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A Chronicle of ERP Software History Pt. II

Editor’s note: This post by Derek Singleton of Software Advice reviews more extensive work at: Enterprise Software History, Part 2: Minicomputers to the PC.

A while back, I kicked off a series recounting the history of ERP software. In my first post I covered the time spanning from punched cards to the mainframe. If you’ll remember, the unveiling of UNIVAC I gave birth to the “big iron” industry and the spread of mainframe computers that took up an entire room and team of operators to control. While the spread of mainframes constituted great technological innovation, the prohibitive financial and labor investment of the mainframe left computing capabilities largely in the hands of the enterprise. For the next part in my series, I’d like to cover a bit of the history of how we shifted from the mainframe to the PC.

In the late 1960′s and early 1970′s the dominance of mainframes and supercomputers started to give way to the minicomputer. The minicomputer served as a bridge between the hulking mainframes and the personal computers that would come to revolutionize the enterprise. As hardware capabilities expanded, so too did enterprise software capabilties. ERP software vendors began to develop more complex applications and move from manufacturing applications such as mrp system software to more general applications like accounting.

Thanks to the development of integrated circuits and core memory technologies, computers began to occupy a much smaller footprint. Around this time, the origins of modern operating systems – such as BASIC and Unix – were beginning to take shape and thereby laying the foundation of what would spur widespread microprocessor application in the PC.

In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen developed BASIC software for the MITS Altair 8800, one of the first PCs and surely the first affordable computer. From there, Gates and Allen started Microsoft and launched a series of innovations that totally transformed computing by democratizing access to computer technology. Suddenly enterprise software became accessible to more than just a few engineers. With the introduction of the PC, the enterprise was transformed by the acceleration of enterprise software adoption.

Of course the innovations and myriad actors that played a part in the PC revolution are too many to count and are too lengthy to detail here. To provide a summary of the innovations of this time period, I put together an infographic that to help tell the story.

Minicomputers to the PC

If you’re interested in reading a more detailed version of this history, please visit Enterprise Software History, Part 2: Minicomputers to the PC.

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