In my previous post ''What happened to all the pioneers in personal computing?'' I forgot a few notable companies.

  • Acorn: I mostly forgot to talk about Acorn Computers, probably because Acorn computers were only popular mostly in the UK and were quasi unknown in France. The BBC Micro is their most popular 8-bit computer, released in 1981. But what came later was the game changing for the industry today. In 1987, they released the Acorn Archimedes, a 32-bits desktop computer powered with a RISC processor. It was faster than most of the competition like the Atari ST and the Amiga. Its CPU was the ARM (Acorn RISC Machine). This led to the spin-off ARM Ltd, that was in charge of the development of the ARM CPU. A partnership with Apple that wanted something for the Newton led to further development and the first license ; the RISC PC became the last generation of Acorn computer. Today, ARM is the most used CPU design for embedded systems: cell-phone, DSL routers, iPod, smart phones, PDA, iPad, etc. Acorn Computers moved on to build set-top boxes, after selling the RISC PC business, and in the end was absorbed into Broadcom in 2000 to become the DSL unit. ARM Ltd is now known ARM Holdings and license the IP for the ARM CPU to manufacturers.
  • Compaq: Compaq major achievement was to be the first manufacturer of 100% IBM compatible PC after they successfully cloned the BIOS via clean room engineering, 1982. The BIOS was the cornerstone of IBM PC compatibility as just running MS-DOS wasn't enough: the Disk Operating System has so little feature that programmers mostly called into the BIOS interruptions to write their applications. Phoenix Technologies who followed in 1984 offering their own BIOS clone. Compaq made the first 100% IBM PC compatible portable computer, and then manufactured lot of quality IBM PC Clones, including the first with an Intel 386, being ahead of IBM itself. After buying Digital Equipment Corporation, it was bought by HP in 2002 and the PC product lines were merged, where mostly Compaq products in the business line were rebadged HP.

As I was writing this second, post, Ars Technica published From Altair to iPad: 35 years of personal computer market share where they relate the 35 years from the Altair to the move to the iPad as a personal computing device.