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RobertB

The Computers That Made Britain

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Posted (edited)

      I just found this out today.  The book, "The Computers That Made Britain," is available as a free e-book or you can purchase a hardcopy at:

 

https://wireframe.raspberrypi.org/books/computers-that-made-britain

 

Among the various platforms, CBM computers that are covered are the PET 2001, VIC-20, C64, and the Amiga.

 

          Leaving out other CBM computers,
          Robert Bernardo
          Fresno Commodore User Group -
          http://www.dickestel.com/fcug.htm
          Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network -
          http://www.portcommodore.com/sccan
          Nov. 6-7 Commodore Los Angeles Super Show 2021 -
          http://www.portcommodore.com/class

 

Edited by RobertB
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On 6/14/2021 at 8:33 PM, RobertB said:

      I just found this out today.  The book, "The Computers That Made Britain," is available as a free e-book or you can purchase a hardcopy at:

 

https://wireframe.raspberrypi.org/books/computers-that-made-britain

 

Among the various platforms, CBM computers that are covered are the PET 2001, VIC-20, C64, and the Amiga.

 

          Leaving out other CBM computers,
          Robert Bernardo
          Fresno Commodore User Group -
          http://www.dickestel.com/fcug.htm
          Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network -
          http://www.portcommodore.com/sccan
          Nov. 6-7 Commodore Los Angeles Super Show 2021 -
          http://www.portcommodore.com/class

 

Many thanks for sharing this with the community.  I downloaded the PDF and definitely I will check it out / read it soon enough.

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Thanks Robert. I also downloaded the PDF but I may pony up for the actual book as its a very enjoyable read so far.

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That book is rubbish, Atari 8-bit is missing. Bad research.

 

In UK, the Atari 8-bit was the second best import computer after C64.

Atari 8-bit games were available in all computer shops, WHSmith and other retailers.

Atari 8-bit had UK magazines like Page 6 (the longest lasting 8-bit computer magazine in UK), Atari User.

The Atari 8-bit was always quoted in ZZAP! magazine as being the better computer than the C64

The Atari 8-bit had the best UK fanzine in the universe, 8: 16

Zeppelin Games, Atlantis Games  and other UK software companies released games up to 1992

 

Tim Danton, that book is a big fail

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Hm. So the 19 computers that made Britain were, according to this book:

 

Research Machines 380Z [UK made, 1977]

Commodore PET 2001

Apple II

Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81 [UK made]

Commodore VIC-20

IBM PC 5150

BBC Micro [UK made]

Sinclair ZX Spectrum [UK made]

Dragon 32 [Uk made]

Commodore 64

Acorn Electron [UK made]

Apple Macintosh

Amstrad CPC 464 [UK made]

Sinclair QL [UK made]

Atari 520ST

Commodore Amiga

Amstrad PCW 8256 [UK made]

Acorn Archimedes [UK made]

 

Just like High Voltage is missing the Atari 8-bit line, I wonder where the Oric 1 and Atmos computers are in this collection. Jupiter Ace? How about Grundy NewBrain, which served as the blueprint for BBC's spec for a school computer? ICL's machines? How about Amstrad's PC models? I suppose the Tatung Einstein is a bit obscure, just like Memotech MTX series, Enterprise 64/128, RM Nimbus, Apricot PC etc. Some would like to have Compukit UK101 there, as well as MK14 and so on.

 

I understand this is not a book about the UK computer industry as a whole, but a selection of the models that had most impact on the consumer side. Still I believe a few of those I list should belong there. Models like C64, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Macintosh, IBM PC were huge sellers worldwide so those could just as well be computers that made XYZ country.

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Posted (edited)

Some serious Atari rage going on with one of the previous posts haha. But I understand completely. Seems a big omission. It's a fun book though for what it is.

 

Ok I had 'boots on the ground' in the UK during this period of computing history. In my part of the UK it was all Zx81, Spectrum, Vic-20, C64 and Dragon 32. One kid had an Oric-1 and another had a Beeb. I saw Atari 400/800 on sale at some department stores(they were expensive!), along with Colour Genie , TI-99/4a and a Tandy at the Tandy shop. Later on I saw Sharp MZ-700, Tatung Einstein and Amstrad and a single Jupiter Ace. The schools had BBC Micros, along with a RM-380z and ONE pet. The computer mags had listings for Commodore/Atari/Sinclair mainly with the odd other platform on occasion, I never saw a SINGLE apple computer on sale or any listing for games in any magazine I bought so why they turn up in this book instead of Atari is beyond me. Maybe the author didn't have much to say about them for for history alone its too big of a name to ignore. Especially since Jay Miner designed the 800. Apple had ZERO influence in my area and certainly didn't 'build' the Britain I was living in. Whereas Atari was very much in the scene. Why mention Amiga and not ST either?

Edited by Arnuphis

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I suppose you're talking from a home computer perspective, hobbyist/gamers in their teens? For those, systems like Apple II, Macintosh and for that matter IBM PC always were out of reach and probably not that interesting since those computers aimed at other kinds of specs than great graphics, sound, input or tinkerability. I'm sure when it comes to the business side, Apple did quite some difference in the UK even though they certainly had both international and domestic competition.

 

Also from what I could read, the book does mention both the Atari 520ST and Amiga lines, only that it leaves out the Atari 8-bit computers which as you noted were relatively expensive for their capacity, probably at least until Tramiel took over and the XE line was introduced which seems like the price was halved over night.

 

I suppose "Computers that made Britain" needs to encompass all or most aspects of the title, both what acne ridden teenagers had in their bedrooms to play games on, what was used in small businesses, larger corporate and schools. Many of the models I mentioned would be long shots in a book like this, but I still think Tangerine/Oric and probably Jupiter Cantab deserve at least a passing mention, which they very well may have received as I haven't read the book except for the index.

 

Besides I imagine that if someone made the books "Computers that made Germany", "Computers that made Sweden" or "Computers that made Canada", some machines like C64, IBM PC and Macintosh would be present in all those books. Perhaps the stories told around them would be different but ultimately those (and a few more) seem to have been computers that made at least the majority of the Western world. I know things were quite different in e.g. Japan though.

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Very fascinating graph and kudos to those who once compiled it!

 

Like I have observed before, the Atari 800XL never was a thing in Europe until a good few months into 1984. It may have existed in the USA already in the fall of 1983. Probably the gap between the old 800 going out of the market and the 600XL had too little memory, plus the galloping USD exchange rate at the time, were factors for that Atari 8-bit never really could keep up with the Commodores, Sinclairs and some other brands in the UK and mainland European markets. I know that Atari wanted the 600XL to replace the 400 as an entry level machine, since pretty much all of the manufacturers had analyzed there was a huge need for inexpensive entry models, but it makes me wonder what the Atari 8-bit had become if they had retired the 400, never bothered with the 600XL and instead put all efforts onto the 800XL, trying as closely as possible to match the C64 in price. I know Atari did in the US but the European importers tended to fail to do the same.

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Consider though how few units needed to be sold to be ranked on the chart. The Jupiter Ace shows up but only 8,000 were made and many remained in warehouses after Cantab closed. Newbrain has multiple months on the list despite the total production of about 50,000. The Spectrum moved more units in a month than many other listed computers did in their entire existence. 

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Posted (edited)

To follow on from my original post, I finally got to the ST part of the book so at least that was included. My experience was not just that of an 'acne ridden teenager'. When I left school and went to college to study computer science the college had a mainframe for COBOL and BBC Masters for classroom use. My work experience placing was at two companies. One was a university campus which again was just dumb terminals and a mainframe and the other was a small business that had PETs. It was not until I started working at an insurance company in 1989 that I finally saw an IBM PC. Again, ZERO Apple anywhere. I didn't actually see any Apple kit until I was working as a repair technician and we had one client who was a design studio and they had some PowerPC Macs. The external SCSI devices were always causing issues. They next time I saw Apple stuff was when I worked at a large network product company. I saw them dump all their PowerPC Macs into a skip and replace them with Compaq Laptops/Server.

 

What I am basically saying is that Apple really were not a thing here in the UK at that time, a least not in my area/experience. I know they like to rewrite history to make themselves the be all and end all of computing history and innovation but I really do feel that that portion of the book would have been better served elsewhere. Maybe with the Atari 8 bit line or like mentioned previously, the 'nearly were' machines like the Jupiter Ace, Newbrain, Lynx, Oric, TI-99/4a etc. Because they were the machines on sale in the stores to the general public in this period.

 

If only the 800 had been priced better in 1979 when it came  out.. So ahead of its time. As a kid I would have loved one and would probably never have been such a Commodore devotee if i had gotten one. But they never got here until '81 and were around 650 pounds at the time (2 and a half grand today!) so they were beaten on price by Sinclair/Commodore. So it was probably never going to happen.

Edited by Arnuphis
grammar
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You don't need to be the bestselling machine to be influential. Also, like in Apple's case, you don't need to have direct market penetration - you just loom large over the scene. Besides, these machines were present in the UK anyway, just have a look at early mags such as CV+G. The early scene was pretty democratic, even if it already had clear market leaders. The minnows (and the Atari) faded away from ~1984 onwards.

 

I'm not a biggest fan of this book myself, but I think you're getting a little too hang up on its title. It's just a phrase, and these all-encompassing efforts will always evoke the calls of "but what about the xxx" ...just like it was with this Most Influential Computers list from not long ago.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/21/2021 at 3:11 PM, carlsson said:

Very fascinating graph and kudos to those who once compiled it!

 

Like I have observed before, the Atari 800XL never was a thing in Europe until a good few months into 1984. It may have existed in the USA already in the fall of 1983. Probably the gap between the old 800 going out of the market and the 600XL had too little memory, plus the galloping USD exchange rate at the time, were factors for that Atari 8-bit never really could keep up with the Commodores, Sinclairs and some other brands in the UK and mainland European markets. I know that Atari wanted the 600XL to replace the 400 as an entry level machine, since pretty much all of the manufacturers had analyzed there was a huge need for inexpensive entry models, but it makes me wonder what the Atari 8-bit had become if they had retired the 400, never bothered with the 600XL and instead put all efforts onto the 800XL, trying as closely as possible to match the C64 in price. I know Atari did in the US but the European importers tended to fail to do the same.

The Atari 600XL and 800XL were direct replacements for the 400 and 800 respectively in the US.  Also, Atari canned the 1200XL upon the new models' launch in States as well.  Not sure what Atari tried to do in the UK and/or Europe prior to the Tramiels taking over with a better, more focused approach with the XE and ST line of computers.  Also, kudos as well to the graph.  Great stuff and really showed that the Spectrum was the machine to have in the UK for the early 1980s.

Edited by Hwlngmad

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Yup. The question is if the 400 really needed a direct replacement in 1983, in particular as the 600XL wasn't ultra cheap anyway so Atari would never be able to capitalize on the absolute bottom segment of the market. They could go for the budget minded but if specs and expectations kept rising, perhaps a 16K model didn't quite cut it against the competition. The same could be said about many brands, not the least Commodore themselves who aimed to put out the C116 model with rubber keyboard by late 1983 or early 1984, but the TED project got delayed and grew into the full sized C16 and Plus/4 models at completely different price points.

 

I don't know the Atari hardware enough to tell if a 32K model would be technically feasible. I've heard the C64 hardware only would be possible in 16K or 64K configuration and the Atari XL might be in the same position which explains the 600XL and 800XL models.

 

Sure, the graph ends at Christmas 1983 and the 600XL was quickly on the raise after its launch so perhaps if the curve was plotted until March 1984 it would look a bit different. Perhaps the biggest problem for Atari was that they acted too late, that the 1200XL was a misstep and they sooner should've acted on the fact Commodore announced the C64 already in January 1982 with release in July. I don't think the 1200XL was a direct answer to the C64, but perhaps at its launch price of $595 the Commodore never was considered any more of a competitor than anyone else, regardless of what the VIC-20 may have done at the bottom of the market by then.

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On 7/23/2021 at 9:57 AM, carlsson said:

Yup. The question is if the 400 really needed a direct replacement in 1983, in particular as the 600XL wasn't ultra cheap anyway so Atari would never be able to capitalize on the absolute bottom segment of the market. They could go for the budget minded but if specs and expectations kept rising, perhaps a 16K model didn't quite cut it against the competition. The same could be said about many brands, not the least Commodore themselves who aimed to put out the C116 model with rubber keyboard by late 1983 or early 1984, but the TED project got delayed and grew into the full sized C16 and Plus/4 models at completely different price points.

 

I don't know the Atari hardware enough to tell if a 32K model would be technically feasible. I've heard the C64 hardware only would be possible in 16K or 64K configuration and the Atari XL might be in the same position which explains the 600XL and 800XL models.

 

Sure, the graph ends at Christmas 1983 and the 600XL was quickly on the raise after its launch so perhaps if the curve was plotted until March 1984 it would look a bit different. Perhaps the biggest problem for Atari was that they acted too late, that the 1200XL was a misstep and they sooner should've acted on the fact Commodore announced the C64 already in January 1982 with release in July. I don't think the 1200XL was a direct answer to the C64, but perhaps at its launch price of $595 the Commodore never was considered any more of a competitor than anyone else, regardless of what the VIC-20 may have done at the bottom of the market by then.

That's a good question.  Obviously Atari needed a cost reduced 8-bit machine as the 400 and 800 were both more expensive to make than either the VIC-20 or C64.  Definitely I think that Atari could have just stuck with having the 800XL be the low end model, especially considering the other machines that they had planned on releasing later on.  While the 600XL was a nice machine, not sure if that was something anyone was really needing and/or wanting by 1983.  Also, yes, the 1200XL was a (massive) misfire for Atari and really lead to the Atari computer division suffering a mortal blow at the hands of Commodore due to the one-two punch of the VIC and C64.

 

Now, regarding the 264 line, note that the C116 was supposed to be a ZX Spectrum killer and be $50, not $100 it was (very, very briefly) sold for.  Also, the Plus/4 was supposed to be sold at $100 and not at the price range of the C64.  Commodore really screwed up the entire 264 line of machines once Jack Tramiel left as they had no clue what to do with the machines and/or how they were really supposed to be marketed and/or configured.

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Posted (edited)

I believe the Commodore 116 eventually was launched at $79 instead of $49 so not that much higher, but yes the issue was that by mid 1984, the market for entry level machines was quickly drying up due to the more capable ones came down in price for every month and the software demands more and more took advantage of larger memory capacities.

 

I tend to say that the home computer market in Jan-Feb 1983 and the market in July-Aug 1983 were two different places. Many of the machines planned in late 1982 or early 1983 had made perfectly sense to release at the time those were announced, but outdated and/or overpriced at the point those were ready to sell. Then again big changes in the market often are hard to predict, and nobody was immune.

 

In any case, it makes me curious to look up more issues of Personal Computer News to see how the graph would continue another couple months into 1984.

 

Edit: Starting from February 18, 1984 the list was truncated from Top 20 to Top 10.

Edited by carlsson
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