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The question is different for analog and for digital computers.

For digital computers, the first accessories of importance were keyboards for input and line printers for output.

For personal digital computers, I would have to say cassette tape devices.

The biggest change in digital accessories had to be the CRT screen as a monitor for both input and output.

Would a full -length tray feeder for 80-column punch cards count as an accessory?

My first accessory was a bolt-on edged addition to take 512K RAM up to a full 640K (the case on the memory card bolted to the back of the main case.)

The question is likely "What were the first computer accessories for IBM-PC compatible computers?" I would nominate the Winchester hard-drive. Later the 3.5 inch diskette drive was an option (now vanishing post-2010.)

The 287 math co-processor emerged as an import accessory for users of spreadsheets (the very reason PC's became important in business) but most today think of it as an option and not an accessory, but many models had the empty 287 socket as a feature making the chip an add-on accessory.

Zenith, however, started their line with a optical mouse on a digital pad (but later failed when Microsoft would not support it) and the hard-drive was an option ! The gray-scale screen integrated with the case was standard, not an option, as was Hercules card for other manufacturers.

For more details, see the history of the mouse as a computer input device.

The story of accessories for Apple users is different as they had the SCSI interface available to them (see also: AppleTalk.)

In economic terms, the first important PC accessory was the dot-matrix printer.

In data processing, the first import PC accessory after the Winchester drive was the digital tape backup followed later by the optical disk writer.

For the coming internet, the RS-232 port modem was the important accessory.

For the gaming industry, the gameport standardization was almost as important as the joystick itself (serial joysticks vanished.)

For graphics and CAD, the digitizing pad was important - but it was a workstation accessory and not a "PC" accessory.

In terms of inventions, the Ricoh toner engine for Fax machines was significant (see also Ricoh in the Bill Gates story) as was the invention of ink jet technology years before it became a commercial accessory.

For other info, see the history of RS-232, parallel port, SCSI, Firewire and USB.

Desktop computing really needs to be approached on at least 4 historic tracks: graphical workstations, Sun stations with MIT X, DOS PC's and Apple products. Even them, some would argue that terminal emulation should not be ignored in speaking of "desktops" rather than the world of "jobs" and "print-outs". Some of the history requires an understanding of the difference between analyst and programmer prior to BASIC* (1964) and Visicalc (1979) even before consumer Winchester drives as DASD (1981).

*mistaken notions about Bill Gates and BASIC may qualify as urban legends

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Q: What were the first computer accessories?
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