Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Memory Test - 20 years on

Who remembers the top selling PC of 1986. The Amstrad PC1512 stormed the UK market in the autumn that year with an entry price point of £399 for a Single 5.25” floppy drive / monochrome version. Equipped with a fast 8086 Intel processor and 512kB of memory it carved the personal computer market up on price and ease of use. It was a real pioneer product, did you own one and what did it mean to you if you did?

The dual floppy colour version would have set you back about £700.

I have fond memories of 1986, not only did I pull together a bunch of fledgling PC distributors to take on this range (many of them hadn't distributed PC's before) but I also managed to fit in getting married at the same time. I was trying to remember who the original distributors were and from memory they included:
  1. MBS (later to merge with Combro – then become Technology plc and got bought out by ICL / Fujitsu) - the orginal IBM PC distributor
  2. Northamber - still chugging along
  3. P& P Micro - didn't it move into training? - not sure of the full story
  4. Norbain Micro (somehow – can’t remember- evolved into Ingram UK)
  5. First Software (later called Frontline then bought by C2000 / TechData)
  6. Hugh Symons - still going but not doing the same thing anymore
  7. Eltec - really not sure what happend up there in Bradford
  8. Lightning (later to be bought by Parkfield) - gone
  9. Micro Peripherals - still going great guns
  10. ADL (subsidiary company) - folded back into main organisation
I may have missed one or two off the list, please remind me! You might want to help complete the fates. Also from memory we mass registered about 4000 authorised resellers and together we advance sold tens of thousands of these PC’s before they even docked in the UK. The PC1512 was upgraded the following year by the PC1640 (640kB memory and a better resolution colour monitor) but we kept selling both models for several years – at least until 1989. In 1987 these were the number one selling PC’s with well over 20% market share. The strange coincidence is now Dell is selling PC’s again from around this price and it must have around 20% share in the UK market, how times have changed!

Some of the team still get together - see my earlier post on reunions - but the idea came up to organise a really big event to celebrate 20 years of personal computing in the UK. Do you think it would have legs? More importantly get sponsors?

Your memory/trivia test: What was Alan Sugar's ledgendary response to the unfounded claim that the PC1512 needed a fan?

3 comments:

David Tebbutt said...

Well you'd be at least five years out of date. The IBM Personal Computer appeared on September 11 1981. And, of course, the microcomputer (MITS Altair) was the cover story of Popular Electronics in 1975.

I edited Personal Computer World from 1979 to 1981 and it existed (in a different form) for a year or so before I got involved.

Keith said...

Sure it wasn't the first PC, maybe just the leading really affordable one for tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of home and small business users - and it was British!

Either way a party to celebrate 20 or 25 years sounds good. I guess there would less eligible attendees for the silver jubilee of the PC!

Adrian Moss said...

In 1978 I was the proud owner of 3M UK's first PC - the Commodore Pet and developed some accounting applications for it. By 1980 I was working for a software company helping develop and market PC based accountancy software. My job was to select who would be the major winners from companies like ACT, Atari, Altair, Apple, Commodore, DEC, Tandy, TI etc and focus the programming teams onto developing software for them. Everyone had to have customised software. Let's also not forget the BBC and Sinclair PC's sold in big numbers too!

IBM's entry in 1981 created a 'standard' and within a year or two Lotus (1-2-3)was able to leverage this to great effect. Lotus Europe started in September 1983 based from a desk at Reflex (later Frontline and later still part of C2000 I think) in Reading. Within 4 months Lotus had an office in Windsor (where I joined them) and by mid 1984 had manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

Now about this party....