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Mac vs. PC, Why did the PC win

a log of e-mails

Goal of this page Provide folks with some non-published opinions from those who were present -

In late December 2009, I (Ed Thelen) got into a discussion with son Randy about why

the Macintosh - read Camelot - shining Knights with Class
lost 6% vs. 94% to
the PC - read the Evil Empire - with Microsoft and Intel (Intel is now Politically Correct, Steve Jobs said so ;-))

- Introduction
- Questions to InfoRoots, and friends
most interesting unique replies, in order received, first on top

- Rebellion - from Max Burnet
- DEC Screwed Up - from Lou Greer
- Flexibility and Straightforwardness. - from Michael S. Hart
- Timing, and Software - from Michael Blasgen
- Timing - from Peter Schow
- Reliability - from LaFarr Stuart
- Word Processing and Spreadsheets - from Leonard Tramiel
- 2nd Party Add Ons - from Dick Weaver
- Published their Bus Interface - from George Fraine
- I was a ... super bean counter - from Roy Mize
- Some corrections/additions - from Michael Albaugh
- Why not HP PCs? - from Rafael Slodlar
- gave DP managers credibility - from Roger Neil Barton
- ... waiting for IBM to come in and sweep everyone else away" - from Ian Farquhar
- MESS driver - from Colin Howell
- FUD-Marketing - from Barrie Robinson


My youngest son, Randy, and I disagree about almost everything - other than that his growing family is wonderful, and that oxygen is a required nutrient.

We have struggled with a profound "Generation Gap" since before he was three years old - well, at least I have struggled - he just does his thing regardless. There was once a "comic strip" that captured the situation perfectly - carefree good hearted kid with concerned, conventional parents trying to "guide" him.

Our family has had more contact with Apple and the PC than most. (After we started with a Commodore PET.)

I had met Steve Jobs when Steve was looking for someone to debug new production Apple I boards in his father's garage. (The inside of that garage was painted white. - Ever since then, I have painted the inside of my garages white!!)

Early on I was lent an Apple II with an OEM 7 megabyte hard drive (the size of a shoebox) to upgrade a specialized accounting package (for pay, using Apple BASIC.) Later I was paid to port the same package to an IBM PC with internal hard drive - unlike the early Mac :-((.

Also, I loved the Motorola 68000, and asked Apple (no success) if I could get the Fat Mac to read analog voltages, like for seismographs to avoid messy ink throwing chart recorders. I finally did it on a PC with my home brew ADC input. ( Similar projects )
I bet on Microsoft after they outsmarted me. I got a student 16 bit "C" compilier thinking I could supply my own escape codes to make the resulting code run 32 bit when useful. Microsoft had thought ahead, circumventing that approach. I was so impressed that I bought Microsoft stock. ;-))

Randy worked for Apple for many years.

Randy "mis-stated" his age to work as an Apple contractor, becoming the youngest person at the time to have worked at Apple for 8 years. (He left Apple just before Steve Jobs returned.)

Another bit of background - Randy also was interviewed for a job at Microsoft in Redmond, and was very impressed that Microsoft recompiled and linked their developing operating systems every night, and demanded that faults be corrected by 10 the next morning !!

At that time, Randy was helping develop Copland, that ill fated operating system at Apple. When ever Copland was recompiled, there was at least a week's delay before enough bugs were removed so something could at least run, and people could exercise their new/revised code. But Randy didn't join Microsoft as (among other things) he was flying every week end in the other direction to a girl friend (long gone) in Los Angeles.

So, we have something of a history with Apple, but Microsoft is "good enough" for me, while my three "boys now men" are Apple bigots. I have listened to monologues about the Evil Empire for years. They likely regards me as worse than "unenlightened and stubborn".

Last night I asked Randy his opinion as to why Microsoft won.

Randy suggested that the feared "IBM Sales force convinced the big customers to buy PCs and the rest of the world followed."

Of all the opinions and suggestions I had heard from many people over the years - this was a first -

Randy agreed that I could ask ex-IBM sales folks and others three specific questions.)
(I am no stranger to lone wolf controversy - NO ONE agrees with me as to why General Electric Computer Division failed - my proposals here and here.)

Questions to InfoRoots, and friends
Randy approved these questions to
Bill Selmeier a retired IBM salesman/marketeer and host of the blog "Inforoots", and to other "experienced" friends from the Computer History Museum and elsewhere.

Why did the IBM PC win,
     and Apple w Macintosh  -  didn't

Randy, an Apple "enthusiast", proposes that an important factor
    was the IBM Sales organization,
          (admittedly after the PC was public and 
              available at retail)
      "sold" the PC to large clients of IBM mainframes
               ? as "smart terminals" ? -
      and that the rest of the world followed.

So - trying to de-bias the questions -

    a) Did IBM Sales sell (or encourage the use of) the PC?

    b) If so, when did IBM Sales start selling (or "selling") the PC?

    c) If so, what was the story, benefit to customer?

The most interesting, unique replies, in order received, first on top

Rebellion, from Max Burnet, was DEC & marketing, Australia, his collection

Hi Ed and friends,

My theory:-

It initially had nothing to do with the IBM sales force selling it.
Just the opposite.

It was a rebellion by the masses against the centralised control of the IBM data center. The workers had cute micro-computers at home (Tandy, C64, Apple etc) and wanted processing power on their desks. The spreadsheet was the clincher. They were not brave enough to ask the purchasing dept to order them a micro until IBM legitimised the PC industry. The stamp of approval from the "giant" IBM meant that IBM got the purchase order. Probably much to the bewilderment of the IBM salesman, who could sense his empire might be fragmenting, especially if it was a retail order..

IBM initially offered little to support the PC as a "smart terminal". A synchronous port was expensive and asynchronous lines didn't go readily into an IBM 370. Most of the connection offerings were from third party suppliers.

I am sure the rugged construction of the IBM PC compared with the flimsy plastic cases of competing Micro-computers was reassuring to corporate buyers too.

The usage of PC's was so in its infancy that educational and support issues probably outweighed technical comparisons. The battle of speeds and feeds came later.


Max Burnet
Managing Director - BACK Pty Ltd
Burnet Antique Computer Knowhow Pty Ltd
PO Box 847 Pennant Hills NSW 1715
138 Boundary Road Pennant Hills NSW 2120
Phone 02 9484 6772 Mobile 0412 124 006
Email mburnet@bigpond.net.au

DEC Screwed Up, from Lou Greer

Anyway ... the IBM PC. I wasn't at IBM at the tine the OC emerged; actually I was at Digital Equipment then. DEC really screwed the pooch on that one, pushing their family of desktop systems, the word processor, the middle range and the so-called "Pro," none of which were compatible with one another.

IBM pushed intelligent terminals in the early 1990s. That was in response to the network computers introduced by Network Computing Devices, Wyse and others. I was marketing VP of NCD, and worked closely with IBM to get them started with the thin client, which we succeeded in doing, at least for a short time.

The pivotal development regarding the PC was the user-friendly operating system, and IBM was still against anything they didn't own. That might have been their real opposition to the PC.

Just a few top-of-the-head observations. They are not based on deep knowledge; just on my personal point of view at the time.

Best to all!


flexibility and straightforwardness., from Michael S. Hart, Project Gutenberg, Inventor of eBooks

I don't think it had anything to do with "The Big Blue Sales Force."

In fact, just the opposite.

Most of us PC users hated those guys, at least at the beginning.

I also disagree with the idea that the serial port was expensive.

Not by comparison!!!

On my first PC, an illegal OKI import, I demanded a serial port, or I wouldn't buy it. They asked why. I said I didn't want the computer the only have in it what _I_ put in it. . . .

I was already thinking of downloading stuff from the start.

The serial port cost THEM an extra $300!

So I thought the IBM serial ports were a bargain!

However, the real selling point of the IBMs was flexibility and straightforwardness.

Flexibility in all the different card you could put in, and all the different batch files you could write, swapping drive calls with "assign" and all that jazz, made it easy to customize to a certain taste all your own.

Not to mention that "copy A:.bat B:" made so much more sense in so many ways than "pip B: A:*.bat" if I recall PIP correctly.

Formatting was easier, even formatting boot discs.

The keyboard also felt better, and that's where the rubber hits the road for many people.

It was just easier to "think" in DOS.

I liked my Apple OK, but it was just a toy.

It was not as much a work machine as CP/M or DOS. . . .

I hope this helps Randy a little but, and I am sure we will see some opposing opinions. . . .

But not too many from people who did as much work on their PCs.

Hee hee!

Michael S. Hart
Project Gutenberg,
Inventor of eBooks later

> Max referred to a "synchronous port", which is not a standard 
> serial port.  Note that he said that ordinary asynchronous serial 
> ports didn't interface well with IBM mainframes.

But they did. . .I did ALL my work through those asynch serial ports
to IBM mainframes back in the 80's and 90's.

timing, and software, from Michael Blasgen

The PC benefited from timing, and software.

Can't really compare the PC with the Mac. PC is 1981, Mac is 1984. By 1984, the PC had established itself as the desktop computer of choice, it was not to be dislodged. And the PC was very much ahead of the Apple II, which is a 1977 design. So it was easy to move from Apple II to the PC in 1981, but not from the PC to the Mac in 1984.

As an example, if a person were to consider switching from PC to Mac, you probably needed Lotus 1-2-3, which was introduced in November 1982 on the PC. The version for the Mac was introduced in May 1985. The Mac version, called Jazz, was a failure, it was slow, it required virtually all the memory that you could put into a Mac (the "Fat Mac"), and had other defects (according to the Lotus website). And Mac was almost three years later than the PC version.

There is no question that IBM's endorsement of a desktop computer was a huge effect. But as to the IBM sales force, I am not so sure. When the PC was introduced the idea was that sales would run through Sears and Computerland (and later IBM retail stores). The IBM sales team was prohibited from taking an order for fewer than 50 units. And 3270 emulation was not available until 1983 or so, so it could not have explained the initial success of the PC.

At the time of the PC introduction, there were many desktop computers, all different. This was seriously affecting the software industry, because all software had to be written to be as portable as possible The arrival of a "standard" personal computer was to change the software companies in major ways. For example Visicalc was ported to many machines, and this effort required to port the code to the many machine types consumed virtually all the development effort of the company. Once the IBM PC gained significant market share, they were left them wide open to the much higher performance, easier to use, version of Visicalc called Lotus 1-2-3, which was written in assembler to run only on the IBM PC.

Michael Blasgen

Timing, from Peter Schow

Yes. We should all remember that at the the time of the IBM PC introduction, there was already a large "community" of 8-bit CP/M programmers, who were well versed in BIOS internals, Intel assembly language programming, USARTS of the day, and floppy disk file formats.

All of these technologies and concepts moved easily to the IBM PC MS-DOS world, thus giving the PC an instant developer boost and headstart over Apple and Commodore. Not to say that those systems didn't have their own loyal communities, but the CP/M ecosystem was the largest, and was fueled by magazines (_Byte_ being the biggest) and mountains of source code available on large networks of dial-up bulletin board systems.

Once the developer was won, the PC took off.

Reliability, from LaFarr Stuart

Hi All:
What an interesting question. Of course I am opinionated on every subject. Here is my thoughts, incidentally, Max's input is VERY interesting. I think it was Apple that put the Mac FAR behind the IBM PC. Here is why:

The PC was reliable, IBM introduced reliability to the personal computer world. It had a good POST, checked memory parity, a good cooling fan, a clear 80 character monochromatic display, a good keyboard, an ingenious way to put additional boards in and hold them in place and connect to external devices.

The early Mac had none of this. It had heat problems, in a sealed box--and you lost your warranty if you broke it opened! I couldn't believe Apple could get engineers to design a "computer" with 128K bytes of memory and no facility to expand it. (Everybody since computers with vacuum tubes knew: Anything without the ability to expand memory didn't deserve to even be called a computer.) It was a toy. Totally inadequate for serious business, or industrial control applications.

The Mac's only serious applications were in publishing, working only with text and image data, where dropping a bit here and there isn't serious--the world is quite tolerant of spelling errors, typos, and a bad pixel. Vastly different than working in business applications where it is disaster if any data get changed.

But the main reason the Mac failed when compared to the IBM was: IBM had an opened architecture. Remember they ran Charlie Chaplin ads encouraging every and anybody to write programs and make boards for it. (The first IBM PC I bought came with wiring diagrams, and a complete listing of the BIOS.) IBM had very concept that made the Apple II a success! But, Apple went the other way with the Mac. Soon everybody and his kid brother was writing programs or making boards for the PC, and Apple was out in the cold.

Steve Jobs arrogance. I doubt he has ever seen a computer application like: Banking, Insurance, or Billing where every error has to be found and corrected. By comparison scientific and engineering computing is very tolerant. Most programs are not dependent on the last years output, and are modified after one to three runs. I have done both, and believe me, I would much rather work with Engineers and Scientists than Accountants!

One other point: It was DOS, not Windows, that defeated Apple. For serious, repeatable work a command line is far too powerful, and flexible to ignore. Mac didn't really make a come back until they went to the Unix base, which provides users with Terminal mode. (I confess: I am a mouse hater. A mouse's main virtue is that of a "one armed bandit" slot machine: everybody thinks they know how to use it. My arguments are far too long for here.)

Cheers, LaFarr

Word Processing and Spreadsheets, from Leonard Tramiel, Commodore

The direct answer to your questions:
IBM didn't push the PC.

Here's my take. The IBM PC was introduced in 1981, quite a bit before the Apple Mac. But that isn't a huge factor because the PC wasn't selling that well. The primary PC tasks of the day were word processing and spreadsheets. The Mac wasn't very good for word processing because it didn't work well with non dot matrix printers. It also had a fairly small screen both in size and resolution so spreadsheets were not easy either.

The Mac would have failed if Adobe hadn't developed desktop publishing which the Mac was well suited for and the PC wasn't. This is what started the "Macs are better for graphics" line.

So, now imagine that you are a business in 1986. What do you get for your secretary to type on? Word processors are a huge improvement over typewriters but what do you buy. There was a saying in middle-to-large corporate America: "No one was ever fired for buying IBM". As near as I could tell that steered a huge number of purchases. As more PCs were sold it was a good development target for software developers and it snowballed.

The major downsides to the Mac were price and image. The Mac was (and still is) more expensive and it had an "artsy" image. Not appropriate for business.

By the time PCs became cheap enough for average individuals the installed base of IBM PCs was MUCH larger than the Mac. And here the price issue was even more important.


2nd Party Add Ons, from Dick Weaver

Working for IBM I happened to have an opportunity to talk to one the Boca team in the early days of the IBM PC. Asked him about all the non-IBM add-ons, the many cards being offered that seemed superior to similar IBM products or offering function not supplied by IBM; implying that IBM had done a 2nd rate job. His answer, given straight-forward and without hesitation, explains, I believe, the success of the IBM PC. Remember, when the IBM PC was announced there was more than one competitor already in the field, some doing quite well (on the then existing scale of doing well).

His answer? "We left a lot of room for other people to make money from the IBM PC".

So it wasn't the IBM sales force and it wasn't IBM money that made the PC a success, it was all those other people and the money they could make with IBM associated products/services that made the PC a success.

This is documented, in a curious sort of way. I bought an early IBM PC, not because I worked for IBM but because of the thickness of the computer magazines - stuffed with advertisements for IBM PC add-ons/software/.... I didn't want to spend all that money on a dead-end machine, it was those adds that convinced me the machine had a future.

dick w

Published their Bus Interface, from George Fraine

To all,

Lafarr has the right idea but missed the main point.

Dick Ware and I had developed an OS for the DTC Microfile and we considered making an OS for all microprocessor systems at that time. But when we looked at all of the microprocessor systems on the market and realized that all were of a proprietary design (especially the disk drive controller and the serial interface controller) we could not possibly code xx no. of disk drivers and yy no. of comm drivers, so we decided that that was not feasible, and we abandoned the idea.

So when IBM came out with a microprocessor system that was simply the 'nth' microprocessor system which they labeled the 'PC' we did not reconsider our decision. BIG mistake. The fact that IBM and only IBM published their bus interface and peripheral interfaces as public knowledge was the key marketing decision that made IBM the dominant force in the microprocessor system.

We and Gary Killdall (for entirely different reasons) blew the whole thing and let Bill Gates (a compiler writer) capture the market. Obviously Bill was the smarter of us. So much for early history.

George Fraine

I was a ... super bean counter, from Roy Mize

I have a different perspective. I was sort of a super bean counter for many years positioned between the regular bean counters and the scientists/R&D engineers on research programs.

I remember almost a war between the business types who wanted to standardize the desktop with IBM PCs for everybody regardless of what they were doing. The IBM didn't cut it in the tech world and we wanted DEÇ desktops since most of our R&D was done on DECs.

The bean counters eventually won but at Lockheed we had a sort of a compromise in 1986 when the next generation MAC was released. It was good enough that much of the work we were doing on VAX began to be started on the Macintosh.

This link gives a good view of DEC marketing from a DEC person.


Roy Mize

Some corrections/additions, from Michael Albaugh

Putting in my two cents, as one of the "idiots" who got a peek at the Apple I when Jobs and Woz were trying to get Atari to produce it, and took a pass... (I still maintain that the Apple I was not a "consumer" computer, and indeed Apple took off with the II, and not so coincidentally the first affordable floppy disk controller)

Anyway... some corrections/addition:

  1. not all contemporaries of the PC were "cheaply constructed". E.G. the Atari 400 and 800 had die-cast enclosures and a serial I/O bus that allowed them to meet the FCC regs at the time. Apple side-stepped the regs by not (technically) allowing connection to a TV, TI by lobbying for relaxed standards because "the current standards were impossible to meet", and IBM claiming the PC was not for home use. There were also CP/M boxes (e.g. from Cromenco) that, despite nominally being "S-100 compatible" had decent signal integrity, mechanical solidity, and reliable power supplies.

  2. IBM 360's did have (available) Asynch Serial I/O ports. IIRC, they had a small issue that they shifted the bytes out wrong-way-round, but a Simple Matter Of Programming allowed them to be used with vanilla ASCII terminals (Love that TRT)

  3. The IBM PC did indeed copy one of the best features of the Apple ][, the slots and "expansion ROMS". Also one of the worst: an ill-thought-out interrupt system, although IBM screwed up theirs in new and different ways. (Edge-triggering, use of the reserved-for-DMA vectors for Syscalls)

  4. The ability to (mostly) mechanically translate 8080 CP/M code to run on 8086 under PCDOS. it was not, however, a walk in the park because the PC BIOS was nowhere near as robust as the BIOS on a typical CP/M box. As a result, when developers ported to the PC, they wrote "to the bare metal". The combination of that, and the use of completely vanilla parts, meant that it was not only possible, but necessary, as was using "real PCDOS", rather than the variants of MSDOS that Gates allowed Patterson to sell to non-hdw-compatible machine vendors. With the competition thus limited to making machines no better than the PC, only cheaper, the race was on and cheap machines built on razor-thin margins ruled the day.

  5. BTW: while the PC "used" parity memory, I don't recall any version of DOS that did anything useful with a parity error. This also gave rise to such dubious accomplishments as "simulated parity" modules, which synthesized the expected parity bit, and underlined the folly.

BTW: I'm typing this on a MAC, but use (cheap clone) PCs and (not so cheap) x86 servers at work. The floodgates of price-reduction opened by (4) above certainly benefited a large segment of us. My recollection was that the MAC was used in engineering relatively soon, but its price did dictate that the person it was assigned to have a relatively high salary+ overhead. This makes complete business sense, something the techy-arguers sometimes miss.


Why not HP PCs?, from Rafael Slodlar

As hardware computer technician I worked on DEC PDP-8 and PDP-11, and HP-1000 and HP-9000 systems in early 80's. "PCs" including Apple II were connected as terminals to those computers in many cases. HP PCs
were significantly better built than IBM PCs. They were pleasure to work on. When I had to work on IBM PCs in late 80's I felt like working on a washing machine. Heavy metal case, silly screws for use with flat screwdrivers, barn size power switch, heavy noisy keyboard with cheap unreliable DIN connector, heavy monitor, ugly PCB brackets, etc.

Motherboard architecture was also not impressive. Others mentioned PC bus, but the layout was not very effective compared to HP engineering workstations for example where you could replace CPU board with a more powerful one. You could add a card with more memory or different interfaces without taking computer apart. That alone was worth $$$ as most customers were able to do it themselves.

Limited number of HW interrupts on PCs were an ongoing problem until modern chipsets came along to patch original design screwup. Adding a hard drive was an interrupt problem. Having separate addressing for IO bus from memory was poor choice, original 640kB memory limit, BIOS at the top of 1MB with the rest of the memory added later in AT models. Compare that to PDP-11 and other architectures of that time.

DEC and HP always had a better design and hardware solutions for quick repair which I appreciated then and now. Not only had HP options for serial connections, it also had HP-IB which was almost never used on other PCs even though code was there in BIOS. HP-IB had one problem, thick cables to connect peripherals together but they could share the same bus unlike parallel port.

PC BIOS made it possible to bootup from limited number of peripherals only. Serial or parallel ports were excluded, paper or magnetic tape and other devices including CDs for a long time, which made no sense. BIOS extensions had to take care of that which introduced nonstandard conflicting solutions with drivers chaos for many years.

Parallel port became too common and PCs never had decent connection to multiple peripherals at the same time till USB. HP computers already had HIL, Human Interface Link, similar to USB, which allowed for daisy chained peripherals like keyboard, graphical tablet, and mouse. HP-85 was better than IBM PC.

PC architecture took years to get good enough for real time systems which was available on HP-9000 long time ago.

It's unfortunate that DEC did not dump low cost "PCs" based on LSI11 chip to give us Unix (alike) machines earlier. Same for HP with their portable Integral that was able to run Unix in 85.

IBM not only messed up computer hardware for "personal use", they were also responsible for OS monstrosity that emerged from MS-DOS and is plaguing the Internet ever since.

Combination of Ctrl_Alt-Del to reboot or login is another "gem" that came out of that architecture. Not sure why they added SysReq key.

When you look at all of that you have to wonder why did IBM PC succeed? Architecture was open enough that made it possible for others to add missing cards. Perhaps HP and DEC were too self centric (greedy?) even though DEC had it's Unibus open to others to make controllers for some time.

I can't say if the price had anything to do with it. I knew few people who bought HP-150 in Europe but nobody with original IBM PC in mid 80's. I bought Commodore PC-10 at one point, the cheapest PC clone in EU at that time I believe.


gave DP managers credibility, from Roger Neil Barton

Bill Selmeir's friend originally asked
"    a) Did IBM Sales sell (or encourage the use of) the PC
    b) If so, when did IBM Sales start selling (or "selling") the PC
    c) If so, what was the story, benefit to customer"
Rafael Skodlar wrote " IBM PC itself did not have anything special except it's brand name and initial volume. Applications came later and would come out regardless of what hardware became a common platform."

I agree with Max Burnet's comment "It initially had nothing to do with the IBM sales force selling it. Just the opposite. It was a rebellion by the masses against the centralised control of the IBM data center." that the IBM salesforce wasn't the motivating force.

At the time there was considerable debate about the 'software gap'. IBM had an extremely large customer base where the DP centers were worried about being undermined by user depts which were going off and purchasing stand-alone machines.

I had been one of those (although not then in an IBM shop) as it meant it was possible to circumvent the application writing procedures that kept meaning long waits until programmer's time for the app was approved. In my case writing and introducing an MRP system took us three years and this meant another dept with a small app that could be done in three months had a three year wait until we had finished.

The introduction of the PC gave DP managers credibility in proposing and purchasing distributed computing that would connect to the mainframe rather than a departmental machine. This partially undermined the argument of users, although not in fact the substance, but it restored the authority of the Information Manager. The BUNCH companies followed IBM by all introducing their own versions of the PC. The growing range of software packages on PC/DOS then really did help the users.

kind regards

Dr Roger Neil Barton
Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Historical Research

... waiting for IBM to come in and sweep everyone else away", from Ian Farquhar

lougreer797@cs.com wrote:
> The PC changed the computing pecking order, but IBM was still king when it was
> first introduced. "I'm IBM and you're not" was still a key success factor.

I well remember one magazine article from around 1980 or so, when rumors of Project Chess started to circulate. Commenting on the profusion of computing platforms, the journalist wrote "and everyone is just waiting for IBM to come in and sweep everyone else away".

And that's largely what happened.

The technical merits (or lack thereof) of the platform are largely irrelevant. The three key features were the "I", "B" and "M" on the front faceplate at the left. The nameplate implied trustability and business accumen. It was also hard for traditional IT departments, who were by-and-large dismissive of PC's "toy computers", to criticise one from IBM.

Had that particular design been released by any other manufacturer, even were it a top five manufacturer other than IBM, it would likely have a Wikipedia stub entry, and a 60% completed MESS driver with noone interested in doing the remaining 40%.

The design was poor, a


> Actually, the last time I checked (admittedly several years ago), MESS's IBM PC
> driver wasn't all that complete either. MESS simply doesn't have that many
> developers. I'm not sure any of its drivers have really been completed to the
> same degree that the MAME drivers tend to be.

Fair point, although my rationale for listing MESS is that it's arguably the best place to find info on obscure 80's-era PC architectures. Which I believe the IBM PC would have been had it been the DEC PC or the HP PC.

Checking the source, the ibmpc driver has received quite a bit of work lately. But you're right, MESS is underresourced as a general rule. It's looser goals also, I believe, make it less fulfilling to develop for. With MAME you're trying to produce an emulator for a specific, well known piece of code. With MESS, you're trying to emulate an ancient PC's architecture, and are constantly dealing with "Dude, your driver sucks! It doesn't run Super Mario XVIII, how could you be so stupid?!" type of nonsense.

> As for Wikipedia, most of the focus of the computing coverage tends to be on the
> latest and greatest; coverage of older systems, even very important ones, tends
> to be uneven.

Hence my suggestion that it's entry would be a stub.


> With the 5150 (largely an Apple ][ with barely adequate graphics and
> an Intel CPU, for solid business reasons), yes. But the earlier 5100
> did not set the world on fire, despite being a "personal computer"
> with the magic three letters on the front.

Too early, too mainframeish/weird, too expensive for a PC, too expensive to produce, not expensive enough for IBM's direct ("coin operated") sales channel. Not even running EBCDIC, but a EBCD.

Furthermore, aside from being a terminal, the concept of the PC as a justifiable business tool didn't happen until the late 70's (1979 with Visicalc?) I'm not even sure that the term "Personal Computer" was particularly current in 1975. IBM referred to the 5100 as a Portable Computer, not a Personal Computer. Buckholz and Shapiro claim that HP started to use the term for some of their calculators in 1968, but I don't think it gained general currency until the late 1980's. I'd be happy to be corrected if I am wrong on that point, though.

Although my point is that the technical virtues of the IBM PC/5150 weren't critical, the market did have a rudimentary concept of what was a credible business PC and what wasn't. By that time, the 5100 just wasn't, nor does it appear that IBM was positioning it that way.

> I did go to the local
> announcement of the 5100, but really only recall the physical size
> and the fact that it had digital tape storage and was offered in APL
> and Basic versions.

Bitsavers has the APL reference manual, the 1975 communications reference manual, and the 1979 maintenance manual for the 5100:



> Computer, not a Personal Computer. Buckholz and Shapiro claim that HP
> started to use the term for some of their calculators in 1968, but I
> don't think it gained general currency until the late 1980's. I'd be

Correction: late 1970's.


MESS driver, from Colin Howell

--- On Mon, 12/29/08, ian.farquhar@rsa.com wrote:

> Had that particular design been released by any other
> manufacturer, even were it a top five manufacturer other
> than IBM, it would likely have a Wikipedia stub entry,
> and a 60% completed MESS driver with noone interested in
> doing the remaining 40%.

Actually, the last time I checked (admittedly several years ago), MESS's IBM PC driver wasn't all that complete either. MESS simply doesn't have that many developers. I'm not sure any of its drivers have really been completed to the same degree that the MAME drivers tend to be.

As for Wikipedia, most of the focus of the computing coverage tends to be on the latest and greatest; coverage of older systems, even very important ones, tends to be uneven.

FUD-Marketing, from Barrie Robinson

Hello folks at world,

I find these "chats" highly interesting and as a 1965 starter in computers (Marconi, England as well as Elliott Bros, English Electric, ICL, Remcom, Comten, Cisco, etc)  I have an opinion!

The reason for IBM's PC success may be a result of their fearful marketing techniques.  Anyone who has been in the " plug compatible" sales arena of printers. tape drives. disk drives, memory, RJE's, terminals and other such stuff knows that sales were made to the larger companies by FUD not  by engineering excellence, performance or cost.  One only has to do an engineering comparison between the IBM 360's and the offerings from others to realise technology does not sell - marketing does !!!!!

I will always remember a computer graduate of the University of Windsor telling me that "dynamic memory allocation" as done by the ICL 1900 series was technically impossible.   Why? - Because IBM did not do it!  He was brought up on a solid computer course - an IBM course because that is what the university had -  NOW THAT IS MARKETING.

If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen
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