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This paper presents a history of computer control in discrete manufacturing and focuses on the computer control problem at the lowest or machine tool level. Succeeding papers will give the specifications for a control computer at this level, derive a system architecture to meet these specifications, and evaluate the computer performance when applied to a control problem. The objective of the total set of papers is to present a computer architecture, based on microprocessor concepts, which will be efficient in a total manufacturing environment involving a hierarchy of control computers. The proposed computer would function at the lowest level of this hierarchy.