Jump to content

Photo

What was the first computer with a basic language?


136 replies to this topic

#26 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:41 PM

Can you point to evidence of that? Everything that I've ever read/known about the SOL-20 was that it didn't actually hit the market in pre-assembled or kit form until 1977.

If this is accurate: http://www.pc-history.org/sol.htm then it does look like the SOL-20 might have been sold complete before 1977.

This quote:

The SOL was the first personal computer to only be sold as a factory-built computer.

and this one:

By 1977, SOL was the dominant personal computer in the industry and was the principal product in my store.


Make it sound like he was selling complete units in 1976..

desiv


Interesting, but as you say, I'm not sure how accurate it is. For instance, the line "...was the first personal computer to only be sold as a factory-built computer" is most certainly not accurate, because it was positively available in kit form (which is not a knock--even the Apple II was available alternatively as a kit (though not the PET or TRS-80)). Also, the perspective seems a bit skewed, as maybe the SOL was HIS store's best selling computer, but I don't know of any evidence it was the best selling computer anywhere else for any particular period of time. It's my understanding based on the most reliable sales figures, that ironically (because it has historically been the most mocked) the TRS-80 was the best selling computer (mostly due to the ubiquity of Radio Shack stores) into the very early 1980's.

I'll check my own stacks to see if I uncover anything. I'll definitely believe 1977 for complete SOL-20's, but I'm still not convinced it would have been before, and then I guess WHEN in 1977 would have been important as well.

#27 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:43 PM

Keep in mind the AIM-65 and other machines may have been available complete with BASIC in '76. I'm not sure when the AIM-65's BASIC became available and if you had to plug in the ROM or if it was available pre-installed.


Those types of computers would be stretching the definition of recognizable personal computers for their lack of standard displays alone. We're still looking at 1977 and the Apple II, Commodore PET and TRS-80, in that order, and trying to figure out where the SOL-20 fits in the mix...

#28 desiv OFFLINE  

desiv

    Stargunner

  • 1,746 posts
  • Location:Salem, Oregon

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:08 PM

.... as maybe the SOL was HIS store's best selling computer, but I don't know of any evidence it was the best selling computer anywhere else for any particular period of time.
... I'll definitely believe 1977 for complete SOL-20's, but I'm still not convinced it would have been before, and then I guess WHEN in 1977 would have been important as well.

It's definitely biased for his experiences at his store...
But, if he is correct about the dates that he was selling it complete, then it would predate the Apple II.
Perhaps they were shipping earlier than believed to certain stores, but not in general????

If you read the whole article (not saying you didn't :-), it sounds as tho he is saying he was selling them in 1976, and he even had Lee in his store fixing them. It's also a great read to hear his perspective.

From a computer history perspective (which is more in your bailiwick I believe), would probably be interesting to get in touch with him for possible verification and possibly some great stories...

His memories of the computer show in 1976 give his story some verifiable time frame to suggest he might be right about the dates. It's easy to fudge dates from memory, but if something happened just after the X 1976 Computer Show (or whatever event), it's much more likely to get that date correct.

If I said I bought my first computer in 1983, it might or might not be correct...
But if I said I bought it the day after I saw Wargames in the theater, it's much more likely I am correct.

A little googling shows that the show he mentioned took place in August 1976, so it seems feasible that he might have received and sold complete systems in the months before 1977.
Also, his entire article is very complete. It's not like a small fact he mentioned in passing.

I'm not saying it's true. But I see little reason currently to disbelieve him.

desiv

#29 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:14 PM

OK, I finally have contemporary confirmation I'm personally satisfied with (I know, I'm a PITA). According to my copy of "Owning Your Home Computer (The Complete Illustrated Guide)" (1980) by Robert L. Perry, on page 49, "About the same time [mid-1975], Robert Marsh, a computer engineer, founded Processor Technology, which marketed the first computer complete with keyboard and video screen--SOL, the first personal computer deserving the name." and "Except for the first version of the Processor Technology personal computer, called SOL, there was no complete home computer at the beginning of 1977." Then he goes on to talk about the usual suspects, Commodore PET, Apple II, TRS-80, Exidy Sorcerer and Ohio Scientific Challenger, as being introduced that year (of course actual availability is a different issue).

He mentions another challenger a bit later, the Polymorphic 8800, which was introduced in 1976, which contained connections for a video monitor and a cassette recorder (as well as BASIC in ROM). Unfortunately, you had to add your own keyboard, which disqualifies it. He then talks a bit more about the SOL 20, "The first computer a hobbyist could simply turn on and use was the Processor Technology SOL 20. It had its own keyboard, an audio cassette interface, a complete video processor that used numbers and letters (in upper and lower case...), both kinds of input/output ports (serial and parallel), and an internal power supply. It had neither switches nor blinking lights on a complicated-looking front panel. It did have an internal operating system fixed in its memory, which allowed a user to simply plug it to a video monitor and use it. [description of an operating system] Yet the SOL, too, was too complicated for the average user. A buyer still had to know computer programming to use it."

Perry then devotes some time to the second generation of kit computers, like the RCA Cosmac Elf II, and Heathkit H-8. Then, towards the end of page 54, he starts in with the TRS-80, leads into the PET, talks about the Apple I and II, the Ohio Scientific Challenger, the Compucolor 8001, and the Exidy Sorcerer (which he says, correctly, was introduced in the Spring of 1978).

On another note, he devotes Chapter 5 to "The Newest Home Computers", which, given sufficient publishing lead time for this 1980 book, would have placed most of these releases between 1978 - 1979, which falls in line with what we already know well (of course, some, like the Mattel Keyboard Component, were only ANNOUNCED at this time). These systems include: Sinclair ZX80, APF Imagination Machine, Interact Model One, Mattel Intellivision (with Keyboard Component), TI-99/4 (not the 4A), Bally Professional Arcade, and HP-85.

On a final note, in Chapter 6, "The Handiest Home Computers", he discusses the TRS-80, Commodore PET, Apple II/III, Ohio Scientific Challenger series, Compucolor II, Exidy Sorcerer, and the Atari 400/800.

Edited by Bill_Loguidice, Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:16 PM.

  • jhd likes this

#30 desiv OFFLINE  

desiv

    Stargunner

  • 1,746 posts
  • Location:Salem, Oregon

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:20 PM

See, I knew this was more your bailiwick.. :)

desiv

p.s. Hmmm That sounds like a book I have to try to add to my library. Thanx!

#31 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:22 PM

.... as maybe the SOL was HIS store's best selling computer, but I don't know of any evidence it was the best selling computer anywhere else for any particular period of time.
... I'll definitely believe 1977 for complete SOL-20's, but I'm still not convinced it would have been before, and then I guess WHEN in 1977 would have been important as well.

It's definitely biased for his experiences at his store...
But, if he is correct about the dates that he was selling it complete, then it would predate the Apple II.
Perhaps they were shipping earlier than believed to certain stores, but not in general????

If you read the whole article (not saying you didn't :-), it sounds as tho he is saying he was selling them in 1976, and he even had Lee in his store fixing them. It's also a great read to hear his perspective.

From a computer history perspective (which is more in your bailiwick I believe), would probably be interesting to get in touch with him for possible verification and possibly some great stories...

His memories of the computer show in 1976 give his story some verifiable time frame to suggest he might be right about the dates. It's easy to fudge dates from memory, but if something happened just after the X 1976 Computer Show (or whatever event), it's much more likely to get that date correct.

If I said I bought my first computer in 1983, it might or might not be correct...
But if I said I bought it the day after I saw Wargames in the theater, it's much more likely I am correct.

A little googling shows that the show he mentioned took place in August 1976, so it seems feasible that he might have received and sold complete systems in the months before 1977.
Also, his entire article is very complete. It's not like a small fact he mentioned in passing.

I'm not saying it's true. But I see little reason currently to disbelieve him.

desiv


I agree, now, yes. Based on there now being essentially two independent confirmations that - even if they may have been limited quantities (and initially unreliable) and some may take issue with how the SOL-20 worked - it most certainly was available for purchase AND use some time in 1976, so, based on the original qualifier, it was definitely the first recognizable personal computer with BASIC. In fact, it's easy enough to call it the first "recognizable" modern day personal computer released, period, not the Apple II, despite the former's relative operating difficulty. Pity how it's such a small historical footnote today, though that's probably related to a quick rise and fall in the market in light of the competition from 1977 onward...

On a personal note, I've been trying to add a SOL-20 to my collection for some time, but they tend to be on the pricey side (one in reasonable working condition can sell for north of $400). I'll have to try a bit harder now as I hadn't quite released its historical significance until this point.

Edited by Bill_Loguidice, Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:23 PM.


#32 accousticguitar OFFLINE  

accousticguitar

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 7,038 posts
  • Sherlock made it to 15 before he left us.
  • Location:Idaho

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:55 PM

"Except for the first version of the Processor Technology personal computer, called SOL, there was no complete home computer at the beginning of 1977."

Cool, more confirmation. Thanks! :cool:

p.s. That does sound like a good book all right.

#33 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:55 PM

I found my information online, also the SOL is mentioned in the book 'Hackers'

The computer was presented in NYC in February 1976. It has some software and an operative system. I found online that came with a BASIC tape, but the book doesn't say anything about the SOL using BASIC.

Another early computer was Cromemco's System 1, but I think the SOL came out first.

The truth is, all the people working on personal computers at the time were working together, I guess that's why all the system's seem to pop-up at the same time.

Edited by Osbo, Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:56 PM.


#34 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:23 PM

I found my information online, also the SOL is mentioned in the book 'Hackers'

The computer was presented in NYC in February 1976. It has some software and an operative system. I found online that came with a BASIC tape, but the book doesn't say anything about the SOL using BASIC.

Another early computer was Cromemco's System 1, but I think the SOL came out first.

The truth is, all the people working on personal computers at the time were working together, I guess that's why all the system's seem to pop-up at the same time.


Right, it seems that neither the SOL-20 or the feature-reduced SOL-10 had BASIC in ROM, just a "simple" operating system. However, at least two different BASICs were readily available, though apparently sold separately (see the January 1977 ad here: http://old-computers...?t=2&c=344&st=1). With that in mind, I would think that if you have all the usual qualifiers AND you want there to be BASIC in ROM (i.e., for it to come "in the box"), then the Apple II would still be the "winner". For my money, though, I would give the nod to the SOL-10/20.

Edited by Bill_Loguidice, Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:45 PM.


#35 accousticguitar OFFLINE  

accousticguitar

    Quadrunner

  • Topic Starter
  • 7,038 posts
  • Sherlock made it to 15 before he left us.
  • Location:Idaho

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:48 PM

If I had put in the term "reliable" then I think the Apple II would have won, however, as it stands the SOL seems to be the winner.

#36 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:11 PM

The Apple 1 also reads BASIC from a tape:

"According to the Apple-1 Cassette Interface Manual, it was necessary to make another change to the motherboard in order to use the interface. Besides removing the jumper that relocated the 2nd 4K of RAM, another jumper had to be added to the motherboard in one place. Then, after the interface was properly installed, an assembly language program would be available at $C100. This program allowed operation of the cassette load and save routines. To load Apple BASIC, the user would type “C100R” and press “RETURN” on the keyboard (this instructed the Apple-1 Monitor program to run an assembly language program at the address $C100)."

http://apple2history.org/history/ah02/

#37 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:48 AM

I wouldn't really consider the Apple I a complete computer in the terms of the original definition, even in its pre-cased form, particularly since Apple (i.e., the two Steve's) had nothing to do with the wooden enclosures or keyboards that the Byte Shop was selling the standard motherboards with.

#38 JamesD OFFLINE  

JamesD

    Quadrunner

  • 8,483 posts
  • Location:Flyover State

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:48 AM

Keep in mind the AIM-65 and other machines may have been available complete with BASIC in '76. I'm not sure when the AIM-65's BASIC became available and if you had to plug in the ROM or if it was available pre-installed.


Those types of computers would be stretching the definition of recognizable personal computers for their lack of standard displays alone. We're still looking at 1977 and the Apple II, Commodore PET and TRS-80, in that order, and trying to figure out where the SOL-20 fits in the mix...

Where in the original post does it specify what display was used?

#39 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:54 AM

Keep in mind the AIM-65 and other machines may have been available complete with BASIC in '76. I'm not sure when the AIM-65's BASIC became available and if you had to plug in the ROM or if it was available pre-installed.


Those types of computers would be stretching the definition of recognizable personal computers for their lack of standard displays alone. We're still looking at 1977 and the Apple II, Commodore PET and TRS-80, in that order, and trying to figure out where the SOL-20 fits in the mix...

Where in the original post does it specify what display was used?


I would think a computer with some type of recognizable display output would be a given for this particular discussion, no? In other words, we'd want to eliminate blinking light displays and things like on-board red LEDs.

#40 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:19 AM

Keep in mind the AIM-65 and other machines may have been available complete with BASIC in '76. I'm not sure when the AIM-65's BASIC became available and if you had to plug in the ROM or if it was available pre-installed.


Those types of computers would be stretching the definition of recognizable personal computers for their lack of standard displays alone. We're still looking at 1977 and the Apple II, Commodore PET and TRS-80, in that order, and trying to figure out where the SOL-20 fits in the mix...

Where in the original post does it specify what display was used?


I would think a computer with some type of recognizable display output would be a given for this particular discussion, no? In other words, we'd want to eliminate blinking light displays and things like on-board red LEDs.


Then the Altair 8800 wins: it had a keyboard interface, it had a video display (Cromemco Dazzler card i.e.), it had BASIC, and it was sold as a kit or assembled.

#41 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:20 AM

I wouldn't really consider the Apple I a complete computer in the terms of the original definition, even in its pre-cased form, particularly since Apple (i.e., the two Steve's) had nothing to do with the wooden enclosures or keyboards that the Byte Shop was selling the standard motherboards with.


Why not? It has all the elements of a computer.

#42 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:34 AM

If that's the definition you wish to go by, Osbo, then by all means consider the Altair the winner, or the Apple I for that matter (it's all a matter of how one sets the "rules"). However, good luck buying an Altair pre-assembled from a single source with a real keyboard, paper tape reader and copy of BASIC, and video card, or, barring that, the base unit, terminal, paper tape reader and copy of BASIC. There's a reason we're trying to put constraints on the definition. In theory, if you had enough money, you could buy an IBM 5100 in 1975 that meets all of our qualifications and then some. However, we're trying (or at least I am at this point), trying to narrow it down to a "recognizable" personal computer, and even the original poster was essentially saying a reasonable turn key solution (i.e., one you didn't need to purchase additional pieces to make usable), not some unrealistic franken-creation.

To make things easier, perhaps we can both agree then that the definition should be a "mass produced personal computer available from a single source that has full stroke keyboard input, output to a monitor, cassette or paper tape i/o, and available BASIC language at or near launch"? It seems that the SOL-10/20 would meet that definition on or before January 1977.

#43 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:37 AM

I wouldn't really consider the Apple I a complete computer in the terms of the original definition, even in its pre-cased form, particularly since Apple (i.e., the two Steve's) had nothing to do with the wooden enclosures or keyboards that the Byte Shop was selling the standard motherboards with.


Why not? It has all the elements of a computer.


Because it's not from Apple, it's from a secondary source. It's the Byte Shop version of the Apple I, with only 50 units available. 50. If we're going to go with production runs that low, we'll have to consider other one-offs in the discussion and then we'll get nowhere.

#44 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:43 AM

I could go with the SOL 20 then (the 10 didn't sell that well) Processor Technology could had been Apple, but it was a company run by engineers, that's why it failed.

#45 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:46 AM



#46 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:51 AM

I have Briel's Apple I replica as well. It's good stuff, as are his other creations. I try to snatch them up whenever possible. I also recently ordered his Altair 8800micro, which will be my first true switch-based computer, which given my collection has been a very, very long time in coming.

#47 Osbo OFFLINE  

Osbo

    River Patroller

  • 2,458 posts
  • This is a test...
  • Location:NC

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:53 AM

Sweet! I might buy it, I'm an Electronics student, and seems like a neat project to do :)

#48 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:56 AM

I could go with the SOL 20 then (the 10 didn't sell that well) Processor Technology could had been Apple, but it was a company run by engineers, that's why it failed.


There's also something to be said for being a bit too early with certain concepts/technology. What's particularly telling is how they essentially had to announce it as a "smart" terminal rather than the true personal computer it really was. Crazy to think that it was basically too feature rich at the time to be understood/believed, and that's something that can only happen when an industry is in its true infancy like the PC business was back then (if you can even call it a business).

#49 JamesD OFFLINE  

JamesD

    Quadrunner

  • 8,483 posts
  • Location:Flyover State

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:03 AM

Keep in mind the AIM-65 and other machines may have been available complete with BASIC in '76. I'm not sure when the AIM-65's BASIC became available and if you had to plug in the ROM or if it was available pre-installed.


Those types of computers would be stretching the definition of recognizable personal computers for their lack of standard displays alone. We're still looking at 1977 and the Apple II, Commodore PET and TRS-80, in that order, and trying to figure out where the SOL-20 fits in the mix...

Where in the original post does it specify what display was used?


I would think a computer with some type of recognizable display output would be a given for this particular discussion, no? In other words, we'd want to eliminate blinking light displays and things like on-board red LEDs.

The AIM-65 could actually print words on it's display. You could see what you were typing, prompts, etc... not just blinking LEDs.
<edit>
http://oldcomputers.net/AIM-65.html

Edited by JamesD, Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:04 AM.


#50 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,279 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:13 AM

Understood about the AIM and computers like it, but you'd still have to consider the display extremely limited.




0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users