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Alternate timeline: Tandy remains dominant in home PC market


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I was watching the 8-Bit guy video about Tandy 1000 and had an interesting thought. The thing that gave them an edge was their gaming-friendly hardware that was compatible with the non-proprietary stuff as well.

Once VGA started to take over, they lost the edge and were just another PC clone. But what if they had innovated? What could they have done to stay on top?

The 1988-ish analog to modern accelerated video would have been a tile engine. If they’d made something like VERA but with 512k VRAM and a DMA engine to pipe textures / use system RAM for the tile maps of the layers, they could have matched VGA and blown it out of the water. It could default to supporting CGA and even VGA but also provide multi-layer tile scrolling and a crapload of sprites. It was lack of sprites that really dictated a lot of how PC games were designed. Plus, it would’ve taken much less CPU horsepower to drive this than the equivalent in VGA where you have to push a whole screen full of pixels every single frame if you want arcade style games.

If Tandy had made such a move, could that have kept them in a strong position? The 1000 had enough install base to cause game developers to support their hardware already so I imagine the games would’ve been made to support this beast.

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I wonder if, back then, we somehow knew that business was the niche where the personal computer could thrive?  All I remember thinking was wishful:  I hope IBM abandons the PC market for good.  That sort of thing.  Totally irrational.  And then a few short years later I get a 386SX-16 for college.  So much for Commodore.

Back then and now, I feel that the TRS-80 Model III has the most professional look of perhaps any computer, with the CBM 8032 a close second.

 

 

Edited by rje
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Posted (edited)

If I knew FPGA and ISA, I'd totally make a real 16-bit ISA video card that did all this, just to see a 286 that can belt out late-80s-arcade quality games with scrolling and sprites and such.

-- of course, someone would have to WRITE said awesome arcade-quality-game to utilize this video card, but it would be cool if they did, right?

I guess it's the Monster2d video card?

Edited by ZeroByte
added p.s.
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42 minutes ago, kelli217 said:

I have a Model III shell and a VGA monitor that has a CRT that can fit in the shell, and for a long time I've been wanting to build a PC into it.

That would be really cool! I don't think I've ever seen somebody do that before. Would you try to incorporate one of the floppy drives?

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3 minutes ago, SlithyMatt said:

That would be really cool! I don't think I've ever seen somebody do that before. Would you try to incorporate one of the floppy drives?

Or make a faceplate that fits, but houses one of those modules with the SD+USB+speaker jacks combos like you find on the front of modern PCs. 🙂

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2 hours ago, kelli217 said:

I have a Model III shell and a VGA monitor that has a CRT that can fit in the shell, and for a long time I've been wanting to build a PC into it.

What I'd like to do with one of those is build a Raspberry Pi or NUC based emulator... make it as close as possible to the original. 

I've been thinking about trying to do that with a Kaypro II chassis... if I can find one cheap enough, I definitely will. 

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(His video on the 1000 is excellent; indeed, it's documentary quality)

Shame, that Tandy had no resources (sarcasm implied);  Supply chain for ICs, manufacturing facilities, distribution outlets.  Tandy could have been a contender.  By the time the 1000 came and went, Tandy's compute prowess was as competitive as their "Realistic" brand of "Hi-fi" as it was then called.

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I have actually thought about this before... What if the companies I loved in the 80's had made different decisions, would they still be around. The main two being Tandy and Commodore.

The short of it is, I think they would, if they had only managed to successfully navigate the 90's.

I am a firm believer that competition drives innovation, and we need that in the PC space, especially today. It would be nice to have a few more PC "powerhouses". 

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I just think it was a shame that the two only chip providers for decades was intel and motorola, and all others, until recently followed suit. There were so many great chip architectures out there that died on the vine because of market position. 

 

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They would have needed to have started ca. 1982.  Have them contact Fujitsu and see if they can work together on the follow-up to the FM-8/7 as the CoCo 3.  Possibly contact Hitachi and together from a SIG based around the 6309 and H8 series, so that both companies could have had better CPUs for cheaper than the gouge Motorola was demanding for the 6809.  The FM-77 in a keyboard-console form factor could have been the CoCo3, and the the FM-77 A/V could have been an ATL CoCo4. 

 

Then, when the FM Towns is coming out, market a version of that in America, but minus the kanji ROM, and with cut down entry-level versions that omit the CD-ROM drive, but keep the DeskMate GUI.  Call it the Tandy 5000/10,000.*

 

*replace the Yamaha YM2612 with the WM3812, to provide compatibility with SoundBlater and AdLib functionality, and the Ricoh RF5c68 with the Ensoniq DOC II, OTIS, or OTTO, along with the existing Texas Instruments SN76496 clone.

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So many parallels to the music keyboard/synth manufacturers of the 70's, 80's and 90's.  No standards at first, each company innovating rapidly for market share.  Big players and niche players going about it in different ways, some standardization with Midi for control and note encoding parity but ultimately, nearly all perished except for Japanese giants Yamaha and to a much lesser extent, Korg and a handful of re-issue / re-starts from Moog, Sequential Circuits (Dave Smith), Tom Oberheim, shells of their former operations.

The point is that 'vision' was a problem, as it always is.  Horse-blinder/tunnel vision nearly cost Steve Jobs Apple a few times, and definitely cost the technology focused founders of synth their fortune: David Pearlman, Tom Oberheim, Bob Moog, Dave Smith, David Cockerell, Ray Kurzweil, Wolfgang Palm and others...
 

 

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