PC Pioneers: The Forgotten World of S-one hundred Bus Computers

During an era while the everyday “small laptop” with accessories could easily fill 1/2 a room and cost tens of thousands of dollars, an engineer named Ed Roberts (at his company MITS) designed a computing device microprocessor-primarily based pc referred to as the Altair 8800, which hobbyists could construct themselves for several hundred greenbacks. It created the first de facto personal pc fashionable, though few communicate about it nowadays.

The Altair 8800 debuted on the duvet of the January 1975 problem of Popular Electronics, which reached a wide audience of engineers and skilled electronics hobbyists. Other groups soon began to imitate the Altair proper right down to it’s a hundred-pin expansion bus, which permits users to plug in exclusive peripheral cards to increase or modify the laptop’s abilities.

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This bus, later dubbed S-100 (for neutrality’s sake), have become the idea of the primary personal pc hardware popular—one which regularly used Zilog Z80 CPUs and ran Digital Research’s CP/M working gadget. With a common architecture amongst machines, multiple groups started out providing plug-in CPU, reminiscence, video, disk controller, and other peripheral playing cards for numerous S-100-primarily based systems.

The PC market grew rapidly, and within a few years, the industry moved far from hobbyist kits and into whole structures. Lower-cost budget and home personal computers such as the TRS-eighty and Commodore PET entered the marketplace, pushing S-a hundred carriers into the higher end of the PC market in which profits have been cozy, and wherein business clients appeared the sufficient customization options of S-a hundred machines to be a bonus.

Eventually, the S-100 bus gave way to the IBM PC juggernaut (released in 1981), which itself created its personal standard primarily based on x86 CPUs and the ISA bus. Some S-one hundred machines hung on for some time in government and business markets, however, the technology of the Altair bus had efficaciously ended.

With that during mind, allow’s test a handful of pioneering (and genuinely interesting S-100 bus computers) from the dignity days of S-one hundred. Keep in mind this could now not be an exhaustive record of the S-100 standard—there is a long way too many machines to encompass them all here—however, we are able to visit some highlights and early pioneers.