Datapoint 2200: Everything You Need to Know


Datapoint 2200: Everything You Need to Know

Datapoint 2200
The Datapoint 2200 was manufactured from 1970-79.

Quick Facts

Release Date
Original price
US $5,000 (equivalent to $32,000 in 2020)

Datapoint 2200 was a standalone computer terminal that performed several functions, including printing payroll checks, tracking inventory, and recording shipments. Datapoint 2200 was unveiled at the beginning of 1970 and was launched to the market in May. It became an extremely successful product and was manufactured until 1979. Its 16 kilobytes memory was enough to hold a four-page text document.

Datapoint 2200 was designed by the Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) founders Phil Ray and Gus Roche. It was the first computer on desktop and provided a better alternative to datapoint 3300—the first computer terminal manufactured by the Computer Terminal Corporation (later renamed to Datapoint Corporation).

When the CTC presented it, they intended it to be a versatile and cost-efficient terminal for connecting a wide variety of mainframes by loading terminal emulations from tape rather than hardwiring. However, a CTC salesman named Dave Gust discovered it could serve as a small computer.

That’s when it was marketed as a standalone computer. Industrial designer John “Jack” Frassanito later claimed that the designers Ray and Roche intended datapoint 2200 to be a personal computer but kept it to themselves to avoid it being a concern to investors.

Facts about Datapoint 2200

  • It was the first standalone computer terminal.
  • The initial Datapoint 2200 did not have a microprocessor in it, it had the programmable equivalent of an Intel 8008 (built by discrete TTL logic), and it funded the initial development of the first microprocessor.
  • The original instruction set architecture was developed by Victor Poor and Harry Pyle. The TTL design they ended up using was made by Gary Asbell. Industrial design (how the box’s exterior looked, including the company’s logo) was done by Jack Frassanito.
  • It was the first commercial computer to include an optional disk drive using Shugart 8″ floppies, single-sided, single-density. 

Datapoint 2200 Specifications

  • Datapoint 2200 was a box with size 9 5/8″ height, 18 1/2″ wide, 19 5/8″ deep, and weighed 47 pounds.
  • It had a small built-in 7″ x 3,5″ CRT screen, which was of green&black monochrome type, and worked in text mode 12 x 80.
  • It had a full stroke keyboard+numeric keypad with an integrated programmable beeper.
  • The external data and program storage were two read-write cassette decks for 130KB of mass storage.
  • The operating system was Datapoint O/S (cassette/drum-based based O/S). When the machine halted, you could not tell where in the program it had done so.
  • Languages included Databus and Datashare (“COBOL-like” business computer languages, interpreted to allow multiple 80 characters by 24 row dumb CRTs to share tiny partitions of RAM in the main system unit), a Basic interpreter, and RPG II compiler

The History of Datapoint 2200: What to Know

At the end of the 1960s, two graduates at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, Harry Pyle and Victor D. Poor came up with the idea of a high density integrated circuit which would be programmable. They offered this circuit design to various IC manufacturers and were turned down by all of them. The reason? The chip was too specialized and would never have enough widespread applicability to be financially worth developing.

Having failed to convince any IC manufacturer but still believing in the concept, Harry and Victor pressed on. They went looking for manufacturers who would have an application for the new chip. They found such a firm in Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) of San Antonio, Texas, which made a variety of lower-cost computer terminals that were compatible with the various computer companies and which was also involved in the development of the first microprocessors in another way.

CTC was interested in the chip because it presented a way to make one terminal that could be programmed to behave like and handle the protocols of a variety of different computer manufacturers. CTC agreed to pay two chip makers (Intel and Texas Instruments) to produce the chip. Both chipmakers decided to use a new technology, called PMOS, to produce the chip.

Both chipmakers encountered new technology problems with PMOS, with Texas Instruments dropping out to make reliable parts and Intel failing to meet the CTC deadline. The contracts were canceled, and CTC decided to build the chip via discrete TTL logic, using about 100 discrete TTL components (SSI/MSI chips), and put it into a programmable desktop terminal, called the Datapoint 2200.

Datapoint 2200 Versions: Each Edition

There were two versions of 2200, which looked the same outside.

Version I

The first version was built with many circuit boards using hundreds of discreet components rather than a few programmable chips. Since single-chip processors did not exist in 1969, there was no other alternative. The main circuits were re-designed to make the system faster – the original 2200 has “serial recirculating memory” comprised of Intel 1405 shift registers for internal memory data storage.

In this version, memory reference operations took 520usec to execute, while in version II it only took 4.8usec.

Version II

The second version has random access RAM chips, which operate parallelly, allowing much faster processing than the slower serial memory. In this version, the execution of most instructions was reduced to less than ¼.

The Public Response

Upon introducing Data point 2200, it became an extremely successful product. So much so that CTC changed its name to Datapoint Corporation. By the end of  October 1974, Datapoint had proudly announced that it had sold 3971 Datapoint 2200 desktop computers to a total of 409 customers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What was the Datapoint 2200 used for?

Datapoint 2200 was used for connecting to a wide variety of mainframes by loading various terminal emulations from tape rather than being hardwired as most contemporary terminals, including their earlier Datapoint 3300.

Why is the Datapoint 2200 unique?

It combined a powerful computer, had a built-in full-travel keyboard, display, and dual cassette drives, making it an all-purpose computer and communication system.

When was the Datapoint 2200 invented?

Datapoint 2200 was unveiled at the beginning of 1970 and was launched to the market in May.

Who invented the Datapoint 2200?

Although Datapoint 2200 was designed by the Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) founders Phil Ray and Gus Roche, the initial concept was developed by Harry Pyle and Victor D. Poor.

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