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I'm trying to get an idea of the quantitative parameters of the computer industry in the era that saw the rise of personal computers. Of course, the industry as a whole was old by then; companies like Intel got their start in large part by selling RAM chips for minicomputers and mainframes; there was even a debate within Intel in the early seventies about whether the company should be doing microprocessors, versus just staying focused on the RAM chips that were the profitable business.

I think the one specific quantitative question that could sum it all up is: how much RAM was sold, in total throughout the world, each year during the seventies? Every computer uses memory, and it was not far into that decade before every computer, from the largest to the smallest, was using semiconductor memory. There are certainly figures available on the price per kilobyte of RAM, but it seems to me that people involved with the industry must have gathered at least estimates of the total amount sold each year. If there isn't an available estimate for total worldwide sales, it would still be interesting to see figures for the major manufacturers like Intel and Mostek.

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I don't know the total quantity of 'RAM' sold in those years, but according to this site the total number of DRAM chips and Bytes sold each year was:-

Year   million units     GiB
----   -------------   -------
1974        4.77         2.27  
1975       23.15        11.04
1976       48.34        24.02
1977       80.79        49.88
1978      111.36       109.74
1979      181.34       284.00
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    Great find. Interesting Paper. What I couldn't really see is what the Numbers, especially the production numbers are based on. Is it only sales of independent manufacturers, or dies it include in house production of computer manufacturers - like IBM did for their mainframes - which would be a major amount of early DRAM. – Raffzahn Dec 25 '20 at 21:10
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    The paper has references but I don't know which (if any) they got their numbers from. The numbers are for 'shipments' so I guess that doesn't include in house production, but the question asks about 'sales' of RAM so ICs not 'sold' should not be included? These figures are only for DRAM. How much other RAM was produced, and were the numbers significant? Nobody seems to have been interested enough to document it. – Bruce Abbott Dec 26 '20 at 3:17
  • The main Reference tor numbers is /2/ and /20/, but the link for /2/ is dead and /20/ is another paper. And yes, as, at least for the early 70s, static RAM should outrun dynamic by far - not to mention core - /360 could have up to 4(8) MiB. Starting with the /370-15 in 170 the series used semiconductor memory, 128 KiB being the least amount per machine. So above numbers are only valid for a fraction of RAM produced. – Raffzahn Dec 26 '20 at 12:42
  • For a lot of micro computers in the 1970s, the RAM would be SRAM not DRAM. Not sure if the micro computer business was large enough to affect the results though. – Mark Ransom Jan 1 at 7:02
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    In the early 70's SRAM would be dominant for the simple reason that DRAM didn't exist. But SRAM was always expensive and used sparingly, even in mainframe computers (which are not really the focus of this question). The first IBM computer with semiconductor main memory was the System/370 Model 145 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System/370_Model_145) released in 1971, which had 112–512kB. That's $1.7 million dollars for a system with less RAM than a PC XT. – Bruce Abbott Jan 1 at 7:44

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