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1980s Computers Explanation of terms
Notes


The Micral


Micral N
(Some versions had a simpler front panel.)

Manufacturer

R2E (Réalisations d'Études Électroniques) (France)

Model

Micral (or Micral-N)
(Means 'small' in French)

Date Launched

May 1973

Price

8500 french francs
approx £1000

Microprocessor type

Intel 8008 @ 0.5 MHz
The first 8-bit microprocessor and forerunner of the 8080 and Z80.

ROM size

Not known

Standard RAM

2 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

16 kilobytes
The 8008 could only directly address up to 16KB.

Keyboard type

None as standard.
Programmed via toggle switches on the front panel.

Supplied language

Originally only programmed in binary machine code using a monitor program in ROM.
In 1974 an assembler was produced.

Text resolution

Just lights on the front panel initially.
A video terminal with keyboard was optional from 1974.

Graphics resolution

No graphics

Colours available

Monochrome with a video display.

Sound

None

Cassette load speed

No cassette interface.
A disk drive was sold from 1975.

Special features

Available fully-built and ready to run instead of as a kit.

Good points

Relatively large memory for the time.
Had serial and parallel ports for interfacing.
One or two 'Pluribus' expansion buses allowed up to 11 expansion cards to be fitted to each.

Bad points

Like most early computers it was difficult to program, without a keyboard or display.

How successful?

About 500 Micral Ns were sold in 1973, and maybe 2000 in total, almost all in France.
The majority went to industrial and government users as automated controllers, rather than to home enthusiasts.
It seems that R2E sold around 90,000 of all models of the Micral series.

Comments

Although the Micral is little-known, it has a good claim to being the first personal computer.
The Micral was the first commercially sold, ready-built 'cheap' computer using a microprocessor, and one of the first to which the term 'microcomputer' was applied.
It was designed by François Gernelle, working for Thi Truong (from Vietnam) of R2E. Philippe Kahn, who went on to found Borland, developed software for the Micral.
R2E produced several further versions of the Micral, including the Micral G with up to 64KB of RAM, the Micral S based on the 8080 processor, and later models using the Z80 and 8088 processors as they became available.
In 1979 the Micral design was sold to the French company Bull, who in 1980 released the Micral 80/22, a Z80, 64KB, CP/M desktop machine.



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