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Computer History 101: The Development Of The PC

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August 24, 2011 5:09:59 AM

FIRST!


i still have my pentium 2 gathering dust on my closet

improvements in technology is AMAZING
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August 24, 2011 5:50:53 AM

^ dweeb alert
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August 24, 2011 6:08:34 AM

The article contains no post-PC era nonsense! Just the way it should be.
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August 24, 2011 6:18:58 AM

I liked it. Love history; and the history of computerized technology. Can't wait to see the next 50 years.
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August 24, 2011 6:51:23 AM

just one question:

why this article? in the whole wide range of PC, why this?
you could have done the second part to the Antiliasing article.
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August 24, 2011 7:12:19 AM

mayankleoboy1just one question: why this article? in the whole wide range of PC, why this?you could have done the second part to the Antiliasing article.


That's still on its way. It's very data-intensive and Don has been plugging away at it.
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August 24, 2011 8:07:54 AM

No mention of the Commodore in any of its forms? :( 
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August 24, 2011 8:10:32 AM

Quote:
2006: Microsoft releases the long-awaited Windows Vista to business users. The PC OEM and consumer market releases would follow in early 2007:


It should really read.

2006: Microsoft releases the long-awaited Windows Vista to business users. The PC OEM and consumer market releases would follow in early 2007 and the vast majority of people quickly downgraded back to Windows XP:

lol
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August 24, 2011 8:51:49 AM

Pics or it didn't happen!

Where are the illustrations for this rather interesting piece?
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August 24, 2011 9:43:30 AM

One thing that I disliked about the Timeline of Computer Advancements was leaving out Douglas Englebart and the Mother of All Demos in 1968(if you don't know about him you know very little about computer history )and giving accolades instead to Xerox.
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August 24, 2011 10:17:07 AM

I also missed the Commodore line of pcs
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August 24, 2011 11:02:00 AM

Nice read, reminded me to read up a bit more history on Apple, I knew jobs left for a while, but only found out today that he's apparently taken LSD and went Hindu after a trip to India. Yes, *apparently*, go look it up :) 
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August 24, 2011 1:14:11 PM

Quote:
he system’s $8975 price placed it out of the mainstream personal computer marketplace

That's a mild understatement. In 1975 you could buy a brand new V8 powered Ford Mustang for $4000.

Quote:
The move to a PC-based architecture is without a doubt the smartest move Apple has made in years—besides reducing Apple’s component costs, it allows Macs to finally perform on par with PCs.

Eh? Apple had to move to Intel because PowerPC was going downhill in 2006, but a there was a time when PowerPC chips were faster than Intel chips.

Quote:
I would say it is a safe bet that PC-compatible systems will continue to dominate the personal computer marketplace for the foreseeable future.

That's a bold statement considering that the next version of Windows is going to be ARM compatible.
The personal computer isn't going anywhere, but we might see the end of x86 dominance soon.
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August 24, 2011 1:34:05 PM

No Fusion and no ARM? WTF?!
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August 24, 2011 1:58:22 PM

Where is Xerox and their contributions? They made the GUI and the mouse as well ethernet networking so it isn't like they were vaporware.
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August 24, 2011 2:19:30 PM

This article is misleading a little bit. Apple computers, before the change to Intel processors, used IBM processors, wich were significantly superior to Intel best solution
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August 24, 2011 2:40:32 PM

So does this mean without IBM, the PC would be way different than what it is today?
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August 24, 2011 2:40:48 PM

Quite a few mistakes, but the most glaring is the overstatement with regards to the Apple II. What standard did it set? Expansion slots were on other machines, although IBM certainly saw this on the Apple. Of course, you didn't have the problems where certain card wouldn't work in certain slots (except in VERY rare cases), whereas Apple was much more rigid. The weird video where you couldn't put certain colors next to other colors were certainly never copied. The 6502 was a dead end, and Apple's next computer went to the 68K. The design where the keyboard was part of the computer was not copied by IBM,and in any case had been predated.

Also, it was NOT a huge standard. The TRS-80 was at least as important in 1977 and the next few years, and was the best selling computer before the IBM PC came out. Also, don't forget Atari, which was also out there with the Atari 400 and Atari 800, and had very powerful video acceleration technology.

It's not the Apple II wasn't selling, but it wasn't a predominate standard as stated, and had very strong competition. It was basically overpriced junk, with a slow, very annoying processor (which is the basis for ARM's instruction set), annoying video modes, weird floppy disk technology, and a price excessive for what the machine was.

Also, the Pentium II was not basically a Pentium Pro with MMX. It had much more important changes (in retrospect, since MMX didn't matter much). For one, the Pentium Pro ran 16-bit code very poorly, and it was obscenely expensive because of the L2 cache on the processor package. They slowed down the L2 cache with external chips (for the Klamath, Deschutes, and Katmai), but doubled the L1 cache. This cut costs dramatically. Also, the Pentium II was able to run 16-bit code better than the Pentium for the first time.
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August 24, 2011 2:49:25 PM

No mention of Unix/Linux?
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August 24, 2011 3:21:01 PM

They still make that book?

I think I have the 2nd Ed of that book at home, with ISA ports listed in it.

A free copy would mean I have one that's up-to-date. lolz
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August 24, 2011 3:44:28 PM

My father still has a working MITS altair. The disk drives are a bit flakey, and I don't think the punch tape drive has been used since the 70s, but it packs a full 64KB sRAM, and has switches on the front by which you can actually toggle in the machine code if you want. Working in 64 KB of program and data space is challenging to say the least. It runs a variant of BASIC written by William Gates, whoever that is.
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August 24, 2011 4:01:43 PM

madsbsPics or it didn't happen!Where are the illustrations for this rather interesting piece?


Alas, we weren't able to add artwork to the story as it appears in the book; believe me, I wanted to as well :) 
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August 24, 2011 4:22:28 PM

TA152HQuite a few mistakes....


Yeah, I was going to add similar. One thing they also forgot was LIM, Lotus/Intel/Microsoft. Before MS put out the Office suit, and IBM headed down it's lonesome OS/2 trail (wow, not even a mention of OS/2 ???), Lotus played a role in the early evolution.

What made the PC standard was open hardware, AND software the masses could use.
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August 24, 2011 6:50:10 PM

Im curious, why no mention of Konrad Zuse's Z1 machine he built in the late 30's and early 40's?
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August 24, 2011 7:13:46 PM

I've always read that $666.66 price for the Apple I was chosen by Steve Wozniak, not Steve Jobs, because he liked repeating digits.
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August 24, 2011 10:05:09 PM

TA152HQuite a few mistakes, but the most glaring is the overstatement with regards to the Apple II. What standard did it set? Expansion slots were on other machines, although IBM certainly saw this on the Apple. Of course, you didn't have the problems where certain card wouldn't work in certain slots (except in VERY rare cases), whereas Apple was much more rigid. The weird video where you couldn't put certain colors next to other colors were certainly never copied. The 6502 was a dead end, and Apple's next computer went to the 68K. The design where the keyboard was part of the computer was not copied by IBM,and in any case had been predated. Also, it was NOT a huge standard. The TRS-80 was at least as important in 1977 and the next few years, and was the best selling computer before the IBM PC came out. Also, don't forget Atari, which was also out there with the Atari 400 and Atari 800, and had very powerful video acceleration technology. It's not the Apple II wasn't selling, but it wasn't a predominate standard as stated, and had very strong competition. It was basically overpriced junk, with a slow, very annoying processor (which is the basis for ARM's instruction set), annoying video modes, weird floppy disk technology, and a price excessive for what the machine was. Also, the Pentium II was not basically a Pentium Pro with MMX. It had much more important changes (in retrospect, since MMX didn't matter much). For one, the Pentium Pro ran 16-bit code very poorly, and it was obscenely expensive because of the L2 cache on the processor package. They slowed down the L2 cache with external chips (for the Klamath, Deschutes, and Katmai), but doubled the L1 cache. This cut costs dramatically. Also, the Pentium II was able to run 16-bit code better than the Pentium for the first time.


I'm happy to pass that information along to Que, thanks.
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August 24, 2011 10:17:51 PM

The Commodore Amiga 500 was an amazing computer, with games that were far more advanced than any console or anything else for that matter. Shadow of the Beast had the best graphics ever seen at the time.

My Amiga 500 still works! :) 
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August 24, 2011 10:39:28 PM

This isn't a history "The Development Of The PC"... this is a small overview on the PC clone and Apple.

Many of the functions and features enjoyed today CAN BE AND IS related to many other players. The "IBM PC" was demanded by IBM mainframe owners who wanted IBM desktops to use. IBM threw together a POS, which allowed the tiny company MS to become the Juggernaut it is today. It wasn't designed to be a HOME computer.

Meanwhile... Apple's 8bit computers used CPUs made by Commodore (CMOS was owned by Commodore). The 8bit Apples were built until around 1990. Even Commodore made the C=64 from 1982 till 1992! Ouch! The Amiga was released in 1985, it had features that took Mac and MS 15 years to CATCH UP!

MS-DOS was always crap, 3rd rate operating system. Windows 1~3 were not OSes, just GUI shells on top of MS-DOS. Even Commodore 64/128 had GUI-SHELLs (GEOS, which became QNX that is now owned by RIM) that made these 8bit computers function and look like Apple Macs. I know, because I used GEOS when I was a kid... and I still have my C=128 and $275 5.25 1571 floppy drive which work (I forgot how to use them).

Amiga brought MUSIC, Video and Visuals to the masses with its $600~1200 Amiga computers. Which MS-DOS people snubbed as not being serious. LOL. Sorry, but *I* grew up with a Multitasking Amiga 1000. Going to DOS & Windows3 was a major downgrade. Win95 was an OS, but it was pure crap compared to 1989 AmigaOS 2.0. Not until XP in 2001 did MS have a consumer OS that surpassed most of the functionality of AmigaOS 3~4.x.

Yes, in some ways, WindowsXP is still sub-standard to AmigaOS 3 when it comes to that first boot up and setting up the HD... which is SOOOO MS-DOS. With an Amiga, you boot up with a floppy, you get a fully functional OS which allows you to setup and format the HD.

Amiga created the multimedia and gaming we have today on PCs. Its only because of the STUPIDITY and somewhat purposeful corporate tax write off BS that the CEOs of Commodore did, that kept the Amiga from being THE PC the world would use.
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August 24, 2011 10:49:33 PM

mikenygmailThe Commodore Amiga 500 was an amazing computer, with games that were far more advanced than any console or anything else for that matter. Shadow of the Beast had the best graphics ever seen at the time.My Amiga 500 still works!


I still have my working: Amiga 1000 and Amiga 3000. I was never a fan of the keyboard computers. If I was in charge of C=, I would have done a much better job.

1 - I'd still come out with the A500 (late 1986). Budget home computer.

2 - I'd have made an A1200 in 86, but it would have been 95% an Amiga 500, but with an internal ZORRO slot, room for a floopy and 5" HD. It would have sold for $1000 (1mb / 1 FD).

3 - My A2000 would not HAVE any PC-SLOTS, which added costs, space and made an ugly computer. About 1% of Amiga users actually bought the IBM-PC daughter board. Meanwhile 3rd party made cheaper MS-DOS and Mac software emulations... gag.

4 - My A1200 / 2000 would have included a de-interlacer video port. This would have made a huge difference with office users.

5 - I'd have paid Aldus (Adobe) to make Pagemaker for Amiga as well as other well known OFFICE Apps. Apple did this for the Macintosh.

6 - in 1986, I'd have the 2.0 look and called it AmigaOS 2.0. Before I ever saw AmigaOS 2.0, I had made my 1.3 into black/ White and 2 shades gray... but my colors were opposite what 2.0 used, so my custom icons had to be changed... LOL.

7 - I have ADOS 3.0 softboot on my A3000 (Also on my A1000 when I had the HD). The command in the startup file was : If OS is NOT 3.0, then load 3.0ROM into memory, ELSE continue boot. (something like that).

8 - I would have gone after the business market seriously. Not waste time with PC compatibility and UNIX.
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August 25, 2011 12:14:52 AM

WTF 1nm? is it even possible LOL if it's an atom size, doesn't it runs on atom? like quantum computers LOL DAMN!
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August 25, 2011 12:23:04 AM

How do you write this and leave out the original Apple Macintosh? Umm. The mouse was a big deal. A lot of this wasnt.
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August 25, 2011 4:40:57 AM

kilo_17So does this mean without IBM, the PC would be way different than what it is today?

that is exactly
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August 25, 2011 5:49:28 AM

jj463rdOne thing that I disliked about the Timeline of Computer Advancements was leaving out Douglas Englebart and the Mother of All Demos in 1968(if you don't know about him you know very little about computer history )and giving accolades instead to Xerox.

I have a mouse signed by englebart! One of those rare nerd mementos which I will keep as long as I live.

Also, I have the 12th edition of this book, it is a bit dry reading, but is an amazing resource if you ever have hardware problems or questions. They go though everything! For those wanting the book be sure you have space, mine is 5 inches thick, and I'm sure it hasn't gotten any smaller over the years.
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August 25, 2011 8:02:57 AM

Error: For some odd reason, back when QNX introduced the 1.44 FD OS Challenge (A Win95-like OS that fits on a floppy in 2001), the websites somehow mixed it with GEOS related, which is not true.

wiinippongamerthat is exactly

Not quite. IBM never would have gained much market share of the PC world with its "IBM PCs". It was because IBM licensed "PC-DOS" from Microsoft (which bought it for $25,000) and allowed MS to sell MS-DOS to anyone - which lead to the creation of the CLONES... which cause the "PC" to become the standard it is today.

Back in around 1985~87... here is what it costs for a computer:

$200 = Commodore 64
$400 = Commodore 128 (My main computer from 1985~1989)
$600 = Apple II (It was such junk compared to the C=64, but created the PC market)
$700 = Amiga 500 (512k / no HD / 880k FD)

$1200 = Amiga 1000 (no HD, 256k, 880k FD)
$2500 = Macintosh Plus (9" black and white) (no HD / 1mb / 800k FD)
$4000+ = Typical PC clone with MS-DOS and a small HD.
$3000~8000 = IBM PS/2 series of computers.

$5500 = Mac II (with 20MB HD / no color) $8000+ with color, memory and monitor.

See how in the 1980s, C= 8bit and Amiga were the affordable computers? They were considered "TOYS", yet were able to so much more with less money.

By the 1990s, PC Clones were getting cheaper, Windows 3.x was out... and that is that.

If IBM was the only company to make their PC type computer, (NO CLONES). There would not have been a Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Acer, etc...

Eventually, business would have gone with Amiga and Macs for computers, since the DOS-ERA type IBMs would have remained stagnant and left far behind. Until Windows95... MS-DOS was the required OS for PC-DOS systems.
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August 25, 2011 8:23:34 AM

(no bloody EDIT function)
PS to wiinippongamer
You are exactly right, if IBM didn't get into the PC game with their "IBM PC" 8086 computer. Also, intel wouldn't be as big either. The 6502 CPUs were most popular with 8 bit systems and the Motorola 68000 was the CPU for Amiga, Mac, Atari-ST and other 16bit computers.

In fact, IBM went to Motorola in 1981 about using the 68000 in the "PC", but it was too expensive and MC (Motorola) was selling that CPU for mini-computers (Systems that costs $20,000+) back then. Keep in mind, the 68000 class CPU eventually ended up as a $1-2 CPU used in washing machines LOL!! Todays $25 CPU were $1000 Pentium Extreme Editions, 5 years ago earlier.

So... no IBM PC, means NO intel... as we know it. I'd say that Amiga would have ended up with 50% of the market*, 40% Mac and 10% Linux in 2011. MS would be a much smaller company - selling tools and perhaps MS-OFFICE for Amiga, Mac and Linux. :) 

* That would be if C= became a smart company and did things as stated above. Otherwise, Apple would own 50~60% of the PC Market today.

And you know what... I'd be OKAY with that. (As I get in my Time Machine).
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August 25, 2011 12:52:24 PM

Bill Gates worked at MITS:

Henry Edward "Ed" Roberts is most often known as "the father of the personal computer". He founded Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS).

Bill Gates and Paul Allen joined MITS to develop software and Altair BASIC was Microsoft's first product. Roberts sold MITS in 1977 and retired to Georgia where he farmed, studied medicine and eventually became a small-town doctor.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Roberts_(computers)
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August 25, 2011 2:16:59 PM

While we're strolling down Memory Ln...

I think it's amazing how much work I was able to get done with Enable, an integrated package combining Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Database, Telecomm, and Graphics. I found it vastly superior to Lotus' Symphony and Ashton Tate's Framework; it was able to mix graphics with text long before Word Perfect could do it. I used DesQview with QEMM for multitasking, and it was remarkably stable. Remember TSR programs, like Sidekick and PC Tools? Man, those were the days...
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August 25, 2011 2:31:18 PM

faiiil

where is the ATARI ST ? the AMIGA which was superior to BOTH APPLE and IBM PC at that time ???

where is the C64 ?

come on this is faaaaaiiiil
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August 25, 2011 3:01:30 PM

This article is pure [bull-flowers].

Not mentioning about 5.000 computers BEFORE the PC era: MSX family, Commodore family, Spectrum, Amstrad, BBC, Atari, TRS, Acorn, Oric, etc etc etc. THOSE ARE COMPUTER HISTORY....
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August 25, 2011 5:35:51 PM

Sweet read!
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August 25, 2011 10:24:30 PM

Everyone has seen those $15 Joystick consoles that plug into the TV with 80s Arcade games, or Atari 2600 and even C= 64 games.

Some hackers have found ways to turn the $15 C=64 joystick into a mostly full blown C=64 computer. Hooking up a FD and keyboard. The whole thing fits on a single chip.

SNA: The Atari ST was the cheapest computer, it was kind of neat that the entire OS was in ROM. But overall, the ST was a cheap copy combination of the Amiga (Which Atari almost bought/stole) for multimedia abilties, Mac for its GUI look and DOS (DR-DOS) for the filing system.

So it had all the limitations of a Mac and MS-DOS. No multi-tasking, 8.3 file names. It was thrown together in a few months. But they were rather cool looking machines.
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August 26, 2011 1:17:03 AM

I would like to add that the IBM System/23 Datamaster was available in 2 forms, the all-in-one as mentioned but also the Ergonomic version with a separate keyboard, monitor that raised and lowered and tilted, and tower processor unit (the computer) with 2 built-in 8-inch floppy drives. I know this because we were an IBM VAR for the 5120 and S/23 and the only version we would buy for internal sw development and run our business accounting as well was the Ergonomic version as well as the only one we sold.

Also not really mentioned was that IBM's choice of the Microchannel Architecture was it's downfall that allowed the compatible market to fly past IBM. IBM wanted to close down the openness in favor of MCA that would bring in large license fees from compatibles wanted to "keep up with IBM" so the compatibles stayed the course on the open standards and the rest is history ie: ISA, EISA, PCI, PCIe, etc. So doesn't always work as in "built it and they will come and license it from you" LOL
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Anonymous
August 26, 2011 9:20:45 AM

Pretty poor article that's supposed to be about computer history yet doesn't even mention Xerox, Commodore or Atari.
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August 26, 2011 12:47:06 PM

Interesting that S.Jobs chose $666 as the price for Apple's first computer. 666 is the sign of the beast :/ 
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August 26, 2011 4:38:21 PM

I went to go enter the giveaway, and wanted to check their privacy policy, and saw this: "12. Participation in the Contest constitutes an entrant’s consent to the Sponsor's use of his/her name, likeness, voice, opinions." Huh? If I enter a contest, Best of Media owns my name, likeness, voice and opinions? Skipping this giveaway, and not going to read the article now.
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August 26, 2011 9:14:35 PM

ChewieNo mention of the Commodore in any of its forms?


Yep, the C64, one of the most popular systems ever made. It is a shame the C64 and the Amiga are forgotten as if they never existed. Even the Atari foray with the 520ST and 1040ST had a small impact, although watching a friend solder memory chips on top of each other to "expand" his ST gave me many hours of comic relief.

The C64 had some great learning and educational tools as well as a windows like GEOS environment. It killed the TI994A (remember that one)hands down.

From wiki:

During the C64's lifetime, sales totalled between 12.5 and 17 million units, making it the best-selling single personal computer model of all time.[5][6] For a substantial period of time (1983–1986), the C64 dominated the market with between 30% and 40% share and 2 million units sold per year,[7] outselling the IBM PC clones, Apple Inc. computers, and Atari 8-bit family computers. Sam Tramiel, a later Atari president and the son of Commodore's founder, said in a 1989 interview "When I was at Commodore we were building 400,000 C64s a month for a couple of years."[8]

\end wiki


It introduced millions to the PC experience. And the ground breaking Amiga after that. Yes they are gone (except at my house, they still work) but they also left their mark. So remember when you sing the praises of intel, amd, mircosoft and apple that there were others, like commodore, motorola, MOS and others....

Still a proud owner of the Amiga 1200 (6860, 50MHz), 3x 3000's, 2x 500's, 2 C64s and a C128D.


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August 27, 2011 8:12:47 AM

SteelCity1981It should really read.2006: Microsoft releases the long-awaited Windows Vista to business users. The PC OEM and consumer market releases would follow in early 2007 and the vast majority of people quickly downgraded back to Windows XP:lol


It shouldn't read that, because that would be a lie. Okay, maybe just a bad joke, but so far the Tomshardware editors have refrained from making jokes that are this dumb, for which I'm grateful.

;) 
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August 27, 2011 8:40:51 AM

Firehead2kI also missed the Commodore line of pcs


There were several other PC-type computers manufactured, not just Commodore. The fact is though, none of these machines had a significant effect on the PC scene today, as fond of them as we might have been. The TI 99/4a was a technically superior machine to the Apple II, but poorly packaged and sold by TI. The Amiga was a superior machine to the Mac that didn't follow the PC standard and finally died.

I think it would be foolish to think of a small article like this as an attempt to tell us the complete history of PCs. It's a bare-bones article, and I doubt even the book that inspired it covers everything about PC history. Some things are going to have to be left out, even if the author(s) want to put them in.

;) 
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!