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margot
February 18th, 2005, 09:59 AM
For a class assignment, I need to write about "the first mass market personal computer." However, after doing research, I cannot seem to find a consensus about which computer that is. My professor also describes the computer in this way: "Prior to IBM's entry into the personal computer market in 1981, the personal computer industry was already booming. In the mid-1970's however personal computers were sold to hobbyists in kit form that required assembly. Who marketed the first mass market personal computer, i.e. widely adopted and pre-assembled?" Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Terry Yager
February 18th, 2005, 10:56 AM
It depends on what is meant by "mass-market". The Kenbak-1 http://www.vintage-computer.com/kenbak-1.shtml is widely accepted as the first true personal computer, but IIRC, they never sold more than a handful of machines. Still, it was "marketed to the masses", i.e., advertized in national magazines, etc. You should at least include it as a footnote to your paper anyways, might be good for extra credit.

--T

Terry Yager
February 18th, 2005, 03:05 PM
Of course, there may be other opinions on the subject, including my own. I believe the first mass-market personal computer was the "Geniac", which was around back in the late fifties.

http://online.sfsu.edu/~hl/c.Geniac.html

http://www.computercollector.com/archive/geniac/

This interesting little machine was "programmed" by hard-wiring the boards in various ways to perform different specific tasks. Some people don't consider it to be a "real" computer at all, but a sophisticated toy. (The same could be said about other computers too, but that's whole 'nother discussion).

--T

Terry Yager
February 18th, 2005, 03:13 PM
The real answer might just depend on how well-informed your professor is, as well as how prejudiced he may be toward (or against) one machine or another. Best you can hope for is to guess what he's thinking...

--T

joe sixpack
February 18th, 2005, 03:22 PM
for sure the kenbak-1 was groundbreaking but not many was made
I heard around 750 i think. Also they are ultra rare now best
est is there is something like 50 left, if you have one are worth a ton of money.
but they was pre-micro processor. i think they had 256bytes of ram.

it's true there was many computers around in the 70's but the history
is so blurry that you could make your point with almost any old machine.
However if i was doing a report i'd prob make the meat of it on the IBM PC 5150
And like Terry said slip in some tid bit's on the kenbak, atari's, the commodores for sure.
I'd also talk a bit about dos , cp/m... thats a report in and of it self.

This site will give you some quick background info on the 5150
http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=274

Good Luck!

Kaptain Skitzo
February 18th, 2005, 04:30 PM
I guess it also depends on your term of "mass market"...are you talking about for "in home" use, Or "a mass of businesses"?

Erik
February 18th, 2005, 04:34 PM
The Computer History Museum (www.computerhistory.org) (then in Boston, now in Mountain View) considers the Kenbak-1 (http://www.vintage-computer.com/kenbak-1.shtml) to be the first mass-produced personal computer. Like most machines from that era (1971, specifically) these were sold both as kits and assembled machines. I'm pretty sure the pre-assembled Kenbak was by far the most popular.

Other early entrants include a host of Intel 8008 based machines including the French Micral (1973), the Mark-8 (not really even a kit from 1974) and the Scelbi 8h and 8B (1974.)

Of course, the MITS Altair (http://www.vintage-computer.com/altair8800.shtml) really kicked off the revolution in 1975.

There are a variety of analog and digital/mechanical devices that pre-date these machines but most of them were even more limited then the Kenbak-1.

Best of luck!

Erik

Terry Yager
February 18th, 2005, 05:46 PM
Perhaps the masses weren't really ready for personal computers at the time of the earlier offerings. The market had to ripen to the point where large numbers of people had a desire to own thier own computers. (Wasn't it Visi-Calc that put Apple on the map, and personal computers on the desks of every businessperson?)

--T

olddataman
March 2nd, 2005, 06:53 AM
I never thought of the Kenback-1 being a personal computer, let alone being "Mass Marketed. It was so early that only computer and/or electronics people were aware of it, and they wanted something for which they could develop real applicatiions, like a PDP-8 or something like it.
In my opinion, it was the Apple II. It was sold fully assembled and ready to go from day one. I was one of the first few dealers and was not even aware that one could buy just the mother board, etc. The Apple II sold well from the first delivery. It didn't take Visi-Calc to put it on the map, but no one could say that Visi-Calc didn't put icing on the cake!
If we are gong to talk about the Apple II here I grudgingly admit that we must also mention the TRS-80. It came out after the Apple II but before the Apple II's disk drives, thus making it more suitable for small business applications. (I used the word "grudgingly" above because I was an Apple dealer and resented the TRS-80.)

Ray

Terry Yager
March 2nd, 2005, 07:16 AM
FWIW, I was reading in an old magazine the other day, that as of that date (1980), it was estimated that there were 500,000 personal computers in the world, and that of that number, about 200,000 were TRS-80s. IIRC, Apple was a rather distant second place.

--T

Erik
March 2nd, 2005, 08:57 AM
I never thought of the Kenback-1 being a personal computer, let alone being "Mass Marketed. It was so early that only computer and/or electronics people were aware of it, and they wanted something for which they could develop real applicatiions, like a PDP-8 or something like it.

I'll agree that it didn't have much power. These things always hinge on semantics anyway. . . :)


In my opinion, it was the Apple II. It was sold fully assembled and ready to go from day one. I was one of the first few dealers and was not even aware that one could buy just the mother board, etc. The Apple II sold well from the first delivery. It didn't take Visi-Calc to put it on the map, but no one could say that Visi-Calc didn't put icing on the cake!

There were a large number of machines that either pre-dated the Apple or came out almost simultaneously but outsold it, at least initially.

The Altair and IMSAI systems certainly qualify as mass-market personal computers as do the Commodore Pet and TRS-80. Several other lesser-known brands (Polymorphic, Godbout/Compupro, etc.) were also around before the Apple ]
man"] If we are gong to talk about the Apple II here I grudgingly admit that we must also mention the TRS-80. It came out after the Apple II but before the Apple II's disk drives, thus making it more suitable for small business applications. (I used the word "grudgingly" above because I was an Apple dealer and resented the TRS-80.)

The TRS-80, as mentioned above, outsold the Apple for quite a while and certainly qualifies for the definition. Still, the other machines I mentioned are better and earlier examples.

Erik

Terry Yager
March 2nd, 2005, 10:22 AM
AFAIK, there is a difference in definition between "marketing" and actual sales.

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-03,GGLD:en&q=define%3Amarketing

A good or service may be "mass-marketed", and not sell very well, which is why I consider the Kenback to have been mass-marketed, even though they didn't sell very many units. They were advertized in mass-media, tho.
See also:

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-03,GGLD:en&q=define%3Amass+marketing

The definitions above seem to be about evenly split as to whether or not "mass-marketing" is aimed at the general public, or a specific target audience.

--T

Terry Yager
March 2nd, 2005, 02:41 PM
Just to confuse the issue even further, I also looked up the definition of "mass-media":

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-03,GGLD:en&q=define%3Amass+media

...and even "mass communication":

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-03,GGLD:en&q=define%3Amass+communication

Still no consensus. It's kinda unclear whether advertizing exclusively in computer/electronics magazines & trade journals counts as mass-marketing. Mebbe it does by today's standards, since so many people subscribe to that sort of publication, but 20-something years ago, it was a whole different market in which those periodicals were seen almost exclusively by people who were already working in the computer field.

--T

Terry Yager
March 2nd, 2005, 03:21 PM
And now to round-out our study, let's examine the various definitions of "advertizing":

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-03,GGLD:en&q=define%3Aadvertising

Enjoy!

--T

olddataman
March 3rd, 2005, 08:00 AM
To Eric;
The Altair came out in early 1975, the IMSAI 8080 in the fall of 1975. Neither was truly deliverable in assembled form until late 1976 or later. When I opened they were about the only things available to the retailer for several months even though the Sphere, made in Utah was advertised and promoted heavily, I don't think any ever made it out of the Pacific time zone. At that time, George Morrow was designing boards for Bill Godbout, North Star was "Kentucky Fried Computers, a store in Berkerley and looking for contracts to write sofrtware, None of them came out with a computer until at least early 1977. The first Polymorphic computer was a little S-100 bus system caled the Poly 88 and started deliveries in late 1976, around September as I recall, though I wouldn't bet on my memorysbout them because we didn't sell them unless someone wanted their product and no other.
Also remember that until late 1976 and/or early '77 there was no disk operating system. The first time I saw CP/M working was as early as the spring or early summer of 1976, but modified by someone at CACHE to use casette tape via a Tarbll casette computer board. It took about a year after that to get floppy disk systems and CP/M happy with each other, and by that time disk drives were just about ready for the Apple II.
I don't know howit went in the rest of the country, but I did not feel any competition from the TRS-80, Commodore, Atari or that catagory that was designed as "consumer products" until s long time after the Apple II was widely available and the Apple II sold as fast as we could get them fom day one, with or without disk systems.
By the way, the first personal computers I sold to a local school system were four SOL-20 systems to Bloomfield IN schools in late 1976 or early '77 Don't raise yur eyebrows, even you forgo to mention the SOL-20!

Best Regards;
Ray

olddataman
March 3rd, 2005, 01:24 PM
By the way folks: There is one such computer we have all left out. It was certainly heavily marketed to it's target market. I don't think that many were sold, but we are talking about MARKETING, Right?
So, how about the Neiman Marcus "Kitchen Computer"?That was 1967 or '68, was it not? And in case you are not too knowledgeable about that story, here are a couple of related facts about it. First, Neiman Marcus had offered some outragreous "his and her" Christmas gifts for a number of years previously. For example, the prior year Christmas catalog had offered "his and her" airplanes and another year it was a pair of matched yachts. Another fact is that Computer Control Corp. (the company Honeywell acquired) advertised the DDP 116 as a computer for your home as early as about 1965
What about it folks?

Ray

PS The reason I know about thei particular case is because at the time I was infolved with the selection, purchase, installation, interface design and maintenance training of a couple of techs for a DDP 516. Shortly before Thanksgiving that year CCC tried to hire me to sell for them giving me all of Long Island and New York City, at a flat salary plus end of year incentives, but I turned them down. I told them that it would be my first actual sales position and I did not want to take a first sales job selling the second best computer out there on the market . (The best being the SDS machines.)

Erik
March 3rd, 2005, 01:30 PM
But the Kitchen Computer was never actually "mass produced." I'm not sure that any were ever sold and the only one I know of is the one at the Computer History Museum. . .

Erik

Terry Yager
March 3rd, 2005, 02:50 PM
Ok, but my question is, does a company's sales catalogue really count as "mass-media" or even "mass-marketing"? (Especially a company like Neiman-Marcus). It's target market is certainly a lot smaller than a general-interest computer magazine's would be. I'm sure they never expected to sell very many $30-40,000 computer systems (or yachts, or aircraft, or...)

--T

olddataman
March 3rd, 2005, 06:29 PM
Gosh fellows, I was only kidding. I guess I will have to learn to use Emticons.
Ray

Micom 2000
March 16th, 2005, 05:44 PM
My alias reflects the most prized computer in my collection. It was working up to a few years ago, but seems to have a problem now whether with the Shugart or the floppies I don't know. I seem to have become the repository of the last known bit of documentation on it.
It is sadly neglected in computer lore.

In 72 Automatic Electronic Systems (AES), a canadian company introduced the worlds first programmable word processor. Stephen Dorsey the founder of AES sold his 25% share for $135,000 in 75 and then founded with Louis Miller, Micom Data Systems, which shipped it's first product the Micom 2000 word processing computer, based on the 8080, in July of that year. IBM unveiled the 5100 Portable in September, the month in which the first issue of Byte magazine was also published.

By the end of it's first year, March 76, Micom had shipped 180 Micom 2000 computers worth $2 million. They later set up branch offices across Canada and all over the US.

In May 78 Micom sold 80% of it's ownership to Philips and around 83 the rest of it. It had 1100 employees and $200 million in annual sales. Dorsey later founded "Voice and Data Systems" a leader in real-time, packetized fax technology.

Altho marketed as a "word processor" it was indeed a real computer with primitive graphic abilities and add-on comm boards(synchronous and non-sync). It used a backplane motherboard similiar to the S-100s. It came with an 8" Shugart m.801 and an early Qume Daisy wheel printer, Noisy but extremely fast for it's time, powered by a massive external PS.

Among it's customers was NASA who tied the Micoms into it's mainframes to take some of the workload off them.IIRC they had over a 100 of them. It was also used by some companies to control typesetting machines.

I picked mine up at a thrift shop in the early 90s, a discard from a legal firm and still had some legal docs on the floppies. with a mass of documentation. I even used it to make some sales brochures for a community paper where I was sales manager.

It could also use a version of MS Basic, which I never acquired.

Unfortunately it has never been properly acknowledged by most collectors
altho there are a couple of people on the ccomp m-l who have them, but
non-working.

Lawrence


To Eric;
The Altair came out in early 1975, the IMSAI 8080 in the fall of 1975. Neither was truly deliverable in assembled form until late 1976 or later. When I opened they were about the only things available to the retailer for several months even though the Sphere, made in Utah was advertised and promoted heavily, I don't think any ever made it out of the Pacific time zone. At that time, George Morrow was designing boards for Bill Godbout, North Star was "Kentucky Fried Computers, a store in Berkerley and looking for contracts to write sofrtware, None of them came out with a computer until at least early 1977. The first Polymorphic computer was a little S-100 bus system caled the Poly 88 and started deliveries in late 1976, around September as I recall, though I wouldn't bet on my memorysbout them because we didn't sell them unless someone wanted their product and no other.
Also remember that until late 1976 and/or early '77 there was no disk operating system. The first time I saw CP/M working was as early as the spring or early summer of 1976, but modified by someone at CACHE to use casette tape via a Tarbll casette computer board. It took about a year after that to get floppy disk systems and CP/M happy with each other, and by that time disk drives were just about ready for the Apple II.
I don't know howit went in the rest of the country, but I did not feel any competition from the TRS-80, Commodore, Atari or that catagory that was designed as "consumer products" until s long time after the Apple II was widely available and the Apple II sold as fast as we could get them fom day one, with or without disk systems.
By the way, the first personal computers I sold to a local school system were four SOL-20 systems to Bloomfield IN schools in late 1976 or early '77 Don't raise yur eyebrows, even you forgo to mention the SOL-20!

Best Regards;
Ray