The first microcomputer, the Micral.
The first microcomputer, the Micral. (GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

The microcomputer, that is to say a computer which does not occupy an entire room but which fits in a box that can be placed on a desk. The microcomputer owes its appearance to another invention dating from 1971: the microprocessor, developed by the Californian company Intel. In the early 1970s, the very first microcomputers were sold in kits. You have to arm yourself with a soldering iron to make them. Only enthusiasts buy them. Then, assembled machines appear, ready for use.

Little known fact: the very first microcomputer sold assembled is French. This is the Micral, developed by François Gernelle of the M2E company. We can therefore say that the very first microcomputer is French. Next is the American Altair, which will truly launch the boom in microcomputing. However, using a computer back then was no easy task: there was no screen or keyboard. You have to program it in machine language with switches and monitor the small lights that come on on the front.


They appeared from 1975/1976. It was initially the Apple I, the very first Apple brand computer. It is not really ready to use, because you have to add peripherals to it, but all the components are already soldered on the motherboard, by Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, who manufactures himself , by hand, the 200 copies. Then come the Apple II, the TRS 80, the Commodore PET …
So many names that smack of nostalgia. Until the IBM PC computer in August 1981, 39 years ago.

IBM is entering this market without believing it, just to occupy the ground. And it turns out that the PC will become a standard that will spread throughout the world with the help of Microsoft, which provides the software for these first machines. It must be remembered that these early computers were of particular interest to small businesses, which could not afford large IBM machines,
And then, it is also a toy for enthusiasts. Passionate people who are the first to understand that this incredible tool will change the world.

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