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This Week in Tech History: Phonograph, Washing Machine, Personal Computer & More

The personal computer has come a long way in the last three decades. Chris reminds us of its introduction to the market, as well as other milestones, like NASA's first successful communications satellite in this edition of This Week in Tech History.

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This week in 1876 – Thomas Edison of Menlo Park, NJ patented the mimeograph machine. He described it as a method of preparing autographic stencils for printing. We don’t use mimeographs much these days, thanks to paper copiers and computers. The mimeograph worked by first creating a master which was placed on a large rotating drum. A purple ink would then print out on paper.

Just one year later in 1877 – Edison finished figuring out his first phonograph. He handed the model of his invention to John Kreusi with instructions on how to build it. Kreusi bet the inventor $2 and said that there was no way that the machine would ever work. He lost the bet.

1910 – Alva Fisher of Chicago, IL received a patent for an invention that moms, grandmas and single guys certainly came to appreciate: the electric washing machine. Previous to Fisher’s invention, washing machines were cranked by hand — or you used a washboard

Kreusi bet the inventor $2 and said that there was no way that the machine would ever work. He lost the bet.

1960 – Echo 1A, NASA’s first successful communications satellite, is launched. This large, metalized balloon was used to bounce microwave signals from one point on Earth to another.

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1981 – IBM introduced the personal computer with their 5150 model. The IBM PC ran on the Intel 8088 microprocessor at 4.77 mHz. It had 16 kilobytes of memory, no built-in clock or video capability — it was available however, with an optional color monitor. Prices started at around $1,500. The IBM PC was a smashing success and IBM quickly became the #1 microcomputer company, dropping Apple to #2.

1984 – IBM released PC-DOS v3.0 for PC/AT. Remember those AT machines? A 286 processor, 20meg hard drive and 256kilobytes of RAM for somewhere between $6000 and $9000. Ah yes, those were the days.

Written by Chris Graveline

Chris has covered consumer technology for over 20 years. He is the host of This Week in Tech History as well as a regular co-host on "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" and our Technical Director.

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