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Operating Systems Software Technology

30 Years of Personal Computer Market Share 313

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the counting-down-the-hits dept.
chiagoo writes "Ars Technica has a fantastic article that looks back at the most popular personal computers from the last 30 years. It covers everything from the Altair to the 8- and 16-bit eras to where we are today. A bit of a downer that they barely mentioned Linux and gave no mention to other significant OSes such as OpenBSD, but still a great read nonetheless."
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30 Years of Personal Computer Market Share

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  • Remember when? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:24AM (#14270080) Homepage Journal

    I can remember when you could measure a platform's popularity by the thickness of Computer Shopper.

    Back in the early 80's it was with Apple ][ clones -- Peaches, Oranges and various other fruit. Slowed a bit when Apple bit back on the people copying their ROMs so the cloners simply bought a bunch of ROMs and kept going

    In the late 80's and early 90's it was all PC's -- Once Columbia PC beat the blue giant of IBM it was open season and they approached 2 inches in thickness.

    Now it's all but gone, or may be as I haven't seen one in a while. The web pretty much killed these publications, like Micro Times, a bay area staple for geeks until it vanished.

    • No Mac Clones (Score:4, Informative)

      by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:58AM (#14270339) Homepage Journal
      Macs have never had a 'clone market*'. There have been "licensees".

      There is a huge difference.

      When IBM lost the clone battles Phoenix & everyone else were free to offer reverse-engineered work-alike PCs. Not just "mostly alike", just alike. Buy the same MS or whomever OS, install the same Lotus 123 or whathaveyou, it's all a commodity.

      IBM later tried to recapture the market by redefining it with MicroChannel, their proprietary & well defended next-gen bus architecture. But the ISA market was too big and had enough momentum that IBM's efforts were doomed and look, 25 years later they're out of the PC market they helped create not having made a profit at it in years.

      On the other hand Apple, after a few early skirmishes, never lost control of their products. Their architecture didn't lend itself to easy reengineering and there was rarely an eager alternative OS vender around to make non-MacOS boxes viable. Be, Yellow Dog, etc. never were more then novelties.

      What Apple did do was, under contracted terms, sell their proprietary system ROMs & MacOS 7 to third parties for a licensing fee and per-unit compensation. The idea was that these nimbler & more aggressive partners would expand the Mac into markets Apple wasn't interested in or where it was unable to compete effectively (usually cost or distribution-wise).

      However instead companies like Power Computing turned around and cannibalized Apple's domestic bread-&-butter Mac market by offering similar systems at price points slightly below Apples.

      A few did expand the Mac into new markets - high-end multi-processor, etc. but by-and-large it was a financial disaster for Apple. They were already suffering from extremely poor supply chain management, a shrinking market, and high R&D costs; to then start supplying direct competitors with products that undercut their own was disastrous.

      So when the opportunity arose with a new MacOS to change terms Apple did - they bought back their licenses and shut down the program. Most folks agree if they hadn't the company wouldn't have lasted another year.

      *Yes, there were a few obscure attempts but it never amounted to a few hundred clone units total.

      • Re:No Mac Clones (Score:5, Informative)

        by Wudbaer (48473) on Friday December 16, 2005 @02:41AM (#14270433) Homepage
        Kids these days... *sigh**mutter*

        You know, there were Apples before the Mac, especially the famous Apple IIs (as the GP clearly stated). They indeed created a blooming market for third party add-ons and clones of mostly dubious legality, much facilitated by the fact that all Apple IIs (at least the big ones, don't know about the IIc, some kind of laptop-precursor) came with full schematics. The Mac was a rather late entry in the whole PC game, Apple was well known for more than half a decade before that. Likely that the bad experiences with Apple II-cloners led Apple to the very closed and proprietary course they took with the Mac (completely opposed as to Apple operated before).
      • charged more for the roms and OS? Or did they have long range contracts or something silly like that?
      • "When IBM lost the clone battles..."

        Hmmz... I thought episode II was named "The clone wars" not battles..
        and what part did IBM take in it again?

        Very puzzled i am, indeed...

  • Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chordonblue (585047) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:26AM (#14270088) Journal
    That this was more about hardware than software so I wouldn't expect to see a lot of mention of Linux. After all, most of us are running Linux on a platform they talk a lot about - the PC!

    • market share (Score:3, Interesting)

      When you're talking about market share then Linux is unfortunately just a blip and BSD even smaller, particulary if market share is being measured in terms of revenue. When it comes to personal computers (!= servers and embedded systems), then many/most Linux PCs probably got sold as Windows units anyway.
    • by fm6 (162816) on Friday December 16, 2005 @02:43AM (#14270437) Homepage Journal
      Linux is a semi-modern OS, and has hardware requirements that reflect the fact. To run Linux, you need memory management. In the PC world, that means a 386 or better. By the time the 386 came along, the story TFA is telling was essentially over.

      There were attempts to run more primitive Unix-like systems on PCs from the first 8088-based IBM boxes. Not notably successful. The best known is Xenix [wikipedia.org], which I have heard a lot of nasty things about.

    • In general though that's been the trend for home computers.

      Earlier on, the competing standards were all about different hardware architectures.

      But now, the shift in competition for home computers has moved from hardware to software. Right now most people use Windows, Linux, a BSD, or Mac OS X. And guess what? They ALL now run on x86 hardware.

      The companies don't compete based on hardware anymore... now they compete for software.
  • by AFCArchvile (221494) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:28AM (#14270093)
    A bit of a downer that they barely mentioned Linux and gave no mention to other significant OSes such as OpenBSD,

    It says "market share", not "free for all".

    • >> A bit of a downer that they barely mentioned Linux and gave no mention to other significant OSes such as OpenBSD,
      > It says "market share", not "free for all".

      It also is about personal computer market share. Last I looked neither Linux or OpenBSD were personal computers. Sure, they're software that runs on them but hey, the article has nothing to do with software.

      May as well complain Linux or BSD weren't shown on a chart showing the popularity of disco music from the 1970s through to 2005. (no, t
  • I'm surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

    by saskboy (600063) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:32AM (#14270102) Homepage Journal
    I'm kinda shocked that the PET outsold the TRS 80 by 1980. I never saw a PET before today, and I grew up with TRS-80s of all sorts, Model II, III, 4, Data Terminal [that was never hooked up even], Color Computer II, and Model 1000 laptop. The laptop is particularly popluar today, since it runs on AA batteries, and edits plain text which is still fine for web programmers with a Serial port.
  • by Nichotin (794369) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:35AM (#14270110)
    .. if only some of the big unix vendors back then had thought: Gee, lets push our operating system as a general purpose desktop system. Instead, we had a whole range of proprietary unixes that ran on their own proprietary platforms.
    • Actually I always felt DEC made a catastophic error. At the time PCs were just appearing they had a tough, industry tested 16 bit multi user, multi processing operating system - RSX/11M. It ran on a microprocessor (and bigger machines in a different form, notably on the VAX) and was really pretty good.

      I don't think they could bring themselves to sell it at a low price - they charged maybe USD 1000 for it.

      And now they are dead. So sad. They made good kit.
    • .. if only some of the big unix vendors back then had thought: Gee, lets push our operating system as a general purpose desktop system. Instead, we had a whole range of proprietary unixes that ran on their own proprietary platforms.

      It was tried. Microsoft sold Xenix, no one cared, MS then gave up and sold it to SCO I think. MS' second attempt to get people to move to a "proper" operating system was OS/2 1.x, that failed too. You just couldn't get people to give up on DOS. You literally have to "give awa
    • I guess you missed the AT&T 3B1, aka 7300, aka Safari, system. Sadly, AT&T couldn't market its way out of a paper bag.
    • by Karma Farmer (595141) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:26AM (#14270243)
      Think how different it might have been today... if only some of the big unix vendors back then had thought: Gee, lets push our operating system as a general purpose desktop system.

      Like, Microsoft Xenix?

      Or, the AT&T Unix PC?

      Or, AUX on a 680x0 Macintosh?

      Or, NeXTStep?

      Or, Sun Workstations?

      Yeah... it would have been real different if any of the above had existed twenty years ago. But, I guess we can only imagine...
  • where you could type your games... later it came with the Automatic Proofreader(TM), where you could verify each line's checksum, and it beeped with an error if the line you entered was wrong.

    My dad had a huge collection of these magazines. But what interested me (at 6yo) was the ads, because they mostly were videogame ads, full of colors, etc.

    Remember Summer Games? Summer Games II, Winter games? Pitfall II? H.E.R.O?

    Ah... i feel so nostalgic about it :)
    • I definitely remember those magazines. I started out on a Commodore 128, and I can remember learning to program just by looking at the example source code and figuring out how things worked. I used to love playing all of those games, and we had more than enough (Airborne Ranger and Red Storm Rising being two of my favorites). It's quite sad that a fire at my parents' house destroyed both the Commodore and all of the magazines.
    • My dad had a huge collection of these magazines.

      Just to start a my dad vs. your dad war, my dad has a huge collection of Byte magazine, with almost every issue from their inception until somewhere in the mid-80's, when they started to suck. The best part is the cover art, I remember thinking the covers were tripped out when I was around 5 years old.

      Anyway, he's had these mags taking up space in our basement, the butt of many jokes about how useful they are, etc. One day about 5 years ago my brother a

  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:44AM (#14270135) Homepage
    No mention of, a) 8-bit era, BBC Micro. OK, probably a UK-only phenomenon, but one of the best 8-bit machines of its day, with a big following. b) slightly later, and the successor to the BBC, the Acorn Archimedes. I know at least 1 person who had one, so its market share can't have been zero!
    • The BBC also featured heavily in Australia but mainly as a teaching platform. I know alot of schools that used the BBC micro, they also networked to a server which was not common for personal computers at the time.

      I first learnt logo on the BBC.

    • I was recently introduced to RISC OS on a Castle Iyonix [iyonix.com]. Pretty neat for a new machine running an OS with some history. There's also something geeky-cool about running an ARM / Xscale CPU on the desktop.
    • UK market share (Score:4, Informative)

      by payndz (589033) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:36AM (#14270655)
      I'm pretty sure that in terms of market share in the UK, the ZX-81 whomped all competition (TRS-80, Atom, VIC-20) in the early 1980s, and the ZX Spectrum outsold the C64 and the BBC Micro by quite a margin for the first few years of its life simply because it was so much cheaper than either. Macs and PCs barely made a dent even in the business market until the late 1980s simply because they were so damn expensive!
    • ZX Spectrum (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rishistar (662278)
      The Sinclair ZX Spectrums were at the same time (1982) as the BBC and kicked off the idea of a computer in the UK home to me. If my experiences are reflective of the wider picture, The BBC Micros were more about school use - but at home a Speccy was the thing to have - mainly as it was cheaper and seemed to have better games.

    • More to the point, no mention I could see of the ZX81, which must have been easily the most popular PC in the world for a while (its sales dwarfed anything Acorn produced, and Britain at this time had far higher percentage domestic PC ownership, largely thanks to Sinclair). The main reason for mentioning Acorn is not market share in the PC market, but because it led to the creation of the ARM processor which has much of the embedded market pretty much sewn up. But of course ARM is a British company too. I
  • The dominance of IBM PC's over the past few years is much greater than any dominance of Microsoft in the software market, yet the haters of this technology are few and far between (mostly Mac fanbois). I guess with multiple vendors making products for the platform, open-source junkies are satisfied that one company isn't making all the profits whilst the majority who follow the lead are happy that new innovations are constantly being made and they have the backing of an established, relatively stable platf
    • by 2short (466733)

      Open source software, great as it is, played no significant role, pro or con, in the rise of the PC to dominance.

      IBM doesn't make any cash at all from every PC product sold, because they gave up the software end, figuring the real money was in hardware (oops). Then Compaq reverse engineered their bios chips and broke their lock on the hardware. IBM doesn't even make PCs anymore. The PC rose to dominance essentially because IBM blew it repeatedly, and lost control of the platform they created.
    • "yet the haters of this technology are few and far between (mostly Mac fanbois)."

      Well for Mac weenies, vendor lock-in on the software is just not enough. They need the warm comforting feeling of vendor lock-in monopoly hardware too.

      I think you use the phrase 'open source' here a lot more than you mean to, so I'll adjust the argument appropriately

      "I guess with multiple vendors making products for the platform, open-source junkies are satisfied that one company isn't making all the profits"

      For "open source ju
  • Don't recall the DOS version, but I do recall selling CPM (on USENET, I think) for about $50.

    That was to help recoup the $2500 cost of the 4.77Mhz (yes, kids, not Ghz) dual floppy (no HDD) computer.

    It was really cool - it was an "all-in-one" Televideo, with 4-shades of green, emulating CGA!

    w00t!

    w00t, in this context, means "we owned q'bert"!

    I only regret not retrieving the system from my sister-in-law, who had it in her attic as recently as 2 years ago. Lost forever now...

  • The bad guy wins in the end :(

    Seriously though, I remember my first PC was a Packard Bell 486 running Windows 3.11

    Ah, those were the days... when playing an mp3 at full quality was a system intensive task... when a 2gig hard drive was A LOT of space... when a 56k connection was FAST... when owning TWO computers was a big deal... when L.O.R.D was the king of BBS games...

    *sigh* Those were the days.

    • 56K modem? I remember cracking open my Model 100, and soldering an external connector for its modem, which I then proceeded to "overclock" to 450bps.

    • My first harddisk was 40mb. The manual that came with it was for the 20mb model -- there was a single loose-leaf insert that gave the specs for the 40mb model. I ran a BBS (yes, it had LORD) on a 286 with a 1200 baud modem (which I thought was elite awesome). I remember in the early 90s when I added a second 512mb HD to my machine to get an amazing 1gb of disk space.

      Those were not the days ... those days sucked. [I picked up an IBM Aptiva (66mhz) a few months before a friend of mine got his new machine (
  • by TheOriginalRevdoc (765542) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:52AM (#14270164) Journal
    Anyone interested in this stuff should pop over to Germany and visit the Heinz Nixdorf Museums Forum (http://www.hnf.de/index_en.html [www.hnf.de])in Paderborn. There's even a liquid-cooled Cray. How great is that?
  • gah (Score:5, Informative)

    by GigsVT (208848) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:56AM (#14270171) Journal
    This article sucks.

    Even on the first page, they act like all these companies were run by idiots, ignoring the possibility of a PC that was supposedly right under their noses.

    It wasn't that the technology wasn't ready. Intel, at the time primarily a manufacturer of memory chips, had invented the first microprocessor (the 4-bit 4004) in 1971. This was followed up with the 8-bit 8008 in 1972 and the more-capable 8080 chip in 1974. However, Intel didn't see the potential of its own product, considering it to be useful mainly for calculators, traffic lights, and other embedded applications

    That's because that's all it was good for. SMPS technology was in its infancy. Storage technology involved huge platters or huge tapes. RAM was damn expensive.

    So what did they think Intel should have done? Released a "PC" in 1971 that weighed 200 pounds with a linear power supply, came with a mini-fridge sized persistant storage unit that held 100k, had 4k RAM and cost $20,000?

    The technology indeed wasn't ready. The PC came when it did because technology allowed it to come, not because of lack of vision.
    • Re:gah (Score:4, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:29AM (#14270255) Journal
      SMPS technology was in its infancy.

      So? There's no reason PCs couldn't have operated with linear power supplies. They are even cheaper than SMPS. Effeciency and size wasn't much of an issue at the time.

      Storage technology involved huge platters or huge tapes.

      Although slow, cassette tapes were a real option back then. Large floppy disks from IBM were also starting to appear at the time, although expensive.

      RAM was damn expensive.

      Everything was expensive. That doesn't mean there wasn't a market for low-spec'd, expensive machines (still far smaller and far less expensive than minicomputers).

      So what did they think Intel should have done? Released a "PC" in 1971 that [...] had 4k RAM

      Sure, why not? Even with 4K of RAM, people would definately have found uses for them.

      The technology indeed wasn't ready. The PC came when it did because technology allowed it to come, not because of lack of vision.

      Only if you redefine "PC" in some very specific way. Practical PCs could have come about years before they did.
  • by Stan Chesnutt (2253) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:00AM (#14270182) Homepage
    Quoth TFA:

    "The idea of a personal computer, something small and light enough for someone to pick up and carry around, wasn't even on the radar." (referring to the mid- to early-eighties).

    Not so -- Arthur C. Clarke, in his mid-Seventies novel "Imperial Earth" described a device called the "Minisec", which sonds a lot like a modern PDA -- it could even "synch" to a larger console computer via infrared.
    • wasn't even on the radar....Not so -- Arthur C. Clarke, in his mid-Seventies novel "Imperial Earth" described a device...

      The article is about reality, not SF. Asimov described powerful pocket computers in his Foundation series, ca. 1940. He probably wasn't the first.

      • Re: Asimov (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MZ80K (939278)
        I have read the first foundation book twice. In one version, the main character owned a rule calculator (the mechanical thing) which was so advanced it could do differential equations. In the second version, it was replaced by something which resembles the present day PDA.
        • the main character owned a rule calculator (the mechanical thing) which was so advanced it could do differential equations. In the second version, it was replaced by something which resembles the present day PDA.

          Off on a tangent... 30 years since I read those. Anyway, it was either Hari Seldon himself, or maybe the Second Foundation members who had those. The latter also had wall-screen displays to run the psycho-history equations. I haven't read any of the sequels he and others wrote long after when he t

  • by PC-PHIX (888080) <`moc.xihpcp' `ta' `nahtanoj'> on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:15AM (#14270220) Homepage
    The year 2010, when a server is finally built that can withstand the full force exerted by "The Slashdot Effect" [wikipedia.org].
    • The year 2010, when a server is finally built that can withstand the full force exerted by "The Slashdot Effect"...

      Welcome to 1998, brother. We've been waiting for you a long time...
  • Another error... (Score:4, Informative)

    by LardBrattish (703549) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:31AM (#14270265) Homepage
    3D came to role playing games with Ultima Underworld in 1992

    Somebody's forgotten about (or more likely too young to know about) Dungeon Master which debuted on the Atari ST in 1988 - I remember an Amiga owning friend of mine coming over to play my copy. He later ended up writing a Sci-Fi clone of it called BSS Jane Seymour IIRC for the Amiga.

    Those were the days...

    • Re:Another error... (Score:3, Informative)

      by cerebis (560975)
      Dungeon Master came out on both the Atari and Amiga simultaneously. This is one game that really gets ignored in the "history lessons" websites produce. Back then I made it a mission to play every CRPG that was released on the Amiga, and I did so up to and including Eye of the Beholder. Then suddenly became totally bored with the genre, though I was funny to see PC owners getting excited over these "new" 3D RPGs in the 90s. Probably the most fun I had playing a CPRG was when I played BloodWytch (Amiga) wi
    • Dungeon Master came out on both the Atari and Amiga simultaneously.This is one game that really gets ignored in the "history lessons" websites produce.

      Back then I made it a mission to play every CRPG that was released on the Amiga, and I did so up to and including Eye of the Beholder. Then suddenly became totally bored with the genre, though I was funny to see PC owners getting excited over these "new" 3D RPGs in the 90s.

      Probably the most fun I had playing a CPRG was when I played BloodWytch (Amiga) wit

  • by evilviper (135110) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:39AM (#14270286) Journal
    Article:
    And an unknown college dropout named Bill Gates, together with his partner Paul Allen, wrote a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair, forming a company called Micro-Soft in the process. He would later drop the hyphen and the capital S, and make billions of dollars.


    Dammit Slashdot! If you would just drop the capital S, you could be making billions of dollars too!
  • by furry_wookie (8361) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:40AM (#14270287)
    What this article is totally lacking is a breakdown between the HOME and business computer markets.

    There is a much more interesting story waiting to be told I think when you look at the eveolution of the home market. Things were very different than the simple story that these graphs tell.

    The only REAL COMPETITION story is in the home computer market. That is where we had C=, Apple, Tandy, TI, Atari etc actually innovating and competing. The business market never even gave a single platform a chance other than IBM PC's, so I feel by including the business stuff in the story your just introducing a HUGE amount of BORING to the story.

    Screw the business pc market, tell the story about the more dynamic home computer market where PC's didn't even start to make much of a splash until just before Windows311/Windows 95 came out.

    • It depeonds on what sector of the business market you're talking about. People with heavier CPU usage had a variety of UNIX workstation to choose from (Sun, Apollo, AT&T, SGI) as well as the DEC MicroVAX workstation for VMS. Apple tried their hand at a business PC with the Apple /// (man what a sad story of design-by-management). There were also several cheap machines that ran CP/M. But for the most part the business world was dominated by Big Iron driving terminals. IBM AS/400, IBM S/360 and S/390, Dat
    • There weren't much in the way of "personal" computers used in business. Before the microprocessor-based units, the "business computers" were larger units that had terminals connected to them, and which were what the users used. As far back as the late 1970s, I remember seeing ads for various minicomputers and office computers, but these were way too expensive for any personal use, even the smaller ones using 8 inch disks and CP/M. A few years later, I got to work with one of these, a 16-bit device, roughly
    • And what about the ill-fated MSX? (Extended Microsoft Basic-based) Then, all 'hobby'computers were so ddifferent there was little or no chance you could interchange programs between say a C64 and an Apple. MSX was set up as a standard, and various companies released computers under the MSX moniker. Yamaha, Spectravideo, Philips, Pioneer, Soni, Toshiba... Too little too late, though, too epensive compared to the existing computers and (IMO at that time) underperforming. Later there was the MSXII standard, bu
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:40AM (#14270288) Homepage
    The pages take ten to twenty seconds to load because "servedby.netshelter.net" is overloaded. "netshelter.net" is invoking a CGI program for every ad reference, and the Javascript seems to be delaying page rendering until the ads load.

    Welcome to "Web 2.0" - now with the performance of 38K dialup.

    • Joke aside, if this was truely a "Web 2.0" app the ads would be fetched asynchronously from other things, and invoked after the page was loaded (since it's not very useful to set the contents of a div tag if it doesn't exist yet).

      But Ars Technica is a great example of how to squeeze every last ad view impression out of each visitor, and blend the ads in nicely so you barely separate the article content from the advertised products. Visiting that site just now has prompted me to install adblocking software.
  • Poor Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:56AM (#14270331)
    I thought Apple had something of a resurgence in the last couple years, but I don't see [arstechnica.com] much indication of that.
    • I thought Apple had something of a resurgence in the last couple years, but I don't see much indication of that.

      Apple's profits are at record highs and their sales are way up. Apple is growing and expanding. **BUT** the rest of the computer industry is growing faster. As a result, Apple's marketshare continues to drop.
    • Re:Poor Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jerry Coffin (824726) on Friday December 16, 2005 @03:37AM (#14270557)
      I thought Apple had something of a resurgence in the last couple years, but I don't see much indication of that.

      It sounds like you pay a bit more attention to advertising than you really should. The reason you don't see it is that (despite Apple's ads) it's not real. Rather the contrary: the last time a Mac actually gained noticeable market share was the original iMac. Apple really topped out in the early 1990's, and has been on a long, (admittedly slow) downhill slide since then. They've managed to produce a couple of temporary upward bumps since then, but never anything very significant. Ultimately, it's just a bit of noise in a long, slow slide into oblivion.

      Recently, Apple's doing a bit better financially, but that's due to sales of iPods (and associated music, accessories, etc.) not Macs.

      This "change of venue" helps them considerably. On the computer front, they have a major problem: almost any change large enough to stand any chance of gaining significant market share would also very likely alienate a large portion of their existing user base. The iPod gives Apple a way out: instead of taking huge gambles in the OS, they just quietly de-emphasize the Mac, and put their real effort into iPods (which are more profitable anyway).

      In fact, I'd personally guess that Apple's switch to Intel processors is driven far more by the iPod's success than by technical details like CPU clock speed or power consumption. The improvement in Macs will be an almost accidental side-effect. The fact that it lets them concentrate on iPods instead of things like bridge chips and motherboards for PowerPCs means far more. Of course, they do still make quite a bit of money on Macs, so they have to de-emphasize them slowly, carefully, and in a way that doesn't alienate their user base (after all, that's why they can't make significant improvements in the Mac either). Over time, however, the Mac will become much more like a generic PC clone, with just enough unique to Apple to prevent running OS/X on anything Apple didn't sell. Eventually, even those trivial differences may be eliminated in favor of using a "Trusted Computing Platform" to "manage your rights", so they can charge a 20% premium for what will otherwise be an utterly generic PC.

      • by e1618978 (598967) on Friday December 16, 2005 @08:41AM (#14271195)

        http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/br eaking_news/13415110.htm [mercurynews.com]

        "Apple has also recently made market share inroads in the United States, according to IDC. After years of hovering between a 2.5
        and 3.7 percent share of the U.S. PC market, the company finally cracked 4 percent in the first half of 2005, Daoud said.

        Apple's market share of PC shipments was 4.4 percent in the third quarter, an increase of 43 percent from the year ago period,
        while the overall PC market expanded by only 2 percent, he said."
      • Not True (Score:3, Interesting)

        "Apple really topped out in the early 1990's, and has been on a long, (admittedly slow) downhill slide since then. They've managed to produce a couple of temporary upward bumps since then, but never anything very significant. Ultimately, it's just a bit of noise in a long, slow slide into oblivion. Recently, Apple's doing a bit better financially, but that's due to sales of iPods (and associated music, accessories, etc.) not Macs."

        In 2001 Apple sold about 3 million Macs which generated about 4.5 billion in
    • They have had a resurgence. Mac sales have doubled since last year and have steadily grown since 1999, but there are those out there (like the other respondent here) who will always filter any Apple news through market share stats which is a dubious metric to use. I heard that Mac users tend to buy new machines a lot less often than their Windows/PC using counterparts which negatively affects their market share. (I have no stats to back that up, btw, but I've seen it in real life so I tend to believe it.)
      • Mac sales have doubled since last year
        That's quite amazing. Do you have a link? Are you sure it isn't Apple's total profits (including the iPod) which have doubled? I don't have ill feeling towards Apple, I just think doubling computer sales volume in a year would be amazing.
  • Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crumbz (41803) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>gmail,com> on Friday December 16, 2005 @02:00AM (#14270346) Homepage
    That article is poorly researched. No mention of hugely influential (and successful) machines such as the Sinclair ZX-81 or Spectrum? No TI 99/4A description? And if the article is about "market share", why the history of the MITS and Altair without mentioning other alternative such as Heathkits and the comparison in sales?

    A classic example of an unfocused, poorly researched article.
    • This was my first microprocessor of any kind. It came with a COSMAC-1802 chip. I forget the clock speed, but I seem to recall the effective MIPS as about 0.3. Yeah 300khz or in that vicinity. I got it for $100, and it came with 1kb RAM. I bought another 1kb for $50. It used the good old cassette tape interface for storing/loading programs. It had a 1kb rom chip with a monitor program, and also had a tiny interpreter (about .5kb) on tape.

      I had a lot of fun programming this thing in machine code, writ

  • I don't understand, the conclusion graph seems to suggest that mac marketshare surged in 1991 to 1993, whereas the text in the mac section says it surged with the release of the imac. http://media.arstechnica.com/articles/culture/tota l-share.media/marketshare.jpg [arstechnica.com]
  • And an unknown college dropout named Bill Gates, together with his partner Paul Allen, wrote a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair, forming a company called Micro-Soft in the process. He would later drop the hyphen and the capital S, and make billions of dollars.

    It's really sad that neither his detractors (quite a few) nor his admirers (there must be some) remember that Bill Gates got his start writing a really gawdawful implementation of BASIC. I guess it had to be gawdawful, because

  • In the article Jeremy Reimer writes:
    To gain an advantage over existing personal computer models, IBM decided to use the new Intel 8088 CPU, which had a 16-bit memory model making it capable of directly addressing 1MB of memory (although unlike the fully 16-bit 8086, the 8088 chip saved money by being 8-bit externally).
    The 8086 and 8088 both used 20 bit addressing, 2^20 = 1,048,576, it's simple math!!!
  • For an excellent (and certainly more through) account of the advent of the personal computer you should check out Fire in the Valley [fireinthevalley.com] by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. It's one of those rare non-fiction works that truly engages you in the story. It even includes a copy of the letter Bill Gates wrote about software piracy (c. 1976).
  • by el_womble (779715) on Friday December 16, 2005 @06:14AM (#14270805) Homepage
    Its really interesting reading these articles where they mention Commodore 64s and IBM PC Clones in the same breath. I was 'growing up' during that period and hadn't adopted the shroud of geekdom, but I was still pretty tech savvi. I went through a BBC Micro, Spectrum 48k, and a lot of my friends bought Amiga 500s (luck SOBs) and the school had a few Macs, but when it came to doing work we used IBM clones, because they were 'real' computers.

    Even before the world standardized on Microsoft Office, and people were using Word Perfect and Lotus Office, saying that an Amiga 500 was a proper computer was the equivalent of saying that an XBox 360 is a 'real' computer now.

    Thats the tragedy of the 90s, these great systems are gone, not because they weren't any good, but because people didn't know how to use them, and nothing has changed now. I shocked a developer that I work with yesterday by saying that you could run a lot of DirectX games on Linux. Everytime I pull my PowerBook out in a meeting with new clients they are shocked that a geek would use a Mac instead of a 'real' computer. But if anything its more ridiculous:

    SCSI/Firewire/USB/SATA/PCI/Ethernet/TCP/IP

    We have standardized on so much that even our games consoles are almost indistinguisable from an IBM clone, and yet if you walk into an computer shop you have at most two options: PC / Mac, and in a couple of months both of those systems will be identical in all but OS.

    So as a world, why are we so obessed with the Wintel platform?

    Its can't be performance. Ever since the PIII, the two biggest barriers to real office performance have been RAM and HDD speed, and with 256MB RAM costing £20 and fast enough HDDs for £40 that really isn't a barrier.

    It can't be price. Apple, with their extrodinary mark-ups are capable of producing the Mac Mini for £350. Where are the other PPC / ARM / SPARC / POWER contenders?

    It can't even be software. Linux, in particular Ubuntu, have matured to such an extent that for 'real' computer task it exceeds Windows in usability and functionality. I could sit my dad in front of Open Office, on an Ubuntu box and he'd be just as functional within hours.

    I think its DRM.

    The XBox 360 has a 20GB harddrive, 512MB RAM a full networking stack and an API sophisticated enough that it is possible to create applications with graphics comparable to Jurasic Park, in real time. It has the ability to connect to my iPod, my camera, a keyboard and mouse, and it even has an external SATA connection (albeit proprietary) for future expansion of the harddrive. At £270 its a good price, for a system that would be fascinating to play with because of its 6 hardware threads. And yet its competitor is the unreleased PS3, not the mac mini.

    Millions of these units will be sold and will achieve a market penetration that Steve Jobs would kill for, many of them to lower income families (who value entertainment and keeping up with the Jones' over education) and yet, because of DRM, the number of children that will do their homework on one, or use it as a 'real' computer will be counted on one hand, and even fewer will ever use it to develop software for the console itself (unlike the Commodore 64).

    Beacause of DRM, turning these systems into a home computer isn't as simple as inserting a Live DVD and attaching a £10 keyboard and mouse set. Because of DRM, an exciting and innovative hardware platform will never be anything more than a toy. Because of DRM, in 30 years time, the Ars Technica article won't even mention the PS3 or the XBox when they're talking about the development of the home computer. So much for protecting innovators and artists.

  • First Personal Computer [blinkenlights.com]
    But if you mean a modern PC (personal microcomputer not sold in kit), it was french and named MICRAL. Ref. [fortunecity.com]
  • by master_p (608214) on Friday December 16, 2005 @07:11AM (#14270935)
    The article missed a few important home micros of the 80s: the ZX Spectrum, the Amstrad CPC, the BCC, the Acorn Archimedes, the QL. Of course some of these machines were hugely popular outside of the US.

    What is noteworthy is that the most successful computers were not the most technologically advanced. For example, at the time I was playing "Shadow of The Beast" on my Amiga with 18 levels of parallax scrolling and hundreds of colors at 50 FPS, the PC could do 16 colors at low resolution without parallax scrolling and barely reaching 15 FPS. The difference in visual quality was so great, that it made me believe that custom chips (what is now known as 'video accelerators') would be the first thing any IBM-compatible PC would have right away. But I was so wrong: It took 10 years for the first video accelerator for the PC to arrive.

    Personally I think the Amiga was the most important home PC ever. It showed how a home computer should be like: easy to access, loads almost instantly, plays on TV and on computer monitor, with a wealthy of tools for the programmer and amateur electronics designer, and totally open in specs. In fact, the Amiga was so versatile as to (for example): a) display 16M colors where only 256 colors were actually allowed (on Amiga 1200), b) have CPU 68000, 68030 and PowerPC running at the same time, using the same memory.

    What went wrong for Commodore? The Amiga had great prospect, but what killed it was the disability of Commodore to see the importance of 3D graphics. Back at 1991, Commodore had a great custom chip that could do 1 million textured polygons at 50 frames per second with hardware transformation, but they instead went on to produce CD32. The decision was a result of internal politics...then Doom appeared on the PC, making it the premier gaming choice, and the rest is history.

    The history of Amiga reminds me of SEGA: SEGA were the masters of 3D graphics at the arcades, but they miserably failed to produce any decent 3D machine until the Dreamcast. SEGA underestimated the importance of 3D graphics for the home, and they were forced out of the console business. If we had arcade-quality Outrun, Space Harrier, Afterburner and Powerdrift at home during the Genesis/Megadrive era, and then Virtua Fighter / Virtua Striker, things would be different today for SEGA, just as it would be for Commodore if the Amiga had custom chips for 3D graphics 10 years before the PC.
  • by kronocide (209440) on Friday December 16, 2005 @08:01AM (#14271038) Homepage Journal
    I've had a theory for some time that it's the apple that Alan Turing poisoned and used to kill himself with. So the bite-mark is from Turing's suicide. Pretty grotesque, but I don't know of any other famous apples in computing history.
  • by airship (242862) on Friday December 16, 2005 @10:39AM (#14271841) Homepage
    Ah, the computer wars of the mid-80's.
    At INFO magazine, we were right in the middle, bashing IBM and Atari, giving grudging admiration to the Mac, and singing the praises of the Commodore 64 and Amiga.
    Those were the days.
    Anyone still interested in such things might be interested in visiting my INFO nostalgia page at: http://airship.home.mchsi.com/infomag.htm [mchsi.com]

    - Mark R. Brown, former Managing Editor, INFO Magazine

    PS Very nice article at Ars, by the way. Great research. Those numbers are almost impossible to find, and I think they did a great job. Love the graphs. :)

Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. -- Ambrose Bierce

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