Copyright 2007 by John Blankenbaker

Editorial note 2022: This is the original website of John Blankenbaker. Since 2022 maintained by Achim Baque - more information.
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One of the minefields in the technological history business is the election of "firsts." It depends on pedantically precise definitions, requires meticulous and detailed records, is almost always controversial, is often historically meaningless, and engenders emotional responses that can sometimes lead to fisticuffs. But it's fun! So in that spirit, The Boston Computer Museum ran a contest in 1985 to discover the real first personal computer. The winner, as the "first advertised commercially available non-kit computer under $1000," was a computer you [may] never [have] heard of: the Kenbak-1, designed by John V. Blankenbaker and advertised in Scientific American in 1971.

Quotation from Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA which inherited the collection of the Boston Computer Museum including the computer that I am holding here in 1986 and which I donated to the Museum.

Here are the winners at the Boston Computer Museum contest to find the first personal computer. On the left, is the winner, the Kenbak-1 computer. Some of those in place and show did not take to fisticuffs but they were disappointed.

"We awarded the first prize to the 1971 Kenbak-1, submitted by its creator John Blankenbaker. This small machine contained an eight-bit processor built up from medium-scale and small-scale integrated circuits, and qualified as the earliest personal computer known to the judges."

Oliver Strimpel, Director of the Museum 1986.

The George R. Stibitz

Computer & Communications Pioneer Award

John Blankenbaker


 Pioneer of the First Personal Computer, The Kenbak-1

The Infotech Museum (American Computer Museum)

Bozeman, MT 2005

On the occasion of the George R. Stibitz award, the Pioneers were presented with small statutes showing a cowboy using a cell phone and a laptop computer. Since the award ceremonies were held on the Montana State University campus, this blending of the local culture with technology was deemed appropriate.


For more information about the American Computer Museum, see the Links page and especially the 2005 honorees.