A Partial History of CROMEMCO

Computer History Exhibits

Initialized 10 December 1998.
Based on discussion and messages from Roger Parkinson and Jeff Johnson.


CROMEMCO was founded in the early 1970ties by 2 Stanford Students, Roger Melen and Harry Garland, who lived in the CROthers MEMorial Hall dormitory on the Stanford campus.

Eventually CROMENCO needed space to receive vistors, and moved out of the dorm to Mountain View, and incorporated in 1976.

Cromemco's products were based on the ZILOG-80 integrated processor chip, a development of the architecture of the Intel-8008.

Wozniak and Steve Jobs visited Cromenco in 1979(?), but were not welcomed by Garland.

At is peak (~1983) CROMEMCO had approx. 500 employees and about $55 Million/year in revenue.

By that time it had become the preferred supplier for micro-computers to the People's Republic of China.

Cromemco was always a private corporation, wholly owned by Roger Melen and Harry Garland. It was never publicly traded.

In 1985 or 1986 the CROMEMCO was bought by Dynatech, Its weather systems were dependent on Cromenco Computers. Dynatech was a company that owned several electronics subsidiaries: Colorgraphics Weather Systems, Fuzz Buster, etc. After the takeover, the old Cromemco sign at 280 Bernardo was changed to "Dynatech Computer Systems", but now even that is gone.


  1. Dazzler (1976): video output board for the S-100 microcomputer bus. This was the 1st color graphics display for a microcomputer.
  2. Z-2D (black box), Z-80 processor, 32K byte memory. Used CDOS operating system, based on CPM from Digital Research?
  3. LISP, written by John Allen, maintained by Jeff Johnson.
  4. Wordprocessor `Write master'
  5. C-3 computer (1980?): 64K memory, S-100 bus, slots for n cards, Z-80 processor, 1 to 4 8" floppy disk drives (Made by Persci), holding 500K bytes. This was the most popular machine in CROMEMCO's history. It was, a.o., designated by the PRC as the official computer for higher education. DoD export controls required downgrading of its speed to the slower of the two available choices.
    It used a Beehive/Cromemco 3101 or 3102 terminal, but users also adapted Zenith H-100 terminals to it.
    The machine exhibited on the third floor was purchased in 1976(?) by Ken Colby -- formerly at Stanford -- and used in the UCLA Psychology department, a.o., for voice generation Speaking Parry using a Votrax built by Jim Graham at EE dept. of UCLA.
  6. 1st Fortran compiler for a microcomputer
  7. 1st Hard Disk Drive in a microcomputer
  8. CROMIX, 1st Unix-like OS in a microcomputer (proprietary)
  9. Super-dazzler: high quality video-board. Used by Dynatech within the weather display systems they delivered to over 50% of the U.S. TV news stations.
  10. C-10 integrated computer. Single board in the display case; no S-100 plug-in capability. One floppy drive built-in, one optional external floppy drive. Had a relatively friendly user interface, designed by Jeff Johnson.

The August 1981 issue of Byte is chock-full of ads for then-current microcomputers. It's ironic that the issue is about Smalltalk, which anticipated the next phase in PCs, i.e., the force that would help wipe away all the Cromemcos, Southwest Technical Products, Altos, etc. computers.


Byte magazine (August 1981, the Smalltalk issue). In those days, Cromemco always had two full-page ads on pages 1 and 2. These particular ads are about Cromix, Cromemco's version of unix, and the Super Dazzler Graphics board. The ads include photographs of the Cromemco System Three and System Two.
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