Jump to content

Photo

Was there a personal computer market crash (or correction) in the mid 80s


118 replies to this topic

#1 DesertJets OFFLINE  

DesertJets

    Moonsweeper

  • 293 posts
  • Location:ABQ, NM

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:24 PM

Last week I watched Micro Men and it got me thinking. By 1985 both Sinclair and Acorn ceased to be independent companies -- being bought up by Amstrad and Olivetti respectively. The story seemed much like what happened in North America in 83/84 -- with many OEMs of video game consoles and a glut of questionable software on the market -- along with increasing pressure to reduce price to sell units. Though in the case of Sinclair and Acorn the product continued to be produced and remained successful well into the early 90s -- albeit under new management.

 

So was there a crash or a market correction, or did I completely misread what happened?



#2 desiv OFFLINE  

desiv

    Stargunner

  • 1,746 posts
  • Location:Salem, Oregon

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:37 PM

I don't remember a crash at all..
I remember a pretty smooth transition between "bits," in that when I was ready to move on from the 8-bit computers, there were 16-bit machines still selling.
But it was smooth in that some people moved sooner, some later.
Now, there was some market shakeout. The low priced C64 did get rid of some of it's competition.
But I don't remember a time where the market died, just that some companies couldn't handle the competition.
I suppose if you were a Texas Instruments owner, you might have thought the market crashed. ;-)

But I'd say the market refined and grew, both on the low and high end, with some casualties along the way.

desiv

#3 DesertJets OFFLINE  

DesertJets

    Moonsweeper

  • Topic Starter
  • 293 posts
  • Location:ABQ, NM

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:48 PM

I am thinking that this is a US/NA vs. UK/Europe thing as well. By my count there were simply fewer serious players in the early home computer market in North America vs. in the UK/Europe -- and it didn't really take off until a bit later than across the Atlantic. While it is true that Texas Instruments quit the home computer business in 1983, but it wasn't in any position where it was bought out by a competitor. AFAIK the TI that exists today is the same company as 30 years ago.



#4 save2600 ONLINE  

save2600

    Quadrunner

  • 15,724 posts
  • Location:Wisconsin

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:55 PM

Nope, no real recognizable computer crash at all here in the States. 

 

Paring down of sorts and a thinning of the herd - but nothing as drastic as to be called a "crash". 

 

TI, Commodore, Atari, Timex, Mattel, Apple, Franklin, Radio Shack, IBM (and the clones) and a few other companies... was room for them all for quite a while! 


Edited by save2600, Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:46 PM.


#5 Osgeld OFFLINE  

Osgeld

    Quadrunner

  • 5,983 posts
  • Location:Nashville, TN

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:04 PM

there was a slow down in the mid 80's, which did thin the herd,  but not a CRASH



#6 JamesD OFFLINE  

JamesD

    Quadrunner

  • 8,482 posts
  • Location:Flyover State

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:33 PM

I think the TS-1000 and VIC20 inflated sales due to pent up demand and cheap prices in 1982.  Then the price war continued inflated sales about another year.
Then sales leveled out.  I think there were just so many products entering the market that people got a smaller share of the pie than they had before.



#7 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

Jess Ragan

    Phanto of the Opera

  • 10,236 posts
  • Keys and Thank You
  • Location:The Arid Zone

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:39 PM

I am most certainly not an expert at this, but my understanding is that the ZX Spectrum was primarily used as a game machine until the mid 1980s, when the Commodore Amiga arrived and showed British gamers what they were missing. Y'know, little things like color, sound, sprites, memory, fun, that sort of thing. I'm told that by 1990, most Brits had moved on to either the Amiga, the Master System, or the Genesis. There were a lot of conversions of late 1980s arcade games for the Spectrum (with critics singing the praises of Midnight Resistance in particular), but why bother with a pale imitation when you can get a much closer approximation of the arcade experience with a more powerful machine?

I'm not sure why Acorn crashed and burned- although its ARM processor is still going strong in just about every handheld device on the market- but I do know from watching the film Micro Men that Sinclair Research was badly mismanaged, had atrocious quality control, and was helmed by a man more interested in frivolous inventions like not-so-portable television sets and a Power Wheels car for adults. Clive Sinclair ignored the video game market- the lifeblood of the Spectrum, as it didn't do anything else particularly well- and designed its successor, the QL, strictly for business use. Problem is, the QL lagged as far behind its 16-bit contemporaries as the Spectrum did other 8-bit computers, and the return rate on machines was sky high; about 25% according to the film. Old Clive pretty much dug the grave for his own company with long-standing bad habits he refused to break.

I'm not sure I'd say there was a computer market "crash" in the United Kingdom, but there were a lot of casualties of the 1980s computer wars in the United States. A half-dozen companies released computers at cutthroat prices, only to be forced out of the business due to an overly splintered market and the (dubiously achieved) market dominance of Commodore. They could sell their computers at insanely low prices because they essentially stole most of their components. Other companies who played by the rules couldn't set their systems at a competitive price, and were either driven into the margins (Atari) or off the face of the earth (Texas Instruments).

#8 ThumpNugget OFFLINE  

ThumpNugget

    Dragonstomper

  • 718 posts
  • Location:Boise, Idaho

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:10 PM

In the home/small business computer market it was consolidation, not a crash.. Though the consolidation was more to a standard than a brand. Many many companies making PC compatibles until years later when the market itself consolidated on the brand side.. Remember computer shopper with the 1000 page issues of 95% generic IBM PC compatibles and hundreds of companies making them.


Edited by ThumpNugget, Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:12 PM.


#9 MrMaddog OFFLINE  

MrMaddog

    Dragonstomper

  • 932 posts
  • Not a 'gamer' but a video game player...
  • Location:Parts Unknown

Posted Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:26 PM

It was more of a shake down than a crash. Some home computer companies were driven out of business by Commore due to the excessive price cuts but it it wasn't as sever as the Video Game Crash. OTOH home computers were seen as a replacement for dedicated consoles as they can play better games and do more (ie. schoolwork & checkbooks). But that also made them look like toys and those who use computers for business use bought IBM PC's with Macs being the only alternative. This made it hard for 16-bit computers like the Amiga & ST to be taken seriously in the States. And once the NES was released, nobody bought Commodores for gaming...

In the case of the UK (I also seen Micro Men) it was just market satuation and there was nothing newer to buy till the 16-bit computers came out.

Edited by MrMaddog, Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:28 PM.


#10 barnieg OFFLINE  

barnieg

    Moonsweeper

  • 408 posts
  • Location:Rugby, England

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:29 PM

In the UK as least I think there was the "home computer" market and with the Arrival of Amstrad's cheap PC clones the "Personal Computer" market with a little overlap. I strongly believe there was still a market for Home Computers (mainly the Amiga) but unfortunately Commodore UK's management buyout was unsuccessful and things fell apart.

 

 

 

.



#11 barnieg OFFLINE  

barnieg

    Moonsweeper

  • 408 posts
  • Location:Rugby, England

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:39 PM

In the UK it was partly about affordability, which for me was the Amiga 500. I don't necessarily think it was  market saturation it was more the lack of decent 8-bit upgrade paths

 

 

In the case of the UK (I also seen Micro Men) it was just market satuation and there was nothing newer to buy till the 16-bit computers came out.



#12 Seob OFFLINE  

Seob

    River Patroller

  • 2,510 posts
  • Location:Netherlands

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:06 PM

The homecomputer market didn't crash. Problems where that whenever you bought a new computer u had to buy new peripherals since every homecomputer had different i/o port. It was also dificult for first time buyers to find out what software would run on the system they bought. Beside all the different computers on the market, even if you had the correct software for your homecomputer it still was diffucult to know if it would work because of the ram differences that could exist. Hence the creation of the MSX standard. Also having to buy new software whenever you upgraded to a new computer was also difficult to understand for home users back then.
That's why the IBM pc was so succesful and took over the home market. Backwards compatible, use of old peripherals when upgrading to a new system.

#13 Seob OFFLINE  

Seob

    River Patroller

  • 2,510 posts
  • Location:Netherlands

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:11 PM

Besides Sinclair, the UK market had more systems like the Amstrad CPC-464 that where very capable of displaying color, sound and others.
So it wasn't the Amiga showing UK what homecomputer could do. The Sinclair ZX-80 and ZX-81 where systems that kickstarted a lot of programmers and developers that dominated the computer market in the 80's and 90's, so do not under estimate the power of Sinclair.

Edited by Seob, Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:14 PM.


#14 Bill Loguidice ONLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,276 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:39 PM

Depending upon the specific definition, I'd argue there was something of a personal computer crash, and it was more widespread than the last major videogame crash that was mostly isolated to North America. You literally went from dozens of companies and platforms in the late 70s to early 80s, to just a handful of relevant companies by the mid-80s. Part of that was the same issue that happened with the videogame crash - companies that had no business making computers (just like there were companies that had no business being involved in videogames) made them and weren't financially solvent enough to see their plans through. Naturally, it wasn't quite the cliff that the videogame side felt (it was arguably a smaller market at the time, so there was lower risk), but there were successive and rapid competitive drop offs.



#15 high voltage OFFLINE  

high voltage

    Quadrunner

  • 6,858 posts
  • Location:europe

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:33 PM

Was there a personal computer market crash (or correction) in the mid 80s?

 

NO

 

CGW100.jpg

C64 and IBM growing strong, by mid 80s they ruled the software world (and Apple ][ still doing fine too).

 

Competent gaming companies like EA, SSI, Origin, Sierra, Activision, Sir-Tech, Microprose, Broderbund, Mindscape and others were releasing the greatest games ever.


Edited by high voltage, Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:38 PM.


#16 Osgeld OFFLINE  

Osgeld

    Quadrunner

  • 5,983 posts
  • Location:Nashville, TN

Posted Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:16 PM

but then there is this

 

https://archive.org/...ls/Slowdown1985

https://archive.org/.../Slowdown1985_2

 

heck even apple laid off 20% of its workforce in 85


Edited by Osgeld, Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:32 PM.


#17 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

Great Hierophant

    Stargunner

  • 1,607 posts
  • Scribbler
  • Location:Massachusetts

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:05 AM

There may not have been a crash in comparison to the home video game market in 1983-84, but there was a serious shrinkage in the number of companies actively marketing computers and viable products in the 1984-1985 period in the United States.  Atari's home computers 8-bit computers were nearly dead in 1985 and the Atari ST never really took off in the states.  TI left the market due to Commodore's price cutting and the Coleco Adam failed to gain marketshare.  IBM's PCjr. was not the great success big blue was hoping for, and the Apple //c left the Apple market rather unplussed.  The Macintosh took time to grow in sales.  Tandy's TRS-80 computers had reached the end of the line for the most part as did Commodore's other 8-bit machines.  The Commodore 64's sales were never the same after '85 (they were very good in Europe for a few more years) and the Amiga failed to catch on in the US as it did in Europe.  

 

So by 1985 you had IBM PCs and clones firmly entrenched in the business market, Apple IIe machines in the schools, and Commodore 64s functioning as a game machine for many home users.  The NES took care of the Commodore in the low end and PC clones essentially dominated everything else except for the comparatively few users of the pricey Macintosh machines.  


Edited by Great Hierophant, Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:06 AM.

  • jhd likes this

#18 Mayhem OFFLINE  

Mayhem

    Commodore Chaos Knight

  • 5,241 posts
  • Cartridge master
  • Location:London, England

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:28 AM

I'm not sure I'd say there was a computer market "crash" in the United Kingdom, but there were a lot of casualties of the 1980s computer wars in the United States. A half-dozen companies released computers at cutthroat prices, only to be forced out of the business due to an overly splintered market and the (dubiously achieved) market dominance of Commodore. They could sell their computers at insanely low prices because they essentially stole most of their components. Other companies who played by the rules couldn't set their systems at a competitive price, and were either driven into the margins (Atari) or off the face of the earth (Texas Instruments).

 

This, the most notable of the fallers in the UK being Oric and Dragon, casualties of the competition and their own issues. The BBC Micro languished by the mid 80s, mostly confined to being used in schools. Which generally left the Spectrum and C64, with the Amstrad range a distant third, and the MSX a cult curiosity.



#19 Keatah OFFLINE  

Keatah

    Missile Commander

  • 22,184 posts

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:04 AM

Videogames had a freak glut in the market once every tom dick and harry got into making 2nd rate game cartridges. That videogames were seen as toys with limited futures didn't help any either. The computer was seen more as a tool that could be expanded and actually did something useful helped prevent a crash in that market. A computer was seen as investment.



#20 carlsson OFFLINE  

carlsson

    Metagalactic Mule

  • 8,978 posts
  • Location:Västerås, Sweden

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:42 AM

I agree that it was aggressive pricing - mainly from Commodore - that pushed a lot of the smaller competitors off the home computer market. While computers themselves never went out of fashion, as I get the feeling was the case with video games "crash" in the time period between Colecovision and NES, various forms of vertical integration and price cutting made e.g. the C64 very affordable compared to the others. Only your computer unaware grandmother would buy you a Dragon 32, a TI-99/4A or a Sharp MZ-700 if you could get a C64 for just about the same money. Over here in Sweden, even Atari failed miserably to keep up with Commodore, due to the increasing dollar exchange rate and obviously not as good margins for the importer. At the same time the prices on the C64 dropped month by month already in 1983-84, the price on e.g. the Atari 800XL increased each month, to the point that advertisers no longer dared to print a price but resorted to "Call us for best price" in their advertisments, something rather common in the USA but very rarely seen over here.

 

Of course by 1985, the computer market was starting to move on to 16-bits, first through the reasonably affordable Atari ST series, and a few years later also an Amiga was something that regular households could afford. I don't consider IBM PC and clones, nor Macintosh to ever have been affordable for others than business owners. By that time, most luck seekers had already been eliminated or at least didn't get much publicity so not so strange if you find the market corrected itself. Also, I realize that the selection of brands would be different for each region, check e.g. how the Japanese computer market looked like at the same time. You might not find a higher number of brands (unless you count every MSX manufacturer as their own brand) but you will find a different selection.



#21 ilaskey OFFLINE  

ilaskey

    Chopper Commander

  • 243 posts
  • Location:UK

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:31 AM

I am most certainly not an expert at this, but my understanding is that the ZX Spectrum was primarily used as a game machine until the mid 1980s, when the Commodore Amiga arrived and showed British gamers what they were missing. Y'know, little things like color, sound, sprites, memory, fun, that sort of thing. I'm told that by 1990, most Brits had moved on to either the Amiga, the Master System, or the Genesis.

During the Speccy period there were also a lot of C64's and Amstrads and from 1987ish to 1990 The Atari ST was very much in ascendency. It was only when cut price Amigas like the 500 came out that the ST started to lose ground to the Amiga. During that period, I knew 1 person with an Amiga and 6 or 7 with STs although people who knew each other tended to buy the same machine IME.



#22 ThumpNugget OFFLINE  

ThumpNugget

    Dragonstomper

  • 718 posts
  • Location:Boise, Idaho

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:54 AM

 

I don't consider IBM PC and clones, nor Macintosh to ever have been affordable for others than business owners. By that time, most luck seekers had already been eliminated or at least didn't get much publicity so not so strange if you find the market corrected itself. Also, I realize that the selection of brands would be different for each region, check e.g. how the Japanese computer market looked like at the same time. You might not find a higher number of brands (unless you count every MSX manufacturer as their own brand) but you will find a different selection.

 

I don't know about that.. I bought a 386 clone in the late 80's though at the time I would have preferred an ST but could not afford it.. That and I was using Turbo Pascal in School (college) so it was a better fit. A lot of people were using PCs at work and buying something that was compatible for home.



#23 akator OFFLINE  

akator

    River Patroller

  • 2,647 posts
  • Location:Virginia, US

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:15 AM

IMO there was no personal computer "crash."  There was an evolution of the still new and immature personal computer industry.  The changes within immature markets and industries are rapid and sometimes extreme, leading to shakeups and adjustments.  The "home computer" market faded as standards consolidated and people wanted the same computers at home and work.  "Home computers" were an artificial distinction from the start, as much about marketing as anything else.  The companies that produced products suited to the developing market continued to survive.  That happens all the time in every industry, only it's more extreme when industries are immature.

 

Of course, to those employed in an immature industry and the consumers invested in new technology, a loss of jobs and consumer support may appear to be a "crash."  But with a broader perspective, it isn't.

 

Modern examples of a "crash" include the North American video game bubble bursting in 83-84, the "dot com" tech bubble bursting in 99-01, and the US real estate bubble that started bursting in 2007.  These bubbles are created because of rampant speculation which overvalues a market segment leading to over-investment and unrealistic growth that is unsustainable.

 

Using these other examples for reference, we can see the personal computer industry did not crash in the 80s.  It evolved.  Now, we may not always like how it evolved, but that still doesn't make it a crash ;)


Edited by akator, Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:20 AM.


#24 JamesD OFFLINE  

JamesD

    Quadrunner

  • 8,482 posts
  • Location:Flyover State

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:45 AM

I think there were several events in the evolution of games and computers but no crash.

Computers were turned into arcade games and people went to arcades.
When arcade games started appearing on home game consoles in mass and the consoles became cheaper, people started shifting away from the arcades to consoles.
When personal computers got cheap enough and powerful enough, people bought computers for their kids instead of game consoles.
When the computers everyone wanted became more expensive again (Amiga, ST, PC), people bought their kids less expensive game consoles again.

Companies went out of business due to shifts in the market, being under priced, their product sucking...



#25 Bill Loguidice ONLINE  

Bill Loguidice

    Quadrunner

  • 7,276 posts
  • Armchair Arcade Managing Director
  • Location:Burlington, New Jersey, USA

Posted Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:54 AM

I think there were several events in the evolution of games and computers but no crash.

Computers were turned into arcade games and people went to arcades.
When arcade games started appearing on home game consoles in mass and the consoles became cheaper, people started shifting away from the arcades to consoles.
When personal computers got cheap enough and powerful enough, people bought computers for their kids instead of game consoles.
When the computers everyone wanted became more expensive again (Amiga, ST, PC), people bought their kids less expensive game consoles again.

Companies went out of business due to shifts in the market, being under priced, their product sucking...

 

Though regularly repeated, there's really very little evidence that people bought computers for their kids instead of game consoles. The numbers just don't bare that out, so it was clearly not a major contributing factor to The Great Videogame Crash. Both markets suffered similarly and both markets pared down to fewer and fewer participants. It was simply more obvious on the videogame side because the stakes were higher and the numbers bigger, but there was very little cross-talk in terms of buying one or the other. If you wanted a console, you got a console, if you wanted a computer, you got a computer. Some got some combination of both.






0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users