COMPUTER IMAGE – THE SILENT KILLER
This is an article I found today, written for the Georgetown Ontario Commodore 64 users group.
By Jeff Goebel Circa 1985
A reputation is a strange thing. Most of us spend much of our lives either trying to create a good one, or erase a bad one. Although reputations are generally specific to each individual, occasionally people confuse reputations with stereotypes. This is especially true in the commercial marketplace, were an image can make or break a company; or both.
Take the Commodore 64 computer for instance. Although you might not realize it, the computer has one of the biggest immages of any computer. Depending on what you want a computer for, this stereotype may work in favor of, or against the Commodore. The way the public views this computer has certainly changed over its two year history.
In the fall of 1982, Commodore shocked the computer industry with the annoucement of their new personal computer; the Commodore 64. The computer industry took immidiate notice. Commodore had already shocked everyone the year before when it released the VIC 20 for under $500 and now it looked like they were doing it again with the first 64K computer under $1000. At that time, the APPLE II computers were standard with 48K or less, but sold for more than double the retail price of $895 for the Commodore 64 and has still not mastered colour.
The new machine sold quite well in the beginning, although there was almost no software for it. It was bought by serious programmers and software designers, because of it’s unique built in operating system, superior SID music synthesizer chip, and 16 colors. Because of it’s basic similarity to the popular PET computer, users groups like TPUG (Toronto Pet Users Group) had no trouble converting PET programs over, to satisfy their continually growing membership.
As time passed, and computer sales steadily increased, more and more commercial software became available. In the beginning, the first titles to appear were conversions from popular APPLE, VIC, ATARI and PET programs. Anything that had done well on other computers. The more software that becames available, the more people bought the computer, and the more Commodore 64 owners there were, the more software was written.
Just as the market was settling down a bit, and other computer companies had lowered their price, and raised their standard models all to 64K, Commodore shocked them all again, by slashing the price on the computer and distributing it through MASS MERCHANDISING outlets like Eatons and Simpsons. Soon followed Zellers, Towers, K-Mart and even Canadian Tire. The computer became available everywhere. Suddenly the market changed.
No longer was this computer a product to be purchased only in computer stores. it could be picked up at a discount store just like a washing machine or stereo. This image of a computer as a regular piece of furniture certainly helped to increase Commodore’s sales. The figures make both the Commodore VIC 20 and the Commodore 64 the biggest selling computers of all time. The computer is cheap and redily available. Custommers who don’t want to shop around can walk in and take one home.
In moving to the MASS MARKET Commodore have seperated themselves from the rest of the competition in the serious computer marketplace. Although the computer is the same it’s image is new. It’s no longer SPECIAL. Many more serious programers don’t even look at a 64 when they are looking for a computer to buy. Although the 64 can almost definatly do anything they require a computer for, they rule the Commodore 64 out claiming; “IT’S A GAME MACHINE”. Ironically, most apple owners will do their best to prove that their computer is as good at games as anything else. The companies know that a strong game or non-game stereotype misses out on the other half of the market.
Serious computer buyers are like serious stereo buyers. People who want top quality “state of the art” equipment don’t often shop at department stores. Even if the same equipment is sold at specialized dealers. It’s always a good idea to shop where there is a certain degree of knowledge behind the counter. In the big chains, you’ve often got to purchase blindly. Your salesperson is often a recruit from the shoe department.
Unfortunately, many big computer dealers are no longer carrying the 64 line anymore. It’s become increasingly difficult for a one store dealer to compete with huge corporations purchasing for 500 departments accross Canada. When the computer itself retails about 9% above dealer cost, it’s simpler to “JOIN THE BANDWAGON”, and badmouth the unit as a “TOY” and try to talk the custommers into buying a $4000 IBM system with a much healthier markup.
It s obvious that Commodore doesn’t really care this goes on. It makes no difference to THEM, why people are buying their computers, just so long as people ARE buying them. So what if they lose a little respect from the so called EXPERTS, respect doesn’t pay the bills. Commodore enjoys being on top in the sales department. They like to keep the market changing. They invented a new LOW end market with the VIC 20, and then the 64 was released and the MIDDLE END computers all dropped a notch closer to becomming the new LOW END. I suspect they’ll soon release another industry shocker and bring the HIGH END computer market prices down as well. The new AMIGA/LORRAINE sounds like it just may do that. Who knows. Perhaps in the year 2000, you may be playing SPACE INVADERS on a 2000 MEG Computer. Naturally, it’ll be reguarded as another Commodore “GAME MACHINE”.
EDIT: Commodore went out of business.