80-Bus News


November–December 1983, Volume 2, Issue 6

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The Spectre of Impending Doom

There are a lot of cowboys in the home computer business (if you hadn’t already noticed) and these are about to get their ‘come uppance’. Gazing into my crystal ball the other day, I noticed that over the months there has been a distinct downturn in the sales of the ‘Mickey Mouse’ computers (you don’t expect me to name them do you?). Now a lot of this is due to the faddish buying profiles of the Great British public.

A few years back metal detectors were the thing, and a little later, a vast boom in dedicated TV games. Where are they now? I no longer know where to get a metal detector even if I wanted one, although in 1977 I could have had a choice of several in the local branch of one of the chain chemists. Last Christmas every kid, but every kid, expected a home computer in their Christmas stockings, and dad justified the expense by saying that he might as well get some use out of it and catch up on the ‘New Technology’ at the same time. How many of these computers are now kept at the back of a dark cupboard and are no longer in use because the users got bored with the games you could get, or ‘Could never quite get the knack of this programming lark’.

No, it’s my guess that this Christmas will ring the death knell fora number of familiar names; the Christmas spurt through newsagents, chemists, etc, will be the death throws of the home computer market. So where are the cowboys going to catch a cold? Well reliable information has it that there are thousands of Hong Kong and Taiwanese computers on the seas at this very moment, and the cowboys and GRQM’s (Get Rich Quick Merchants, a mnemonic, courtesy of John Marshall) who have ordered them are going to be left with lots of machines and no market to sell them in. This means that those machines are going to be dumped at silly prices with no follow up support. This is bad news for those SERIOUSLY involved in the home computer business, as the word is going to spread that home computers are not worth touching as the: ‘So called dealers can’t support the machines, can’t supply software, and are generally useless’. Whilst this may be true of many, the good machines and the good dealers (the minority in both instances) will get rolled in with the bad and that will do no one any good.

Which leads to an interesting development. Several of the manufacturers catering to the home computer market have been looking into the future and have seen the gloom approaching. So they think they will have a go at the economy end of the business machine market just to keep in business. Dragon have just introduced the Dragon 64 with a disk operating system called 089, something I’m told is UNIX like. How far they expect to get with that with only three pieces of application software and a 57 x 24 screen I do not know. Lynx, because their machine is Z80 based have opted for CP/M. I’ve seen a sample with the most atrocious screen handling that can be imagined. Both manufacturers hope to sell systems at under a £1000. Best of luck in view of what follows.

The clouds are gathering over the business computer market. The big shake out is coming. Big names are going broke weekly and those who hoped to climb onto the bandwagon are having serious second thoughts. The ‘el cheapo’ business machines are in trouble, they seem to have saturated their own market, and it doesn’t seem to mdke much difference how much free software you give away with the machine. IBM are now wagging the ‘business machine’ dog very firmly by the tail, so if you hope to sell a new business machine, it had better look like an IBM PC. All this despite the fact that large numbers of

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