Programming Note: This article was heavily revised for my Google+ Datapoint page but preserved here in it’s original version.
My first blog concerns the very first Intel compatible CPU board from a contract Intel signed in 1969 called the 1201. This is the TTL implementation done for the world’s first microcomputer the Datapoint 2200. It has four early production 3101 memory chips that provide an interconnect for external memory cards. Looks a lot like a PC motherboard to me!
Recently arrived in the lab is a Datapoint CPU board with 6947 date code on four blue memory slots each flanked by an Intel 3101 static memory chip – Intel’s first product from 1969. Fleetwood Mac was just climbing the charts when these babies were made.
In the first year of Intel’s operation memory chips were a priority over microprocessor design. The 3101 you see in the picture is Intel’s very first product having gotten done 8 months after the company’s founding. Intel then contracted with Computer Terminal Corp. to design a microprocessor called the 1201.
Two ex-NASA engineers at Computer Terminal Corp were fresh off a success with their 3300 terminal and wanted something with an “improved control unit” according to their business plan.
Enter Intel and Texas Instruments pitted in a battle to develop the world’s first 8-bit microprocessor. Both built the 1201 CPU for the Texans but in one of the biggest business blunders in history CTC did not secure the rights to the CPU for a mere fifty thousand dollars. They could have easily owned Intel at that point.
Instead the company rushed out our board in the pictures using TTL (transistor to transistor logic). It was actually quite fast. But thanks to the design’s inability to access memory directly through the blue “69” slots we have this stunning gold 3101 four-banger. The first x86 compatible in history.
Intel sent its main salesperson out into the field in the summer of 1971. He reported back that there was some tepid interest in the 1201 which Intel renamed 8008 to fit with the entirely incompatible 4004. But more on that later.