A quick look back at Microsoft’s first PC hardware product back in 1980, the Z80 SoftCard

However, many people at the time didn’t realize was that Microsoft had actually sold a PC hardware product, well before it launched Windows, and even before it released MS-DOS. Then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer actually mentioned this fact at the first Surface press event in June 2012.

It was called the Z80 SoftCard, and it was first released 43 years ago this month, on April 2, 1980. In an even more ironic twist, the product was made as an add-in card for the Apple II PC.

I’ve always been fascinated by expansion cards that contain entire computers to make it possible to run one architecture inside another – Apple had a DOS card, for instance, and Sun sold the SunPCi line of cards that could run x86 operating systems on SPARC systems, and there were countless more.

They’re not as needed today, and you’ll have a hard time finding, for instance, an ARM PCI-e card to stick in your PC.


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