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Mr. Peddle envisioned an ultra-low-cost chip that could bring digital technology to a new breed of consumer devices, from cash registers to personal computers. But his bosses saw it as unwanted in-house competition for the $300 processor Motorola had unveiled that year.

So Mr. Peddle moved the project to MOS Technology, a rival chip maker near Valley Forge, Pa., taking seven other Motorola engineers with him. There they built a processor called the 6502. Priced at $25 — the cost of a dinner for four, and the equivalent of about $130 today — this chip soon powered the first big wave of personal computers in both the United States and Britain, including the Apple II and the Commodore PET.

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