Here is a thread from a recent exchange from the MidAtlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists (MARCH)
At 09:20 PM 10/6/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>> In my class I distinguish between microcomputing and microcomputers.
>> Clearly at MIT in the late 50's early 60's they were using the TX-0
>> Computer / Flexowriter for microcomputing. "Microcomputer" firsts
>> are, the more I research, detail points within the continuum and nothing
>Use of the term microcomputing prior to >the invention and use
>of the microprocessor may strike some >historians as a bit odd.
>Microcoding and microprogramming yes, >but not microcomputing.
>Subtle distinction. ; If you can >cite references for such a usage
>for microcomputing then go ahead and >make me look like an idiot.
I know what you're saying, but a processor does not a microcomputing system make.
What is my definition of microcomputing?
- single user system that can be operated by just one person
- system can be changed/adapted
- programming / configuration changes are implemented in real time (instantly)
"One person / One computer"
There were a select few, such as at MIT in the late 50's early 60's who were using single person computers (TX-0 and PDP-1) for no practical business purposes, just to hack and write code, play Space War, etc. The systems were huge, but their purpose was the same as home computers today - hack and do what you want.
Microprocessors made it easier for people to do micocomputing at home, but that does not mean that there was no one doing microcomputing before that, as I have defined it. Before "microcomputers" (single microprocessor computers) there were people using computers for microcomputing a-plenty. For example, take time sharing systems of the early 70's - with terminals and personal files saved on a common system, is this not microcomputing?
The Kenbak was a personal computer. Was the Kenbak not a microcomputer because it did not have a single microprocessor?
Are the future home "minicomputers" described by Ted Nelson is Dream Machines in 1973-74 actually microcomputers under a different name? In 1973-74 Nelson did not have knowledge of the term microcomputer, it had not yet been popularly coined. etc. etc.
Computer history is still being written/interpreted. I believe that future historians will not use the terms mainframe / minicomputer / microcomputer as rigidly as many do today. Instead, a focus on how a given system was being used / context of the environment will be more important. We need some new terms, we're starting to grow out of the hardware terminology.