The Commodore 64 is by far the most famous and successful computer Commodore ever made. But there were numerous Commodore computer models over the years. Some were also successful. Some were complete flops. Overall Commodore had a good 18-year run, but it could have been so much longer and better.
Let’s take a walk through the Commodore computer models from the beginning in 1976 to the bitter end in 1994.
Radio Shack released one of the first home computers, the TRS-80 Model I, in 1977. Between 1977 and 1979, it sold 100,000 units. Radio Shack sold them just as quickly as Tandy could make them. You can count Radio Shack and its parent company Tandy among computer companies that failed, but they enjoyed a good run. For a time, Radio Shack computers, later marketed as Tandy computers, were very popular.
Radio Shack and Tandy computers included the TRS-80 Model I from the inaugural class of 1977, the pioneering Model 100 portable, and the Tandy 1000 series, which helped bring PC clones into homes.
There were several reasons why Radio Shack computers were hard to compete with in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.
Commodore’s rise and fall are legendary, at least to people like me who grew up using their computers. Putting numbers to that rise and fall was more difficult. I dug up the Commodore financial history from 1978-1994 to help quantify that spectacular rise and fall. Read more
The new owners of what’s left of Radio Shack want to specialize in batteries. Although this isn’t a guaranteed survival plan, it makes sense to me.
Last week, I went to one of the few remaining Radio Shack locations to get some overpriced diodes and D-sub connectors for a project. My oldest son tagged along. He asked about the store. I tried to describe it, and finally I said, “It’s kind of like Batteries Plus would be if it sold electronic parts too. And phones.”
When Radio Shack announced its bankruptcy, I read more fears that the age of tinkering is dead than I read laments for the store.
I follow the logic, because Radio Shack was the only national store chain that ever tried to cater to tinkerers. But I don’t think people abandoning Radio Shack means tinkering is necessarily dead. I have plenty of indications that it’s still very much alive, but it’s also very different from how it used to be.
I wanted to like the Moto E, for sentimental reasons. The Motorola who made this phone isn’t the same Motorola who made the MC68000 CPU in my Amiga, and it’s not the same Motorola that built the hulking briefcase-sized bag phone Dad toted around in the 1980s, but the logo is the same.
The stingy Scottish miser in me wanted to like the phone too, because it costs $129. A few short months ago, the only phones you could buy new for under $130 were cheaply made no-name phones like the Blu Advance with half a gig of RAM, a low-visibility screen, a low-end processor you didn’t want and an Android that was a few versions out of date, encased in lots of cheap plastic. Next to the Moto E, the Blu phones lose what little appeal they had.
I’m reading a book called Trade-Off, by former USA Today technology columnist Kevin Maney. It’s primarily a marketing book.
Maney argues that all products are a balance of fidelity and convenience, and highly favor one or the other. He additionally argues that failed products fail because they attempted to achieve both, or failed to focus on either one.
An example of a convenient product is an economy car. They’re inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to keep fueled up, but don’t have much glitz and you probably won’t fall in love with it. A high-end sports car or luxury car is a lot less practical, but you’re a lot more likely to fall in love with it, and gain prestige by driving around town in it. Read more