Jump to content
Compumater

What if the Adam hadn't had issues on release?

Recommended Posts

 I always loved the Colecovision. The games were miles ahead of the 2600 and 5200 versions, and I was excited to see the Adam when it hit the stores.

 On paper it looked great, and I can't help but wonder if they had managed to get that thing to market without all the issues, do you think it would have done well?

 It seems to me to be slightly better than the C64, and that continued to sell well all the way into the 90's so I do wonder.

 

 I bought a never used setup for $10.00 in 1988 and used it as my main computer all the way to 1993. I had to write everything for it in applesoft basic, and that was a pain as I could never find programs for it. Years later when eBay became a thing I realized it wasn't just me! There just wasn't a lot of stuff made for it. I used the heck out of that printer though!

 

 So let's say in another world, the bugs were not there, would it have mattered to the market? Would the Adam have become a major player?

 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Compumater said:

 So let's say in another world, the bugs were not there, would it have mattered to the market? Would the Adam have become a major player?

In a word, no.

 

The hardware problems the ADAM had certainly didn't help its reputation, but those were minor problems compared to the much deeper flaws that doomed the ADAM before it even hit the market.

 

1) The initial idea was to take advantage of the ColecoVision's front expansion port to turn it into a family computer, but the hardware designers at Coleco soon realized that the expansion port couldn't provide enough juice to power everything, so they had to make all kinds of design compromises (like putting the ADAM's main power supply inside the printer) and they ended up with a monster piece of hardware that took up way too much space. Competing computers like the Commodore 64 and the Coco 2 (just to name a couple) looked far more attractive as a result.

 

2) The ADAM entered its initial hardware design phase at the worst possible time. For one thing, they wanted to use something faster than ordinary cassette tapes, but floppies were not mainstream yet, so they went with a dead-end solution of high-speed cassettes which was completely proprietary, which meant whatever data you had on them could only be read by an ADAM computer. And then there was the printer. Dot-matrix printers were (again) not mainstream yet, so Coleco went with an old-style (and extremely loud) daisy wheel printer. And of course, it didn't take long for both floppy drives and dot matrix printers to take over the home computer market, so the ADAM already looked like an antique by the end of 1984.

 

3) Coleco saw that consumers were moving away from video game consoles and into home computing, and they wanted a piece of that action, but just looking at the non-game software Coleco released for the ADAM, you can plainly see they had no idea what they were doing in terms of supporting their "little" computer. They figured all they had to do was put out some software like ADAMCalc and Recipe Filer and the whole family would be happy. We all know there's more to it than that. Coleco failed to open up the ADAM to programmers by providing much needed technical documentation, and this led to an underground movement of hackers growing into a community that supported the ADAM with third-party software which Coleco didn't even acknowledge or care much about. You know your computer is in a bad situation when third-party support is an "underground" phenomenon. There was mostly nothing "underground" about the Commodore 64 and this is the clearest expression of why it succeeded where the ADAM failed. Coleco even released a modem for the ADAM, but I can't even recall what kind of support Coleco offered with it. Did they have a phone BBS ADAM users could connect to? I believe that was all underground too.

 

I had an ADAM when I was a kid, and I used it mostly for playing ColecoVision games (and ADAM Super Games) and to write documents with SMARTWriter. SMARTBasic was okay, but at the same time it sucked because its capabilities were limited, and I had no access to documentation that would have allowed me to tap into the ADAM's real potential with PEEK and POKE commands. I didn't even hear about the "underground" third-party support until I was about six months away from ditching my ADAM for my first 386 PC which I needed for college.

 

As much as I loved the ColecoVision back in the day, I can't say the ADAM was a good idea. On the contrary, its uselessly complicated design sealed its fate. A much smaller computer expansion module, targeted solely at kids who wanted to learn programming (and in particular game programming) would have been far better, even if it probably wouldn't have helped Coleco survive the Video Game Crash of '84. At least Coleco wouldn't have sunk so much money into it like they did with the ADAM, and perhaps today we'd fondly remember the Coleco Entertainment System instead of the NES.

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The number one application at the time for computers in the home was still videogames.  People bought the C64 by the millions in the mid 1980s and into the 90s primarily for videogames.  The Adam did show some advantages for games over a Colecovision but the C64 pretty much took over by 1984/85.  And yes, as a games machine that printer didn't help the Adam. The standalone Adam was not a bad idea to offer something unique; a complete out of the box, affordable, word processing solution for the home.  As a computer the big thing people would want at the time was access to software, and that includes sharing with friends, colleagues, etc.  The home computer market was brutal, with some established companies already failing.  Even IBM tried and failed with a consumer specific home computer.  And again, those missteps with the Adam killed whatever small chance it had.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@ Luc…

 

I think your use of the word “underground” is way off. For instance, look at all the people who have posted over the last decade or two in amazement and surprise about    the ColecoVision Homebrew Scene. Do you consider Team Pixelboy to be “underground”? The difference between the ADAM Homebrew scene in the mid 80s to early 90s and that of the CV Homebrew scene from 1996 on is simply one thing… the exposure provided by the World Wide Web.

 

The AdamLink Modem… it was provided with a trial membership to CompuServe. I don’t recall the specific forum that supported the Adam before a dedicated sub-forum was created, but it was a god-send for a lot of people who didn’t buy Family Computing and do the necessary leg work contacting the fledgling companies and users groups that were sprouting up all over North America and Europe.

 

As far as software support, especially 3rd Party support… that was a double-edged sword. Yes, Coleco dropped the ball by slow walking the release of the Tech Manuals, but let’s not forget that these 3rd Party companies also took a wait and see attitude as far as the ADAM before committing both time and money into development for the system. For example, let’s consider Opcode’s OMNI system… are you willing to spend countless hours and your own money developing a game for that system when you can’t even be guaranteed that it will be released. If it is released, how many will be made and how many will buy it. Pretty much, Opcode will have to do all the heavy lifting re software development until there is a large enough base to inspire others to develop for the system.

 

One additional example… the ColecoVision was announced late ‘81/early ‘82 and released in August. When it was released, was there any 3rd Party support for it or just a bunch of 3rd Party companies announcing titles that they “planned” to release for it? The ADAM got the same treatment as the CV with a lot of companies planning to support it but taking a wait and see approach to how successful the system would be.

 

Still on software… the ADAM was a new computer that was not compatible with any other software available for other computers which means that every type of software was needed. Considering the limited amount of time from when the ADAM was first announced until around mid ‘84 (the writing was in the wall but Coleco couldn’t be honest and open about the end coming in 6 months), Coleco did a pretty good job of releasing most of the “staples”. You reference AdamCalc… well I can see how a teenage Luc didn’t have much use for it as I did not as well, but there were thousands that did. I guess SuperCalc for other computers was useless as well per your thinking/reasoning. Um, yeah, Recipe Filer was pretty useless to you and I as well, but it’s not like there weren’t recipe database programs for other computers and the development time would have been minimal since it’s basically SmartFiler.

 

In a perfect world where the ADAM had a successful role out like the ColecoVision did, everything that your teenage heart could have wanted would have come to fruition and in about 4 or 5 years, you probably would have still bought that PC for college.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say sadly that even in a perfect bug-free world, the Adam still would have failed.

 

Remember that within a few months the Macintosh would be introduced, and that basically served as the warning shot that the 8-bit era was coming to a close.  So the Adam was introduced REALLY late for an 8-bit computer -- it has to be among the last all-new 8-bit platforms to be introduced.  Sure, 8-bit computers would be around for a few more years, but all the major vendors (Atari, Commodore, Apple, etc.) were beginning to move on -- meanwhile, Coleco was just getting started with the Adam.

 

So it's really hard for me to envision a scenario in which even a bug-free Adam succeeds.  Could Coleco have pivoted in approximately two years to a more advanced processor?  Maybe, but their installed base wouldn't have been too happy about having to buy a new platform within such a short period of time.

 

Now I really, truly believe that had Coleco simply ditched the keyboard and printer, and called it the Super Game Module like was originally planned, they would have had a LOT of success!  But we all know it wasn't to be.  By they way, I find it interesting that many of the early Adam games say "Super Game" on their title screens.  My guess is these early games where programmed when the Super Game Module was still the plan (that's what I choose to believe, anyway :))....

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, else said:

Remember that within a few months the Macintosh would be introduced, and that basically served as the warning shot that the 8-bit era was coming to a close.  So the Adam was introduced REALLY late for an 8-bit computer -- it has to be among the last all-new 8-bit platforms to be introduced.  Sure, 8-bit computers would be around for a few more years, but all the major vendors (Atari, Commodore, Apple, etc.) were beginning to move on -- meanwhile, Coleco was just getting started with the Adam.

 

One thing that we as North Americans tend to do is be too North American-centric. Yes, the ADAM was released late in the evolution of 8-bit computers but when you consider world wide, the 8-bit era still had a lot of juice left especially with the MSX standard of computers that came about after the ADAM’s release.

 

What would be considered a success for Coleco re the ADAM especially seeing as Coleco was a toy company that was expanding a videogame system into a full-fledged computer system?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Through the awesomeness that is the Digital Press site I have been catching up on Video Games magazine (that I somehow missed the first time around) and came across this not-too-favorable Adam review.

 

http://www.digitpress.com/library/magazines/video_games/video_games_apr84.pdf

 

I never had a horse in this race (Commodore 64 all the way for me) but even other gaming mags of the day were somewhat skeptical of the Adam.  Still, I always thought the "all in one package" concept of home computing was something to admire.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had the PC Jr announced around the same time. Although in the end that was also a flop, all home computer makers were concerned about having the PC Jr as a competitor. In fact Coleco mentioned that during their presentation. The other thing is that late 1983 was the crash for home computers in the US. That was when most people probably realized they didn't need one and that those 8-bit machines weren't much more than toys or glorified consoles. 

 

So I guess they could have done better, but I don't think that in the long run that would have made any difference. As for the rest of the world, the ADAM was probably too expensive for them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I still think it would have failed because it was sold as an expensive bundle.   The C64s and Atari 8-bits were relatively cheap,  and a lot of us would start with the computer, then later add a cassette or floppy disk, and then a printer.   I know many of our parents would have balked at a $700 computer as a Christmas gift, but were OK with the piecemeal of spending $200 here and $200 there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I still think it would have failed because it was sold as an expensive bundle.   The C64s and Atari 8-bits were relatively cheap,  and a lot of us would start with the computer, then later add a cassette or floppy disk, and then a printer.   I know many of our parents would have balked at a $700 computer as a Christmas gift, but were OK with the piecemeal of spending $200 here and $200 there.

It was an interesting concept that Coleco was trying, a computer less a hobby thing and more like an appliance. But the technology just wasn’t there yet.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And the Z80 CPU was a dead end. That is why ASCII had to create the R800 for the MSX in 1990, but I doubt Coleco would have done the same. And of course 1990 was too much late in any case.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a ColecoVision growing up, but didn't even know what the Adam was until I was much older (I was 7 when it released).  My family bridged the gap of the Video Game Crash between the ColecoVision and the NES with a TRS-80 Color Computer 2.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that it would have been a failure.  The all in one package including a printer was very appealing to a lot of people.  Hardware issues aside (which was a big issue, the reputation spread pretty fast), I think another thing that really hurt the Adam was that it wasn't sold in computer stores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, kethdredd said:

I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that it would have been a failure.  The all in one package including a printer was very appealing to a lot of people.  Hardware issues aside (which was a big issue, the reputation spread pretty fast), I think another thing that really hurt the Adam was that it wasn't sold in computer stores.

So, if the Adam does not have glitches and it sells to computer stores, it would stay longer. A bit longer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Serguei2 said:

So, if the Adam does not have glitches and it sells to computer stores, it would stay longer. A bit longer.

It’s very possible that it remained a viable computing platform as long as the C=64 and Apple II lineup remained viable in the North American market. In the European market, it’s possible that “viable” time could have lasted longer due to it’s similarity to the MSX standard which was on the horizon and especially since the ADAM would have benefitted tremendously from cross-platform development like you see the current CV and MSX Homebrew scenes doing today.

 

It would have been really interesting to watch how things played out at Coleco concerning their electronics division had the ADAM been a retail success because lord knows they had a world of talent working there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the timeline was changed everyone would be using an ADAM version 5 in 2021 instead of a Windows PC or a MAC.  

Edited by HDTV1080P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There really wasn't a 8-bit home computer crash per se there were just several companies trying to compete over the C64's table scraps and Jack Tramiel forcing a price war to further make the competition's life miserable until most all had to eventually give up and liquidate. The Adam did not have a chance at all, It was like a Greyhound bus trying to race a Porsche at Lemans. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...