Happy birthday PC!

With the PC celebrating its 30th birthday today, let’s take a quick look at Commodore’s machines in this market segment.
Indeed, Commodore became a player in the whole professional IBM clone business as early as 1983, with its series of PCxx computers.  We must not forget that Commodore originally started out in the professional segment as Commodore Business Machines, with the tremendous success of the Commodore PET, so it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that they were going to be a player in this market as well.

All of these machines, ranging from the little PC-I up to the PC20-III and Colt were 8088-based and came with (except for the PC-I, which had 512K) 640K of RAM a 5.25” floppy drive, COM-port, Centronics port and a mouse port that allowed Amiga-compatible mice to be connected.
Some versions in this early PCxx line of products came with a 10Mb, 20Mb or 40Mb hard disk.
Commodore kept on producing PCs all the way through the 80s and 90s, continuing their series of PCxx computers with a range of 286- and 386-based machines (this time also in tower design) and, as always, stayed ahead of their time with the introduction of a slimline series of compact PCs (something we see in offices all around us today).
Commodore also introduced some really nice 286-, 386- and 486-based laptops, witnessing the move from MS-DOS to Windows.

Now, although I stated that, true to their name of “Commodore Business Machines” it was logical for them to pursue this market, come to think of it, it does seem a bit strange for them to enter this market segment right at the same time as they were shaping the computer market with the Commodore 64.

I recently had the chance to inquire on this strategy with Leonard Tramiel, son of founder and owner of Commodore Jack Tramiel:

Robby: When in ’83, Commodore started making the PC-clones, do you think this is a route Commodore should have pursued further (as it seemed successful in Europe where it caught some of the PC market) as opposed to bringing the TED-line into production and then later on, focusing in pushing the C64-line further with the C128?

Leonard: Making clones was a viable market. The question is: What would that do to Commodore’s core business? It is likely to have diverted attention away and thereby hurt that business.
I think they were right keeping their attention on the niche business.

Indeed, this niche business clearly was where Commodore’s strength was: producing “computers for the masses, not the classes”.  A PC back in those days would have set you back several thousands of dollars, whereas the C64, which came “ready out of the box”, only cost a few hundreds.
Without it, I think the PC market would not be where it is today, as it was Commodore with its cheap yet powerful C64/C128 that paved the way for future computer geniuses.
In a strange way, we’ve come full circle now, with Commodore USA producing PCs with the Intel Core i7 chipset in a breadbox-style case…

The success of the PC, in my book, is largely due to the low-entry machines like the C64 provided for many young people to get a taste of things to come with the PC.

So I raise my glass to you, PC and salute the great Commodore machines!

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2 Responses to Happy birthday PC!

  1. Pingback: Windows Client Developer Roundup 079 for 8/22/2011 - Pete Brown's 10rem.net

  2. Hi Robby,
    I still got a C386SX-LT as well.
    Wanna have it?
    Cheers,
    Marcel

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