21 Tech Companies that Changed The World... Before They Died



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Vista Computer Company.

The first company to produce a standalone CP/M system for computers. Vista was born in 1976 when Randal Data Systems created a division within the company to create a controller board based on the Tarbell electronics floppy disk controller with the CP/M operating system and a pair of shugart 8 inch floppy drives.

The controller board included some inovative features, including the phantom bootloader, now common in all PCs. Thi bootloader occupied lower memory and was switched out after the BDOS was loadedallowing all of the 64k of the 8080 chip to be usable by the OS.

This combination set the standard for 5 1/4 inch floopy disks, soft sector formating and made it possiblle to drop in a complete CP/M system into any Intel s100 based microcomputer, which was the industry standard at the time.

Vista died in 1979. At the time, Vista was the number one microcomputer company inthe world. It died as a direct result of a sex scandal that involved exactly half the company. An attempt at blackmail ensued and the president, hardware engineer and secretary were given an ultimatum to bury the hatchet or get fired. In the end, they all got fired, leaving only the software engineer (me), a single assembler and a single salesman in place. I was placed in charge and the very next day the division was liquidated. I went on to work with the parent company for a year or so before I left for green pastures.

Vista never seems to be included in the history of the industry, even though every PC out there today was influenced by it. I sometimes wonder abou how things would have turned out had not these two otherwise visionaries had not had the hots for the same secretary. On thing is sure, Microsoft would not be what it is today.



I fondly remember my early days drooling over the Tandy Model III computers in the local Radio Shack store. I finally bought a CoCo II when they came out. Kept it only 6 months and sold it to a friend. From that time on I never managed to own my own PC until I bought a used TI 386DX16 in 1994 (still have it too). Up until that time I had friends that owned everything from an Atari 512(?), Amiga 500, Amiga 1000 (totally awesome computer and I really wish they were still around), Commodore 64, Timex Sinclair 1000 (I have one of them today, in it's original packaging!). Also fondly recall using a 300baud modem in 1984 to connect to a university VAX11/780 and then out around the world to a university in Britain! That was so cool!!Oh, and then there was playing MS Flight Simulator 5.0 for DOS on the Atari. I still have the original install disks today! No idea why I keep all this stuff!




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GREAT Article! It brought back a lot of memories as I started with PC computers in 1979. It got me thinking too. Is the company that developed the first 300 baud modem still around? What about multi-pin impact printer that killed the daisywheel and lead to inkjets? Many like some of those you mentioned had breakthroughs but the division is now gone and others took the Idea and ran with it. <br> <BR> You clearly defined some of those on the cusp of extinction or obscurity but I wonder with the lessons of these you listed who is next? Where is perhaps the granddaddy of the list? Not gaming but business, where Lotus123 that killer app that almost single-handedly put a PC on ever desk? Great articles get you thinking and this one cleared a few cobwebs that had snuck there way into a player of the "Pong" back in my university days. Thanks for the memories! . <br> <BR> And the as you type spell checker, too! Are there others that have failed or gone to obscurity that are not in the comments below? I do wonder what their CEO’s would say if asked about the accomplishment and the current status. <br> <BR> Well done guys, it got me thinking!



GREAT Article! It brought back a lot of memories as I started with PC computers in 1979. It got me thinging too. Is the company that developed the first 300 baud modem still around? What about multipin printer that killed the daisywheel and lead to inkjets? Many like some of those you mentioned had breakthoughs but the division is now gone and others took the Idea and ran with it. <br> <BR> You clearly defined some of those on the cusp of extintion or obscurity but I wonder with the lessons of these you listed who is next? Where is perhaps the granddaddy of the list? Not gaming but buisness, where Lotus123 that killer app that almost singlehandedly put a PC on ever desk? Great articles get you thinking and this one cleared a few cobwebs that had snuck there way into a player of the "Pong" back in my university days. Thanks for the memories!



What about Be Inc.?  The BeOS was way ahead of it's time, with features that took years for Microsoft, Apple and Unix/Linux to include.  Multiprocessor support, lightweight threads, 64 bit journaling filesystem, object-based API, super-fast graphics...in their hardware days, they made systems with two processors and three DSPs.



The 1.44MB floppy drive!  I remember when i fist got mine and how much space it saved my. I was only running with a 20MB hard drive at the time so having  a place to store 'stuff' was great.

Then came iOmega with the ZIP drive. 100MB of external storage that was much faster than a floppy. becuase at the time CD-RW drives were just too expensive and the media cost was nuts.




I remember using WebTV and thought WOW this is really cool and then after awhile of having it I sold it.  Also I'm glad that AOL does not send out their coasters anymore.



Good list. I remember using Webcrawler a lot. I think it was the cute little spider. Maybe I outgrew the Charlotte's Web influence. I believe that Geocities might have started the idea of having a space on the internet.

So far as home gaming there was the Turbo Graphix 16, or "PC-Engine" console that never really got foothold. I think it had a portable version too with all the horsepower of the console.



Whats with this Commorodre shit? TANDY ALL THE WAY BABY



I still use altavista sometimes, so when did it supposedly go bye-bye?  In fact, I just pulled it up a moment ago.  The only thing that sux is that it's not quite as useful as it once used to be.



"CMGI filed for an initial public offering for AltaVista to take place in April 2000, but as the internet bubble collapsed, the IPO was cancelled."

Later Altavista was bought out by some company that was later taken over by Yahoo.



Cool article! On the gaming front you gotta mention Infocom and SSI.



I had Coleco Vision as a kid!  The Smurfs game rocked!  (and you KNOW one is coming out next summer after the movie!)



...dual GPU consumer level Video Card as well...the Voodoo 5 5500...I know this because I owned one back in the day.  I'm sad they died out but I'm glad that nVidia rather than ATi bought them out  :)



ATI Rage Fury Maxx... Used Dual Rage 128 Pro chips... prior to the Voodoo 5

 You could say though that 3DFX had the first "dual (graphics chip) consumer level Video Card..." though if you had mentioned the Quantum 3D Obsidian X-24 which was two Voodoo 2 chips running in SLI on one board... It also was an AGP card... oooohhhh..... 



Just curious, what is your beef with ATI?



Appeal games? Really, that's not only obscure, but also irrelevant compared what you missed. While US gaming enthusiasts may fondly remember the Commodore, it is undisputable that Europeans - and especially East-Europeans - should hold the Sinclair microcomputers as their No. 1 soft spot.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was not only cheap enough to become popular, and thus introducing an entire generation to computer gaming and programming, but it was also one of the most pirated/cloned computers of its era. I think there were about 50 different clones at some point - everyone behind the Iron Curtain was making them: the Poles, the Russians, the Romanians, the Bulgarians...

Sadly, as illustrated by the BBC's 2009 film "Micro Men", the British company failed spectacularly to gain a global foothold; its main competitor, Acorn, also died ignominously, but the ARM CPU they helped produce is now powering millions of cellphones worldwide.



You couldn't even use an image of the 2600 for the article and had to use the Japanese version?  Sheesh.  ;-)  Thanks for making me look up what a 2800 was, though.  You learn something every day!



I remember when I was younger I saw Alta Vista and didn't think anything of it. Now I kinda wish I could go back and mess with it some more knowing that it was popular at the time. Now google is taking the market (at least here in the Americas). I also remember my dad buying that polaroid camera too, but it disappeared.



I remember the comparisons with Apple IIc/e and IBM personal computers at the time and the C64.

I remember reading up Commodore Magazines and COMPUTE! Gazette and following the technology and the revival of Commodore Business Machine with a new president.

I remember trying to program a game in BASIC becuase ML was just too much.

I remember AMIGA coming on the scene and providing so much power for such a small cost.  I wanted one; I had one for a brief time.

I remember in the late '80s and early '90s when Nintendo and Commodore comparisons were being made and I wondered how can you compare a gaming system with a computer that you can not only play games, but learn; learn to create images, sounds, music, and games.

I spent hours on Shoot 'Em Up Construction Kit (SEUCK), drawing sprites by dots on graph paper - not like these so called PIXEL ARTISTS that they have around now.  We were limited to 16 colors; but loved it.

I started looking thorugh this list and kept thinking, "Where is Commodore?".  No.1!  I was both surprised and not.

All hail Commodore.



What, no mention of Mattel? They introduced quite possibly the greatest home video gaming system of all-time, the Intellivision! Great graphics, great gameplay, and great games! The games could be quite complex and even difficult at times compared to what was on the Atari 2600. It totally blew the Atari 2600 away, which seems to be the "benchmark" for old-school gaming. They also made excellent hand held game systems as well and mini-arcade systems.

That was a good list by MaximumPC, but they should have had Mattel on that list as well!



You must have forgotten that Mattel hasn't failed but is still a thriving business, fallen companies being the main point of this article.



Intellivision was my first game console. I remember many an evening playing Night Stalker, and being frustrated with those darn Invisible robots that were impossible to beat.



Usually I dread seeing the top items on a list like this!  Especially #1 as most of the time the #1 item is way off the mark.  This list is dead on!!  Good job and Commodore should be recognized as the platform that launched a thousand (or millions) programmers!

Keep it up Max PC!!



I went from goofing around with a purloined Data General monster running the Oasis OS to scoring an Amiga 1000 and it changed my life forever for the better. I still can't be trusted to calmly discuss the Amiga demise in polite company.



I miss those boxes too. My C64 logged sooo many hours.    The Friday night users groups meetings, swapping games and discussing 'techniques'. yes, then came Amiga.   That was also around the time that EA was really getting their foot in the door with computer games. They didn't have the 'best' games, but they had a good selection.  Like someone else mentioned, SSI had among the strongest titles. 

Fun times back then for sure....



I used an Amiga until Win 95 and still kept going back to the Amiga until XP.



Aureal's A3D FTW, even today.  Simply amazing sound with only two speakers, and EAX just doesn't sound as good to me.  I'm still pissed off at Creative for creatively killing off Aureal.

I still remember the long hours of typing in numbers using MLX on my Commodores - 64 first, then a 128 later.  And all of those programs like Kracker Jax for...um...making backups of my games.  Yeah, that's it.

Endless sessions of Space Invaders and Asteroids on the Atari 2600...thank God the joysticks and paddles also worked on the Commodores!



The sad thing is that Aureal actually won the case with Creative, but the cost of fighting it left them bankrupt.



That was the whole idea. Creative was a bully using it's massive funds to push other players out of the sound card market place through BS lawsuits. Since they couldn't dominate the market through innovation, they played dirty, and then bought up the leftovers once they'd forced their opponents into bankruptcy.



we're left with Creative..... Products that cost a premium yet are always a tad away from delivering the gold.  Yes, their sound cards are awesome when they work. But i've had to deal with far too many drivers issues in the past..... To be honest, for the last 6 months i've been using the 'on board' sound of my eVGA motherboard and am just as happy with it I was my Sound Blaster X-fi.

Still, back in the early 90s, if you wanted anythign beyond beeps and blips, you had to have a Sound Blaster or Ad Lib card. 



I had completely forgotten about CUSeeMe. Oh my... good times! Very very good times.

And I remember having an Oddysey II was I was a kid. I think that's what the other poster is remembering. The Pac-Man clone was KC Munchkin, and it was FAR better than the Atari 2600 version. IIRC Atari sued Magnavox and won, and Magnavox folded their whole console department after that.




Actually, that sounds like you had the Odyssey². 

The original Odyssey wasn't nearly that nice, but it was definitely groundbreaking for its time.



I wish I still had it. My folks don't remember what happened to it (it's probably residing in a landfill).  I remember playing a pong type game on it, but since it was hooked up to our only TV, it didn't get much play due to my parents addiction to television (it never occurred to them to buy us kids our own set).  


The Relic

Ironically, Sega's last console, the Dreamcast, introduced some of the things console owners nowadays take for granted. It was the first system to ship with the ability to get on the internet (and came with it's own custom browser), and the first console to dip it's toes into massively multiplayer games (namely, Phantasy Star Online).

Many console gamers nowadays buy games solely for their ability to play online, and wouldn't think of buying them for a singleplayer component.

Oh yeah, and a couple of the games could be modded with a software solution to add scenes to the games using the VMU.

So ultimately, their last system was also their most influential.

And I remember having a very good Aureal soundcard. Even though I of course have since used Creative cards, I've never quite forgiven them for helping kill the Aureal brand...



Great article!!

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