Xerox creates the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which gave birth to many essential computer technologies. The PARC investigates the “architecture of information” and how to make computers easy enough for anyone to use. Using the ideas that people would respond better to intuitive command structures and they don’t need to understand how the hardware functions to use the technology, PARC comes up with black-on-white screens, a bitmapped display, icons, pointers, laser printers, word processors, and network (notably Ethernet). The Xerox Star and the Alto are two computers that embody all these groundbreaking ideas but they are never successfully marketed.
IBM introduces the “memory disk” or “floppy disk”. It is the industry’s first flexible magnetic diskette, an 8-inch floppy plastic disk coated with iron oxide, ushering in the era of data portability and desktop computing. The floppy disk greatly increases the convenience of data handling and becomes widely used as a basic storage medium for small systems.
The introduction of the 1103, the worlds first 1K DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory), was a turning point in the history of integrated circuit: for the first time significant amount of information could be stored on a single chip. This is the chip that kicked magnetic Core Memory out of the game, making Intel a world leader in memories for a decade. In 1972 it was the largest selling semiconductor in the world.
Intel’s Ted Hoff designs the 4004 chip, the first 4-bit microprocessor (the central processing unit is on a chip). Priced at $200, with 2,300 transistors and 60,000 OPS (Operations Per Second). It ran at a clock speed of 740KHz; but it was a historic breakthrough that enabled the ubiquitous computing technology we have today.
The January edition of Popular Electronics features the Altair 8800 computer kit based on Intel’s 8080 microprocessor, on its cover. The machine has a 256 bytes of memory (expandable to 64K) and comes with an open 100-line bus structure that evolves into the S-100 standard. The article inspires Paul Allen and Bill Gates to develop a BASIC interpreter for the Altair.