Advent of the microprocessor-based user-dedicated computer

In 1969, a new company, Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) of San Antonio, Texas, contacted the Wall Street firm of Philips, Appel & Walden (PAW) seeking to raise $4 million through an initial public offering (IPO). PAW asked me to visit CTC and evaluated its technology. In that visit, I conveyed to Austin (Gus) Roche, the R&D VP my view that their initial product, the Datapoint 3300 Computer Terminal, was conceptually obsolete. I made several recommendations about the next product. The main two were:

  • Incorporate a computer’s central processing unit (CPU).
  • Implement that CPU as a single-chip microprocessor.

CTC’s next product, the Datapoint 2200 was an intelligent computer terminal: it did contain a CPU that CTC designed. However, after receiving in 1870 proposals from Texas Instruments (TI) and Intel for implementing that CPU architecture as a single-chip microprocessor, CTC decided against pursuing that course.

On learning that I first met with Robert Noyce, the president of Intel at the time. Intel was then an in the process of developing a 4-bit chipset for electronic calculator consortium in Japan. I noted that a 4-bit word has 16 distinct states and as such it is insufficient to represent the alphabet. I expressed the view that this loss of generality excludes such chips from use for general-purpose information processing. Hence, I predicted that the market for those chips would prove limited and transient. In contrast, I said that implementing the Datapoint 2200 CPU as an 8-bit single-chip microprocessor would unleash a technological revolution. Noyce said that Intel would develop that chip after completing development of the 4-bit chip, adding that Intel would need to obtain CTC’s consent first. I told him that I will obtain it for Intel. As noted above, I dd so.

Phil Ray, CTC’s president. He consented to my request to grant Intel the right to develop, produce and market to the general market that chip and I so informed Intel.

PAW offered to fund me if I form a company and develop a microprocessor-based user-dedicated computer then PAW would fund it. After I formed Q1 Corporation PAW provided in 1970 $250K and $1 million in 1972. In December 1972 Q1 delivered the world’s first microprocessor-based personal computer.

In 1975 NASA ordered Q1 computers for its bases worldwide. Also that year, at the invitation of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE), I organized and chaired the opening session of the first international conference about the micro-computer revolution. In 1979 the British Government’s National Enterprise Board (NEB) formed Q1 Europe, which manufactured, marketed, and served the European market.

The subsequent generations of the 8008 are known as the Intel x86 product line. By the end of the 1970’s it became dominant worldwide and the main source of Intel’s revenues. It is estimated that the CTC consent Phil Ray gave me has saved Intel in otherwise due royalties over $1 billion.

I am neither an electronic engineer nor a computer scientist. I ventured into information technology in order to test my view that philosophy, being the only knowledge area that can integrate other knowledge areas, has unique problem-solving powers. My IT experience proved, to me, that it does.

A major application of computers is in Artificial Intelligence (AI). The computer is often compared to the brain. Electronic computers are faster and more accurate than biological brains. Yet, I found current AI has based empirically flawed comparison with brain function and it excludes the most productive problem-solving power of the conscious brain. As a result, the conscious brain performs problem-solving functions that the non-biological computer does not and cannot. I have identified some such innate cognitive problem-solving capacities. Their incorporation into current computational AI would vastly increase its scope and power. Conditions permitting I plan to publish my work in this area.

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