MODICON 584. Made in 1983. Modbus is a data communications protocol originally published by Modicon (now Schneider Electric) in 1979 for use with its programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Modbus has become a de facto standard communication protocol and is now a commonly available means of connecting industrial electronic devices.

A programmable logic controller (PLC) or programmable controller is an industrial computer that has been ruggedized and adapted for the control of manufacturing processes, such as assembly lines, machines, robotic devices, or any activity that requires high reliability, ease of programming, and process fault diagnosis. Dick Morley is considered as the father of PLC as he had invented the first PLC, the Modicon 084, for General Motors in 1968.

In 1968, GM Hydramatic (the automatic transmission division of General Motors) issued a request for proposals for an electronic replacement for hard-wired relay systems based on a white paper written by engineer Edward R. Clark. The winning proposal came from Bedford Associates from Bedford, Massachusetts. The result was the first PLC—built in 1969–designated the 084, because it was Bedford Associates’ eighty-fourth project.

Bedford Associates started a company dedicated to developing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing this new product, which they named Modicon (standing for modular digital controller). One of the people who worked on that project was Dick Morley, who is considered to be the “father” of the PLC. The Modicon brand was sold in 1977 to Gould Electronics and later to Schneider Electric, the current owner. About this same time, Modicon created Modbus, a data communications protocol used with its PLCs. Modbus has since become a standard open protocol commonly used to connect many industrial electrical devices.

One of the first 084 models built is now on display at Schneider Electric’s facility in North Andover, Massachusetts. It was presented to Modicon by GM, when the unit was retired after nearly twenty years of uninterrupted service. Modicon used the 84 moniker at the end of its product range until the 984 made its appearance.

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