Previous [Part 1].
Closer To The Users
In the 50s, the innovation of mechanical relays (instead of vacuum tubes) made computers (e.g. the UNIVACs) already much smaller and affordable for other governmental organizations like the US Census Bureau. The first computer language FLOW-MATIC appeared. IBM entered the market with their IBM 701. In 1956, around 100 machines are installed all over the United States. IBM invented the first hard drive system (RAMAC) that laid the foundation of modern hard disk systems and that replaced the awkward punchcard system.
IBMs System/360 started the era of mainframe computers with a modular architecture that allowed to support different configurations and to replace the processor unit for upgrades. In the mid-sixties, IBM sells around 1000 machines per month. Computers became interesting for the first business applications. Still they are only feasible for large enterprises and military applications. Software and hardware were bundled, the machines not even programmable by others.
The miniaturisation of circuits, the usage of transistors and integrated allowed to enter the era of mini-computers in the 60ties and the rising of DEC. The PDP-8 is considered the first commercial micro-computer. It still had the size of two large refrigerators, yet it could be started up by a single person, didn’t develop much heat and didn’t require a cooled location so that it could be situated closed to the people that used it. Most users were researchers and larger enterprises. The computer got closer to its users. And it got smaller and smaller: the PDP-8e in the early 70ties could be put on a table already. The prices went down to under 2000$.
Continue [Part 3]