Monday, November 15, 2010

Remember ComputerLand?

It's soon time to celebrate 30 years of IBM PCs (They were first released in 1981, initially in the US and Canada). Before that, the microcomputer maket was much more diversified, but once IBM released the PC, most of what remained, after a few years, was the PC itself and Apple.

If you remember how it all started though, with the MITS Altair kits, you might also recall the biggest competitor to MITS, IMSAI. IMSAI, big as they were, died off by the early 1980's.

So then, what about the title of this blog? What the heck is ComputerLand? And amusement park? Nope, far from it. Actually, if you were in the US in 1981 and decided you wanted to buy a PC, you had few options of where to get one. Either one of the few Sears stores that had them, but those were very few, or ComputerLand. That was about it, for a while. And ComputerLand was big, real big! And they started growing even bigger, having something that was close to a monopoly on selling the PC was like a license to print your own money. And now they are all gone.

Well, there is a Franchise chain around called ComputerLand to this day, and they have been around a while, but they are not related to the original ComputerLand. And what about IMSAI? Well, Bill Millard, who founded IMSAI also founded ComputerLand. And as he was the person who screwed up IMSAI, he was also the person to screw up ComputerLand.

ComputerLand was an international Franchise chain of Computer stores, stocking just about every personal computer on the market initially. They were the first and went to become the biggest, but the whole operation eventually was killed of by internal battles (among the founders, among others, like Bruce Van Natta and Jack Killian who co-founded IMSAI, which in practice was drained from resources to found and build ComputerLand, of which they got from Millard: Nuthin')

The lesson is that don't think you can get away with just about anything, just because you did it once, history will eventually catch up with you. And although one may discuss of Millard was wrong, or if his intentions were wrong (I'm not so sure they were), but that he was weird and lost track of what was important from IMSAI and ComputerLand, that is pretty clear, in my mind.

By the way, do we still have hunger in the world? Or is World Hunger also History? One of Bill Millards projects that he was part of was to end World Hunger by year 2000. How? By raising consiousness! Oh, of course, why didn't I think of that. Nope, didn't work. But the intentions were good at least.

No, let's forget the old ComputerLand (they were sold and namechanged a few times, and finally went to sleep some 10 years ago or so) and remember the PC. The original clunky, 5 1/4 inch diskette thingy with 16K RAM. (yes, that was it in the original PC. 16K). At lease the PC survived and is with us today, although it didn't end world hunger. And we have something to run Linux and MySQL on! Thank you, IBM!