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Ross PK

Why did the home computer die out?

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You know, gaming systems, like the Spectrum, Atari 800, C64, etc.

 

I wonder if home computers will ever come out again?

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I think it got to the point where the performance/price gulf between the PC/MAC and the home computer was so small (later Amigas for instance) that they had no purpose. You might as well have a proper machine that does everything.

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Well, the obvious answer is Windows. It's standardized the industry to such a degree that one computer is exactly like the next. You're literally just paying for a brand name, rather than any clear distinctions. It's a mixed blessing to be sure, but I think the industry was bound to head in that direction, if only for the convenience of the average computer user.

 

I just wish that it had been the Amiga that had come out on top in the hardware wars of the 1980's. The x86 PC was always a lackluster gaming computer, having been designed for home office applications, and it's only recently caught up to its competitors in performance. As early as ten years ago, Amigas were still the way to go for video editing.

 

JR

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I think that built in hard drives changed to shape of computers, from the one box type to the desktop computers that most of us use today. I suppose laptop computers are the closest thing we have to a one box home computer. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody made one without the screen so it could be used with a plasma screen or external monitor.

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There were so many factors; certainly, DOS and Windows were a part of it. I think too that the evolution of clone hardware on the IBM platform made that platform more interesting and affordable for the hobbiests that made up a large part of the home computer market (and who influence that market to a significant degree in their roll as "tech guru" for friends and family). Add to that the (re)rise of excellent home consoles (starting with the NES and really moving into the 16-bit era) and game enthusiasts had fewer and fewer reasons to invest a large chunk of their disposable income in a home computer like the Amiga... By the time SoundBlaster brought FM Synth sound to the PC, I remember thinking that the writing was on the wall for the dedicated home computer; the economy, flexibility and upgradability of the PC was too much to ignore...

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I just wish that it had been the Amiga that had come out on top in the hardware wars of the 1980's.

 

If the reason the Amiga had come out on top was that the 32-bit chipset was introduced about five years ahead of when it actually was, sure. But by the time the 32-bit chipset had come out, PCs could in many ways outperform the Amiga in the gaming arena, and they vastly outperformed it in the computing arena.

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I think that built in hard drives changed to shape of computers, from the one box type to the desktop computers that most of us use today. I suppose laptop computers are the closest thing we have to a one box home computer. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody made one without the screen so it could be used with a plasma screen or external monitor.

 

In retrospect, I find it puzzling that the floppy drives on so many home computers were such absolute dogs. It seems so absolutely mind-bogglingly senseless to me that the only common home computer with decent floppy performance was the one with the simplest hardware. To be sure, the design of the Apple's hardware relied upon the fact that the processor would run without interruptions or wait states, but there's no reason why a separate-processor floppy should not have been designed to run a 3:1 interleave if not 2:1. By comparison, the Commodore 1541 normally runs at about a 30:1 interleave which "fast loaders" improve to a 10:1.

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You want to know what killed the Home Computer market?

 

Two words:

Jack

and

Tramiel

 

He started and then killed Commodore, and cheapened Atari.

 

I believe he was the focal point of the entire thing.

 

He IS the grassy knoll!

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You want to know what killed the Home Computer market?

 

Two words:

Jack

and

Tramiel

 

He started and then killed Commodore, and cheapened Atari.

 

I believe he was the focal point of the entire thing.

 

He IS the grassy knoll!

I agree. :thumbsup:

 

About this topic, I thought my PC was a home computer? It's even more of a home computer because it fulfills more of the promises we heard in the 1980s.

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100% agreed that Tramiel killed that era of computing. Hell, that bastard is responsible for more bad things in the home computing and gaming market than any human on this earth. But, in retrospect, I think it was a good thing. Today's computers are so much more than a simple gaming/simple home application box. I learned my computing on an Apple IIe with those super shitty disk drives. Sure, it's fun to go back and fiddle with mine now and again, but I wouldn't trade my PC for anything.

 

BTW, who's up for getting some torches and pitchforks and giving Tramiel the royal sendoff he deserves? :twisted:

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I don't know if that's really the case. Home computers gently phased out all across the world, and in a lot of countries Atari and Commodore were not the key players.

It's simply that 'real' computers got cheaper and, at the end, with the coming of the internet there was no point in having anything but a PC/Mac. Heck, if I could have afforded an Apple Mac back in the day, I'm not sure I'd have still wanted the Spectrum. :)

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Well, many PC's are becoming home computers again. With HDTV's, HD graphics cards and Windows Media Center, some people are using their PC's for everything but business apps now. Gaming, movies and web browsing all on a huge screen! :lust: Not the same as before, but it is a natural extension of the old gaming specific computer.

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I agree - far from being dead the Home Computer has evolved :D

 

I have PC's sat under several TV's - nice quiet, fanless boxes, streaming HD video, playing music, playing games, surfing the web on big displays. WIth remote controls and wireless keyboards you chuck on the coffee table when you're done...

 

I like where Media Center (and similar apps) have taken the PC - back into the lounge and rec-room and out of the home office!!!

 

They may not be the proprietry, brand loyalty inducing breadbins and beige wedges of the early 80's - but they are here and going strong...

 

sTeVE

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In my view it was because everyone wanted MORE!!! Those compters were great but also very limited in what they could do. Besides that you could not upgrade them to the lastest and greatest.

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Besides that you could not upgrade them to the latest and greatest.

That's one thing I miss about them. I liked knowing that if I made a game, it would probably work on any other computer of the same type. Now every computer is so personalized, you can't count on anything.

Edited by Random Terrain

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You want to know what killed the Home Computer market?

 

Two words:

Jack

and

Tramiel

 

He started and then killed Commodore, and cheapened Atari.

 

I believe he was the focal point of the entire thing.

 

He IS the grassy knoll!

 

Explain this, please. Exactly how did Tramiel kill Commodore? Did he sneak back into Commodore head offices and blow up the blueprints and chipsets for the C65 in 1992? Did he engineer Commodore's ill-thought out foray into console gaming? Was he the mind behind Commodore's "business line" of PC clones? He's certainly not my favourite computer pioneer, but I just don't get the hate for him. :?

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You want to know what killed the Home Computer market?

 

Two words:

Jack

and

Tramiel

 

He started and then killed Commodore, and cheapened Atari.

 

I believe he was the focal point of the entire thing.

 

He IS the grassy knoll!

 

No. You want to know what Really killed the Home Computer market?

 

Two words:

Bill

and

Gates

 

He IS the grassy knoll!

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Explain this, please. Exactly how did Tramiel kill Commodore? Did he sneak back into Commodore head offices and blow up the blueprints and chipsets for the C65 in 1992? Did he engineer Commodore's ill-thought out foray into console gaming? Was he the mind behind Commodore's "business line" of PC clones? He's certainly not my favourite computer pioneer, but I just don't get the hate for him. :?

Precisely. Commodore imploded because they fired Jack. Jack was a gruff fellow, but he had a plan. Once Jack was gone, Commodore was left with the fruits of his plans (e.g. Plus/4), but without his vision and planning to make it successful. His time at Atari was a very different ball of wax, influenced heavily by the fact that he took on a lot more than just a computer business.

 

Consoles must have stole a lot of sales from the computer market.

Actually, it was the other way around. Computers stole a huge chunk of the market from consoles. After the video game crash, the consensus was that you'd have to be crazy to sell a video game console in America. (Nintendo certainly got a lot of weird looks when they showed up.)

 

What really happened is that microcomputers were limited beasts. The market wanted something that was actually capable of all those promised home business uses while simultaneously playing video games. Thus the IBM PC came from behind to fulfill that role. Once the clones showed up, it was possible to get a wide variety of computers to meet your needs, but without sacrificing the ability to run common software. Thus the PC became an pseudo-standard in the industry. Microsoft delivered the final blow to the industry with the introduction of Windows 95. From that day forward, Microsoft had software locked-in to their platform. There were no more DOS clones to provide competition, no more coding directly to the hardware, it was all Windows.

 

I shudder to think that we embraced Win95 when it came out. But it really was a good desktop OS for the time, and Microsoft had carefully eliminated any possibility of competition many years prior. OS/2 (born from a partnership with Microsoft) was a possibility, but IBM couldn't market a consumer product if their business depended on it. Without Microsoft's help, IBM was more or less out of the consumer market for good.

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I agree - far from being dead the Home Computer has evolved :D

 

Well the implication in the question (IMO, anyway, based on the forum it's in) is that the crash of 1983-84 happened in part because people were abandoning game consoles in favor of multi-purpose computers that were more powerful and only cost a little more. I don't know the sales figures but I would image that in 1984, computer games accounted for the lions' share of gaming revenue.

 

Today, it's indisputable that computer gaming revenue is basically flat (it increased a little bit last year after several years of decreases), and trails console gaming revenue badly - it's about 10 to 1. So it seems clear that as gaming machines, computers have fallen massively out of favor when compared with dedicated game consoles - a reversal of the situation that led up to the crash. Something had to happen to bring that about.

 

I would blame it on several things:

 

1. Computers have gotten too complex for the average person. You used to be able to stick a cartridge in the slot and turn the thing on and the game would come up. It worked just like a game console. Now you have to actually first know how to operate Windows (which I can tell you is more of a gotcha than it sounds), you have to "install" your game, which ensures having enough hard drive space, you have to ensure your system meets the system requirements, you have to download patches, etc. etc. Add on to that the fact that most PC games use the entire keyboard for control, plus all the buttons your game controller can muster. It's too much. Even I got tired of the whole process and I am a total geek.

 

2. Game consoles became a better value. This is the opposite of the situation that preceded the crash, where $50 extra could buy you a keyboard and the ability to run useful programs in addition to games. Nowadays, you can get a Wii for $250, or a DS Lite for $129. You can't get a portable computer that plays games for anything like $129. And you can't get a desktop powerful enough for many of today's games for anything like $250.

 

3. Game consoles have better exclusive games. Look at all the most popular games for the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 (or maybe it's more helpful to look at the previous generation so you have more of an overview). In almost every case, they're games not available on PC - or only available on PC months or years after their console debuts. Now look at PC exclusives for the same time period. It's no contest. And games sell systems.

 

Mostly, though, I blame Windows :)

 

I think what the PC needs is the modern equivalent of a cartridge slot. Stick a game in, hit the power button and you're playing.

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You want to know what killed the Home Computer market?

 

Two words:

Jack

and

Tramiel

 

He started and then killed Commodore, and cheapened Atari.

 

I believe he was the focal point of the entire thing.

 

He IS the grassy knoll!

 

Explain this, please. Exactly how did Tramiel kill Commodore? Did he sneak back into Commodore head offices and blow up the blueprints and chipsets for the C65 in 1992? Did he engineer Commodore's ill-thought out foray into console gaming? Was he the mind behind Commodore's "business line" of PC clones? He's certainly not my favourite computer pioneer, but I just don't get the hate for him. :?

 

That's true...Tramiel was actually forced out of Commodore well before it died...it's just fun to blame Jack Tramiel for this, like it is to blame him for everything else (killing Atari, ending the Swordquest contest and keeping the prizes for himself, etc.)...he's just a bastard. :)

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Well the implication in the question (IMO, anyway, based on the forum it's in) is that the crash of 1983-84 happened in part because people were abandoning game consoles in favor of multi-purpose computers that were more powerful and only cost a little more. I don't know the sales figures but I would image that in 1984, computer games accounted for the lions' share of gaming revenue.

From what I understand, it was actually a combination of things. Atari & market Co. had flooded the retail outlets with junk, creating an economic disaster waiting to happen. Then Tramiel tripped off a price war with computers. Retailers saw computers getting affordable and decided to clear their shelf space in favor of these inexpensive (but profitable!) machines. This gave the consumer the impression that Computer Gaming was the new hotness. (Helped along by William Shatner, of course. The Shat's commercials for Commodore had already implanted the idea in the public's consciousness. Moves like this were what made Tramiel a market force to be reckoned with.)

 

The truth of the matter was that the consumer impression was wrong. Computer systems were not "phasing-in" as was the common belief. The price war smashed computers right into console territory during the weakest point in console history. Jack was counting on his vertical integration of manufacturing to hold his company below the deck longer than the competition. He was right. Timex-Sinclair, Coleco, Intellivision, and many other small computer players exited the market. Commodore's biggest competitor - Texas Instruments - was forced into producing "professional" lines of microcomputers rather than competing directly in the consumer market. Atari was hit badly as well, only compounding the problems with their game consoles.

 

Thus IMHO, the market crash was forced by Tramiel himself. He took full advantage of the economic problems of console market (whether intentionally or unintentionally; probably intentionally) to outright bury it before it could recover. Without Tramiel's price war, it's just as likely that the small game makers would have gone out of business while Atari, Intellivision, and Coleco took heavy losses before slowly recovering the next year.

 

Today, it's indisputable that computer gaming revenue is basically flat (it increased a little bit last year after several years of decreases), and trails console gaming revenue badly - it's about 10 to 1. So it seems clear that as gaming machines, computers have fallen massively out of favor when compared with dedicated game consoles - a reversal of the situation that led up to the crash. Something had to happen to bring that about.

 

I would blame it on several things:

 

1. Computers have gotten too complex for the average person. You used to be able to stick a cartridge in the slot and turn the thing on and the game would come up. It worked just like a game console. Now you have to actually first know how to operate Windows (which I can tell you is more of a gotcha than it sounds), you have to "install" your game, which ensures having enough hard drive space, you have to ensure your system meets the system requirements, you have to download patches, etc. etc. Add on to that the fact that most PC games use the entire keyboard for control, plus all the buttons your game controller can muster. It's too much. Even I got tired of the whole process and I am a total geek.

Ah, but you're forgetting the "bad old days" of DOS when you had to create a separate boot disk for each game just to meet the minimum memory requirements. Yet companies like Origin, Id, Apogee, Epic, and EA thrived in this environment. Even with all the driver issues under Windows, the market continued to grow and thrive until sometime early in this decade.

 

I think you're getting warmer with this statement:

3. Game consoles have better exclusive games.

The only question is: Why do game consoles have better exclusives? The PC used to rule everything with its far superior graphics, control, and sound. People would shell out another $2,000 for a new computer just to play the next iteration of Wing Commander or Quake! Consoles started taking over the extended-story and FPS type of games that the PC excelled at, but it doesn't appear to be because they're better at them. In fact, the console experience for PC games tends to be pretty bland. (I'm amazed that people can shoot anything playing FPSes with thumbsticks.)

 

2. Game consoles became a better value. This is the opposite of the situation that preceded the crash, where $50 extra could buy you a keyboard and the ability to run useful programs in addition to games. Nowadays, you can get a Wii for $250, or a DS Lite for $129. You can't get a portable computer that plays games for anything like $129. And you can't get a desktop powerful enough for many of today's games for anything like $250.

Game consoles have always been a better value. When IBM-compatible computers were $2,000, the Nintendo was $99. When 486s were $1,800, the SuperNES was $199.

 

The reasons you give are not anything new to the market.

 

The real reason why PC Gaming dropped off was because companies stopped making really great games for the PC. As games got more costly to create, game publishers got risk-adverse. They no longer wanted to invest in title that may or may not succeed in the fickle PC market. And if their software has any bugs (pretty much a guarantee), they'd incur significant technical support costs.

 

So game companies diversified. They saw the growth in the console market (driven heavily by the PS2's DVD drive) and started creating games for both consoles and computers. That way they doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled their chance of succeeding. The only problem was that doing this meant creating games of the lowest common denominator rather than the highest quality games for a particular system. Thus everything came across as a PS2 game rather than the latest graphics powerhouse that promised to take PC users to new worlds and adventures!

 

The result was mediocrity. Why would anyone invest in a computer game when they could get the same game for the PS2 for less money and hassle? There were a few holdouts, but the market in general started to implode. Only the introduction of multiplayer crack (aka Everquest and World of Warcraft) managed to prop up the PC market and prevent its implosion.

 

I think what the PC needs is the modern equivalent of a cartridge slot. Stick a game in, hit the power button and you're playing.

I used to think that as well. Now I think different. I think that games should just stay off the PC at this point. The latest generation of consoles has gained enough power to start taking over where the PC left off. New controls, online play, and downloadable content are all areas that used to be restricted to PC play. Now they're the venue of consoles and that's just fine. The loss of PC Gaming has done something far more important for the market. It's removed one of the cornerstones of Microsoft's monopoly: The need for backward compatibility.

 

Nearly every other piece of software used on computers gets updated on a regular basis. So backward compatibility isn't as necessary when the maintainer can simply port the software to a new system. (Well, maybe not so "simply". But if the incentive exists it will get done.) Thus the Mac (and kinda-sorta Linux) is starting to make serious inroads into the desktop market. If the trend can be reversed far enough, it could open the door for dozens of new competitors in the desktop space. A frightening, but altogether wonderful possibility.

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