Home computer

Home computer was a common in the 1980s term for computers that have been used mainly in private households. By definition, it is with these devices in the strict sense of personal computers, with the home computer encloses the part of such equipment, which can be found in the lower price segment and were tailored more for entertainment purposes.

The development of the home computer was associated with the development of game consoles and computer games. Some home computer models, it was technically almost identical devices as game console, which only lacked the keyboard.

The beginnings

The first digital, programmable computer for home use was in 1949 by Edmund Berkeley, the founder of the ACM, presented relay host Simon. Simon consisted of only 50 relays. Commercially available was merely a blueprint for Simon, which sold in the first ten years of its availability over 400 copies.

The beginnings of the home computer in the modern sense are in the 1970s, considered by some California companies kits to hobby electronics hobbyist, but also the first final products were sold ( for example, the Altair 8800 by MITS ). These computers were often designed as single-board computer, or like the Altair already equipped with a slot system based on the S-100 Buses, where the user himself still had to get and configure components such as power supply and keyboard. The first three computers for home users and small businesses, which were not only sold as a kit, were the TRS -80 from Radio Shack, a chain of stores for radios, televisions and electronic components in the United States, the Apple II and Commodore PET 2001. Were all three in the April 1977 at the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show in Las Vegas, presented.

In 1979 appeared with the Atari 400, the first home computers on the market, containing custom chips, and thus the competition equipment was technologically advance. In the same year Texas Instruments built- in TI- 99/4 for the first time a 16- bit processor. The device, however, was only late available in Germany. In 1980 the ZX -80 came from Sinclair in the trade, 1981, the successor to Sinclair ZX81, soon after the ZX Spectrum. All three were based on the Z80 processor Zilog.

Because Apple in Germany high prices for his equipment required, they could not reach such a high market share in the U.S. in Germany.

Tandy TRS 80

Sinclair ZX80

Apple II

PET 2001

Atari 400


The technique of the first years

For mass storage, especially commercial compact cassettes (audio cassettes) have been used outside the United States, some with special called simple cassette recorders, in the case of C64 Datasette, partly normal music cassette recorder. Floppy drives, usually in the format 5 ¼ inches, it was usually as an accessory, which often met or exceeded the price of the basic unit. In the U.S., they were still more common than the slow, error-prone, and impractical cassettes. As a screen mostly served the TV rather than under a computer monitor, which is why of most home computer models slightly different PAL and NTSC models exist, depending on the television standard of the country of sale. The home computers were mostly equipped with a graphics chip and a sound chip and thus, represent simple graphics in the situation and to produce sounds. The first home computers used 8 -bit processors, in the great majority either the Z80 or 6502 derivatives, against the mid to late 1980s, these were displaced by 16/32-bit-Typen such as the Motorola 68000. The graphics and sound capabilities were more complex and the connection of hard disks and other PC peripherals was possible.

Operating system and BASIC as a programming language were often stored in ROM and formed a unity, so did not have to be loaded at startup, which is why most home computers are ready for use after power within a few seconds. With MSX was an attempt by Microsoft and Sony to standardize operating system and BASIC and to allow exchange of programs between computers from different manufacturers. The MSX standard was successful among others in South America and Japan, but could not prevail in Germany.

The 1980s

In the years from 1977 to 1980 the Apple II and the Apple clones dominated the market for so-called micro- computers in the United States. Both in the office use as well as home computers, he was the leading "personal computer". Outside the U.S., the market for microcomputers was still very small, which was connected also with the there much higher prices for such devices. In Germany, Commodore was the market leader, followed by Atari and Sinclair.

IBM, however, dominated the market for mainframe computers and mainframes; long time the company management had kept and neglected the new market of "personal computer" for not lucrative. 1981 changed this: In a very short time IBM developed on the basis of standard electronic elements own personal computer and threw it on the market, the IBM PC. After the contract had failed with the then leading provider of microcomputer operating systems, Digital Research, recourse was had to an offer from Microsoft, MS- DOS.

The market position of IBM made ​​sure that the IBM PC in the office quickly put - many companies wanted their computer systems from a single source and therefore ordered their PCs with the same provider from which their systems were larger.

The end of 1982 brought the Commodore C64 as a successor to the VC20 on the market. Due to its in comparison with the "professional" computers like the Apple II and IBM PC are much cheaper so-called " bread box " quickly became the best -selling home computer of all time. At about the same time, Sinclair Research marketed followed by ZX Spectrum with great success his two popular models ZX81. In contrast to these two Sinclair led last technically advanced machine that available since 1984 Sinclair QL ( " Quantum Leap " quantum leap ), only a pure niche in the computer market.

Atari In 1982, due to the growing pressure of competition with the XL series an internally only slightly modified version of the series 400/800er out. These computers were cheaper than their predecessors and largely software-compatible. Your sales figures were in Germany behind Commodore in second place.

In the years 1984 and 1985, licensed by Amstrad CPC series of the Schneider Computer Division ( a division of Schneider works ) in Germany was put on the market. The computers in this series have been very successful in Germany, the country of origin UK and particularly in France and Spain. The two models CPC 464 and CPC 6128 were announced in Germany in the years 1985 and 1986 respectively to the computer of the year.

Apple focused now after a few failures with new models, the avant-garde Apple Macintosh and won with this high-end range and in particular desktop publishing a leading position.

In 1985, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST but already a new generation of home computers on the market, who appeared in the then technological class. Both used processors from Motorola 68xxx series, which were also used in the Macintosh, and offered so far in the home unknown graphic options. Processor and Speicheraustattung could easily keep up with the top model of the IBM PC series, the IBM AT. Also new was the graphical user interface. When Atari ST, the "look and feel " strongly leaning on the Apple Macintosh, the Amiga was here more autonomy. Windows, however, was then still in its infancy; not an IBM - PC users came from without DOS knowledge.

In particular, the Atari ST achieved as a result of these advantages in conjunction with the competitive price in Europe soon high sales figures and was due to its high-resolution black / white monitor used in professional settings ( desktop publishing, accounting, secretarial, computer cash registers ). Through the built-in MIDI interfaces but he conquered primarily a leading position in the field of music.

From 1987, after the publication of inexpensive Amiga 500, the market share of the Amiga exceeded the sales of the Atari ST by far. The greatly improved graphics and sound output of the Amiga (compared to C64) made ​​the computer to an inexpensive computer especially for players, as well, that Commodore for the Amiga offered mainly color monitors. While Atari ceased production of computers in 1994, Amigas were produced until 1996.

At about the same time appeared the first Archimedes computer by the British company Acorn, which was based on 32 -bit RISC processors and thus his time was technologically far ahead. But he never reached a sufficient market penetration, the software market remained small. Until 1998, Acorn, however, had maintained the development before production ceased. The processors are then developed at Acorn, very advanced until today evolved as ARM architecture of the Acorn successor company ARM Limited and licensed to processor manufacturers such as Samsung. Almost all of today's smartphones and tablet computers such as the Apple iPhone and the devices Samsung Galaxy series, based on a processor with ARM technology.

Consolidation of the market

The market for home computers was fragmented into many not mutually compatible systems at the end of the 1980s. From the beginning until the mid -1990s was followed by a consolidation phase, after which no home computer in the strict sense were offered more - it won the under Microsoft Windows operating systems running, for IBM PC compatible personal computers and smaller proportions of the Apple Macintosh as well as in still smaller scale Linux computer, mostly using IBM PC - compatible hardware.

By the late 80s the older systems disappeared from the market, yet based on an 8 -bit architecture and the new 16 - or 32 -bit processors were failed in its larger address space. ( The 8 -bit systems usually had a 16- bit address space with a maximum of 64 KiB Ram, the 16 - or 32 -bit systems usually had a 20 -, 24 - or 32- bit address space, 20 -bit addresses allow up to 1 megabyte of RAM. )

Clear winners were first the Atari and Amiga systems. However, the companies involved made ​​a few entrepreneurial errors - including through neglect of the professional and of the U.S. market and unsuccessful focus on the European market - which ultimately resulted in the loss zone and prevented the advancement of technology.

Thus, the IBM PC had prevailed, the

  • Had taken the idea of the open system from the Apple II, that is, you could upgrade these systems due to present free slots by expansion cards ( eg graphics cards, sound cards). The competitors usually sat on the other hand, complete systems with only a few options for expansion.
  • Was reconstructed low and / or better thanks to open technical specifications of many manufacturers, as before the Apple II also; In contrast to the Apple II, these replicas were also legal, which promoted the use of replicas in business.
  • Insolvencies / entrepreneurial errors of individual companies do not risk the " ecosystem PC".
  • Had quickly achieved by the market power of IBM a large market share in the Office application; thus there were many software vendors interested in offering professional software for this system. The wide range of applications for office and home was already talking about the Apple II was the foundation of success.

After Microsoft was able to catch up ( ST and Commodore Amiga Family Apple Macintosh, Apple IIGS, Atari ) in the early 1990s not only the residue of the Windows interface compared to the operating systems of our competitors, but also aggressively promoted the development of games for its own operating system and hardware manufacturers promoted in the development of graphics and sound enhancements that made the based on the IBM PC "personal computer" at attractive entertainment devices, Windows quickly became the most popular operating system for personal computers, which thus " home computer in a broader sense " were.

In turn, the market power of Microsoft was strong enough that even the attempts by IBM and other hardware manufacturers to become more independent by developing their own operating systems failed; OS / 2 and other new developments barely reached the PC market, which had become as important for the development of the PC division as the application as office computer. Exception (especially in the U.S.) has been and Apple Mac OS with time. A not negligible proportion has also conquered the Linux architecture, and Mac OS is based on a Unix-like core.

Impact on the population

The home computer was the first programmable computer system that became widespread beginning of the 1980s in private households. Above all technically qualified people were fascinated by the new opportunities and began as a leisure activity to write programs. In schools it often succeeded in math and physics teachers to inspire their students for dealing with computers.

In addition to adult men also interested in young people, also predominantly male, for programming and computer games. A phenomenon of this period were the so-called " computer kids ", young people aged 12 to 16 years, developed through intensive engagement with the home computer knowledge and skills that surpassed those of their own parents' generation. Partly because of the initially low supply of finished software, the share of self- programmers among users was much higher, the percentage of users only much lower than today. The nascent computer magazines initially turned to a substantial part of the programmer. Therefore, many users acquired knowledge, today's home users of computers hardly attain. Young computer enthusiasts of this period were also the first hacker generation. The American movie Wargames (1983 ) presented this relationship in dramatic elevation dar.

Home computer in the former Eastern Bloc

In the Eastern bloc, a similar development of home computers as in Western Europe took place. Already popular before the turn, found in 1990, many western home computer their way to Eastern Europe, as they were much cheaper compared to PCs.


In the GDR, the home computer has been renamed to small computer when it became apparent that the domestic production could only cover the demand in schools and businesses. The small computer in the GDR were all based on the U880 as a processor, a replica of the Z80.

The first computers were the Polycomputer 880 and the LC80 (LC for learning computer). Which did not have a monitor port and were especially suited to learn the operation of a microcomputer. To display data segment displays were each integrated.

From the VEB Microelectronics " Wilhelm Pieck " Mühlhausen / Thuringia, the HC was 900 It was later sold as KC 85/2. Developments of this series were the KC 85/3 and KC 85/4.

Were also put in Dresden from the Kombinat Robotron the Z 9001, which was later sold as KC 85/1 and almost unchanged as KC 87.

Furthermore, there was a series of self-made computers whose plans were published in some magazines.

  • Z1013 Robotron from Riesa, kit, in which only the keyboard and power supply had to be connected
  • AC1, amateur radio computer from the amateur radio magazine
  • Ju -Te computer from the magazine Jugend Technology

1989/1990 Computer KC Compact and BIC A 5105, the latter were not intended as an educational computer for schools and vocational training, presented, but did not achieve widespread more.

Partially computers were also sent from the West as gifts from relatives in the GDR. The West German computer magazine 64'er informed several times about what was to be observed, and also allowed a paid by West Germans gift subscription to GDR citizens. However disk could not be sent because it was suspected propaganda material thereon. While audio cassettes were still reasonably available, floppy disks in the GDR were very hard to get and exorbitantly expensive. Western commercial software was practically not to get legal.

Soviet Union

  • Elektronika BK -0010


By further economic opening of Hungary, in contrast to the other countries of the Eastern Bloc Hungary had a greater number Commodore Plus4, which was used there as a school computer. In larger companies were often C64 to find, and even in wealthy individuals the possession of such a computer was not uncommon.