In 1975, the Intel 8080 was becoming available at a reasonable price (well, I paid $256 for my first one). As a student at the University of Minnesota I saw many uses for a single board computer in research. Together with my roommate, Dean Johnson, a mechanical engineering graduate student, we designed and he did the art work for, a single board computer (before IBM and Apple). We gave a seminar about it, and took orders, and ended up selling 50 kits of parts for them.
Besides being a good teaching tool, the J&J single board computer was used in a wide variety of research applications. I used it for mass spectrometer data acquisition, 8 port async terminal controller, channel interface for the CDC 7600 supercomputer, a computer terminal for the blind, etc. Others used it for a cauterizing surgery scalpel, a test stand for a physics experiment flown on the space shuttle, neutrino detector data collection, etc. not to mention people loading up copies of Microsoft Basic and writing tick-tak-toe games….
I also obtained assembly and PL/I cross compliers form Intel under an educational license and supported them as an application service on the UofM’s CDC 6600 time sharing systems.
Here is the artwork Dean did:
Here is one of the prototypes (modified):
One of our assembled kits being used by a computer science grad student for thesis work, together with a DEC PDP-11 running Unix V6 for cross assembly and storage of 8080 code.