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I'm not sure it's a clean as that.

Mainframe computing was established by the late 50s, and mini-computing was just starting up. The market was already worth $billions by then. There were some prestige military projects - e.g. SAGE again - and a lot of DARPA funding for research. But the civilian market was already huge, with its own momentum.

Once TI introduced TTL logic in the early 60s, computers became a lot cheaper. At the same time a strong hobbyist culture fanned by magazines kept interest in technology running very high, so there was a steady stream of wannabe engineers with experience of digital techniques from their early teens.

Microprocessors were already being planned in the mid-60s. The biggest gap was between commercial computing and the microprocessor market, and that was bridged by developing a general purpose microprocessor and putting it into a commercial product - a dekstop calculator. It wasn't a military project.

Now you had hobbyist/hacker culture with access to microprocessors and a background of DARPA funded interface and networking research.

The rest was probably inevitable.

What's astonishing is how fast it happened. Most of the core ideas - laptops, databases, the web, GUIs and interactivity, distributed processing, networking, 3D graphics - appeared between 1958 and 1968.

There's been very little genuinely new since then. Most of what's happened has been faster and cheaper, but not so truly innovative.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 at 09:15:00 AM EST
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