[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Transistor

June 2nd, 2008 by Benj Edwards

RCA Transistor Ad - 1953The transistor — need I say more?

Let’s give a big round of applause to the electronic component that made our current computer revolution possible: the transistor. Here’s an advertisement from RCA touting the benefits of solid state transistor technology from a time when it was still novel. 55 years later, we’d be cramming 300 million of these onto a single piece of silicon smaller than a penny. And Microsoft Word still runs slowly.

[ From Scientific American, April 1953 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What was your first computer’s CPU clock speed?

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13 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Transistor”

  1. Giovani Zancan Says:

    A 166 MMX Pentium was my first computer ever; back in the day you could boot the latest Windows (95 in this case) in something around 15 seconds…
    But yeha, Word killed it, I remember it being as slow as some 3D games from the day ^^’

  2. Layne Says:

    First device capable of running multiple programs (ROMs in this case): MOS 6507 @ 1.19 MHz [Atari 2600]

    First device that had a keyboard and could run “anything”: MOS Technology 6510 @ 1.02 MHz [Commodore 64]

    First device that was IBM PC compatible: Intel 80286 8 MHz / 12 MHz switchable [I don’t remember the brand, but it wasn’t one of the big ones and it isn’t still around today; bought from Sears and I’d know it if I saw it]


  3. WanderingTaoist Says:

    My very first PC was 486 DX of 66 MHz. With its 4 megs of memory I was king of the hill. I had all the optional (at that time) equipment for it: mouse, joystick (more important for gaming than mouse at that time), soundcard. Later I bought 8 more megs of RAM for it and a lightning-fast 4x CD-ROM. Oh yeah, and it had 80 megs of HD – that was a space for lots of games at that time…

  4. Dave Says:

    I also started with a 2600, but first ‘real’ computer was a Tandy 1000 with a 2 MHz (I think) 8088. And it only cost me $2000!

  5. Psittacine Says:

    It’s interesting that the advertisement is trying to sell the very concept of the transistor. I suppose the add seems odd to me just because I have the benefit of hindsight. I mean, it seems that the whole ad could consist entirely of:

    Q: What is this?
    A: A miracle. Buy a ton of them.

    As for my first computer, it would be a 1MHz 6502 in an Apple II+. Of course, that was a family computer. The first machine I actually owned had an 8 MHz 286 if I remember correctly.

  6. Jurgi Says:

    1,78 MHz (Atari 65XE). And my wordprocessor worked great. 🙂
    Damn, probably my (cheapest one) MP3 player has bigger computation power now. 😀

  7. Kitsunexus Says:

    LOL I’m going to work the phrase “I TRANSIST!” into everyday conversation. Great RSOTW as always, Benj!

  8. Chris Says:

    1,77Mhz Z80 in a TRS80 Model 1, but that was my father’s. My first very own machine was an XT Clone with something around 8Mhz.

  9. Rob Says:

    1.77MHz Z80 in a Video Genie EG3003, a clone of the TRS-80. Started with 16KB RAM and 12KB ROM.

    Later expanded to 64KB RAM, external system bus with floppy disks (35 track single sided single density, 80KB on a floppy), and later even put CP/M on that machine. Overclocked with a better CPU to 5MHz or so..

  10. Ghazban Says:

    0.895mhz (TRS-80 CoCo)

  11. JimUlrich Says:

    Packard Hell 486 DX2 66 MHZ

  12. Geoff V. Says:

    Apple II with something like 1,000,000 Hz it was the king of my living room. Good bless it, that machine is still working today.

  13. ErikC Says:

    The first computer I ever bought was a Northgate Slimline 386 20MHz with a 100 MB hard drive (but the drive had to be partitioned into 4 logical drives of 25 MB each because DOS couldn’t address the whole physical drive!). I think it had 1 MB of RAM. The machine cost $3,184.00. After 18 years, I still have the (totally awesome) Northgate keyboard.

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