Source: Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 21st Edition by Scott Mueller (2013)


1973: The Micral is the earliest commercial, nonkit personal computer based on a microprocessor, the Intel 8008.

What exactly are these nonkit personal computers and how are they different from the regular ones?

  • 2
    A computer not built from a kit? – Cascabel Jan 31 '17 at 2:23
  • Well, you tell me. – Michael Rybkin Jan 31 '17 at 2:24
  • 3
    A computer not built from a kit. – Greg Lee Jan 31 '17 at 2:24
  • And what does that mean? What kind of kit? – Michael Rybkin Jan 31 '17 at 2:25
  • 1
    @Cascabel - Yeah, it's confusing. I wrote an "answer". – Hot Licks Jan 31 '17 at 4:26

The term "nonkit personal computer" appears to imply a computer that was, for its time, "complete" as it came "out of the box". Though it may have lacked what we might now consider "essential" pieces, such as a keyboard, it was presumably in one piece, fully assembled.

At that time you could buy, from various sources, "kits" of various degrees of completeness, including electronic parts, boards to assemble them on, maybe a case, maybe a power supply. Plus instructions, of one form or another. The Altair 8800, introduced in 1974, was one of the most successful computers in this category, and was the machine on which Gates and Allen first ran their BASIC interpreter which got Microsoft started.

However, there were earlier (and more primitive) kit computers. I don't recall any specifically, but likely Heath, the largest maker of electronic kits at that time, had several, ca 1973. These would have been quite a bit more limited, in terms of function and performance, than the Intel 8080-based Altair.

A little earlier (starting maybe 1970) there were many hobbyists who put their own systems together from individual parts, first building "CPUs" from scratch out of individual integrated circuits, then using the early Intel single-chip processors -- the 4004 and 8008 -- as the basis of the design. These were technically "nonkit", I suppose, but certainly not in the same sense as the Micral unit referenced by the OP. (They would have been referred to as "scratch-built" in the jargon of the era.)

  • 1
    @Cascabel -- What do you mean "don't"? I already did. But looking it up, I'm reminded that the Z-80 was a sort of clone (released in 1976) of the Intel 8080, cheaper and "souped up" in some regards. Not terribly relevant to the above question, but certainly a big part of the history of the era. – Hot Licks Jan 31 '17 at 4:32
  • Yeah, when I remembered it came out in 76, I deleted the comment. I only go back to the 8080A, myself. – Cascabel Jan 31 '17 at 4:34
  • 1
    Here is Wikipedia's description of an early kit, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COSMAC_ELF, that I built. It was a kit because you had to assemble it yourself, though the design and parts list were all worked out in a Popular Electronics article. Places that sold such parts to hobbyists advertised in the back of the magazine. – Greg Lee Jan 31 '17 at 4:49

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