Daniel Alroy

Awareness only knows now; the mind imagines time.
Rupert Spira

Daniel Alroy comments on the Microcomputer Revolution, the opening session of the 1975 International IEEE Conference, which he organized and chaired.
Daniel Alroy (left) comments on The Microcomputer Revolution, the opening session of the 1975 International IEEE Conference, which he organized and chaired.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Daniel Alroy, a round‐faced man with thinning, sandy hair from New York, was responsible for steering Philips, Appel & Walden Co., a successful underwriter of high‐technology stocks, into the fastest growing segment of the computer industry and has proved a good judge of fashions and fads in the past. In the spring of 1972, deeply concerned about the future of the mini‐computer companies, Alroy got into a fight with Intel. He had set out to prove a point that a cheaper simpler computer can be made. Alroy succeeded and his Q1 Corp. became the first company to develop a complete, standalone, microcomputer system, integrated with a screen, keyboard and floppy drives. It was first delivered on 11 December 1972, based on the Intel 8008 processor that was introduced on the market only eight months earlier, in April 1972.

Alroy wanted to build a system with a wider scope of applicability, than existing at the time, so he designed a general-purpose computer, which would:
* Replace a multiplicity of limited-purpose systems
* Perform the functions with greater specificity
* Accomplish both above goals at a lower cost

The first version of Q1 from 1972
The desktop console of Q1 from 1972

The first Q1 computer from 1972 was a typewriter design with alphanumerical keyboard (see the nearby image), a single-line 80-character display, 16KB memory (expandable to 64 KB), floppy drives (8″ diskette, a recording medium as used in IBM 3740), and build-in printer. It was very impressive, and aimed to all from accounting to word-processing machines, to scientific calculators. The Q1 system software included: PL/1 high-level programming language and MACRO assembler (programming tools), Disk Operating System (command interpreter), Editor (ASCII-files processing), Trace Routine (a debugging tool), Sort Routine, Print Routine, Disk Dump, Join Routine, and Function Library.

In 1973, Alroy met Heinz Nixdorf, the president of Nixdorf Computer Company of Paderborn, Germany. Following that meeting, Q1 Corporation received ten monthly payments of $40,000 from Nixdorf Computer in exchange for a sale of know-how. The income from the know-how sale expedited the development of the 8080-based Q1 microcomputer system, named Q1/Lite. In April 1974, Intel introduced a second-generation 8-bit microprocessor, the 8080. That month, Q1 shipped a pre-production unit of its 8080-based microcomputer system, on loan and with a buy option, to the Israeli Air Force. In June 1974, Q1 received a follow-up order for a number of 8080-based systems, which were subject to acceptance tests. The first two 8080-based systems were delivered in August 1974, and the pre-production unit was returned to Q1.

The Q1 lite computer from 1975
The Q1/Lite computer from 1975

The Q1/Lite was an improved multi-purpose system (see Q1 Sales Brochure), which can be used as a terminal for mainframe computers, for data entry, engineering, word processing, etc. In 1974, Computer Science Corporation made a study of microcomputer systems for NASA. Based on the recommendation, the Q1/Lite computer systems were installed in all eleven NASA bases. Later Q1 Co. put into production third generation of the Q1 system, which used the Z80 processor, and fourth generation, using a 68000 CPU.

In 1979, the National Enterprise Board, an entity of the British Government, invested $11.5 million in a joint venture with Q1 Corporation. Alroy used the opportune moment to install a president in his place, and in 1981 resigned and returned to his interest in the relation of mind and brain. He even wrote a book with his thoughts, The New Foundation of Knowledge.

Computerworld magazine, 9 Jan. 1974, for Alroy
Computerworld magazine, 9 Jan. 1974, an article for Alroy

Source: The Advent of the Microcomputer Era: An Eyewitness Account, © 2017 Daniel Alroy.