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Datapoint 2200

The Datapoint 2200 was a programmable terminal released by Computer Terminal Corporation in June 1970. (Some accounts say it was released sometime in 1971.) Intended simply to be a versatile, cost-efficient terminal for connecting to a wide variety of mainframes by loading various terminal emulations from tape rather than being hard-wired as most terminals were, users suddenly realized these programmable terminals could be programmed to perform other tasks as well. CTC thus inadvertently invented what is generally accepted to be the first personal computer.

Designed by Jack Frassanito, the Datapoint 2200 had a keyboard, monochrome monitor, and two tape drives. Its size and shape approximated that of an office electric typewriter. An optional 8-inch floppy disk drive was available, and in late 1977, networking through ARCnet became available. The original Type 1 2200 shipped with 2 kilobytes of memory, expandable to 8K. The Type 2 2200 used denser 1 kbit RAM chips, giving it a default 4K of memory, expandable to 16K. Its starting price was around $5,000.

Aside from being the first personal computer, the Datapoint 2200 has another connection to computer history. Its original design called for a single-chip microprocessor for the CPU, rather than a conventional processor built from discrete TTL modules. In 1969, CTC contracted two companies, Intel and Texas Instruments, to make the chip. TI was unable to make a reliable part and dropped out. Intel was unable to make CTC's deadline. Intel and CTC made a deal where CTC kept its money and Intel kept the chip.

CTC released the Datapoint 2200 using about 100 discrete components instead of a microprocessor, while Intel's design, eventually designated the Intel 8008, was finally released in April 1972.