I’m a child of a microprocessor age. I learned to program on computers powered by a variety of microprocessors starting with the 4-bit SC43177/SC43178 pair powering a Sharp PC-1211, continuing with the 8-bit Zilog Z80 on the TRS-80, the Zenith Z-89, and the Sinclair ZX81 computers, and graduating to 16-bit processors: the Texas Instruments TMS9900 powering its manufacturer’s TI-99/4A home computer and finally Intel’s 8088 on an IBM Portable (16kg) Personal Computer. At the university I encountered an IBM System/370 4331/2 mainframe, which I regarded with outer contempt. It seemed to me like a dinosaur: slow and unwieldy, lacking interactivity, color, and graphics. I couldn’t fathom why businesses were using such monsters. I now understand that I was watching an amazing race between the sprightly but woefully simplistic microprocessors and the powerful but slow-moving mainframes.
IBM’s System/370 architecture, introduced in 1970, had several features that the microprocessors of the late 1970s, such as Intel’s 8088 powering the IBM PC, could only dream of.
An observer at the time would be justified in thinking that microprocessors were only suitable for powering microwave ovens and game consoles. Business computing would always run on mainframes.
That observer would be wrong. Following Moore’s law microprocessors became increasingly more powerful.
As you can see, in just five years Intel’s microprocessor offering evolved from an underpowered underdog into a chip that could see eye-to-eye IBM’s powerful System/370 architecture. Of course, IBM was not standing still over those years. But the writing was on the wall.Read and post comments.
Last modified: Sunday, May 31, 2020 10:55 pm
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