|Re: OT - PC's: a tool in search of a need|
Message #19 Posted by Thomas Okken on 2 May 2010, 1:59 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by David Hayden
PCs were never tools in search of a need. By the time IBM introduced the first PCs, people had been using Intel 8080-based machines running CP/M, and of course Apple IIs, for years, and there was a lot of productivity software for them -- the big names I remember were WordStar, dBASE, and VisiCalc (word processor, flat-file database, and spreadsheet, respectively). The Apple II was also fast becoming a popular gaming platform, in addition to having some decent productivity software available for it -- VisiCalc was originally written for the Apple II.
The problem with the pre-PC machines was that they all used 8-bit CPUs with 64 kilobytes of address space, and by the late '70s, that was becoming a problem as software became more and more sophisticated, and people needed to be able to work with documents that didn't fit in RAM all at once. Some machines used bank switching to get past the 64 kilobyte limit, but that makes life pretty miserable for software developers. A larger address space was what was really needed.
The IBM PC was eagerly anticipated; the market was ready for a mainstream 16-bit machine. Many considered the PC a disappointment when it arrived, because other, superior CPU architectures existed, but the 8086 architecture had the advantage of assembly language source code compatibility with the 8080, so software vendors could port their CP/M products over to DOS relatively easily. This was a big, probably decisive factor in the rapid market acceptance of the PC.
For hobbyists the early PCs weren't much fun, because they lacked sound, color, graphics, and were much more expensive than the 8-bit machines... But in offices, they started popping up like mushrooms. IIRC, in Europe, the PC overtook the very popular Commodore machines (the 3000, 4000, and 8000 series) in terms of market share in about a year.