The Micral-N, introduced in 1973 and powered by Intel's 8008 chip, was the first commercial non-kit computer based on a microprocessor. It was conceived in France by François Gernelle and commercialised by a company called R2E in 1973. The term "microcomputer" first appeared in print in reference to the Micral-N.
The Micral-N was initially developed for the I.N.R.A. (French National Institute for Agronomic Research) which didn't had sufficient budget to buy the lowest "mini" at the time (Digital Equipment PDP-8).
The development began in July 1972, in a hut in Chatenay-Malabry (Paris suburbs), with F. Gernelle and 3 of his collaborators: Mr. Benchetrit (soft ingineer), Alain Lacombe (electrical technician) and Jean-Claude Beckmann (in charge of the mechanical). The first prototype was delivered January, 15th 1973!
Mr. Tuong-Tong-Ti arrived later to manage the company, but never influenced anything in the design (not enough knowledge).
The 8008 that powered the Micral was essentially an 8-bit 4004. It was originally intended to be a custom chip for Computer Terminals Corp. of Texas (later known as Datapoint). CTC rejected the 8008 because it was too slow and required too many supporting chips, but when Intel offered it to the open market, it was quite successful.
The Micral-N was working at 500 KHz, running approximately 50,000 instructions per second. It was set on a bus, did have a MOS memory, parallel and serial I/O cards, a real-time system. In one word, it had all the characteristics of nowadays computers. First systems were manufactured and sold at the amazing price (at the time) of 8,500 French Francs (about $1300)
Supposedly it was the first personal computer programmed by Philippe Kahn, founder of Borland.
R2E, which got under way the Micral-N, developed a whole series of computers based on the most powerful processors of the time: 8080, Z80, 8088, constantly adding improvements like monitor-keyboard in 1974, hard disk in 1975, etc. Every machine was managed by the SYSMIC monitor, which became PROLOGUE in 1978, a multitask system created in France too.
The last of this system was the Micral 20. After that, Bull, who had became the owner of R2E, joined MSDOS standard...
Picture and text parts, courtesy of Federation des Equipes Bull (Federation of Bull teams)