The company started with the motto "Software First".
Poduska left in 1980 to start Apollo Computer.
The original products were clones of the Honeywell 316 and 516 minicomputers.
The first Prime system, similar to the DDP 516 but a 32-bit machine with paging. It ran an operating system called DOS, also referred to as PRIMOS 2 (not to be confused with MS DOS).
The Prime 100 was a stripped down version of the Prime 200 (no memory parity or floating point).
The Prime 300 had a main store of 128 KB and 6MB of disc storage. It ran DOSVM operating system, also referred to as PRIMOS 3, but still used earlier DOS for booting. One of the first minicomputers with virtual memory capability. The virtual memory was simpler than used in later systems. Addresses were 16 bits, with a 64K address space. Multiple 64K address spaces were allowed. It had S-mode and R-mode instructions.
An example was installed in the mathematics department of the University of Aston in Birmingham, UK.
The Prime 400 ran at 0.5 MIPS, had a main store of 192KB and 160MB of disc storage. The name PRIMOS was now used for the operating system and the P400 ran PRIMOS 4. It ran a V-mode instruction set, along with the S-mode and R-mode instructions. It had a segmented virtual memory architecture, somewhat similar to Multics.
The Prime 550 was an upgrade in performance over the Prime 400. It ran at 0.7 MIPS, had 1MB of memory and 500MB of disc storage and a 9 track tape unit.
The Prime 750 was a major upgrade. It ran at 1.0 MIPS, had 2-4MB of memory and 1200MB of disc storage and a 9 track tape unit. This was very competitive with a similarly priced DEC VAX-11/780 and was one of the first 32-bit superminicomputers. Prime 750 systems were installed at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).
PRIMENET and the local area network software RINGNET were announced.
Prime also marketed MEDUSA CAD Software
The 9955 ran at 4.0 MIPS, had 8-12MB of memory and 2700MB of disc storage and a 9 track tape unit. A Prime 9955 was installed at UMIST and a Prime 9655 at Nottingham University.
The company was successful in the 1970s and 1980s, peaking in 1988 at number 334 of the Fortune 500.
As of later 1989, Surrey University had the largest Prime Site in Europe, having virtually multiple copies of every 50 series machine (mostly running Primos 20.x, but some still running 19.x).
Prime was heavily involved with Ford’s internal computer-aided design (CAD) product, Product Design Graphics System (PDGS). It used a vectorscope from Lundy for a display. At one time in 1980s it was the world largest integrated CAD system, spanning the US, Japan (Mazda was Ford's subsidiary/partner), and Germany. The creators of PDGS, located in building #3 of Fords Dearborn design headquarters, began working on the concept of parametrically driven geometry, which led to a PRIMEDesign system.
The company also had marketing rights to the MEDUSA CAD system, produced in England by a company named Cambridge Interactive Systems, and experience in the domain, the company explored transitioning to a CAD company. It embarked on a project to build a CAD-CAM system of its own called PRIMEDesign. This product was to compete with the industry leader at that time, CADDS4 from Computervision. RISC processors from MIPS Technologies and graphics processors from Silicon Graphics created the platform for PRIMEDesign as well as being the genesis of modern day SGI. During this period, in 1985, Sam Geisberg left Computervision to found Parametric Technology Corporation and produce the first parameter driven CAD system called ProEngineer. Computervision acquired Cambridge Interactive Systems in 1983, and Prime forked their own version of MEDUSA.
By the late eighties, the company was having problems retaining customers who were moving to lower-cost systems. In addition, Prime was failing to keep up with the increasing customers' need for raw computing power. By the end, not a single Prime computer was subject to COCOM export controls, as they were insufficiently powerful for the US Government to fear their falling into the hands of hostile powers.
Ultimately, Prime tried to improve its CAD presence by purchasing several CAD companies including Computervision in 1989 for $300 million. PRIMEDesign and CADDS were combined to form a new product called CADDS5. The purchase left the company vulnerable to a hostile take-over, and such attempt was made by Bennett S. LeBow's MAI Basic Four corporation. To fend off the take-over, the company was bought back into private ownership by New York venture capitalist, J.H. Whitney. The computer design and manufacturing portions of the company were shut down and the company was renamed Computervision. In 1998 it was bought by aforementioned Parametric Technology Corporation, that exists to this day.
Prime acquired the OAS application from its developer, ACS America Inc., a now-defunct New York City software house.
It was one of the pioneer systems, and fought hard to win a place in the UK DTI Office Automation Pilot sites, but failed to achieve it.
OAS consisted of:
Prime also claimed that OAS provided automatic translation between languages, but the feature was mostly non-existent, consisting only of one-word-at-a-time lookup in small dictionaries for Spanish and Norwegian.
Recognising the drawbacks of the downloadable WP workstation, Prime formed an agreement with Convergent Technologies for their AWS which Prime named the "Prime Producer 100" (launched in mid 1983) and later for Convergent's modular NGEN, clip together system, the "Prime Producer 200" (launched in 1984), each of which had far superior WP to the initial Prime offering, and were document based.
In the UK Prime had a very active OAS User Group whose suggestions were acted upon in new product development. UK Pioneers of the system included the London Docklands Development Corporation and Oxford Polytechnic, now Oxford Brookes University.
Very similar in concept and execution to the Pick environment developed by Richard Pick, Prime Information allowed rapid, 4GL or 4GL-like development of applications around relational or quasi relational database structures. After a series of evolutions Prime Information was acquired by IBM corporation. It became part of IBM's U2 product family. The former Prime Information is now known as IBM UNIVERSE. Further information can be found at http://www-306.ibm.com/software/data/u2/universe/
In (approx) 1984 Prime developed a system to conflict with OAS and confuse the market. Prime Information Connection added word processing to Prime Information, giving the company two office oriented suites to offer in a marketplace dominated by Wang Laboratories
Prime’s 2250 (“Rabbit”) offered the combination Ford was looking for in a package smaller than the original CDC’s. In addition, the PRIMOS operating system would run unaltered across all Prime platforms; from the 2250 up to the (what would be considered today as a server) 750. As a result, the Data Collector (rooms) would contain several 750 class machines, each with rows of CDC 300 or 600MB drives. Primenet (token ring) network connected all CAD stations in a building with its Data Collector.
Ford pushed PDGS out to its suppliers and engineering contractors throughout the northern Midwest.
Prime gained expertise over the years with its collaboration with Ford and continued to expand into the CAD market with its Medusa product. With the acquisition of ComputerVision, Prime appeared to be a formidable force in the CAD/CAM industry.
Prime Medusa versions 5 and CV Medusa 7 were merged/recombined into a product that was called Medusa version 12.
Prime also picked up Calma CAD systems from GE.
Developed on relay.prime.com, which was the hub that relayed global electronic mail for Prime Computer. The software used on this computer system, PDN Mail, developed by Robert Ullmann, it was designed to use the encoding header field that was later explained in a RFC. PDN Mail was years ahead of its time and was also used by Microsoft Corporation until MIME was introduced.
Before MIME existed, PDN Mail was able to perform the same functions and was used to send software updates as well as all sorts of attachments between systems. In August 1993, Robert Ullmann, David Robinson and Al Costanzo, wrote RFC 1505. This RFC, documented the Encoding Header Field for Internet Messages that PDN mail used and was published by the RFC editor, Jon Postel that same year.
Another series of advertisements featured a C-3PO-like robot called Albert EinPrime.