I remember the ads in magazines and such ... the first
"Small-Office PCs". The bits were fitted into something
the size of a large desk. S-100 mostly, 8" floppy (or
TWO if you were a successful small biz), tape if you
were a cheap-ass, 8008 chip.
The Altair was a "desktop" by comparison, and had the
new and improved 8080 chip. However they were aimed
straight at the student/hobby market and I don't
think anybody ever tried to integrate them in to
a slick "Small Business System". They WERE a sort
of "milestone" though because regular Joes could
actually kind of AFFORD one - the first real
"democratization" of PCs. Apple and Commodore
came along shortly after and blew the Altairs
out of the water.
The 6502 was designed by a bunch of defectors from
the Motorola 6800 series. That caused some legal
issues, they were originally "too like" the 6800s.
More efficient however - and cheaper to make. Soon
edged Motorola pretty much out of the 8-bit PC
market (except for the CoCo).
(Not sure if OS-9 was ever ported to the 6502, but
you COULD run it on a CoCo). OS-9 was quite UNIX-ish
but a lot more space/cycle efficient. It's still
sold - and ain't exactly cheap - mostly for use
in embedded systems, esp those that need to be
close to Real Time)
The TRS-80s were not bad computers at all. They were
one of the next steps for Small Business computers.
The CP/M was a big advantage and the units were
nicely packaged. They were fairly snappy for 8-bitters
too, not "trash" at all. And yes they were fine as
home/hobby/development PCs. Always wanted one, but
could never quite afford one. The final version had
a 68000 co-processor board in there.
The PETs were of the same paradigm as the TRS-80s,
a monitor+keyboard+mainboard in one nicely-styled
box. The first had a CRAP "chicklet" keyboard but
the follow-ons were much nicer. Could never figure
out why they built a nice box with a 99-cent keyboard.
PETs, like the TRS, were aimed at the "Small Business"
market. They offered similar performance, but except
for some one-off efforts I don't think there was a
CP/M-6502. Some dual-board models though from short-
I knew a guy, one of those IQ-200 on-the-edge
people, who had a computer shop, but mostly
made money writing clones of popular computer
games - in MACHINE CODE, BINARY - on a PET.
Said it "gave him a buzz" to do it that way :-)
He wasn't lying, I watched him doing it. He'd
then burn it into ROM cartridges for VIC-20s
TI-99/4A ... well ... TI ruined it for themselves
by trying Apples thing of making it super-hard for
3rd party developers. Alas the actual 9900 16-bit
chip was BARELY used, 95% of the work was done by
the GPU. The 9900s were kinda strange too - a funky
hardware-based multi-user/multi-tasking setup
which stored register sets and stuff in system
memory because, at the time, it was actually
faster/cheaper than on-chip. "BLWP" - Branch
And Load WorkSpace Pointer" ... I remember
that instruction. It was never meant as a
"small business" PC, and neither were the
VICs/C64s/Ataris ... more "Game Systems Plus".
A few C64s were put to "business" USE however -
for a very long time there was a "local govt
channel" and once in a while it'd crash and
you'd see the C64 ROM BASIC error message :-)
The Brits were also players. The "BBC" computers were
pretty good - and sometimes ahead of US pop-culture
But the IBM-PC murdered them all. Wasn't THAT great
of a PC, but it had the weight of IBM behind it.
Apple managed to carve out its own niche, but the
others went under eventually ... though Commodore
made a fair try with the Amigas. Those STILL have
fans and some Linux utilities STILL support the
Amiga disk formats plus there are other Amiga
support programs too. I bought the original, but
there were SO many "Guru Meditation" messages
that I dumped the thing and bought a Sanyo-550
The native 550 graphics were superior,
but I badly needed full IBM-CGA compatibility and
you had to buy a separate board and do some tricky
jumper-wire work to get that. Still a great unit,
and about a third the price of IBM. I might still
have it somewhere, under the pile-o-junk.
Anyway, the IBM clones now dominate. A few years
back DeGaulle airport, Paris, was paralyzed because
it's system for dealing with taxi-way routing went
down. Turned out it was running on a PC clone and
WINDOWS 3.11 for DECADES. Hey, if it ain't broke ...
Always wanted a SAGE computer. Looked like a PC box
but it had 68000 series chips and some kind of
XENIX-related and similar operating systems. Alas,
a small maker, expensive, low-volume, pretty quickly
went under. Too bad. Those WERE meant as "small
business" boxes. Think you can still buy them
on E-Bay, but early BAD experiences with E-Bay
and Musks PayPal put me off of them. However I
have seen working MicroVAX systems for sale there,
they were VERY good systems and the OS was well
ahead of its time, meant for medium-scale orgs
and businesses. Still have the VMS manual, four
inches thick, thin paper, smallish type. ONE day ...