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STARS:Rise and Fall of Minicomputers

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Author: Alex Magoun


During the 1960s a new class of low-cost computers evolved, which were given the name minicomputers. Their development was facilitated by rapidly improving performance and declining costs of integrated circuit technologies. Equally important were the entrepreneurial activities of many companies. By the mid-1980s, nearly one hundred companies had participated in the business of making and selling minicomputers. New ways of using and marketing minicomputers, combined with a growing number of individuals programming and using them, led to wide-ranging innovations that helped to stimulate decades of growth of the entire computer industry.


1956 Bendix Aviation G-15 and Librascope LGP-30 desk-size computers are marketed
1960 Bendix Aviation G-15 and Librascope LGP-30 desk-size computers are marketed
1961 MIT develops Compatible Time Sharing System for an IBM 7094 and a DEC PDP-1
1962 MIT Lincoln Laboratory introduces LINC as interactive personal computer
1964 Computer Controls Corporation introduces DDP-116 as first 16-bit minicomputer
1964 IBM announces System/360, establishing 8-bit byte as mainframe standard
1965 IBM introduces 16-bit 1130, the first computer leased for under $1,000 per month
1965 Gordon Moore predicts increasing semiconductor chip densities, later known as Moore's Law
1965 DEC begins selling 12-bit PDP-8, which will establish minicomputer category
1967 First use of “minicomputer,” following miniskirts and Austin Mini automobile
1969 Data General’s NOVA lowers 16-bit processor cost with single printed-circuit board
1969 Bell Telephone Laboratories first runs UNIX operating system on a DEC PDP-7
1970 DEC announces PDP-11/20; last models are introduced in 1990
1974 Interdata sells its 7/32 as first 32-bit minicomputer for high performance applications
1979 Motorola announces 32-bit 68000 microprocessor for UNIX operating system
1981 IBM introduces its first Personal Computer using Intel X86 and Microsoft MS/DOS
1984 92 U.S. minicomputer companies in business; only seven remain independent in 1994
1985 DEC withdraws PDP-8 from the market
1985 Shared-memory multiple microprocessors are introduced by many companies
1995 Beowulf-Linux cluster operating system released for PCs and networks



References of Historical Significance

References for Further Reading

About the Author(s)