AT&T Tech Channel

About this video

A film about the Bellmac32, an AT&T-developed square centimeter of silicon circuitry that, at the time, was the world's first 32-bit microprocessor. It contained 150,000 transistors. An article that ran in Infoworld magazine that same year stated that the chip would "provide 3/4 the processing power of current medium-sized computers."

It took three different teams in three locations (Bell Labs in Holmdel, Indian Hill, and Murray Hill) to make the Bellmac32. The circuitry diagrams for the chips were printed out on paper and laid out on the floor in huge 20 foot by 20 foot sheets, taped together from what came out of the plotter printers. When the chip was completed, in 1980, it still didn't run up to the speeds it was intended to. So a Bellmac32A was proposed and completed, which ran at speeds more than 3X the Bellmac32.

Part of those future hopes were for the systems the Bellmac32 was to be installed in — namely, the Viewtron system. Viewtron was an electronic information service, a proto-version of the internet, only meant for residential, not educational, users. Viewtron offered airline schedules, the telephone book, and news from the Miami Herald and Associated Press, among other services.

The Bellmac32 was also deployed in 3B5 and 3B15 computers, computers that were used internally by the Bell System for billing and electronic switching operations.

Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

Release date: 11/21/2011