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R > R2E  > MICRAL-N   


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)

Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).


If I had only one wish regarding a computer system for my collection, it would be the Micral. Unfortunately, I missed the auction in France where Paul Allen purchased a Micral. There are more in France and I am grateful for any tip / offer. I can be reached through my website.

Thursday 24th June 2021
Achim (Germany)

nitpick: it is not fair description to call the 8008 "8-bit 4004".
the 4004 was very limited intel in-house design, and not much was left from this - i think the 4040 and there the dynasty ends/

the 8008 was built to CTC instruction set, same as datapoint 2200, which was a reasonably capable processor. (interesting tidbit is that CTC also asked TI to build one, not just intel. they came up with a chip, and had samples, but very few people ever saw one, let alone a working circuit with one).
its weaknesses were the straight jacket of 18-pin package, and only 14 address bits, so only 16K.
the 8080 added a lot more than just the 40-pin package and 16 address lines, but it''s hard to argue that those were the main difference.

it is fair to say that the 8008 was closer to the 8080 which started the revolution than to the 4004/ i believe the instruction set of the 8008 is the foundation of the 8080, which was the foundation of the 8086, and all the way to the intel engine which still runs the world to this day.

Friday 16th August 2019
technology history junky

Later in life when Bull owned them there was a z-80 with either just floppy or floppy and hard drive... I have a catalog of an outfit surplussing a group of them in USA called DEALIN'' ELECTRONICS in Palo Alto. Date?
Ed Sharpe archivist for SMECC

Tuesday 7th November 2017
Ed Sharpe (az)


TYPE  Home Computer
ORIGIN  France
YEAR  1973
CPU  Intel 8008
SPEED  500 KHz
RAM  Unknown
ROM  Unknown
TEXT MODES  Depends on the connected video terminal
I/O PORTS  Parallel, Serial
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in power supply unit
PRICE  8,500 French Francs (about $1300)

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