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Q > Q1 CORPORATION > Q1 System   

Q1 System

Photograph of the desktop console of the world's first microcomputer system. It utilized the Intel 8008 single-chip microprocessor.

The computer system was developed and manufactured by Q1 Corporation. They delivered the first microcomputer system to the Litcom Division of Litton Industries in Melville, Long Island on December 11, 1972 (and a second system in February, 1973). In April 1974 Intel introduced the second-generation, single-chip 8-bit microprocessor, the 8080. Until then, Q1 systems were the only self-contained, general-purpose microcomputer systems in the world.

In 1973, two limited-purpose products that utilized the 8008 were introduced: In May 1973 Micral, in France, introduced a special-purpose process controller; and in the fall, Jonathan Titus offered the Mark-8, an 8008 assembly-kit for the hobbyist market (Titus 1974). Neither product was, nor intended to be, a self-contained, general-purpose computer system.

In 1973, Q1 microcomputer systems were installed in Europe (Germany) and Asia (Hong Kong).

The Q1 System remained the world's only self-contained, general purpose microcomputer system until Intel introduced the 8080 second generation microprocessor.

Apparently, Q1 also delivered some of NASA's computers.


Source: Daniel Alroy and his website

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I had one of these interesting systems, which I believe came from the National Enterprise Board (NEB) in the UK. Mine was a Q1 Microlite (manufactured between 1978 and 1980), with an 80 character x 8 character high quality, sharp orange gas plasma display. The Q1 range had excellent keyboards and distinctive orange gas plasma screens, housed in futuristic black and orange boxes. The branding extended to the file servers and printers. They were examples of pioneering industrial design, and quality workmanship. One strange quirk was that the workstation was very polite, displaying the message "Welcome to the Q1 microlite", and "Q1/Microlite at your service". Some thought and care had gone into the design and presentation of this quality computer. I was very fortunate to have a high specification file server, with a 10 Mb (7.29 mb formatted) four platter 8" hard drive, and a matching 2 Mb (1.2 mb formatted) 8 inch floppy drive. I was amused to find that the file server was fronted by two large red and green neon lights, like something from a 1960''s science fiction series. It took approximately 20-30 seconds to boot, and when the hard disc had reached the operating speed of 3,600 RPM, the green light illuminated, indicating it was online, and ready to boot the Q1 workstation. I taught myself to reset the workstation or start a cold boot after the file server had fully booted up from cold, after a few false starts. My model came with a rebranded NEC spinwriter printer, which is similar to a daisywheel but with an unusual thimble printing mechanism. Print quality was outstanding. Being a high end business computer, build quality was breathtaking compared to the 8 bit machines I used in the 1980s. I am not surprised that NASA used these computers and they were exported across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. When booting off the hard drive and communicating over the high speed (300 kb) 10-Base 2 coax network, it was a respectably fast machine. The Q1 had a distinctive boot sequence : it would boot from the floppy (if present), then off the hard drive, so it was advisable to remove the floppy disc before booting the file server. The 32K memory seemed to be the main limitation when editing large files in the EDIT editor. The Q1 appeared to page text in and out of memory, which was fine on the hard drive but less satisfactory on the 8 inch drive. I was impressed by the PL/1 compiler, a port from IBM System/360 mainframes. There was also a COBOL compiler. It must have been a huge challenge to fit these complex language compilers into a Z80 machine with a mere 32K of RAM. Finally, the quality of documentation was excellent, and they were quite speedy when connected to a dedicated Q1 file server (10 mb hard drive and 8 inch 1.2 mb floppy). I had to fashion up my own coaxial cable and solder in a T-piece terminator, but to my surprise it worked and booted up.

Monday 14th November 2022
Dan (UK)

I found a benchmark of the Q1 in an old Association of Computer Users magazine that was archived on the Wayback machine. The reference starts on page 126 of the following URL. The URL is

Thursday 29th September 2022
RangerCV4 (Canada)

I found an old report from NASA about a program they developed for the Q1 Lite. It lists sample commands and discusses how the Q1 processes the output of the program. Here is the URL

Thursday 29th September 2022
RangerCV4 (Canada)


NAME  Q1 System
MANUFACTURER  Q1 Corporation
TYPE  Professional Computer
YEAR  1972
KEYBOARD  teletype style console
CPU  Intel 8008
RAM  Unknown
ROM  Unknown
SOUND  Unknown
SIZE / WEIGHT  Unknown
I/O PORTS  Unknown
OS  Unknown
PRICE  Unknown

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