In the very late 1960's, 2 professors at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio came up with the idea of a high density integrated circuit which would be
programmable. Its purpose would be to a programmable/adaptable physical
interface. They took this circuit design to various IC manufacturers and were
turned down by all of the existing IC manufacturers. The reason? The chip was
too specialized and would never have enough widespread applicability to be
financially worth developing.
Having failed to convince any IC manufacturers, but still believing in the concept these 2 professors pressed on and went looking for manufacturers who would have an application for the new chip. They found such a firm in Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC), which made a variety of lower cost computer terminals which were compatible with the various computer companies. CTC was interested in the chip because it presented a way to make one terminal that could be programmed to behave like and handle the protocols of a variety of different computer manufacturers. [This was the days of Snow White (IBM) and the seven dwarfs: Sperry, Burroughs, Honeywell, GE, Control Data Corporation....] CTC agreed to pay two different chip makers to produce the chip. Both chip makers decided to use a new technology, called PMOS, to produce the chip. CTC agreed to the use of the new technology, but was concerned about speed to market, so they set a time limit on the chip delivery. Skip ahead a year or so.
Both chip makers have encountered new technology problems with PMOS and have failed to meet the CTC deadline. So the contracts are canceled and CTC builds the chip via discrete TTL logic and puts it into a programmable desktop terminal
called the Datapoint 2200.
One of the chip makers, Texas Instruments, shelves the project. The other chip
maker determines that they are approximately 85% complete on the project and
that while the project will never break even, it will cost less to finish the
chip, put it on the market and recover some of the costs. They do this and
about a year later, a bell goes off in the financial department. The chip,
called an Intel 8008, has broken even and is now making a profit. So the chip
manufacturer, Intel, goes on a field trip to visit customers who are buying the
chip, to find out what it is being used for. In so doing, the customers have
lots of suggestions on ways to improve the chip, which Intel does and thus the
Intel 8080 is born.
In the meantime, back at CTC, they have introduced the Datapoint 2200 to the
market. It becomes an extremely successful product. So much so, that CTC
changes it's name to Datapoint Corporation. They go on to invent another new
technology to connect all of their low cost computers together. It was called
a Local Area Network (LAN) and was the most popular LAN until around 1980.
While the initial Datapoint 2200 did not have a microprocessor in it, it had
the programmable equivalent of an Intel 8008 and it funded the initial
development of the first microprocessor. Thus it is the first microprocessor
The Datapoint 2200 had a small built in CRT screen, keyboard and 2 cassette
decks. There was a run light and 2 other lights on the keyboard. When the
machine halted, you could not tell where in the program it had done so. So you
put in the O/S cassette and rebooted. You then did a memory dump and tried to
deduce what had went wrong. Primitive by today's standards, it was the first
computer on a desktop.
There were also an optional disk drive using Shugart 8" floppies, single-sided, single-density. It was the first commercial computer to include them! Languages included Databus and Datashare ("COBOL-like" business computer languages, interpreted to allow multiple 80 character by 24 row dumb CRTs to share tiny partitions of RAM memory in the main system unit), a Basic interpreter, and RPG II compiler.
Datapoint is still in business, but is only a small fraction of their size in the mid 1970's
Thanks to Tom Meserole for all this info. He started programming DataPoint 2200 systems in 1972 while in college!
We are seeking information and pictures of all other Datapoint systems!