What was the most common business computer system of the late 70s, just before the Apple II and CP/M really started proliferating?

For concreteness, let's say we are talking about a U.S. company on the order of 100 employees, in the business of something other than computers or electronics, having a need to process orders, payroll and so forth. What would they most often have? IBM? DEC? What sort of mix of in-house operations and contracting? Was there a lot of diversity, or was there a fairly standard setup?

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    Wang and HP9100, I'd say.
    – Janka
    May 13, 2017 at 21:34
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    I don't know about USA but in Poland, they'd outsource that to a firm with an IBM mainframe providing this kind of services. In my town, anything smaller than two giants (a chemical factory of ~5k employees, and a heavy industry factory with ~3k employees) who wanted to "computerize" their firm or organization would use services of ZETO, a computational center, a firm specializing in that sort of work. There were no computers that would have sufficient capabilities for a justifiable price for anything smaller than 1000 employees, but the cost shared between many customers made it possible.
    – SF.
    May 14, 2017 at 0:37
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    @SF. And that's in 1970's Poland? I'd be interested in learning more about that. How did the computer service connect to their customers? Dial-up or something else? May 14, 2017 at 7:16
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    My Dad's company at the time (paper wholesaler, 5 - 10 employees) bought a minicomputer, stuck it in an off-site room with a bank of modems and connected via Decwriter columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/la36.html - which was my start on a 40 year journey into computers. To share the cost they had a few other small companies renting time on the system. May 14, 2017 at 15:06
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    France and Germany wouldn't have used PDP-11 outside science and education. France had their Bull minicomputers and Germany Nixdorf and Siemens, Italy would mainly have used Olivetti computers, Great Britain had ICL.
    – tofro
    Jul 23, 2017 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


In Israel, in the early 1980s (I started work as an accountant in 1982 so I don't know how long the system had been in use prior to this date), all the kibbutzim of an area used to connect to one PDP-11 which was run from a communal computing centre. Each kibbutz had one data line. We had programs for accounting and a precursor of what was to be ERP, as well as more esoteric programs, such as one for maintaining a database of avocado trees.

All we had originally was a DEC-Writer: we used to use the paper four ways. Eventually we bought a VT-100 terminal.

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