids sharing a computer. Encyclopedias, recipe catalogs and medical databases are kept online and accessed over the world wide web
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

 -- not stored locally on floppy disks or CD-ROM. TV has yet to gain substantial interactivity; instead, the web has evolved alongside television, but the HTPC or services like Netflix
Netflix
Netflix, Inc., is an American provider of on-demand internet streaming media in the United States, Canada, and Latin America and flat rate DVD-by-mail in the United States. The company was established in 1997 and is headquartered in Los Gatos, California...

, Google TV
Google TV
Google TV is a Smart TV platform from Google. It was announced on May 20, 2010, at Google’s Google I/O event and was co-developed by Google, Intel, Sony and Logitech...

 or Apple TV along with internet video sites such as YouTube
YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

 and Hulu
Hulu
Hulu is a website and over-the-top subscription service offering ad-supported on-demand streaming video of TV shows, movies, webisodes and other new media, trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes footage from NBC, Fox, ABC, and Obstacle on October 20th 2011 Nickelodeon and CBS and many other...

 may one day replace traditional broadcast and cable television
Cable television
Cable television is a system of providing television programs to consumers via radio frequency signals transmitted to televisions through coaxial cables or digital light pulses through fixed optical fibers located on the subscriber's property, much like the over-the-air method used in traditional...

. Our coffee may be brewed automatically every morning, but the computer is a simple one embedded in the coffee maker, not under external control. As of 2008, robots are just beginning to make an impact in the home, with Roomba
Roomba
The Roomba is a series of autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners sold by iRobot. Under normal operating conditions, it is able to navigate a living space and common obstacles while vacuuming the floor...

 and Aibo
AIBO
AIBO was one of several types of robotic pets designed and manufactured by Sony...

 leading the charge.

This delay wasn't out of keeping with other technologies newly introduced to an unprepared public. Early motorists were widely derided with the cry of "Get a horse!" until the automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 was accepted. Television
History of television
The history of television records the work of numerous engineers and inventors in several countries over many decades. The fundamental principles of television were initially explored using electromechanical methods to scan, transmit and reproduce an image...

 languished in research labs for decades before regular public broadcasts began. In an example of changing applications for technology, before the invention of radio, the telephone was used to distribute opera and news reports, whose subscribers were denounced as "illiterate, blind, bedridden and incurably lazy people". Likewise, the acceptance of computers into daily life today is a product of continuing refinement of both technology and perception.

Use today


As older computer hardware becomes obsolete (and in some cases nonfunctional), and the supply of replacement parts dwindles, it has become popular among enthusiasts to emulate
Emulator
In computing, an emulator is hardware or software or both that duplicates the functions of a first computer system in a different second computer system, so that the behavior of the second system closely resembles the behavior of the first system...

 these machines, their environments on modern hardware. One of the more well-known emulators is the Multiple Emulator Super System
MESS
Multi Emulator Super System is an emulator for many game consoles and computer systems, based on the MAME core.The primary purpose of MESS is to preserve decades of computer and console history...

 which can emulate most of the better known home computers. A more or less complete list of home computer emulators can be found here. Games for many 8 and 16 bit home computers are becoming available for the Wii Virtual Console.

Retrocomputing
Retrocomputing
Retrocomputing is the use of early computer hardware and software today. Retrocomputing is usually classed as a hobby and recreation rather than a practical application of technology; enthusiasts often collect rare and valuable hardware and software for sentimental reasons...

 is gaining in popularity, with many enthusiasts using real Commodore 64 hardware to perform modern tasks such as surfing the web and email. The 64 has also been repackaged as the C-One
C-One
The C-One is a single-board computer designed by Jeri Ellsworth, a self-taught designer, and Jens Schönfeld from Individual Computers, who manufactured the boards themselves...

 and C64 Direct-to-TV
C64 Direct-to-TV
The C64 Direct-to-TV, called C64DTV for short, is a single-chip implementation of the Commodore 64 computer, contained in a joystick with 30 built-in games. The design is similar to the Atari Classics 10-in-1 TV Game...

, both designed by Jeri Ellsworth
Jeri Ellsworth
Jeri Ellsworth is an American entrepreneur and self-taught computer chip designer. She is best known for creating a Commodore 64 emulator within a joystick, in 2004, called Commodore 30-in-1 Direct to TV...

 with modern enhancements. Many enthusiasts have started to collect home computers, with older and rarer systems being much sought after. Sometimes the collections turn into a virtual museum
Virtual museum
A virtual museum is a museum that exists only online. A virtual museum is also known as an online museum, electronic museum, hypermuseum, digital museum, cybermuseum or Web museum...

 presented on web sites.

As cloud computing
Cloud computing
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility over a network ....

 develops, future home computer users may opt for the all-in-one simplicity of a console, tablet
Tablet computer
A tablet computer, or simply tablet, is a complete mobile computer, larger than a mobile phone or personal digital assistant, integrated into a flat touch screen and primarily operated by touching the screen...

, netbook
Netbook
Netbooks are a category of small, lightweight, legacy-free, and inexpensive laptop computers.At their inception in late 2007 as smaller notebooks optimized for low weight and low cost — netbooks omitted certain features , featured smaller screens and keyboards, and offered reduced computing...

, nettop
Nettop
Nettop may refer to:*Nettop, a type of computer*NetTop, a NSA project...

, or set top box over a standard PC, possibly running a "stripped down" operating system like Chrome OS. This could lead to a new era of home computers as distinct from business computers running a more traditional operating system. Game consoles are starting to incorporate most of the most common uses for PCs in the home - in addition to gaming, all of the 2008 console generation feature music playing ability, and the Wii
Wii
The Wii is a home video game console released by Nintendo on November 19, 2006. As a seventh-generation console, the Wii primarily competes with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. Nintendo states that its console targets a broader demographic than that of the two others...

 and PlayStation 3
PlayStation 3
The is the third home video game console produced by Sony Computer Entertainment and the successor to the PlayStation 2 as part of the PlayStation series. The PlayStation 3 competes with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles...

 can be used to browse the web. The Xbox 360
Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 is the second video game console produced by Microsoft and the successor to the Xbox. The Xbox 360 competes with Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles...

 also features instant messaging
Instant messaging
Instant Messaging is a form of real-time direct text-based chatting communication in push mode between two or more people using personal computers or other devices, along with shared clients. The user's text is conveyed over a network, such as the Internet...

. Through the web browser component, word processing, email and photo editing are available on these consoles using Web application
Web application
A web application is an application that is accessed over a network such as the Internet or an intranet. The term may also mean a computer software application that is coded in a browser-supported language and reliant on a common web browser to render the application executable.Web applications are...

s. Laptops and tablet computers such as the iPad
IPad
The iPad is a line of tablet computers designed, developed and marketed by Apple Inc., primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content. The iPad was introduced on January 27, 2010 by Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs. Its size and...

 are becoming popular for use in the home, which may redefine the term personal computer itself as a truly personal accessory, similar to a digital audio player or mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 and used by an individual in both work and leisure settings.

Notable home computers



The time line below describes many of the most popular or significant home computers of the late 1970s and of the 1980s.

The most popular home computers in the USA up to 1985 were: the TRS-80
TRS-80
TRS-80 was Tandy Corporation's desktop microcomputer model line, sold through Tandy's Radio Shack stores in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first units, ordered unseen, were delivered in November 1977, and rolled out to the stores the third week of December. The line won popularity with...

 (1977), various models of the Apple II family (first introduced in 1977), the Atari 400/800 (1979) along with its follow up models the 800XL and 130XE, and the Commodore VIC-20
Commodore VIC-20
The VIC-20 is an 8-bit home computer which was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore's first personal computer, the PET...

 (1980) and the Commodore 64
Commodore 64
The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer introduced by Commodore International in January 1982.Volume production started in the spring of 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US$595...

 (1982). The VIC was the first computer of any type to sell over one million units, and the 64 is still the highest-selling single model of personal computer ever, with over 17 million produced before production stopped in 1994 – a 12-year run with only minor changes.

In Europe the situation was slightly different, as many of the British made systems like Sinclair's ZX81
Sinclair ZX81
The ZX81 was a home computer produced by Sinclair Research and manufactured in Scotland by Timex Corporation. It was launched in the United Kingdom in March 1981 as the successor to Sinclair's ZX80 and was designed to be a low-cost introduction to home computing for the general public...

 and Spectrum, and later the Amstrad/Schneider
Amstrad
Amstrad is a British electronics company, now wholly owned by BSkyB. As of 2006, Amstrad's main business is manufacturing Sky Digital interactive boxes....

 CPC
Amstrad CPC
The Amstrad CPC is a series of 8-bit home computers produced by Amstrad between 1984 and 1990. It was designed to compete in the mid-1980s home computer market dominated by the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, where it successfully established itself primarily in the United Kingdom,...

 were generally much cheaper in Europe than US systems (such as the Atari and Apple models). The reverse was also true, as popular British systems like the Spectrum never became popular in the US. A few British Sinclair models were sold for low prices in the US by Timex Corporation
Timex Corporation
Timex Group USA, Inc. , a subsidiary of Timex Group B.V. and its US headquarters, is based in Middlebury, Connecticut...

, such as the Timex Sinclair 1000
Timex Sinclair 1000
The Timex Sinclair 1000 was the first computer produced by Timex Sinclair, a joint-venture between Timex Corporation and Sinclair Research. It was launched in July 1982....

 and the ill-fated Timex Sinclair 2068
Timex Sinclair 2068
The Timex Sinclair 2068 , released in November 1983, was Timex Sinclair's fourth and last home computer for the United States market...

. The result was that these British systems were much more popular in Europe than in the USA, the only notable exception being the Commodore 64 (C64), which competed favorably price-wise with the British systems, and was the most popular system in Europe as in the USA.

Until the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981, computers such as the Apple II and TRS 80 also found considerable use in office work. The Commodore PET had a sizable presence in the North American education market until that was largely ceded to the Apple II as Commodore focused on the C-64's success in the mass retail market.

1970s



Three microcomputers were the prototypes for what would later become the home computer market segment; but when introduced they sold as much to hobbyists and small businesses as to the home.
  • January 1977: Commodore PET
    Commodore PET
    The Commodore PET was a home/personal computer produced from 1977 by Commodore International...

     (N. Am.), first all-in-one computer: keyboard/screen/tape storage.
  • June 1977: Apple II (North America), color graphics, eight expansion slots; one of the first computers to use a typewriter-like plastic case design.
  • August 1977: Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80
    TRS-80
    TRS-80 was Tandy Corporation's desktop microcomputer model line, sold through Tandy's Radio Shack stores in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first units, ordered unseen, were delivered in November 1977, and rolled out to the stores the third week of December. The line won popularity with...

     (N. Am.), first home computer for less than US$600, used a dedicated monitor for U.S. Federal Communications Commission
    Federal Communications Commission
    The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

     (FCC) rules compliance.


The following computers also introduced significant advancements to the home computer segment:
  • 1979: Atari 400/800 (N. Am.), first computer with custom chip set and programmable video chip and built-in audio output.
  • 1979: TI-99/4, first home computer with a 16-bit processor.

1980s


  • 1980: Commodore VIC-20
    Commodore VIC-20
    The VIC-20 is an 8-bit home computer which was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore's first personal computer, the PET...

     (N. Am.), under US$300; first computer of any kind to pass one million sold.
  • 1980: TRS-80 Color Computer
    TRS-80 Color Computer
    The Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer was a home computer launched in 1980. It was one of the earliest of the first generation of computers marketed for home use in English-speaking markets...

     (N. Am.), Motorola 6809
    Motorola 6809
    The Motorola 6809 is an 8-bit microprocessor CPU from Motorola, designed by Terry Ritter and Joel Boney and introduced 1978...

    , optional OS-9
    OS-9
    OS-9 is a family of real-time, process-based, multitasking, multi-user, Unix-like operating systems, developed in the 1980s, originally by Microware Systems Corporation for the Motorola 6809 microprocessor. It is currently owned by RadiSys Corporation....

     multi-user multi-tasking.
  • June 1981: Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
    Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
    The Texas Instruments TI-99/4A was an early home computer, released in June 1981, originally at a price of USD $525. It was an enhanced version of the less-successful—and quite rare—TI-99/4 model, which was released in late 1979 at a price of $1,150...

    , based on the less successful TI-99/4, first to add sprite
    Sprite (computer graphics)
    In computer graphics, a sprite is a two-dimensional image or animation that is integrated into a larger scene...

     graphics.
  • 1981: Sinclair ZX81
    Sinclair ZX81
    The ZX81 was a home computer produced by Sinclair Research and manufactured in Scotland by Timex Corporation. It was launched in the United Kingdom in March 1981 as the successor to Sinclair's ZX80 and was designed to be a low-cost introduction to home computing for the general public...

     (Europe), £49.95 in kit form; £69.95 pre-built, released as Timex Sinclair 1000
    Timex Sinclair 1000
    The Timex Sinclair 1000 was the first computer produced by Timex Sinclair, a joint-venture between Timex Corporation and Sinclair Research. It was launched in July 1982....

     in US in 1982.
  • 1981: BBC Micro
    BBC Micro
    The BBC Microcomputer System, or BBC Micro, was a series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation...

     (Europe) (premier educational computer in the UK for a decade; advanced BBC BASIC
    BBC BASIC
    BBC BASIC is a programming language, developed in 1981 as a native programming language for the MOS Technology 6502 based Acorn BBC Micro home/personal computer, mainly by Sophie Wilson. It is a version of the BASIC programming language adapted for a U.K...

     with integrated 6502 machine code assembler, featured a myriad of I/O ports, ~ 1.5 million sold.
  • April 1982: Sinclair ZX Spectrum (Europe), best-selling British home computer; catalysed the UK software industry, widely cloned by the Soviet Union
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

    .
  • June 1982: MicroBee
    MicroBee
    MicroBee was a series of home computers by Applied Technology, later known as MicroBee Systems.The original MicroBee computer was designed in Australia by a team including Owen Hill and Matthew Starr...

     (Australia), initially as a kit, then as a finished unit.
  • August 1982: Dragon 32
    Dragon 32/64
    The Dragon 32 and Dragon 64 are home computers that were built in the 1980s. The Dragons are very similar to the TRS-80 Color Computer , and were produced for the European market by Dragon Data, Ltd., in Port Talbot, Wales, and for the US market by Tano of New Orleans, Louisiana...

    (UK) became, for a short time, the best-selling home micro in the United Kingdom.
  • August 1982: Commodore 64
    Commodore 64
    The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer introduced by Commodore International in January 1982.Volume production started in the spring of 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US$595...

     (N. Am.), custom graphic & synthesizer
    Synthesizer
    A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

     chipset, best-selling computer model of all time: ~ 17 million sold.
  • Jan. 1983: Apple IIe
    Apple IIe
    The Apple IIe is the third model in the Apple II series of personal computers produced by Apple Computer. The e in the name stands for enhanced, referring to the fact that several popular features were now built-in that were only available as upgrades and add-ons in earlier models...

    , Apple II enhanced. Reduced component count and production costs enabled high-volume production, until 1993.
  • Apr. 1984: Apple IIc
    Apple IIc
    The Apple IIc, the fourth model in the Apple II series of personal computers, was Apple Computer’s first endeavor to produce a portable computer. The end result was a notebook-sized version of the Apple II that could be transported from place to place...

    , Apple II compact. No expansion slots, and built-in ports for pseudo-plug and play ease of use. The Apple II most geared to home use, to complement the Apple IIe's dominant education market share.
  • 1983: Acorn Electron
    Acorn Electron
    The Acorn Electron is a budget version of the BBC Micro educational/home computer made by Acorn Computers Ltd. It has 32 kilobytes of RAM, and its ROM includes BBC BASIC along with its operating system....

     A stripped down 'sibling' of the BBC microcomputer with limited functionality. The Electron recovered from a slow start to become one of the more popular home computers of that era in the UK.
  • 1983: Coleco Adam
    Coleco Adam
    The Coleco Adam is a home computer, an attempt in the early 1980s by American toy manufacturer Coleco to follow on the success of its ColecoVision game console...

    , one of the few home computers to be sold only as a complete system with storage device and printer; cousin to the ColecoVision
    ColecoVision
    The ColecoVision is Coleco Industries' second generation home video game console which was released in August 1982. The ColecoVision offered arcade-quality graphics and gaming style, and the means to expand the system's basic hardware...

     game console; one of the first systems to be "orphaned" by its maker, a casualty of the North American video game crash of 1983.
  • 1983: MSX
    MSX
    MSX was the name of a standardized home computer architecture in the 1980s conceived by Kazuhiko Nishi, then Vice-president at Microsoft Japan and Director at ASCII Corporation...

     (Japan, Korea, the Arab League, Europe, N+S. Am.), a computer 'reference design' by ASCII
    ASCII (company)
    was a publishing company based in Tokyo, Japan. It became a subsidiary of Kadokawa Group Holdings in 2004, and merged with another Kadokawa subsidiary MediaWorks on April 1, 2008, and became ASCII Media Works. The company published Monthly ASCII as the main publication...

     and Microsoft
    Microsoft
    Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

    , produced by several companies: ~ 5 million sold.
  • 1983: VTech Laser 200
    VTech Laser 200
    The VTech Laser 200 was an early 8-bit home computer from 1983, also sold as the Salora Fellow , the Texet TX8000 and the Dick Smith VZ 200 ....

    , entry level computer aimed at being the cheapest on market, also sold as Salora Fellow, Texet TX8000 & Dick Smith VZ 200.
  • 1984: The Apple Macintosh is introduced, providing many consumers their first look at a graphical user interface
    Graphical user interface
    In computing, a graphical user interface is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands. GUIs can be used in computers, hand-held devices such as MP3 players, portable media players or gaming devices, household appliances and...

    , which would eventually replace the home computer as it was known.
  • 1984: Amstrad/Schneider
    Amstrad
    Amstrad is a British electronics company, now wholly owned by BSkyB. As of 2006, Amstrad's main business is manufacturing Sky Digital interactive boxes....

    , CPC
    Amstrad CPC
    The Amstrad CPC is a series of 8-bit home computers produced by Amstrad between 1984 and 1990. It was designed to compete in the mid-1980s home computer market dominated by the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, where it successfully established itself primarily in the United Kingdom,...

    , PCW
    Amstrad PCW
    The Amstrad PCW series was a range of personal computers produced by British company Amstrad from 1985 to 1998, and also sold under licence in Europe as the "Joyce" by the German electronics company Schneider in the early years of the series' life. When it was launched, the cost of a PCW system was...

     ranges (Europe), British standard before IBM PC
    IBM PC
    The IBM Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC, is the original version and progenitor of the IBM PC compatible hardware platform. It is IBM model number 5150, and was introduced on August 12, 1981...

    ; German sales next to C64
    Commodore 64
    The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit home computer introduced by Commodore International in January 1982.Volume production started in the spring of 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US$595...

    .
  • 1985: Elektronika BK
    Elektronika BK
    The Elektronika BK was a series of 16-bit PDP-11-compatible Soviet home computers developed by NPO Scientific Center, the leading Soviet microcomputer design team at the time. It was also responsible for the more powerful UKNC and DVK micros...

    -0010, one of the first 16-bit home computers, and the only "official" home computer in USSR.
  • 1985: Robotron KC 85/1
    Robotron KC 87
    The Robotron KC 87, fully known as the Kleincomputer robotron KC 87 , was an 8-bit home computer released in 1987 and produced in East Germany by the VEB Robotron-Meßelektronik "Otto Schön" Dresden, part of the Kombinat Robotron...

     (Europe), one of the few home computers produced by the East German VEB Robotron-Meßelektronik "Otto Schön" Dresden.
  • 1985: Atari ST
    Atari ST
    The Atari ST is a home/personal computer that was released by Atari Corporation in 1985 and commercially available from that summer into the early 1990s. The "ST" officially stands for "Sixteen/Thirty-two", which referred to the Motorola 68000's 16-bit external bus and 32-bit internals...

     (N. Am.), first with built-in MIDI
    Musical Instrument Digital Interface
    MIDI is an industry-standard protocol, first defined in 1982 by Gordon Hall, that enables electronic musical instruments , computers and other electronic equipment to communicate and synchronize with each other...

     interface; also 1MB
    Megabyte
    The megabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information storage or transmission with two different values depending on context: bytes generally for computer memory; and one million bytes generally for computer storage. The IEEE Standards Board has decided that "Mega will mean 1 000...

     RAM
    Random-access memory
    Random access memory is a form of computer data storage. Today, it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow stored data to be accessed in any order with a worst case performance of constant time. Strictly speaking, modern types of DRAM are therefore not random access, as data is read in...

     for less than US$1000; Motorola 68000
    Motorola 68000
    The Motorola 68000 is a 16/32-bit CISC microprocessor core designed and marketed by Freescale Semiconductor...

     processor.
  • 1985: Commodore 128
    Commodore 128
    The Commodore 128 home/personal computer was the last 8-bit machine commercially released by Commodore Business Machines...

     (N. Am.) Final, most advanced 8-bit Commodore, retained full C64 compatibility while adding CP/M
    CP/M
    CP/M was a mass-market operating system created for Intel 8080/85 based microcomputers by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc...

     in a complex multi-mode architecture
  • July 1985: Commodore Amiga (N. Am.), custom chip set
    Original Amiga chipset
    The Original Chip Set was a chipset used in the earliest Commodore Amiga computers and defined the Amiga's graphics and sound capabilities...

     for graphics and digital audio; multitasking
    Computer multitasking
    In computing, multitasking is a method where multiple tasks, also known as processes, share common processing resources such as a CPU. In the case of a computer with a single CPU, only one task is said to be running at any point in time, meaning that the CPU is actively executing instructions for...

     OS
    AmigaOS
    AmigaOS is the default native operating system of the Amiga personal computer. It was developed first by Commodore International, and initially introduced in 1985 with the Amiga 1000...

     with both GUI
    Gui
    Gui or guee is a generic term to refer to grilled dishes in Korean cuisine. These most commonly have meat or fish as their primary ingredient, but may in some cases also comprise grilled vegetables or other vegetarian ingredients. The term derives from the verb, "gupda" in Korean, which literally...

     and CLI interfaces; Motorola 68000 processor.
  • 1986: Apple IIGS
    Apple IIGS
    The Apple , the fifth and most powerful model in the Apple II series of personal computers produced by Apple Computer. The "GS" in the name stands for Graphics and Sound, referring to its enhanced graphics and sound capabilities, both of which greatly surpassed previous models of the line...

    , Fifth and final model in the Apple II series
    Apple II series
    The Apple II series is a set of 8-bit home computers, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products, designed primarily by Steve Wozniak, manufactured by Apple Computer and introduced in 1977 with the original Apple II...

    , with greatly enhanced graphics and sound abilities. Used a 16-bit 65C816 CPU, the same as used in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a 16-bit video game console that was released by Nintendo in North America, Europe, Australasia , and South America between 1990 and 1993. In Japan and Southeast Asia, the system is called the , or SFC for short...

    .
  • 1987: Acorn Archimedes
    Acorn Archimedes
    The Acorn Archimedes was Acorn Computers Ltd's first general purpose home computer to be based on their own ARM architecture.Using a RISC design with a 32-bit CPU, at its launch in June 1987, the Archimedes was stated as running at 4 MIPS, with a claim of 18 MIPS during tests.The name is commonly...

     (Europe), launched with an 8 MHz 32-bit ARM
    ARM architecture
    ARM is a 32-bit reduced instruction set computer instruction set architecture developed by ARM Holdings. It was named the Advanced RISC Machine, and before that, the Acorn RISC Machine. The ARM architecture is the most widely used 32-bit ISA in numbers produced...

     2 microprocessor, with between 512kB and 4MB of RAM, and an optional 20 or 40MB hard drive.
  • 1989: SAM Coupé
    SAM Coupé
    The SAM Coupé is an 8-bit British home computer that was first released in late 1989. It is commonly considered a clone of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer, since it features a compatible screen mode and emulated compatibility, and it was marketed as a logical upgrade from the Spectrum...

     (Europe), based on 6 MHz Z80 microprocessor; marketed as a logical upgrade from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

See also


  • Computer magazines
    Computer magazines
    This is a list of magazines marketed primarily for computer and technology enthusiasts or users. The majority of these magazines cover general computer topics or several non-specific subject areas, however a few are also specialized to a certain area of computing and are listed separately.-General...

  • History of computing hardware (1960s-present)
    History of computing hardware (1960s-present)
    The history of computing hardware starting at 1960 is marked by the conversion from vacuum tube to solid state devices such as the transistor and later the integrated circuit. By 1959 discrete transistors were considered sufficiently reliable and economical that they made further vacuum tube...

  • Honeywell 316
    Honeywell 316
    The Honeywell 316 was a popular 16-bit minicomputer built by Honeywell starting in 1969. It is part of the Series 16 which includes the Models 116, 316, 416, 516 and 716. They were commonly used for data acquisition and control, remote message concentration, clinical laboratory systems and...

     a "home computer" from 1969
  • List of home computers
  • List of home computers by category
  • List of home computers by video hardware
  • List of video game consoles
  • Influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market
  • Microprocessor development board
    Microprocessor development board
    A microprocessor development board is a printed circuit board containing a microprocessor and the minimal support logic needed for an engineer to become acquainted with the microprocessor on the board, and to learn to program it...

     and List of early microcomputers, first microprocessor based systems used by hobbyists
  • Personal computer
    Personal computer
    A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...

  • Pirates of Silicon Valley
    Pirates of Silicon Valley
    Pirates of Silicon Valley is a 1999 made-for-television film directed by Martyn Burke and based on the book Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. The film documents the impact on the development of the personal computer of the rivalry between...

    - docu-fiction focused on Apple and Microsoft evolution
  • Triumph of the Nerds
    Triumph of the Nerds
    Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires is a documentary film written and hosted by Robert X. Cringely and produced for British television by Oregon Public Broadcasting. The title refers to the 1984 film, Revenge of the Nerds, and the documentary itself is based on Cringely's book...

  • Video Display Controller
    Video Display Controller
    A Video Display Controller or VDC is an integrated circuit which is the main component in a video signal generator, a device responsible for the production of a TV video signal in a computing or game system...

    , chips that were used to create the video graphics of many early home computers

External links