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Z80 SoftCard, Microsoft’s first {hardware}, debuts

April 2: Today in Apple history: Microsoft Z80 SoftCard, the company's first hardware, debuts on Apple II April 2, 1980: Microsoft releases its first {hardware} product, the Z80 SoftCard. A microprocessor card that plugs into the Apple II, it permits the pc to run packages designed for the CP/M working system, a well-liked OS for enterprise software program.

Coming a number of years earlier than the first model of Home windows, the Z80 SoftCard shortly turns into a giant hit for Microsoft.

Microsoft, the {hardware} firm?

An easy plug-and-play peripheral for the Apple II, the Z80 SoftCard contained a Zilog Z80 CPU and the required “decoding circuitry” to learn the indicators on the Apple laptop’s bus.

It allowed the Apple II to run far more enterprise software program, most notably the favored phrase processor WordStar, which required a Z80 CPU.

On the time of its introduction, InfoWorld journal referred to the SoftCard as a “fascinating piece of {hardware}.”

“Should you want a light-weight, transportable Z80 laptop, the Apple/SoftCard mixture is an ideal pair,” the publication concluded.

Microsoft Z80 SoftCard is successful

The $349 card (the equal of greater than $1,200 in 2022) was, in some methods, a shock hit for Microsoft. Coming packaged with Microsoft BASIC, it debuted on the West Coast Pc Faire in March 1980, earlier than happening sale the next month. In its first three months, Microsoft offered 5,000 items — thought of a giant success on the time.

In truth, the Z80 SoftCard shortly grew to become Microsoft’s No. 1 income supply. And it remained the corporate’s most profitable product till Microsoft launched a mouse in 1983.

Microsoft continued its involvement with Apple as a developer for the subsequent few years — albeit more and more in software program. By the mid-Eighties, Microsoft grew to become one in every of Apple’s most precious builders. A lot in order that Apple CEO John Sculley signed a harmful contract to maintain Invoice Gates and Co. hanging round.

After which comes Home windows …

By the tip of the Eighties, Microsoft achieved nice success with Home windows. The PC working system proved so fashionable that Microsoft challenged Apple within the market.

Over the subsequent 20 years, Microsoft’s software-based enterprise mannequin dominated the tech trade, eclipsing Apple’s own-everything-we-make method.

Lately, Microsoft accelerated its {hardware} push with its Floor lineup, producing tabletop computer systems, laptops, hybrid tablets, dual-screen Android gadgets and even touchscreen whiteboard.



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