Scor­pio News


May 1989 – Volume 3. Final Issue.

Page 25 of 43

From The Horse’s Mouth

by John Marshall, Managing Director – Gemini Computer Systems Ltd, Chesham

In the autumn of 1976, in the course of one of my regular visits to our buying office in northern California I was introduced to my first microcomputer, a PCB assembly measuring approximately 8″ x 3″, with the improbable name of Apple!

That evening I was “dragged” off to a lecture hall at Stanford University, adjacent to the mile long particle accelerator which is sometimes visible from the air as one approaches San Francisco’s International Airport. The auditorium was filled to capacity with approximately 500 people anxiously awaiting the start of the evening’s activities.

I cannot remember the name of the individual who hosted the meeting, but I do remember being completely taken aback by the proceedings. The attendees were one of the scruffiest bunch of individuals I have ever seen, but the average IQ must have been sufficient for all of them to have qualified for membership of Mensa!

The meeting consisted, in part, of an informal exchange of comment on the various microcomputers that were owned by the audience. Representatives or founding owners of the fledgeling manufacturers were present and were, on occasion, left in no doubt of the misgivings some users had of their equipment. It should be remembered that this event predated the time when systems were boxed, supplied with keyboards and screens. All you had for $2000 was a PCB with a processor, a serial I/O device and – if you were lucky – 1KByte of DRAM!!!

To be quite candid I was stunned! I found it difficult to understand how people could spend that sort of money out of their tax-paid pockets on a small PCB assembly stuffed with a handful of ICs. However, those were the days when a 6509 or 8080 CPU cost in excess of $500 and the Z80 was just about to arrive on the scene.

I tried to dismiss the evening’s meeting from my mind, but somehow I felt that I had been privileged to have an insight into something that might just radically alter society within a few years.

On my flight home it occurred to me that there might be a market in the UK for something similar, albeit at a much more modest price. At that time one could purchase an SLR camera for about £200 and this seemed to be a reasonable target

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