Microprocessors — BBC Horizon 1978




From the BBC Horizon series, this episode from 1978 about microprocessors.

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  1. I haven’t worked in silicon production, but I have to assume they automated a lot of the production so you don’t have to line up the layers by hand, etc. Was that where most of the failure originated, or was it the process itself? That is to say, did the automation decrease the failure rate from the abysmal 75%, or did it simply increase the volume produced?

  2. I doubt the lion’s share of failure was human-generated. Most likely it was due to problems with the materials: lack of uniformity, purity, etc. similar to the abysmal failure rate of optics before the advent of special synthetic glasses.

    Material scientists are sort of the unsung heroes of the modern age.

  3. That’s a good point, John. I’d forgotten all about the production of the wafers, etchants, and the like.

    Thanks for the video, by the way! It was really interesting to watch. Amazing how beautiful and hand-drawn the PCBs were back in the day, and how far the technology has come since then. (Am I correct in thinking that those implanted electrodes for the deaf have evolved into today’s cochlear implants?)

    It’s also amusing to see the predictions that haven’t come true, for example the bit about all of the word processors sharing the data using satellites. The internet kind of improved on that idea a bit.

  4. Thanks for sharing these videos! I too was amazed at all the ‘incorrect’ predictions. Several times they mentioned massive unemployment for the kids of “today” (i.e. 1978) due to loss of jobs from the evil new automation.

    Only one ‘expert’ mentioned business opportunities of creating new products with microprocessors, and there was no discussion of new industries that could be created. (Other than a mention that programming was a good skill to know.)

    It makes you wonder how many predictions by the ‘experts’ of today will be just as inaccurate, and miss the bigger picture.

  5. "word processors sharing the data using satellites" not come true eh?

    Err, how to I approach that one?

    The basic concept they where getting at was that machines would exchange data using a network. How in any shape or form can this NOT be the intertubes? You can’t knock them down just because they didn’t exactly predict that copper/fiber and not electromagnatism would be the primary conduit to transfer data.

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