'IBM PC Compatible': How Adversarial Interoperability Saved PCs From Monopolization

in #retrocomputing3 years ago

Adversarial interoperability is what happens when someone makes a new product or service that works with a dominant product or service, against the wishes of the dominant business.

Source: 'IBM PC Compatible': How Adversarial Interoperability Saved PCs From Monopolization | Electronic Frontier Foundation

This article explains why we have IBM clones for instance but no Macintosh clones. Mostly it has to do with the legal environment today and extra legal steps taken since then to ensure such things don't happen. While I mostly agree with it from a legal point of view, I'm not so sure I agree with its version of history.

The claim is essentially that PC clones (made possible by "adversarial interoperability") saved the world from a monopoly by IBM. I don't really think this is true. All the way up until the early 1990s there was some healthy competition from Commodore and Apple (and of course Apple is still around) and before that there were other contenders as well (Atari, Tandy with the TRS-80 and Color Computer, etc.). What the availability of cheap clones did was create a near monopoly in terms of the platform. Good perhaps from an ease of use/exchange of information point of view perhaps but not necessary. Exchanging data between non-compatible systems wasn't necessarily difficult and applications developed for different systems could still have compatible data formats (e.g. Microsoft Office on the PC vs. the Mac). There never would have been an IBM monopoly even without clones. Commodore would probably still be around in that case (and perhaps others) and Apple would probably have an even bigger presence.

Also, this article gives credit to Intel's 8080 for the PC revolution. While true in part, it never would have happened without the 6502. The 6502 was used in machines like the Apple II, Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit computers as well as earlier machines. The MOS 6502 was really the CPU that enabled computers to be introduced to the masses and it was all because of cost. The 6502 was MUCH cheaper than the nearest competition when it was introduced in 1975. We're talking less than 1/6th the price of what Intel and Motorola had at the time.

There's no doubt that IBM's open architecture for the PC and its subsequent cloning led to the commoditization of computers and it would be an even better world if not only were Commodore, Atari and Tandy still making their own platforms but if there were clones for those too :).


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Informative blog keep sharing.

From what I recall, there were at least a handful of Apple II and also ZX Spectrum clones, although the IBM PC was where a lot of the money was at the time, seeing as everyone wanted a slice of the business market, which was quite profitable!

I'm not as familiar with the Spectrum but you're right about the Apple II clones. The Laser 128 and its variants were pretty successful. There was also the Franklin ACE.

I suppose nobody ever attempted to clone the Commodore 64 because nobody could have competed with them on price. Commodore was vertically integrated and owned the manufacturer of their CPU and other chips (MOS Technologies). Whoever cloned a Commodore computer would have had to buy from Commodore. The Apple II was much higher priced and there was more room to undercut them.

There were also licensed clones of the Macintosh for a while but Apple put a stop to that after a few years.

I always wanted an Amiga myself but by the time I was able to upgrade from my Commodore 64 (1993), it was clear that the Amiga was on the way out. Commodore went bankrupt the following year.

Sup Dork?!? Enjoy the Upvote!!!