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Brochure: K-Way Gallery: Homage to the Software Revolution
BasicNet 24/12/2010 

visualizzazioni  467

1975 - 1985

In the digital era, innovation occurs when art and technology are put together;  the great model is Leonardo da Vinci, the most important exponent of the union between humanism and science. In 2019, 500 years will have passed since his death. We have little time! Let’s put  together the heredity of his interdisciplinary work.  Let’s try to unite: scientists with artists,  technicians with creatives, computer experts with philosophers. That goes beyond the individual skills! Starting from here, from Artissima, because now is the time to do this because this is the land that could succeed, as in the Renaissance, in this difficult task. Keep on with specializations and languages (often cryptic) of individual disciplines, coming back to a dialogue between the different disciplines, trying to force ourselves to understand each other, the different, the distant.
Information technology can be the common language, mainly because it is universal, neutral and then because it is aimed at sharing. Therefore, we can watch, shown in this tiny exhibition, the computers which in ten years - between the 1975 and 1985 - have irreversibly changed the way we live: those are the seeds  of what will become the fruits of the new renaissance. Where art, technology and science will touch creating beauty.


January 1975. On the cover of the review called Popular Electronics the following incredible news appeared: “Project breakthrough! World’s First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models...” This was actually referring to the ALTAIR 8800, invented by Ed Roberts, the first computer in history that was designed using just one microprocessor (Intel 8080) and whose market price was really affordable: single parts could be purchased at only 395 Dollars whereas the price of the assembled version was equal to 495 Dollars. It was somehow new: thousands of amateurs and informatics addicted, mainly young people, were flashed by such news.
A lot of them reserved and bought the machine, whereas others started wondering about the potentials of that machine being programmed. Among that group, Bill Gates – a nineteen year old boy, together with his friend Paul Allen wrote the first BASIC programme, setting up Microsoft, and starting the software industry. The revolution of 1975 led not only to revolution in technology but also to revolution in society. ALTAIR did not offer great opportunities: no keyboard and no monitor were provided, but its success on the market showed that the world was ready for the age of personal computers.


Apple-1 was named the “Holy Grail” of modern informatics. It was a kind of dream machine for many people, hard to find and even more to get. In 1976 only 200 units were produced (150 were withdrawn from the market) and today, on the whole planet, only a few units of exemplars are traceable. The myth of Apple-1, went beyond its limited production: its historical importance lies in the technology that his young inventor Steve Wozniak, then assisted by Steve Jobs, introduced during its project step, in the first months of 1976.
As a matter of fact, despite being sold as a simple motherboard with assembled microprocessors (MOS 6502), a 4 KB RAM Memory, a ROM and few other components, Apple-1 was the first computer in history to be provided with a connected monitor and keyboard. That was definitely a revolutionary change in perspective: by simply using these two devices, for the first time, users could quickly and friendly interface the machine.


At the end of 1976 Steve Jobs first realized that the domain of informatics was entering a new age.
Despite Apple-1’s excellent sales figure, Jobs decided not to sell it on the market anymore, asking his friend and partner Steve Wozniak to design a new machine.
The young U.S. businessman was convinced that besides being just a hobby, computers could create a new type of market, devoted not only to DIY electronics but also to programming and developing potentials. After some months, on April 16 - 1977, the Apple II was presented, Jobs insisting on it being compact and coming in an appealing plastic case.
The Apple company was the first to exit standard circuits and to present its products on magazines and best selling newspapers, using the slogan: “Apple II is the computer that’s ready to work, play and grow with you”.
In July 1978 Apple presented a floppy drive where data could be saved and stored, whereas in February 1979 the first management software for the new machines was introduced on the market, its name was VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program (similar to Excel) which became popular in the offices all over the world.


People who worked in the domain of informatics between the end of 70s and the beginning of 80s, got familiar with the following statement: “Until IBM was not directly involved in the market of personal computers, this technology was considered secondary and not seriously effective”. On August 12 – 1981 the giant of U.S. informatics introduced its first compact machine.
That was the moment when also the most sceptical people had to admit that the world of informatics was entering a new age, passing from the age of big to the one of small processors. Model 5150, known as IBM PC, is currently considered as the father of a software dominating powerful family, the one of PC and compatible PCs. Such machines were Intel microprocessor based, opposed to Macintosh machines. Microsoft was the company that most benefited from IBM’s appearance on the personal computer market, as Bill Gates signed a supply contract for MS-DOS, IBM’s operating system. Only in the first year IBM, thanks to its extremely organized business network, sold 200,000 units.
In 1984 IBM launched its first portable, a 5155 monitor provided model, with two floppy drives and an integrated keyboard. Its whole weight almost reaching 14 kilograms.


Commodore 64 (known as C64) was the best selling model of personal computer throughout history.
Produced from 1982 to 1993, it sold over 2 million units on a year basis. As of today, the C64 stands as a symbol for all young people who lived in 80s. Anybody played and/or programmed at least once, using a C64 computer.
This figure would be enough for this machine to be counted as a star in the sky of informatics, but C64 was also a newly conceived machine, above all for its light weight, easy use and basic programming. Similar to its VIC20 predecessor, out in 1981, the C64 business outcome was due to the outstanding marketing strategy it was distributed through.
For the very first time, computers were sold in supermarket, discount stores and toy shops.


At the very beginning of the software revolution, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was the first European computer to be seen as a business competitor of U.S. products, made by Apple and Commodore. This tiny technology advanced jewel was more affordable, light in weight and extremely compact vis-Ă -vis its similar competitors. Similar to the C64 and the Apple II, the Spectrum could process colourful graphic designs and sounds, providing the BASIC language to people playing and programming activities.
The Spectrum was not Sinclair’s first personal computer; as a matter of fact at the beginning of 80s, the above mentioned British company, working in the domain of electronics, launched the ZX 80 (1980) and then the ZX 81 (1981), two special and innovation based machines. But it was only thanks to 1982 Spectrum that Sinclair’s company reached an incredible success selling millions of computers all over Europe.
The British company differed from its competitors also for the use of new original devices, such as ZX Microdrive units: data storage systems on tape, similar to the Stereo 8, being very popular in those years.


128k Macintosh is the father of the popular well known Apple family, still on the market and known as Mac. This very first model which was launched in 1984 marketed by Ridley Scott’s advertising campaign, is at the basis of the philosophy of future coming models: great care in its design, not superfluous elements, efficient operating systems and a great power of elaboration. 128k Macintosh was offered in an elegant case, with monitor and disk (all-in-one). Cables are few and well marked so that users cannot confuse them. Moreover Jobs wanted this computer to be quite, with no cooling fan system, as he considered silent machines to be modern. Similar to the Lisa machine, Macintosh offered a window and cursor based operating system (MAC OS) to be simply operated by a mouse, perfectly exploiting a 128 KB RAM, two times more powerful than the one of its competitors on the market. Thanks to a more affordable price vis-à-vis the Lisa, equal to about 2,500 Dollars, the Macintosh machine turned out to be a success, and millions of units were sold. At the highest production peak, a computer unit was manufactured every 27 seconds.


All personal computers would be useless (hardware) units unless being provided with the right software. In 1975 Bill Gates actually understood this idea, eventually founding the Microsoft company and producing the first operating systems and programmes for personal computers. The first were based on ‘string command’ operating systems: users had to know a kind of language to interact with the machine. At the beginning, the DOS (Disk Operating System) by Apple, Microsoft and Digital Research shared the market. In 1981, by signing the contract with IBM,  Microsoft won over its competitors, thus becoming a synonym for the concept of software. 
In 1985 the Microsfot Windows was launched: it was a graphic  interface allowing a more immediate interaction with the machine by using a mouse, a cursor and windows. Apple, claimed for its creation: as a matter of fact a similar system, MAC OS, was presented few years before on the Lisa (1983) and Macintosh (1984) machines. Microsoft and Apple’s rival positions started and developed in this very period. From that moment on software – operating systems, programmes and games –  increasingly gained importance in the domain of informatics, only in the latest years, thanks to the new multitouch technologies,  hardware is achieving a more centered position, even if software programmes (now named “App”) are actually pulling the market and attracting users.

AFTER 1985

Second half of the Eighties.  Mac and above all the IBM compatible/Windows succeeded in controlling the market of personal computers, making all other brands disappear.
End of the Eighties. Telematics was increasingly introduced and used, by exchanging data between computers using phone wires. Internet started to appear. 
- 1991 Tim Berners-Lee from CERN introduced HTTP: the HyperText Transfer Protocol. The World Wide Web, started as a scientific community tool and then from 1993, it was opened to all users.
- 1994 Nescape Navigator, the first graphic browser in history entered the market. Browsers being used to visualize the contents of web sites.
- 1995 Internet Explorer entered the market, being Microsoft’s response to the success of the Netscape Navigator browser. In the same year Microsoft launched  Windows 95.
- First Zero Years. Thanks to the creation of  Wikipedia (2001), Facebook (2004) and Youtube (2005) the Web 2.0 was born. Users took an active role in sharing information and knowledge on the web.
- 2010 Apple launched the iPad, a new generation of personal computers, more oriented to digital surfing and entertaining, with a new multi-touch based interface. 


idmedia: 103958

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Brochure: Omaggio alla Rivoluzione Informatica
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