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

drlegendre . drlegendre at
Thu Dec 22 22:45:10 CST 2016

@Grumpy Old Fred

I knew my last missive would provoke at least one or two interesting (if
not informative) responses. Yours was no exception, and I thank you for it.

For one, I hadn't known that CP/M was written originally to the 8080.. I'd
always assumed it originated on the Z80. And I don't doubt that RS / TRS-80
held a large share (until 1982 or so..) of the home computer market.

At the time, I was in my (almost) young teens - and at least in the circles
I traveled, the TRS-80 / Osborne and Kaypro were viewed as boring, stodgy
machines without any redeeming entertainment qualities - no color graphics,
no sprites, poor or nearly non-existent audio, expensive joysticks and so

The ability of the machines to serve multiple roles - for both 'serious'
work and video gaming / music - was a huge selling point in the early days.
This is one of the reasons that the C64 was so massively successful - it
pretty much had something for everyone, as the saying goes. That, and the
price of the base machine was just amazingly low for the time. Ditto for
the VIC-20.

On Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 10:04 PM, Fred Cisin <cisin at> wrote:

> 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

More information about the cctech mailing list