Once Upon A Time, HP Created The First Personal Computer

Ironic considering, you know. Their leaving the hardware game and everything. But back in 1968 — before they were the biggest computer manufacturer in the world — Hewlett Packard released the HP 9100A, the first mass-market PC ever.

At least, that's what the ads said. It was sold as a desktop calculator, largely to avoid comparison to the hardier, heftier IBM monsters of the day. And it was still weighed a sizable 18kg. It didn't have an alphanumeric keyboard. It was kind of a glorified adding machine. But it was powerful, capable of handling logarithmic and trigonometric functions with relative ease. Probably one of the reasons why it cost $US4900 at the time.

The 9100A was a product of a time when HP was still innovating. The company was barely 30 years old that year, and it would follow up their newborn PC with other firsts in personal computing. They didn't define the PC age in a way that IBM would with the 5150, but they coined the term. And it would seem unintentionally. That's something.

If only they still had that kind of luck, or the willingness to keep fighting the good fight. This should be a reminder. [Wired, HP]

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