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Timex-Sinclair 1000/ZX-81 vs. 3M Post-It Note

  

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  1. 1. Which is better? Timex-Sinclair/ZX-81 or 3M Post-It Note?

    • The TS-1000/ZX-81 is superior in every way, poopyhead.
    • To anyone but a total doo-doo for brains, the Post-It is the better platform.


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I think competition with the VIC-20 was the reason. The VIC-20 had a "real" keyboard - even though the clever use of Sinclair one-button-press "keywords" sort of negated that. But the VIC-20 was marketed as a game console that you could also program. Somewhat ironic, because that's how the Atari 400 started out - and then turned into the 5200...

 

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All those models were overlapping eachother:

 

ZX80 in January 1980

ZX81 in March 1981 (Timex Sinclair 1000 as late as July 1982, and Timex Sinclair 1500 in July 1983 !!)

VIC-20 in April-May 1981 (the Japanese VIC-1001 in Sept-Oct 1980)

ZX Spectrum in April 1982 (Timex Sinclair 2068 in November 1983 !!)

C64 in July-August 1982

 

There also was a prototype Timex Sinclair 2000/2016 model in January 1983, but it never got released. The case was reused for the TS1500, and eventually the TS2068 was released later in the year. I believe if the ZX Spectrum had been released earlier in the US, it mainly would've been a competitor to the TRS-80 CoCo series.

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1 hour ago, almightytodd said:

I think competition with the VIC-20 was the reason. The VIC-20 had a "real" keyboard - even though the clever use of Sinclair one-button-press "keywords" sort of negated that.

 

I do agree, with the caveat of price...

Yes, the Vic 20 was more than twice the computer the ZX81/TS1000 was.  But it was almost 3 times the price initially, and twice the price after the first Vic price drop I believe.

The Vic was definitely worth it.  The extra RAM and keyboard alone were worth it.  Not to mention color AND sound...

But...  A $100 computer was in itself something with value.

(And remember adjusted for inflation (according to a googled internet site), that meant that in 81 the ZX was more like a $300 machine while the Vic was closer to $900!)

 

Which is probably why my family got my Vic20 when the C64 came out and the Vic dropped to $100.  ;-)

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4 hours ago, carlsson said:

All those models were overlapping eachother:

 

ZX80 in January 1980

ZX81 in March 1981 (Timex Sinclair 1000 as late as July 1982, and Timex Sinclair 1500 in July 1983 !!)

VIC-20 in April-May 1981 (the Japanese VIC-1001 in Sept-Oct 1980)

ZX Spectrum in April 1982 (Timex Sinclair 2068 in November 1983 !!)

C64 in July-August 1982

 

There also was a prototype Timex Sinclair 2000/2016 model in January 1983, but it never got released. The case was reused for the TS1500, and eventually the TS2068 was released later in the year. I believe if the ZX Spectrum had been released earlier in the US, it mainly would've been a competitor to the TRS-80 CoCo series.

Pretty sure it wasn't just competition with the VIC-20 almightytodd.
There was a glut of machines on the market by the time the Spectrum could have been introduced in the US.

The VIC-20, and Tandy Color Computer were introduced in the US in 1980, but they were priced higher than the ZX/TS machines at first, but the rapidly dropped in price.
There's also the Atari 400 that was dropping in price.

The TS-1000 was a huge seller for Timex, but people in the US were looking for a cheaper TRS-80 Model 1, and the TS-1000 isn't even close.
The number of defective machines, slightly odd BASIC entry system/slow BASIC, and low end everything about the machine pretty much destroyed Timex's chances in the computer market even though some people loved the machine.
If their first machine had been the TS-1500 in 1982, I think they would have fared better in the long run, but it wouldn't have hit the same price point due to the amount of RAM.
Maybe with 4K it could have been $150 in 82? 

In Europe, the Oric was a pretty decent machine, and price competitive with the Spectrum.  1983
The US never saw these.

And then there were a bunch of low to mid priced machines like the Aquarius, JR-200, TREK, VZ/Laser, MC-10, etc... in 1983. 
I think chicklet & membrane keyboards were being shunned by US consumers by that time, largely due to the TS-1000.

If the MC-10 had come out in 1982 with some minor improvements (better keyboard, more RAM, etc...), it might have done well in the $99-$150 price range. 
It certainly compares favorably to the TS-1000 with color graphics, sound, Microsoft BASIC, more RAM, a built in serial port, and a power switch.
Pretty sad when you have to list a power switch as a feature.
It also could have been sold as a cheap terminal with a different ROM. 
As far as that last item goes, it's probably what the project Green Thumb should have been in 1978 (ish).  The CoCo based design was too expensive.
Had Tandy & Motorola gone that route, an MC-10 ish computer would have been possible before 1980. 
Tandy certainly could have had it ready shortly after the TS-1000 was announced. All they would have needed was BASIC.
 

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Simply put, before Clive Sinclair just about no computer company really considered there would be any demand for a really cheap but limited computer. Jack Tramiel aimed for the sub-$300 market while Sir Clive aimed for the sub-£100 market. Also the more you undercut the prices, the more you rely on selling peripherals, software, books to make up for it, something that Tandy & Radio Shack possibly were not interested in until the market had proven they needed to be in that segment. It is true there were more small, cheap computers in Europe, some from Far East, to some extent due to the market Sinclair had established, but also due to Europeans in general had lower income than their cousins in America.

 

It would seem the home computer market changed rapidly in the first half of 1983, right before Commodore pushed the button for the big price wars. Many of the other companies probably thought the market would remain at status quo with just small changes to available models and slowly decreasing prices, not like they would have to slash the prices by 25-33% over night. Even here, Sir Clive was just as much at front of the war as Jack Tramiel was over in the US. The ZX Spectrum was aggressively price matched against the Oric in order to eliminate the competition, something Sinclair eventually managed to do. The Acorn Electron didn't yet exist by then, the Far East computers like VTech Laser and to a smaller degree Panasonic JR series were not really contenders. Remember that even Jack saw this European low-end market as a challenge, which is why Commodore developed the TED line with the intention to put a $49 computer on the market to give Clive a good run for the money, but that is a different story.

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Just came across an decent looking price/year comparison on lowendmac of all places.  (I have to finish reading this..  Just browsed it so far.)

https://lowendmac.com/2016/the-1983-home-computer-price-war/

I was wondering about the Vic and you mentioned the Aquarius (which someone just gave me one last month.. :) ) and I got to wondering about when the price dropped.

I remember my family getting me the Vic20 and the price had just dropped so they were able to get me a tape drive also.  (They actually initially thought they got me the wrong item because the price was lower than expected...  I told them nope, this is AWESOME!!  Then they got me the tape drive..)

So according to google, the Aquarius was released in 83 for $160.  I was wondering about the Vic at the time.

According to the article in the link, in January 83 the Vic price dropped to $130.  

Then again to $100 in April.   (THIS IS I THINK WHEN I GOT MY Vic20!! (Sorry for the caps; I could never remember exactly when.)  Why do I think that?  The surprising price drop and my birthday is in April. ;-)  I think that is mystery for me solved.)

Anyway, a Vic20 with already great games and 5k RAM (3.5k usable in BASIC) against the Aquarius with 4K RAM?

Also, the Vic had a much better keyboard, joystick port (yes, only 1, but the Aquarius came with none) AND it costs less?

I can see why the Aquarius only lasted 4 months.  ;-)

 

 

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Several of the machines released in 83 would have been good machines in 1977, but they were a bit lacking by 1983.
The Aquarius was one of those.  It didn't have a built in sound chip, built in game controllers, programmable characters, or a regular keyboard.
The expansion unit added two of those, but it added to the price.
There was an Aquarius II with better specs, and a real keyboard, but that didn't make it to market.

The glut of low end machines did force Commodore to lower the price of the VIC, and they made money on the peripherals.
Many of the competitors didn't have much in the way of peripherals when they were introduced.

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Yeah, late spring or early summer of 1983 is when Commodore took advantage of their vertical integration and slashed prices. The VIC may have dropped slowly in price all the time since New Year but I think by June it could be had for $89 in some places. The C64 dropped from $595 to $395, a price reduction that also took place overseas. Some think Commodore should've kept their prices high and included more books and software with the deal but that was not how they intended to do business.

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On 3/5/2020 at 7:42 PM, desiv said:

I do agree, with the caveat of price...

Yes, the Vic 20 was more than twice the computer the ZX81/TS1000 was.  But it was almost 3 times the price initially, and twice the price after the first Vic price drop I believe.

The Vic was definitely worth it.  The extra RAM and keyboard alone were worth it.  Not to mention color AND sound...

But...  A $100 computer was in itself something with value.

(And remember adjusted for inflation (according to a googled internet site), that meant that in 81 the ZX was more like a $300 machine while the Vic was closer to $900!)

 

Which is probably why my family got my Vic20 when the C64 came out and the Vic dropped to $100.  ;-)

You make many very good points. However, I believe the question I was attempting to answer was in regard to the ZX Spectrum, which added color and sound to the ZX80/81 concept while retaining the one-button-press BASIC programming paradigm. I think it's difficult to speculate what the price of a U.S. Timex Spectrum might have been...  ...and if it could have been simultaneously competitive and profitable.

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48 minutes ago, almightytodd said:

I think it's difficult to speculate what the price of a U.S. Timex Spectrum might have been...  ...and if it could have been simultaneously competitive and profitable.

Oh, I think that can be answered.

$199.99 at release and it wasn't competitive or profitable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Sinclair_2068

🙂

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Also, here are some more price points:

 

ZX Spectrum 16K: Launched in April 1982 at £125 (220 USD), reduced in June 1983 to £99 (150 USD)

ZX Spectrum 48K: Launched in April 1982 at £175 (310 USD), reduced in June 1983 to £129 (200 USD)

 

Sure, you can't compare UK and US prices straight off. To begin with the UK prices include 15% VAT, while I know only a few states in the US have sales tax.

 

The ZX Spectrum didn't drop very much more in price after the first adjustment. Actually when Sinclair introduced the Spectrum+ in October 1984 they had increased the price to £179 (215 USD) for the exact same hardware but with a proper keyboard, which wasn't very much cheaper than what you could buy e.g. a C64 for. Then again that was the beginning of the end for Sinclair, before Amstrad bought them up.

 

So in theory Sinclair may have introduced the 48K ZX Spectrum in the US in late spring, early summer of 1982 at around $300, which would have been inbetween a VIC-20 and an Atari 400, TI-99/4A or TRS-80 CoCo, a month or two before the C64 which of course launched at $595 so not really a competitor at the time.

 

A quick comparison:

 

Keyboard: 1. VIC-20 and TI-99/4A, 2. TRS-80 CoCo (??) and ZX Spectrum 48K, 3. Atari 400

Graphics: 1. Atari 400, 2. TI-99/4A, 3. ZX Spectrum 48K and TRS-80 CoCo (??), 4. VIC-20

Sound: 1. Atari 400, 2. TI-99/4A, 3. VIC-20, 4. ZX Spectrum 48K and TRS-80 CoCo

Memory: 1. ZX Spectrum 48K, 2. TRS-80 CoCo (??), 3. TI-99/4A, 4. Atari 400 (??), 5. VIC-20

Peripherals: 1. Atari 400 and VIC-20, 2. TRS-80 CoCo (??), 3. TI-99/4A, 4. ZX Spectrum

 

I wouldn't include such parameters as software, user groups etc as the Speccy would've been brand new in the US by then and that would be unfair. All the question marks are definitely subject to discussion, but the question is if the $50 you had saved on getting a ZX Spectrum 48K instead of any of the Atari 400, TI-99/4A or TRS-80 CoCo had made sense at that point, since besides the memory capacity I don't see any field where it excelled over the competition, and I believe the US market is more about specs and capacity than it is about lowest possible price.

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On 3/6/2020 at 10:32 AM, carlsson said:

Yeah, late spring or early summer of 1983 is when Commodore took advantage of their vertical integration and slashed prices. The VIC may have dropped slowly in price all the time since New Year but I think by June it could be had for $89 in some places. The C64 dropped from $595 to $395, a price reduction that also took place overseas. Some think Commodore should've kept their prices high and included more books and software with the deal but that was not how they intended to do business.

I can't remember when it happened, but Tramiel lowered peripheral prices to run TI out of the personal computer business in revenge of what they did to him with calculator parts.
That's why he was forced out.   1983?  1984?
 

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The price war was in the summer of 1983 and affected both systems and peripherals. Commodore had an aggressive trade-in campaign, aimed particularly at TI which made them lose even more money than they already did.

 

The ousting of Tramiel in January 1984 was to my knowledge independent of the price wars, and depending who you believe, he chose to leave voluntarily because he could not stand Irving Gould any longer. Commodore also wasted lots of money on private jets, yachts etc instead of investing it in the company, so despite 1983 was the most profitable year in Commodore's entire history from 1958 to 1994, it didn't last long. Also when Jack left the company, a number of engineers and other people followed him so Commodore during 1984 lost a lot of qualified people.

 

It would be rather funny if Gould got rid of Tramiel because Gould felt sorry for Texas Instruments...

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, carlsson said:

Also, here are some more price points:

 

ZX Spectrum 16K: Launched in April 1982 at £125 (220 USD), reduced in June 1983 to £99 (150 USD)

ZX Spectrum 48K: Launched in April 1982 at £175 (310 USD), reduced in June 1983 to £129 (200 USD)

 

Sure, you can't compare UK and US prices straight off. To begin with the UK prices include 15% VAT, while I know only a few states in the US have sales tax.

 

The ZX Spectrum didn't drop very much more in price after the first adjustment. Actually when Sinclair introduced the Spectrum+ in October 1984 they had increased the price to £179 (215 USD) for the exact same hardware but with a proper keyboard, which wasn't very much cheaper than what you could buy e.g. a C64 for. Then again that was the beginning of the end for Sinclair, before Amstrad bought them up.

 

So in theory Sinclair may have introduced the 48K ZX Spectrum in the US in late spring, early summer of 1982 at around $300, which would have been inbetween a VIC-20 and an Atari 400, TI-99/4A or TRS-80 CoCo, a month or two before the C64 which of course launched at $595 so not really a competitor at the time.

 

A quick comparison:

 

Keyboard: 1. VIC-20 and TI-99/4A, 2. TRS-80 CoCo (??) and ZX Spectrum 48K, 3. Atari 400

Graphics: 1. Atari 400, 2. TI-99/4A, 3. ZX Spectrum 48K and TRS-80 CoCo (??), 4. VIC-20

Sound: 1. Atari 400, 2. TI-99/4A, 3. VIC-20, 4. ZX Spectrum 48K and TRS-80 CoCo

Memory: 1. ZX Spectrum 48K, 2. TRS-80 CoCo (??), 3. TI-99/4A, 4. Atari 400 (??), 5. VIC-20

Peripherals: 1. Atari 400 and VIC-20, 2. TRS-80 CoCo (??), 3. TI-99/4A, 4. ZX Spectrum

 

I wouldn't include such parameters as software, user groups etc as the Speccy would've been brand new in the US by then and that would be unfair. All the question marks are definitely subject to discussion, but the question is if the $50 you had saved on getting a ZX Spectrum 48K instead of any of the Atari 400, TI-99/4A or TRS-80 CoCo had made sense at that point, since besides the memory capacity I don't see any field where it excelled over the competition, and I believe the US market is more about specs and capacity than it is about lowest possible price.

The CoCo came with the chicklet keyboard until the intro of the white version.  That's when they introduced the "melted" keyboard.  1983?
That keyboard is pretty good.  The chicklet keyboard was okay, but you had to clean it to keep keys from sticking after a while.
The VIC has more colorful graphics than the CoCo, but the CoCo has bitmapped graphics.  Resolution, and number of characters per line favor the CoCo.
By 1982, 64K CoCo upgrades were becoming common by 1982, and I think Tandy was selling 64K units in 1983.  That's also when the CoCo 2 came out.
The CoCo had a large number of peripherals, though a lot were 3rd party.  Disk drives, digitizers, expansion boxes, sound & speech upgrades, printers, modems, plotters, ...

One category you left out is BASIC. 
EXTENDED COLOR BASIC was the best out there at the time. 
Speed wise, the CoCo was pretty fast once you used the high speed POKE.
Too bad they didn't take advantage of the 6809's hardware multiply in the floating point math library.


Productivity software favors the CoCo.  The bitmapped graphics were commonly used to display upper and lower case text.

 

12 minutes ago, carlsson said:

The price war was in the summer of 1983 and affected both systems and peripherals. Commodore had an aggressive trade-in campaign, aimed particularly at TI which made them lose even more money than they already did.

 

The ousting of Tramiel in January 1984 was to my knowledge independent of the price wars, and depending who you believe, he chose to leave voluntarily because he could not stand Irving Gould any longer. Commodore also wasted lots of money on private jets, yachts etc instead of investing it in the company, so despite 1983 was the most profitable year in Commodore's entire history from 1958 to 1994, it didn't last long. Also when Jack left the company, a number of engineers and other people followed him so Commodore during 1984 lost a lot of qualified people.

 

It would be rather funny if Gould got rid of Tramiel because Gould felt sorry for Texas Instruments...

Gould was a disaster for the company, and the Amiga.

Edited by JamesD

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Ok, so basically perhaps the ZX Spectrum 48K would not have had anything to its advantage if it was released on the US market early on. However it was said elsewhere that Sinclair didn't necessarily keep the prices as low as possible, only lower than the competition so perhaps they would've had margins to sell it in the US closer to $250 by the summer of 1982 which indeed had meant about $100 cheaper than the competitors, completely speculations of course.

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37 minutes ago, JamesD said:

The CoCo came with the chicklet keyboard until the intro of the white version.  That's when they introduced the "melted" keyboard.  1983?
That keyboard is pretty good.  The chicklet keyboard was okay, but you had to clean it to keep keys from sticking after a while.
The VIC has more colorful graphics than the CoCo, but the CoCo has bitmapped graphics.  Resolution, and number of characters per line favor the CoCo.
By 1982, 64K CoCo upgrades were becoming common by 1982, and I think Tandy was selling 64K units in 1983.  That's also when the CoCo 2 came out.
The CoCo had a large number of peripherals, though a lot were 3rd party.  Disk drives, digitizers, expansion boxes, sound & speech upgrades, printers, modems, plotters, ...

One category you left out is BASIC. 
EXTENDED COLOR BASIC was the best out there at the time. 
Speed wise, the CoCo was pretty fast once you used the high speed POKE.
Too bad they didn't take advantage of the 6809's hardware multiply in the floating point math library.


Productivity software favors the CoCo.  The bitmapped graphics were commonly used to display upper and lower case text.

 

Gould was a disaster for the company, and the Amiga.

I'm amused that you're discussing the CoCo as a competitor to the other home/hobby computers of the day featuring color capabilities. A CoCo 2 with a "melted" keyboard was my second computer; after first owning a TS1000. I've only recently come to appreciate the capabilities and potential of the Motorola 6809 CPU. Strictly speaking of the eight-bit era, it was one of the best if not THE best of the eight-bit CPUs.

 

Ironically, I kinda feel like the main competitor to the 6809 was Motorola's own 68000 32-bit CPU. As I understand it, the assembly language coding is somewhat similar between the two. It was a far more sophisticated (and expensive) chip than any of the eight (or even 16 bit) chips of that era, but as evidenced by Apple, Atari, and Amiga/Commodore's embrace of it; it was clearly the direction of the future for the non-Intel CPU route.

 

The thing I grapple with for home color-enabled 8-bit systems, was that to really leverage the power of color for science, education, or business, you really needed an honest to goodness color monitor. But back in the early 80's, those things were like 800 bucks! -- much more expensive than most of the computers you might be hooking them up to. The Commodore 128 screen output looked great in 80-column mode on a high resolution color monitor, as did the CoCo 3. But when the average Joe hobbyist/home computer nerd was putting together a full system; with disk drives and maybe some kind of printer, a color monitor would push the whole package into the $2,000+ range, and all of a sudden, a Macintosh or IBM compatible began to make a lot more sense; even if that meant abandoning color in favor of higher resolution monochrome.

 

Anyway, I really appreciate all of the discussion here and the fond memories of my early years of computing. I find this all the more exciting with the recent (limited) releases of the C-64 full-sized computer and the new ZX Spectrum NEXT. Exciting times for retro-computing...

 

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4 hours ago, almightytodd said:

I'm amused that you're discussing the CoCo as a competitor to the other home/hobby computers of the day featuring color capabilities. A CoCo 2 with a "melted" keyboard was my second computer; after first owning a TS1000. I've only recently come to appreciate the capabilities and potential of the Motorola 6809 CPU. Strictly speaking of the eight-bit era, it was one of the best if not THE best of the eight-bit CPUs.

 

Ironically, I kinda feel like the main competitor to the 6809 was Motorola's own 68000 32-bit CPU. As I understand it, the assembly language coding is somewhat similar between the two. It was a far more sophisticated (and expensive) chip than any of the eight (or even 16 bit) chips of that era, but as evidenced by Apple, Atari, and Amiga/Commodore's embrace of it; it was clearly the direction of the future for the non-Intel CPU route.

 

...

 

The instructions on the 68000 are similar to the 6809, but that's about where the similarity ends.  :D

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Yes, when they set up the Motorola Advanced Computer System on Silicon project (MACSS) in 1976, the aim was to develop an entirely new architecture without backward compatibility with the 6800, though it did have a bus protocol compatibility mode. (text adapted from Wikipedia)

 

I believe the 68000 was the right chip at the right time. Besides it and the 8086 series, two of the other major contenders were the 16-bit Zilog Z8000 which was much slower than the 68000, and eventually the 32-bit National Semiconductor 32016/32032 which was buggy and lost market shares to Motorola.

 

A month ago I found a quote of the 68000 to cost $39.95 by May 1985 (6809 at $8.95 by then). There is the folklore story about how Steve Jobs already sometime in 1982-83 managed to talk Motorola down to a price of $9.00, which would've been a quarter of their regular bulk volume pricing. It'd be interesting to know if Motorola eventually offered their chips at the same discounts to the others, in this particular context also Sinclair who launched their 68008 based QL ahead of the Apple Macintosh which of course has a full 68000.

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13 hours ago, JamesD said:

The instructions on the 68000 are similar to the 6809, but that's about where the similarity ends.  :D

I just looked at some 68000 code for the first time in years, the instructions even have different mnemonics.
Geeze... I probably spent more time on 68000 assembly than anything else for a decade, and didn't remember that until I saw some code.

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2 hours ago, carlsson said:

Yes, when they set up the Motorola Advanced Computer System on Silicon project (MACSS) in 1976, the aim was to develop an entirely new architecture without backward compatibility with the 6800, though it did have a bus protocol compatibility mode. (text adapted from Wikipedia)

 

I believe the 68000 was the right chip at the right time. Besides it and the 8086 series, two of the other major contenders were the 16-bit Zilog Z8000 which was much slower than the 68000, and eventually the 32-bit National Semiconductor 32016/32032 which was buggy and lost market shares to Motorola.

 

A month ago I found a quote of the 68000 to cost $39.95 by May 1985 (6809 at $8.95 by then). There is the folklore story about how Steve Jobs already sometime in 1982-83 managed to talk Motorola down to a price of $9.00, which would've been a quarter of their regular bulk volume pricing. It'd be interesting to know if Motorola eventually offered their chips at the same discounts to the others, in this particular context also Sinclair who launched their 68008 based QL ahead of the Apple Macintosh which of course has a full 68000.

The 68008 may run 68000 code, but it's slower, and the QL lacked the GUI which was the real appeal of the Macintosh.
You can bet Atari received decent pricing on the 68000.  Jack was a shrewd negotiator.

Motorola's management was out of touch at best if the stories people have told are true.
If Motorola had listened to employees, they might have had a product somewhat like the 6502, that could have been cheaper to produce than the 6800.
For that matter, if they had been on the ball, they could have released a version of the 6803 with a built in DRAM controller specifically targeting the personal computer market in 1978.
Someone could have sold a machine with hi-res color graphics, sound, cassette, and a serial port for less than what a TRS-80 Model I with Level I BASIC was going for.
 

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Posted (edited)

Timex-Sinclair ZX-81 is a winner.

 

Try playing games on post-it note beside tic-tac-to.

 

If you make mistakes with post-it note and correct them, the result would be a mess.

 

And you need a new post-it note once used.

 

You won't buy a new computer if you use it once.

Edited by Serguei2
Added things.

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