General public machines (Was: Altair 8800 name Was: Re: Altair 680 Expansion Boards?

Fred Cisin cisin at
Thu Dec 22 22:04:48 CST 2016

We all hang out with people who are smart enough to see things the same 
way that we do.  Accordingly, our choices in computers, cars, cellphone 
providers always look to us like the MAJORITY.   They are the BEST, and 
certainly the MOST POPULAR [among everybody that WE hang out with], but 
not necessarily the best selling.

If the world were just, and the BEST outsold the worst, then we would all 
be using Amiga :-)

On Thu, 22 Dec 2016, drlegendre . wrote:
> "The Z80 had more players and more names than all the rest"
> And yet it was essentially a bit-player in the days of the 'home computer'
> revolution - at least in the US. CBM, Apple, Atari - the three big names in
> home computers, all went with the 6502 family. And perhaps even more
> importantly, so did Nintendo, in the NES.

And yet, somehow, z80 was outselling 6502!

Radio Shack, TRS-80, WAS one of the "three big names".  It had a 
not-insignificant share of the market, and until 1982 was the best 
selling.  Don't ignore the impact of having incompetents peddling in 
thousands of store, in every city and town!
Atari took a while longer to get market share.

At the same time.
Depending on how you define "first" ("first" to show V "first" to ship V 
"first" to be available for shelf purchase) will define whether Apple, 
Commodore, or Radio Shack was "the first".  It is trivially esay to select 
a definition of "first" to make it your choice of those.   Apple was 
the first of those announced and shown.
I bought a TRS-80 ($400 (or $600 if you wanted their composite monitor 
and cassette player)) because it was the first one [by multiple months] 
that I could walk in the door of a local store and buy one.  The more 
appealing Apple, which had been announced earlier that TRS-80, was hard to 
come by for several more months.

That time differential of months seems inconsequential 40 years later, but 
it mattered to me right then.  And, for most rational measures, Apple, 
TRS-80 and Commodore initial releases were a tie.
(Was the photo finish by a nose, a whisker, or a hoof?)
When the 5150 came out in August 1981, it was months before I could 
actually get one.

AFTER the 5150 came out, people relized that TRS-80 was doomed, and in 
1982, Apple 2 finally started to outsell TRS-80.  It was LESS obvious that 
Apple 2 was doomed.  But, within Apple, they knew there were troubled 
times ahead, and came out with the disastrous Apple 3, and disastrous 
[from point of view of SALES] Lisa.

'Course IBM poisoned the market for everything else, and nothing else sold 
like IBM.   On August 12, 1981, I said "In 10 years, 3/4 of the market 
will be IBM PC and imitations of it."
It is amazingly impressive that Apple (Mac) survived IBM!
(If you think that Mac outsold PC, then you are looking at YOUR circle, 
and need to look at actual sales numbers)
But, by the time that the Mac came out, TRS-80 was finally becoming that 
"bit player" that some assume that it was, or should have been.

> The main use of Z80 in US home
> computing was in the absurdly small Timex / Sinclair ZX80 series - with
> their awful cramped membrane keyboards and seriously limited sound & video.
Which was years later, and WAS a bit player and absurdly small. It was 
NEVER the main use of Z80 in USA home computing.  TRS-80 outsold them 
more than 100 to 1.
Was that really a membrane keyboard, or was it just a PICTURE of a 
keyboard as a recommendation, like the "part of this complete breakfast".

> The Z80 also showed up in the Osborne, Kaypro and TRS-80 models.. mostly
> due to the fact that CP/M was written to it. Commodore also put one in the
> C128, but by then, it was almost a dead letter.

CP/M was written to 8080.  Z80 was simply the "hottest" 8080 compatible 
processor available.
Osborne and Kaypro were literally years later, and they did, indeed simply 
build clever, innovative CP/M machines.

I've never been sure how much market share CP/M had, since that was a 
different circle than I was hanging out in.  I'm sure that WITHIN that 
circle, it would seem like it was MOST of the market.

Commodore's Z80 in the 128 was due to unnecessary fear that they might 
lose market share to CP/M, when IBM should have been their big worry.
I don't know all of the details of the ST/Amiga technology swap, but BOTH 
were too late, if the primary goal was competing with IBM.

What percentage of Apple 2's had Z80 cards added to them?
(once estimated at an unbelievable 20%, and reputed to be why IBM thought 
that CP/M was a Microsoft product!)

Grumpy Ol' Fred     		cisin at

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