Three small computers

A true story from the days before the IBM PC.

A small start-up made microcomputers for business in the days when they were still called microcomputers.

The company had one basic computer design. It was similar to every other CP/M computer on the market at the time. Except in one important respect: there were three versions.

Version one was the budget model. It was for buyers looking for a bargain. The second version cost almost twice as much. It was the mainstream model. At the top of the line was the professional version. This cost three times as much as the budget model. It cost more than almost every other CP/M computer on the market.

You can probably guess which was the most popular. The elite model sold more than the other two. A number of customers took budget models. Usually this was part of a multiple order where managers got elite computers and peasants got the budget ones.

The mainstream model barely sold at all.

As you’d expect there’s a sting in the tail of this story. Internally the three computers were identical. They had the same processor, same memory, same disk and ran identical software. The only difference was in the colour of the cases and the badges on the front of the machines.

The start-up computer maker was very successful and went on to other great things.

A computer maker couldn’t get away with this today – too many people would point out the emperor isn’t wearing his new suit.

Even so, there’s a useful lesson here.

One thought on “Three small computers

  1. A lesson to be learnt… Just like the story of the little company in Cambridge that decided it could build a computer to beat out the biggies of the day. Out of that determination to win the BBC computer contract came a processor that really did change the world and probably lives in your pocket today. … ARM. I predicted that ARM would dominate as a mobile computing processor in an article I wrote for Bits and Bytes in January 1991 and it is pleasing to see how that prediction turned out.


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