Well it's been a time since I was on the site. I was busy retiring from one career and starting a new one with a penetration testing company.
But that's not why I'm writing. Because of the overwhelming generosity and kindness of fellow Applefritter neighbor Robert Fantinatto, my U-2200 lives again with a genuine Unitron keyboard. I have a few video matters to troubleshoot, such as jiggly output and the bell not sounding through the keyboard, but other than that it lives! The keyboard was in great shape to start and looks even better after restoration with retro-brighting the keys and case. Frankly it was in such good shape, glueing a couple parts on the top and cleaning was all it needed.
Here is a photo of the final unit.
Super cool clone!
Yeah, I want that.
One of the great things about the Apple ][+, and one of the things that Apple hated, is that because it was created from standard TTL components, it didn't really have any specialized parts or ASICs and was easy to clone. And so it was, extensively. Even when they added logic to extend it, it tended to be minimal extensions, again keeping it relatively easy to clone. The same of course was true of the IBM PC because it was mostly made from Intel, Motorola, and standard memory chips. On the other hand, I can't think of any clones at the time for the Commodore 64 or Atari 400/800 which had specialized video and sound chips.
That looks extremely solid. How much does it weigh?
I find it fascinating that they managed to squeeze in the word "BEL" above the "G", but then just gave up for the at-sign over the P and caret over the N.
That...and the fact tht the C64 / VIC sold for rock bottom prices, making cloning a certain money losing venture.
Commodore lost money on a lot of C64 and VIC-20 units they sold, as well as did TI on 99/4a and Atari on 400/800. They were engaged in a huge price war which Commdore "won" as a pyrrhic victory. TI droppped out early, but Atari eventually went bankrupt and Commodore did too, although it took a little longer.
So it would have been hard to make money cloning a money losing product... The Atari and TI, etc... none of those had a huge enough market share to warrant the effort to clone them anyway, even if they'd been expensive enough to have margin.
The reason Apple and IBM were profitable to clone was that they were premium priced machines. It was possible to build a clone, sometimes even with extras for less money. And you could usually do it with decent quality, albeit, some of the generic clones did cut some corners on materials and/or workmanship.
One of the few budget machines that was cloned that I can think of was the Dragon clone of the TRS-80 CoCo. And I think that may have been more due to the dynamics of UK/European markets. Also not sure how profitable that was given you don't see a lot of Dragons around. The CoCo wasn't a massive seller to begin with.
Software Janitor wrote:
Your analysis of the 8-bit market dynamics makes sense to me.
I'm not sure that the Dragon was a "clone" in the usual sense, although I admit I don't know much about it. Unlike Apple, Radio-Shack/Tandy tended to purchase the right to manufacture a product from another company and then slapped their name on it. For example, the TRS-80 Model 100 was a rebadged Kyocera Kyotronic-80 with very few changes in the ROM. There were "clones" of the Model 100, but only in the sense that Kyocera also licensed their blueprint to other companies: to NEC in Japan for their PC-8201 and to Olivetti in Italy for their M10.
While it wouldn't have been hard to clone the TRS-80 Color Computer, since it was extremely similar to the reference design Motorola released for the 6809 chip, I wonder about the software compatibility. The Dragon seemed to have many of the same games as were advertised in the Radio-Shack catalogs, even with the same wording, which makes me think they had to have been in partnership. But, I can also totally see Microsoft licensing the CoCo BASIC ROM to Dragon without getting Radio-Shack's approval, in a similar way to how they sold MS DOS and GW BASIC for the clones of IBM's PC.
Radio Shack's computers would have all been pretty easy to clone from the hardware standpoint given that they are all made with off the shelf chips. The CoCo is a pretty obvious combination of Motorola parts, the 6809 and the 6847 video chip . As yuo mentioned, pretty close to the Motorola reference design example. Their Z80 based machines, Model 1 to Model 4 are also pretty much built with off the shelf parts. Unlike Commodore who had their own in-house chip designers and fab (MOS, later CSD) and Atari which had Jay Miner's team designing custom chips, Radio Shack didn't really design or fab any of the chips in their 8 bit machines. Radio Shack was really more of a retail marketing company than a design or manufacturing company.
I don't know a lot about the Dragon either, I know they can be made to run Microware OS9 like the CoCo, and it was my understanding that they were at least somewhat compatible. From what I've read they both use a similar BASIC and pure BASIC programs can be loaded and run on them but memory arrangement is different to where assembler/compiler written software needs to be assembled/compiled specificly for each one.