The 25 Most Important PCs in History

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TRYER

#8 Apple I (1976): Apple's first computer. Does it include the plyboard?

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TRYER

#8 Apple I (1976): Apple's first compute. Does it include the plyboard?

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Larry Lee

My first computer was the Texas Instruments TI 99/4A.

 

TI 99/4A

 

I learned BASIC on this machine.

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A   Released:June 1981 Price:US $525  (without monitor) How many:2.8 Million CPU:TI TMS9900, 3MHz Memory:16K RAM, 26K ROM Display:Video via an RF modulator 32 characters by 24 lines text 192 X 256, 16 color graphics Ports:ROM cartridge (on front) Data storage cassette Audio/Video output Joystick input CPU bus expansion Peripherals:Speech Synthesizer Peripheral Expansion Box Data storage cassette 300 baud modem OS:ROM BASIC

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scat14

I still have my Amiga 1000 and 3000. Have owned the 2000/pc and 4000 video toaster.  Way ahead of anything else at the time.  The Pres of IBM said Amiga's multi tasking was just a print spooler.  The first animated music video was done on amigas.  Jay miner could not stand that Flight Sim had no sound on the IBM, hence the sound chip(stereo) and no more flying triangles.  How awesome it was to watch the pre release of the video toaster do real time video recording and switching.  NASA had a room full of 3000's in Huntsville since they were virtually crash proof.  Remember the the fun we had with IRQ's to make things work in a pc and Amiga had the auto configuring slots with twice the bandwidth.  In 1985, I went shopping for a computer.  Looked at AppleII, pc Jr, and Amiga.  No contest.

How could you leave out the Amiga? 

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toybuilder

The Altair was a success because it S-100 bus (not S-1000) became a widely used standard, allowing third party add-ons to be developed and used by an ever growing "ecosystem" of S-100 users.  There's a lot of power in standards that allow for 3rd party plugins!  That was later proven with the Apple "slots", and then later with PC's ISA and later PCI slots.  And in the software world, the apps that practically "drop in" to their devices from the app stores!

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macsie

As a very small child I recall my Dad, who was an Electrical engineer, working on some devices for Lafayette and Heathkit Electronics....I saw prototypes of these devices which were , what I learned much later, simple number crunchers and were programed by plug-in jumper wires....this was in the late forties or early fifties....Were not these of any importance?? I have a feeling that they were off shoots for hobbyists after the development of ENIAC. Mac

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mvbii

I was a technician at Xerox in Dallas, TX. I was tasked with trying to come up with a user interface for the first electronic copier which was very rich in features. I had recently seen an Amana Radar range (one of the first microwave ovens) and it had a control panel on glass. I concieved that if we drew a control panel on a crt and it had a method of detecting a finger touch on the crt screen, we could create complex user interfaces by drawing them on the crt.

I convinced my boss who had me present this idea to upper management that this was feasable and if we had one of these Altos that PARC had developed we could prototype a system. We got one of the first Altos outside of California 1974-75. Xerox was awarded a patent for this touch based system in 1982.

Another example of things developed by Xerox that they never made money on but others made billions!

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Trooper_One

Ahh, I this strange nostalgic, heartach feel whenever I read these lists.

My first computer encounter was with a IBC PC jr then my late father got us the VIC 20 and then the IBM XT. One of my neighbours had a C-64 and another had the 'advanced' IBM AT.  In grade school, we learned to program to plot with the "LOGO" turtle on the Apple MacIntosh.

Kids these days have it all fancy and easy.  They don't know how buggy these machines could at times be and how much a pain they were to operate - but I did learned quite a bit about OS, applications, programming, and hardware.

Those were the days.

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NLS

Amiga should not be out of ANY such list - period.

If it doesn't fit the list, adapt the list ot fit it.

Amiga broke SOoooo many records.

In fact I still consider it the best computer EVER designed.

It did so many things right, so many years before everybody else - in mass production.

 

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wirehedd

So what does it say that I've owned 8 of the 25 models listed? Started with the Altair (dad's friend lost interest a week in so gave it to me for FREE), Commie PET (learned about phreaking on this), Trash-80, Atari 400, an IBM PC, the ubiquitous C-64, an XT, then tried the Apple then on to the IBM AT. Also throw in a few other randoms like DEC luggable, a VIC 20, Timex Sinclair (with the expansion AND cassette accessory), later an Amiga and I think I've been playing with these things too damn long.

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ebritt

They forgot the Timex Sinclair......with 16K expansion pack..LMAO!!

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ebritt

They forgot the Timex Sinclair......with 16K expansion pack..LMAO!!

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NortonsArk

Although many of us have complained about leaving out the Amiga, the retrospective ended with 1984. The first Amiga came out in 1985. It was still a great machine.

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NortonsArk

I still fondly remember my final Amiga. It was able to run AmigaDos, Mac, and Windows simultaneously without breaking a sweat. It could also emulate a bunch of other machines, including C64 and Atari.

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frizzly

atari 400 the first home PC? I was playing Raaka Tu at home on TRS-80 before the atari ever came out.

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frizzly

also played flying saucers starfighter and chess on it model 1

 

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OliverSudden

I'd like to break from the pack, here, and say that I'm glad the Amiga was excluded.  Pleased as punch, in fact.

No reason, I guess I'm feeling contrary today.  Mmwwwhaahahahaha!

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Insula Gilliganis

Obviously the title of this article was truncated when posted and should have read "The 25 Most Important PCs in History.. up to 1985" in which Alan will continue at a later date listing important computers LIKE the Amiga 100 and the NeXT cube from 1985 to 2011. If Alan doesn't add to this list, then John C. Dvorak was right when he mentioned many times on TWIT (this WEEK in TECH) that list "top lists" are made by people sitting around the water cooler & eating donuts trying subjectively to make up an entirely new list or correct an already previously made top list of the same subject but either way "invariably forget one that is important to the readers"!!

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Osmodious

So..."Apple's first misstep" is influential, but the Amiga, the computer that revolutionized video-editing (if not graphics, animation, sound & gaming altogethe) is left out?  Really?  A MISTAKE that nobody bought and very few of us remembered (until it started appearing in various 'Apple's mistakes' list a few years back) is one of the most important computers in history?  That pretty much makes your opinion incredibly suspect, doesn't it?

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Catts

 

Absolutely miss this one.. The AMIGA was the beginnig of what we have now. When the PC had only 16 colors that were built in to the screen and Apple had Black and White. The AMIGA gave 4096 colors on the screen at once, or 24 bit images with a small add on, and could even output to a genlock to an TV or VCR (I made CG's for wedding videos years before anyone else could even dream of it).

Video Toaster for AMIGA was the Grandfather of desktop video production when the MAC still was only good for b/w desktop publishing.

The AMIGA was the first to have dedicated Graphic proccessors and dedicated Sound Chips that gave it true stereo sound, while the PC gave you a BEEP! 

The Amiga OS was the first home computer that had TRUE multitasking. With A OS that was a modifyied UNIX system in 85 (like Lenix and Apple use today).

It took the PC 10 years to catch up with it. 

It was a victom of poor management and pressure from other manafactuers to keep it out of the magzines but it was the king.

 

 

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JeffDenver

No love for Atari ST or Amiga huh? Those old Apple PCs were kinda worthless...not a lot you could actually do with them. All that time I spent in computer class in the 80s with Apple PCs was pretty much wasted.

My first "real" computer was a Trash-80 CoCo II. No monitor needed...you just use your TV, heh heh.

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Objectkat

You missed the most important computer of the 21st century the NeXT, it only gave us the world wide web and OSx and the iPhone 

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ECA

The Com Amiga was the First to give Faster graphics (CG) to the world. It changed CG from YEARS to months. IT FORCED MS/windows to AIM for more then 256 colors on a computer display. For 15 years, INTEL/MS could not compete with this machine. Stereo sound(midi, mod, and other formats) 4096 colors(upto 16 million)(NOT 256-8bit) 1 meg not 640k Expandable RAM, if you could afford it. 8bit/16bit/and 32 bit..10 years BEFORE Before MS went to 16bit. It BEAt the consoles of the time and Smashed Windows and DOS.

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moko

my first pc was the Acer "Emerald Green"

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repo1946

First computer I had was a Kaypro. It had a 10MB hard drive and bundled software.

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jnutley

other commenters have covered the details, particularly tonymus and cc3d

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gendoikari1

Should've bumped it up to "The 26 Most Important PCs in History", then you can shoehorn the Amiga in.

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Keith E. Whisman

It looks like Alan Fackler is so ashamed of himself that he has no picture for his avatar. The Apple III was one of the most important computers in history? You even admit that it was Apple's first misstep. How can a mistake be an important foot note in history when it comes to the most important computers in history?

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Gezzer

It's nice that you mentioned Atari. I had one and I've allways found it funny that the first computer to actually consider graphics and sound a important part of the experiance, and used some pretty impressive custom chips to do it, seems to be all but forgotten when this sort of list come up.

But you picked the 400?!? Sorry but as someone mentioned it was more like the Coleco Adam then a true computer. The original 800 was the true computer of the Atari line, and should of been your pick IMHO.

As for the Amiga, that was a real miss on your part as well.

Bit of triva about the Amiga. The developers of the Amiga were the same ones that developed the original Atari 800/400 computers. In fact the Amiga was going to be an Atari next generation computer. Well that was till Atari was sold to the original owner of Commodore Jack Tramiel (he had been forced out). Mr. Tramiel dropped the Amiga and instead decided to make the Atari ST his flag ship computer. The ST's was a 16 bit computer, but wasn't as advanced as the Amiga. It was cheaper though, which helped it to sell reasonable well.

I forgot how the Amiga ended up at Commodore, but it was the true successor to the Atari line. Don't know the names of any of the guys in the development team. But I consider their vision to be the reason why PC's are the gamming monsters we currently enjoy.

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Osmodious

Actually, Amiga (originally 'Hi-Toro') almost became part of Atari by default...Atari had loaned them some money (Around $500k, I think) and if they did not pay it back by a certain date, Atari would own the company.  At essentially the last minute, Commodore came in and bought them, paid off the loan to Atari, and 'saved' them...only to destroy them and themselves through management incompetence, but that's another story.  Tramiel was pretty ticked off about it, and came out with the ST series ('Jackintosh') to try to beat the Amiga...the 1040ST was actually a pretty good system, with sound nearly on par with Amiga (it became hugely popular with musicians due to the sound abilities and built-in midi), but their OS was always about 3 steps behind Amiga & Mac, so it never really took off with the general public.  Oh, and their marketing sucked.

As to the development team...the main person who worked on the early Ataris as well as Amiga was Jay Miner.  He had developed the sound chip for the VCS (2600), as well as the graphics and sound chips for the 400/800 systems, and was primarily responsible for the distributed architecture of the Amiga.  He left Atari and went to work for Hi-Toro, which tried to raise money to build their 'dream machine' by selling VCS games and peripherals (including a balance board 28 years before the Wii Fit!).  I think a few other folks did come from Atari, but it wasn't like they all left en masse.

 

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massong

I agree with the other posters.  I would like to see this list re-done to include the Amiga.  The Amiga computer defined a generation.  For those os us in our mid - late 30s and into our 40s we grew up and loved our Amiga, we still love them.  My friends and I often get nostalgic and talk about the love we have for our Amiga's. 

I was also a huge fan of the TRS-80 Color Computer, but I can overlook that it is not mentioned.  The PCJr?  The PCJr was in no way as significant as the Amiga!  I can still here the theme song to Defender of the Crown playing in my head... what a beautiful machine that was.

Gary

 

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Osmodious

Gary, I think the bigger thing with the jr is that it proved that the home computer was a viable market...not due to capability or sales, but its mere existence.  The biggest computer company in the world, who could actually afford to completely ignore the home market, took it seriously enough to design a model specifically targeted there.  That's kind of huge.

The Amiga was far more influential in other ways, but I would argue the one to be displaced should be the Apple III...it was a completely and utter failure, had a short life and had no influence on anyone, anywhere.  So Apple made a mistake...back then they made them periodically, they were not yet 'invincible' (or whatever).  Hell, they made WORSE mistakes in the 90's, so why is the III even on here?

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pastorbob

Not to be pickey but it was the S-100 bus on the MITS Altair 8800 and IMSAI 8080 not the S-1000.

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zbeckerd

I concur, AMIGA forever. I wrote my thesis on one and was the first to use color graphs with my star printer. Used the terrain generator program from digital elevation models. Did not need file extensions since the OS looked at the file to figure out what it was. Just a incredible OS

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gothliciouz

what a strange devices!

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Cy-Kill

Can't believe the VIC-20 is missing from there.

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cc3d

Even without the very good points above, you can consider this one point on its own:

How many TV studios started b/c the Amiga and the Video Toaster? The whole A/V broadcast industry turned into the Toaster industry b/c of the Amiga!!

1991-1995 the Broadcast industry was as influenced by the Amiga as the smartphone industry is influenced by the iPhone now!!

The Amiga/Toaster combo was THE YouTube revolution of the early 90s!! This cannot be denied!

BIG FAIL!!

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Troy Wilkins

Left out a few of the more important PCs and included a few that were far from "most important PCs"...

Biggest fail is forgetting to include the Amiga!

Also forgot was the Vic 20 (First 'affordable' colour computer).

And some of the ones that did make the list, seriously, WTF?

PCjr, Apple III, TRS 80, How are any of those more important then the Amiga?  

I could name others that should have been on the list, but I can't get over the fact that the most important PC in the history of computers, the Amiga, was forgotten.  For shame!

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Baer

My first computer was the Apple ][, with the 48k memory expansion and a dotmatrix printer and green screen mono monitor it cost just under $5000.

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tonymus

The Amiga 1000 came out in July 1985 and was the:
* First personal computer to ship standard with a preemptive multitasking operating system
* First personal computer to to use "long filenames" (filenames over 100 characters with spaces, etc.)
* First personal computer to support more than 16-color output as a standard feature.
* First personal computer with an inexpensive genlock option.
* First personal computer to include a two-button mouse as standard
* First personal computer to offer a choice of command line and graphical user interface.
* First persoanl computer to include four-channel, digital sound on the motherboard.
* First personal computer to ship standard with speech synthesis.
* First (and unfortunately only) personal computer to ship with a keyboard garage.
* First personal computer to include plug-and-play (AutoConfig) expansion cards.
* First personal computer to have Proportional sliders (scrollbars)
* First personal computer to support The IFF format concept
* First personal computer to support the music module format (*.mod)
* First personal computer to have Datatypes
* First personal computer to have Multimedia years before the term ever existed
* First personal computer to have Multiple independant processors (what PC users would term 'local bus') for audio, video, I/O, (and more!) in use nearly a decade before it finally became available on the PC
* First personal computer to do broadcast quality desktop video (via the Video Toaster)
* First personal computer to have complete multi-language support for the OS and apps via simple and easy to use catalog files
* First personal computer to have multiple simultaneous, draggable screens each with their own independant color depth and resolution
* First personal computer to have user-configurable preferences such as desktop fonts, screen modes, locale, sound, etc. (Byte magazine gave the Amiga kudos for this in a comparison between the Amiga, Mac and PC)
* First personal computer be used for raytracing and raytraced animation
* First personal computer to do emulation many years before Mac's or PC's got the idea

I think that's enough firsts to be included in your 25 most important computers of all time.

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Corfy

I can't believe the Atari 400 made the list. Despite the fact that we owned one, I have a hard time calling it a computer. It was a gaming console with a really bad keyboard. OK, so it came with a cartidge allowing us to write programs in BASIC, but disk drives were considered a peripheral device, which we didn't have, so there was no way to save anything. Once power was shut off, everything you worked on was lost.

Still, for the time, the graphics were amazing on that machine, and I definitely wasted a lot of my childhood sitting in front of the Atari 400 playing video games.

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Osmodious

I would think the 800 would be much more representative of Atari technology...it was available at pretty much the same time as the 400, was more capable and certainly more of a computer...but still an excellent gaming machine (much of that due to Jay Miner, who went on to become the father of the Amiga, and his chip design genius).

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Keith E. Whisman

I had the inexpensive tape drive that did allow me to save all my work. I had books full of programs that had to be manually typed out. Those days were awesome. I remember dreaming back then of what computers would be like in the future and what the games would be like. Well it was impossible to really consider what would be but it sure was fun. I never thought that I would ever enjoy a computer without a joystick and now I love my computer and I don't have a joystick anywhere near it.

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Exarkun1138

I had a Tandy Co-Co, 4k computer. That was my first computer. Then I went through the gammut of Atari computers including the 800xl, 130xe, and 1040ST. I had 2 Amiga's, and then moved on to "IBM Clone" based systems, for which I am still with today.

I kinda wish I still had my ST's and Amigas. Those systems were so cool compared to computers today!

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thunderclap82

Agree with Chewieshmoo.  The Amiga revolutionized graphics and audio in a personal PC.  A shame MaximumPC neglected it.

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Keith E. Whisman

We used an Epson HX-20 in the US Army as a Meteorologist. That was in the really early 1990's. 

I owned a TRS-80, Atari 400, Atari 800, Comodore 64, and finally I graduated to the IBM clones. The clone wars began and have never ended.

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Chewieshmoo

No Commodore AMIGA? = FAIL.

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lester67

I'm kinda shocked that the Timex-Sinclair didn't make the list.  A mass-produced "PC" that could be bought at your local drugstore for $100?  That was kind of a big deal, and they sold quite a few of them.  They were a "gateway drug" for the slightly more expensive (and robust) home systems to come.

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Osmodious

Well, to be fair, you couldn't DO anything with the Sinclair for that $99...it had only 2k, no storage and very little capability.  Most people who bought them threw a few characters up on their TV screen but that was it.  In order to actually program it, you had to get the 16k expansion, which ran $200...even then, you still needed a tape drive to store anything.  I believe there was a more capable version, with a real keyboard, available in Europe...but it was never sold here.  And, of course, there were many, many other European and Japanese systems that were hugely successful and influential (Spectrum, Acorn, Panasonic ESX, etc.).

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strangelove9

Word!

I'm not even comment on the Amiga, instead, I'll point out that I'm not entirely surprised by the fact that MPC overlooks European machines. Cultural idiosyncracies aside, let's face it - Sinclair and Acorn were the companies that made it possible for an entire generation of youths to get into computers.

As the film "Micro Men" says, these companies could have been the new IBM and HP!

Sinclair 's Spectrum (descending from the ZX81) was the VERY FIRST affordable microcomputer. No doubt about it.  I didn't have a Commodore, but I had a Spectrum clone!

And Acorn!!! Without Acorn there would be no ARM chips today, as we know them! You know, ARM chips? They're in every friggin' cellphone out there, as well as in the iPad!

Now, if these aren't machines that made history, I don't know what did....

 

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