From the Trenches: The Great Christmas ’84 Apple //c vs. IBM PCjr Battle

I fondly remember my first Apple //c. I got it in early 1984, soon after its debut and, to me, it was quite a step up from my first computer, a TI-99/4A (though in several ways the //c was less advanced, but that’s another story…). Shortly after the //c hit hit market, IBM rolled out the PCjr, a “homier,” low-end version of the standard IBM PC aimed at stealing away some of the popular //c’s thunder. Though the PCjr was not a particular success, the battle was heated and never more so than during the 1984 Christmas season.

I recently stumbled across a great find, entitled “Christmas 1984: The Great Apple //c vs. PCjr Battle,” posted by Charles Eicher over at his blog, Disinfotainment. Charles was a salesman at a ComputerLand (a large business computer retail chain popular in the 80s) in LA during the //c vs. PCjr showdown at the end of 1984 and his story provides a gripping account of the holiday retail battle and his own personal role in helping IBM open their eyes and see the error of their marketing ways.

Spending his 70-80 hour work weeks pushing machines out the door, Charles picked up various techniques for increasing his sales and taking advantage of the sales person incentive program that Apple offered as a means of sweetening the pot for sales people. After winning Apple’s top sales prize of an Apple //c and a cash bonus several times over by early December, it became clear that he was an expert at moving these machines. In response to frequent requests for advice from other ComputerLand employees, Charles put together a colorfully written, five-page document on how to master the art of moving the Apple //c. That document is now available on Charles’ blog as a PDF file.

This really is a unique glimpse at a time when the home computer was becoming a fairly standard fixture in households across America. It’s great that Charles has preserved this info and shared it on the web. Well worth a read.

I was particularly pleased to find this article, having just procured a rather great condition Apple //c system to relive, in part, the good old days of that memorable first //c.

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5 Responses to From the Trenches: The Great Christmas ’84 Apple //c vs. IBM PCjr Battle

  1. Anon says:

    Ahh, the PCjr – chicklet infrared keyboard, cartridge BASIC and one floppy (if I remember correctly).

    The replacement keyboard was cool at least, and hey – it had color! But you had to keep it near the window as it had a tendency to freeze up when it got too warm. But writing cheesy BASIC games like a marble madness ripoff kept me from finishing my homework many a night.

    Fond memories…

  2. Anonymous says:

    His own personal roll?

  3. Anonymous says:

    roll?

    His role was showing an IBM exec that they needed better standalone demonstrations software.

    He describes the whole thing on the final page of the PDF, and it sounds like he should have earned a consulting fee. Apparently the IBM’s demo software was on ROMs, but they were too valuable to leave unattended and vulnerable to shoplifters. The Apple demo software ran off of a floppy. After showing the effective difference to customers, IBM programmed a demonstration disk of their own over the weekend, and sales rates for the PCjr began to resemble those of the //c.

  4. Blake says:

    :-) I believe the first mention of “roll” in the comments here refers to my having misspelled “role” as “roll” in the original post. It has since been corrected.

    blake

  5. Charles says:

    My favorite bug in the PCjr is that the infrared keyboard sensor would beep when you lit a BIC cigarette lighter. Apparently it sensed the IR from the spark and beeped that it couldn’t interpret it as data.

    Yeah, that was me that wrote the story. The funny thing is, I sold the //c computers I was awarded, but I couldn’t find anyone to buy my PCjrs, so I ended up stuck with them. For a while, I actually ran a 2 modem BBS system off a PCjr with 1 floppy disk drive.

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