1983 First microcomputer lab:  HP125s

During the 1982-83 academic year, a manager approached me from the UC Extension (UNEX) indicating that they wanted to offer classes on CP/M and VisiCalc -- a major operating system at the time and THE killer app that is considered responsible for launching the microcomputer into the business world (footnote).  UNEX didnít have space for their lab and proposed that if GSM would provide space, they would provide the computer and daytime access for GSM students as all their classes ran at night.  A deal was struck and so the first minicomputer lab running CP/M, VisiCalc and Word Star was launched.

In spring 1983, 20 HP125 systems were installed.  These use 5.25-inch floppy disks, including a boot-disk (no hard disks on these systems).  A couple of printers were set up on separate machines reserved for printing.  A check out desk was set up where student got the operating system and application disks, which they returned at the end of their session.

My spring offering of Mgmt 404 had a VisiCalc assignment, requiring the students to do a simple spreadsheet analysis.  However, the students saw the value in the word processing programs as well, and immediately began using the HP125s to support their full range of activities.  Training workshop on use of Word Star became quite popular ? the students had found that a word processor was a fabulous way to do resume production.

The GSM/UNIX HP 125 lab was used extensively for the next two years.  However, a growing tension emerged as GSM students did not want to leave at the 5:00 bewitching hour.  This issue was resolved with the award of the 1985 IBM Management of Information Systems (MoIS) grant:  GSM asked UNEX to leave the space as it was to become part of an extensive computing facility to support the grant.

Footnote: VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program and drove the demand for personal computers.  It was truly the first killer-app.  It was created by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, a couple of MBA students at Harvard Business School in 1979. It was replaced by Lotus 1-2-3 a few years later, and then again by Microsoft Excel a few years after that. Visit VisiCalc: Information from its creators for more history of this extremely important first kipper-app.

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November 1, 2002