During the 1970s, computer technology took great leaps forward, and by the end of the decade computers had become smaller and more available than at any time in history. The ’70s gave birth to the personal computer, microprocessor, mouse and two companies that would become giants in the computer world.
Advances in Hardware
During the 1970s, several companies successfully developed hardware that is still used in computers today. Intel developed a new random-access memory (RAM) chip capable of holding 1000 bits of information in 1970, and introduced the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, in 1971. Computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart patented the first computer mouse in 1970, while Xerox released the first laser printer in 1971. Toshiba introduced the first floppy disk drive in 1974, and the first 5.25-inch floppy disk was invented two years later, becoming the industry standard by 1978.
In 1977 owning a home computer became a possibility with the release of the Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80. Sold exclusively at Radio Shack, the TRS-80 featured a 12-inch monochrome monitor, 4,000 bits of RAM, a keyboard, and a cassette deck that stored and recorded information on cassette tapes. The TRS-80 was an instant success, and sold over 10,000 units in the first month after its release. In 1978, Apple released the Apple II home computer that featured a hard plastic case, built-in keyboard, disk drive, color graphics and a RAM capacity of 64,000 bits. The TRS-80 retailed for $600 when first released, while the Apple II retailed for $1,298.