The war of pocket computers in the 1970s - the beginning of the introduction of modern smartphones - Photo 1.
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Without a handheld computer race from the 70s, there will be no iPhone today


There is a saying that: "The computing power in the pockets of each person is much more than the machine that takes people to the moon"A joke but true. The main processor in the current iPhone XS is 5 million times faster than the Apollo navigation computer. But this statement has come true before the iPhone was released. long, thanks to the race to build computers since the early 70s of the last century.

Since the 1960s when the first electronic integrated circuits were developed and manufactured, it quickly created a turning point for reducing the size of computer boards, to be used for military purposes and to run. racing out of space with the Soviet Union. This time also saw computer chips being developed with more features, reducing both size and cost.

Pocket computers are the first type of consumer product to benefit from the development of these integrated circuits. And after a cycle of development, the early 1970s were a time when pocket computers began to enter adulthood, with rising demand and reduced costs due to competitive pressure. Not only is competition among companies, the pocket computer race also involves trade and technology war between the US and Japan during this period.

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In 1969, when humans were no longer interested in the race to the moon, the Great Calculator Race began. Instead of big, bulky computers, technology companies began to work on creating faster, lighter portable computers, such as the Japanese Sharp QT-8B Micro Competence launched in 1970. (At that time, people only dreamed about handheld computers instead of pocketing.)

The world leader in integrated circuit development, Americans fast Quick response. In 1971, they launched Hewlett-Packard's HP-35 faster. Its processor is capable of performing trigonometric calculations and exponential calculations. However, it is still slower than Apollo 200 navigation computers.

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Its successor, HP-65 achieved a bigger breakthrough. It uses magnetic cards to save and download programs, supporting up to 100 lines of code. Computer algorithms handle hundreds of different applications: calculations, stock prices, statistics, and many other applications. The bottom of the machine is also made thinner than the head so that it can fit into the pocket of the men's pants.

The HP-65 is also the first space-based pocket computer, when it was included in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a groundbreaking cooperation project between the US and the Soviet Union that marks the end of the race. space. The HP-65 was used as a standby computer for Apollo-guided computers – meaning that only six years after humans set foot on the Moon, a computer of the same power could fit in. pants pocket each.

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The HP-65 also marks the start of a new era, when silicon chips become cheaper and more popular. By 1978, the Speak & Spell computer looked like a toy made by Texas Instruments, which had the computing power of one-third of Apollo-guided computers. But it only costs 50 USD (equivalent to 191 USD today).

The pace of the race is getting faster, the device has more features, when in 1979, a pocket computer like the HP-41C could add peripheral devices such as barcode readers. , floppy drive and even a printer. Even this device is equipped with 9 space shuttle flying into space to perform basic calculations and make backup computers for the main computer on board.

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The Soviet Union also had its own programmable computer industry in the late 70s. The Elektronika B3-21 computer was launched in 1978 and was followed by the Elektronika B3-34 in 1980, which was cheaper (about 85 rubles, or $ 35 at the time, or 107 USD in 2018).

This is the first computer that many people in the Soviet Union can use and they write a lot of programs for it – from scientific software to business or adventure games. In 1985, science magazine Tekhnika Molodezhi also published a fiction story called "Way to Earth" that refers to using B3-34 to simulate the journey from the moon to the earth.

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One of the things that made Elektronika computers famous is "Еггоголо́гия" or "Errorology" (the study of computer errors). If you deliberately create an error message, then enter special commands, you can hack into the unreachable parts of the device. Discovering the inner parts of these computers helped Soviet developers develop their skills, and many older hackers in Russia started with the B3-34.

England also did not want to be left in this race. Although the Japanese are the place to bring the beginning of the term pocket computer – with the Sharp PC-1211 launched in 1980, using the BASIC programming language and equipped with a QWERTY keyboard and The full numeric keypad, England is the first country to create a device that is considered the first true pocket computer.

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In 1984, the British company Psion launched Psion Organizer I – the first pocket device with a processor at the same speed as the computer on the Apollo. In 1986, the Psion Organiser II was released, along with something today called an app – it has databases, diaries, alarm clocks and even user-written programs.

At that time, Organizer II was widely used in British department stores, Marks & Spencer and government officials, to calculate salaries for everyone. These devices are really pocket-sized computers with full functionality, not just regular number-click computers.

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By the end of 1975, the market was flooded with pocket computers with a range of different segments, from machines with four basic functions that cost only about $ 8, to versions for calculations. higher tier with a price of about 80 USD. Pocket computers are ready for a higher ladder.

In 1981, an article by Andrew Pollack in the New York Times began mentioning a computer small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, for entrepreneurs, to help them. "read messages, write or edit reports, access corporate files and send data to your company computer while on the go. "

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In the early 1990s, to send data to the office while on the road, pocket computers needed bulky connectors to send data over cables. For example, the Sharp Wizard OZ-7000 can connect to Windows computers, Macintosh computers or printers, and it can back up data using cassette tapes.

It was only a matter of time until the cell phones associated with the phone appeared, as a foreshadowing of the upcoming revolution. In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser at CERN, and it was published a year later. World Wide Web has launched.

Not long after that, the pocket computer market was divided into two ways. One trend is that palmtop devices, which are considered pocket laptops, have a lot of power and features but are compact, when the screen is only about 6-7 inches. Typical of this trend are devices like Atari Portfolio, HP 95LX with infrared communication capabilities. There is even a Pocket PC that can run MS-DOS, like Poqet PC, but it will have to stop the CPU between keystrokes to save energy.

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Another trend is less sophisticated devices for users, for example Casio's Digital Diary computer line. Instead of offering users super-sized PC computers, manufacturers pre-install some simple software tools on the device, such as calendars, contacts, and alarm clocks. The aforementioned Sharp Wizard is one of such devices.

Even so, the line of Psion Series 3 computers, the popular line of pocket computers in this period, seems to be standing between both. Launched in 1991, the Series 3 not only has pre-installed software, it also allows users to create their own programs. Now people start exchanging programs or shareware through the internet, and some of them still exist today.

The Psion Series 3 is considered the PDA or "personal digital assistant" – personal digital assistant – first. But the term only became famous thanks to a well-known brand: Apple.

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In 1992, Apple Computer CEO John Sculley introduced the Apple Newton MessagePad with a new term "personal digital assistant" (PDA). But Newton's new creations, including handwriting recognition and touch screens, are not enough to compensate for its expensive and poor performance. The only legacy it left behind is the term PDA – the kind of device that disappeared after 2000s before the rise of modern smartphones.

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Just a month after Apple introduced Newton, IBM also launched its own PDA prototype – codenamed Angler – at the COMDEX fair in Las Vegas. Besides the highlights of calendar, phonebook, notepad, touch screen and rechargeable battery, this device also has the ability to send and receive calls, faxes, emails and even spreadsheets. Then Angler launched in 1994 under the name IBM Simon. It was considered the first smartphone, and the term was also mentioned a year later by Bell Labs' Pamela Savage.

In the mid to late 90s, the smartphone clearly showed that it would be the future of pocket computers. But manufacturers take some time to complete their form factor, as well as have mobile internet speeds fast enough to connect data immediately.

The Nokia Communicator in 1996 is an example of this. It is equipped with a 9.6 kbit / s modem, web browser and business software including word processing software and spreadsheets. When it debuted it costed £ 1,000 (or $ 1,300) in the UK – the same price as the iPhone X 20 years later – but users still had to connect the dial up manually to access the web.

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The Communicator achieved success in Europe, but due to technical disagreements between Nokia and US carriers, the device never surpassed the Atlantic to reach the United States. Americans had to wait until 1998 when the smartphone revolution came, with Qualcomm's pdQ smartphone, the PDA could make calls.

Meanwhile the US market has got PalmPilot. In the mid to late 1990s, Palm's PDAs with a well-designed PalmOS operating system were very popular. One of its outstanding features is Graffiti – a feature that allows users to quickly abbreviate with a pen based on the given strokes. Even now, there are requests from users to support Graffiti features on Android and iOS.

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By the early 2000s, the diversity of the smartphone market reached its peak when witnessing companies with different platforms dominate the markets. NTT DoCoMo, for example, dominates the Japanese market with cheap internet access phones. Nokia's Symbian platform dominates the European market, while Windows Mobile and BlackBerry dominate the US market.

But after all it was only part of history, starting on January 9, 2007, when Steve Jobs stood on stage at the Macworld Conference & Expo in California and made the history of computing leave. bag with statement: "Today, Apple will reinvent the phone."

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Quartz reference



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