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April 2, 1979: Microsoft’s first hardware was for Apple II
Posted by: pRICE cUBE
Date: April 05, 2020 11:03PM
[www.cultofmac.com]

April 2, 1979: Microsoft releases its first hardware product, a microprocessor card that plugs into the Apple II computer.
Coming several years before the first version of Windows, the Z80 SoftCard becomes a big hit for Microsoft. It lets the Apple II run programs designed for the CP/M operating system, a popular OS for business software.
Microsoft, the hardware company?
A straightforward plug-and-play peripheral for the Apple II, the Z80 SoftCard contained a Zilog Z80 CPU and the necessary “decoding circuitry” to read the signals on the Apple computer’s bus.

It allowed the Apple II to run much more business software, most notably the popular word processor WordStar, which required a Z80 CPU.

At the time of its introduction, InfoWorld magazine referred to the SoftCard as a “fascinating piece of hardware.”

“If you need a lightweight, portable Z80 computer, the Apple/SoftCard combination is a perfect pair,” the publication concluded.

Microsoft Z80 SoftCard is a hit
The $349 card (a hefty $1,000 by today’s standards) was, in some ways, a surprise hit for Microsoft. Coming packaged with Microsoft BASIC, it debuted at the West Coast Computer Faire in March 1980, before going on sale the following month. In its first three months, Microsoft sold 5,000 units — considered a big success at the time.




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Re: April 2, 1979: Microsoft’s first hardware was for Apple II
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: April 06, 2020 11:12AM
The Z80 board was revolutionary. And I watched one of the main Radar processor engineers start using it, and then adapting his own designs. To the point that for many years, the F-5 Radar systems that we built were all controlled by Z80 processors. And further, he also made processor boards for his older brother, who implemented this project: [en.wikipedia.org])

And amusingly he and his brother did kind of look like Judd Hirsch.
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Re: April 2, 1979: Microsoft’s first hardware was for Apple II
Posted by: Lew Zealand
Date: April 06, 2020 12:32PM
I had a Z80 card for my family's Apple //e, later moved to my IIgs so I could run Pascal. Not a MS product though as I probably got it in '85 or '86.
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Re: April 2, 1979: Microsoft’s first hardware was for Apple II
Posted by: Silencio
Date: April 06, 2020 12:36PM
I used to go to the West Coast Computer Faire every year. A fascinating trade show for a nascent industry. Wish I still had some of the Apple swag I picked up back in those days.

My dad contemplated getting a CP/M card for running WordStar, but he settled on some other word processing and spreadsheet options.
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