AT&T Tech Channel

About this video

This film was originally made to be a non-linear, interactive display at the AT&T Infoquest Center in NYC. It was a videodisc with a touchscreen menu in its first incarnation, but we’ve re-edited it to become a regular film.

An update to the AT&T short about microprocessors hosted by William Shatner, Microworld, this interactive exhibit gave the basics of how microprocessors work, are made, and are used, circa 1984.

The information disc was hosted by Dr. Robert Lucky, who has an interesting, wry style, and was head of communications research science at Bell Labs at the time. This presentation is roughly divided into three parts:

  • Microchips, the inside story: how they are designed (great footage of scientists crawling on hands and knees, inspecting enormous printouts of microchip designs), and how they are made, step-by-step.
  • Parts of a microprocessor: how they work. At this point, the 256K chip was leading-edge, and chips had around 150K transistors in them. The information in this section, while rudimentary, is still useful.
  • Microchips at home and at work: the tools and appliances that use microchips. This film re-purposes some of the footage from AMPS, about mobile phones, and speculates that there are approximately 30 microprocessors per family at this time (today, that number would be drastically larger). One of the common appliances they mention as containing a microchip is the "new memory typewriter."

In 1990, Dr. Lucky, still working with Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ, was interviewed by Bill Moyers about the future of the interactions between computers and people. He takes a pragmatic approach to the integration of computers into our lives, even a conservative approach. But he does discuss a lot of futuristic concepts that have, 20-plus years later, become realized, if not in exactly the same way he described.

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

Release date: 02/13/2012