Yeah, that list is, well, not worth being called “The 20 greatest home computers – ranked!” because it’s not.
I do agree with some of Geoff Boyd points.
My take is:
The experience in each country was different for a start. Not many Apples (if any) for sale in my part of England for example. Meanwhile, of course the C64 would be near the top if you lived in the U.S.A. But there were no Sinclair ZX Spectrum machine’s there (not until Timex launched the TS2068).
In terms of sales, I believe there was not much in it between the various Atari ST/STF/STFM/STe machine’s and the various Amiga models. The Atari doing well because it was cheaper. The Amiga being a bit higher in price and the Archimedes being a higher price again. This being relevant because the reasons for the ZX Spectrum 48K and the C64 being so successful was just enough features for the relatively affordable price.
The Electron lost out big time due to Acorn having problems with the ULA chip for it. Which was just as well for Sinclair, otherwise things could have been even trickier than what actually happened.
Yes, the PC won out in the end. But again the experience was different depending on where you were in the world. Both Atari and Commodore had trouble selling their 16/32 bit machines in their home market. But had no trouble selling them in the U.K. and Germany and some other parts of Europe.
In the U.K. at the time, there were a lot less IBM PCs or compatibles around at this time. And the 8088 and 8086 machines were not exactly seen as good games machines. Indeed some ‘PC’ machines were not actually IBM compatible (for example the Victor 9000 / ACT Sirius 1 and the the ACT Apricot). But the situation in the U.S.A. was apparently very different.
Anyway, my list of great machines would include (in no particular order):
- Sinclair ZX Spectrum
- Sinclair ZX81
- Memotech MTX
- Commodore 64
- Acorn BBC Micro Model B
- Amstrad CPC 464
- Atari 800
- Atari ST
- Commodore Amiga
The ZX81 has to be included, as it’s that machine that really set the ball rolling for affordable home computing in the U.K.
The ZX Spectrum then followed on from there.
Whatever Speccy owners may think about the C64, there is no denying how successful it was.
The Beeb was the machine with the best and the fastest BASIC around at the time. And a hardware tinkerers wet dream. It also had excellent graphics for the time. And one of the best keyboards. But it’s sales were limited by the price.
Amstrad entered the market with the astounding CPC 464. It’s not surprising it sold well. A bit of a shame that the games industry did such a rubbish job with the games ports though.
If you wanted arcade games, and could afford it, the Atari 800 was definitely one to look at.
Want something more than what your existing eightbitter can do? Then it was time to get an Atari STFM or an Amiga... Both great machines.
In terms of some of the points that Geoff Boyd makes, after the Christmas of 1982, there were too many manufacturers, with too many different home computers chasing the market. That was okay for a while, but after the Christmas of 1983, because the market saturated and Acorn, Sinclair and others had increased production, a price war during the following year (1984) along with some hard deals from some retail outlets caught out many of the U.K. home computer manufacturers.
Was what the BBC did significant? Yes, of course. But you could also make the case that if home computers had not been featured by the BBC, overall sales may have been less. And the fact that the BBC made TV programmes about home computing resulted in ITV and Channel 4 also making TV programmes about home computing. This is bound to have increased the market demand.
Maybe what the BBC should have done was to define a specification, and then allow any manufacturer that met that specification to be included. Not just pick just one manufacturer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the MTX machines. However, I suspect that even if the BBC had not picked a particular manufacturer, the ZX Spectrum and C64 would still have been the main competition in the home computing market. It would however, have made a big difference in the education sector. And that may have had an effect on which computer was bought for use at home to help with the children’s home work...
But now we are in the “what if” territory...