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Computer MarketShare from Altair to now

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  • Christian Liendo
    I thought this was interesting and rather on-topic. http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/08/from-altair-to-ipad-35-years-of-personal-computer-market-share
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 14, 2012
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    • s100doctor
      ... It s within my interests of preserving 1970 s computers, because it has some details about misconceptions of computing history in that period, that similar
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 21, 2012
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        Christian Liendo <christian_liendo@...> wrote:
        >
        > I thought this was interesting and rather on-topic.
        >
        > http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/08/from-altair-to-ipad-35-years-of-personal-computer-market-share
        >

        It's within my interests of preserving 1970's computers, because it has some details about misconceptions of computing history in that period, that similar "retrospective" articles just gloss over. They provide some statistics, not just platitudes. I don't agree completely with their analysis but at least they explain what they are doing, they have a clue, and some data.

        In particular, the article talks about "market share" and "installed base", and "local markets". It uses a graph of known-brand computers of the 1970's by "market share" - a percentage of total quarterly sales - to make a case of sorts about winners and losers. They continue such graphs into the decades following.

        I disagree with their presentation of the 1970's, because they don't well represent the actual numbers, just "shares". It's not fair to use "market share" to compare 1970's microcomputer companies - a market from essentially "zero" in 1975, to hundreds of thousands, maybe a million?, by 1981 (before the IBM PC). Those numbers matter, because unlike today, a PC of the 70's may have been used for several years, even a few decades. A very few are STILL in use today.

        Another problem with their analysis, is their obsession with brand by manufacturer. Again - when you have a small market with many companies, there's no "brand" by company. Standards in the era were about hardware or software or both. They fail to note one of the dominant "brands" of the 1970's and into the 80's - CP/M compatible systems. No market share of CP/M systems is given at all. The author says he found in 1980 "a hundred brands of incompatible computers"- I'll bet a majority of them were CP/M-compatible; many were probably S-100 system, a hardware standard but not the "brand" they had in mind.

        But their charts and presentations make some useful points, from my view. For instance, a 1980's chart of market share of sales, shows IBM and its clones took FIVE years (to 1986) to achieve half of current computer sales. This makes the point that IBM's PC and compatibles (not yet clones) did not completely wipe the table of all other computers.

        I work hard to preserve 1970's microcomputers because I'm working against 21st century prejudices. General retrospectives on computing, have relegated those old computers to be considered non-serious, not successful - they are called "homebrew" or "ugly boxes of boards". Or they didn't have graphics. Or they weren't absolutely compatible with each other.

        So these computers and the companies that made or programmed 1970's microcomputers are called "losers", because they did not produce billionaires or million-unit global sales or a well-known name. The article does better than most but still fails to credit the 1970's as the grounds for personal computing decades later, except for a few iconic and oft-cited hardware brands.

        Herb Johnson
        retrotechnology.com
      • Neil Cherry
        ... A common problem when viewing any history in today s context. You end up with the wrong conclusions. To be honest it sounds like there are not enough of
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 21, 2012
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          On 08/21/2012 11:43 AM, s100doctor wrote:

          > I work hard to preserve 1970's microcomputers because I'm working against 21st century
          > prejudices. General retrospectives on computing, have relegated those old computers to be
          > considered non-serious, not successful - they are called "homebrew" or "ugly boxes of
          > boards". Or they didn't have graphics. Or they weren't absolutely compatible with each other.

          A common problem when viewing any history in today's context. You end up
          with the wrong conclusions.

          To be honest it sounds like there are not enough of you to correct the
          incorrect perception.

          --
          Linux Home Automation Neil Cherry ncherry@...
          http://www.linuxha.com/ Main site
          http://linuxha.blogspot.com/ My HA Blog
          Author of: Linux Smart Homes For Dummies
        • s100doctor
          ... It s worse that that. It s not about enough of me or perceptions to be corrected . It s not merely looking at the past with the expectations of the
          Message 4 of 5 , Aug 22, 2012
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            >
            > On 08/21/2012 11:43 AM, s100doctor wrote:
            >
            > > I work hard to preserve 1970's microcomputers because I'm working against 21st century
            > > prejudices. General retrospectives on computing, have relegated those old computers to be
            > > considered non-serious, not successful - they are called "homebrew" or "ugly boxes of
            > > boards". Or they didn't have graphics. Or they weren't absolutely compatible with each other.

            Neil Cherry <ncherry@...> wrote:
            >
            > A common problem when viewing any history in today's context. You end up
            > with the wrong conclusions.
            >
            > To be honest it sounds like there are not enough of you to correct the
            > incorrect perception.

            It's worse that that. It's not about "enough of me" or "perceptions" to be "corrected". It's not merely looking at the past with the expectations of the present, but that's one factor.

            The simple facts are, that when IBM moved in after 1981, and Microsoft later, they had all the money. So all the programmers, hardware people, businesses and (my point) *reporters and press*, went to "the IBM side" - to make money. Same with Microsoft.

            So, it was in the ECONOMIC interest of reporters and magazines, to not cover CP/M or S-100 or Z80's, as those systems were not advertized in those magazines, because they weren't made. But...that didn't happen until well into the 1980's - SEVERAL years after the IBM PC was introduced.

            I looked at some 1983 computer magazines just a few says ago: most new systems weren't IBM compatible, most ran CP/M and BASIC programs. Many were still S-100 based. They weren't identical like IBM PC's became - the complaint by the retrospective's author was about "all incompatible" systems. However, they were compatible ENOUGH that the same kinds of software and hardware was available for ALL of them; and they came with what was immediately needed. The 1970's hashed out what was needed in the 1980s, for either IBM PC's, or Z80 and CP/M systems. That too is not often acknowledged.

            By the late 1980's, Z80 or CP/M based systems were out of production. They were used, but just didn't generate new sales. S-100 systems were still made, but for niche markets - video, industrial, high-performance computing. Digital Research was still in business, by the way - with Concurrent DOS and DR-DOS, not CP/M, until 1990 when they were sold to Novell and THEY continued to sell DR-DOS.

            But what 1990's computer magazine writer wants to write articles praising CP/M, or S-100, or chasing down niche markets of old companies - when their salaries (and editor's and publisher's) are paid with Microsoft & MS-DOS & IBM ads? (Or Commodore or Atari, etc.) As Watergate's "Deep Throat" famously said ".....follow the money". Google my Web domain retrotechnology.com, for more about the era of the 70's, 80's and 90's for Digital Research and S-100

            For my younger colleagues: I imagine similar things happened, when Commodore and Atari were in favor, and generating money and news; and when they were out of favor and lost all their "friends" in business and the press. Today they get a better "rap", thanks to games and emulators. Computers of the 70's don't have most of that factor.

            I guess I should state one other point. I'm an old man, 60 next year. There's fewer old men/women of the 1970's who know this stuff first hand. Every year, I have to explain more and more stuff that used to be "common" knowledge of computer techies. So it's a little funny now, to read a suggestion that "there's not enough of me" to explain it at all. Soon enough, there will be zero "of me".

            So what's my "gripe" about vintage computing coverage by the press today? It's old news, right? Well, I blame reporters and authors, who misrepresent the past when they DO bother to write about it, that bias their perspective in order to maintain favor with people and companies in the present - most of whom made their fortunes by following IBM (or Macs) but fail to acknowledge their roots in CP/M, S-100 and other systems and companies a generation prior. So the reporters don't want to contradict their advertisers, or their company's founders. Much less, do real homework and get past their computing biases.

            More broadly: you can't learn from the past, if you get the past WRONG. I want to preserve the past, for the future. In particular, my OWN past - just like other vintage collectors, who in general preserve their own early computing history. That is harder to get respect for, if it's treated as history about "homebrew" computers from "loser" companies selling dreary boxes.

            Herb Johnson
            retrotechnology.com
          • Evan Koblentz
            ... If your definition of credibility is only someone who s actually been there, then you re in no position to critique the media. Having said that, I d like
            Message 5 of 5 , Aug 22, 2012
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              >> I blame reporters and authors, who misrepresent the past when they DO bother to write about it, that bias their perspective in order to maintain favor with people and companies in the present

              If your definition of credibility is "only someone who's actually been there," then you're in no position to critique the media.

              Having said that, I'd like to remind all MARCHins that when you rip "the technology media," you're ripping ME, without whom this club wouldn't exist.

              Thank you.
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