[Coladam] A difficult and simple question for adamites

Ron Mitchell bytehacker at tallcedarskennels.com
Fri Nov 19 05:41:14 CET 2010


My perspective on this.

"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door."

"T'aint necessarily so."

The whole thing started at Christmas 1983. My son got a Christmas  
Colecovision from Grandad. When that arrived, we knew that there would  
be an upgrade available that would turn it into a home computer.

About October or November of 1984, we began hunting. Dad's instruction  
to me was to go and find out what home computer we wanted, get a price  
and get back him.

At the time, there seemed to be at least three choices. The Apple II,  
the Commodore 64, and the Coleco Adam. Given that we already had the  
Colecovision, the Adam seemed to be a logical choice. Both the C64 and  
the Apple, similarly equipped were going at about twice the price  
($1500. versus $700.) Then we began to hear from various sales people  
about the flaws of the Adam. One salesman told me that his store had  
sole 12 Adams. 11 of them had been returned. I won't belabor that  
history because it's fairly common knowledge.

In late November of that year, a local Ottawa hardware chain ran an ad  
in the Ottawa Citizen advertising the ADAM $389. They claimed it was  
the latest revision. We bought.  That was then, this is now.

In the interim, I must have read just about every criticism leveled at  
the ADAM, and at Coleco business methods. A few statements stuck in  
mind (roughly paraphrased):

1) At the time Coleco produced the ADAM, they were unprepared for such  
an entry into the consumer electronics world of home computers. They  
were under capitalized and not prepared to deal with the bumps and  
scrapes that other larger companies managed to weather out. At that  
time, as I understand it, all new computers suffered bugs, problems,  
and recalls to one degree or another. Larger companies with deeper  
pockets managed to weather the storms, honour the warranties, and  
learn from their mistakes. Coleco, then a very large and successful  
company, did not survive the onslaught of a white hot competitive  
market, and the super-heated expectations of new users.

2) Some us us, prone to support conspiracy theories, heard and  
believed that Coleco - a toy company - had created a home computer so  
advanced and out-in-front for its time, that bigger interests (IBM -  
Microsoft- Hewlett Packard ??) got a little paranoid and decided to  
muscle Coleco out of the market. Adam, good as it was, had no chance.

3) To some extent, Coleco's own business methods killed the ADAM. They  
wanted complete control over the machine, software hardware and all.  
Developers were therefore had little access to the information they  
needed to develop professional level software for the ADAM. The result  
was that there was little software available when ADAM hit the market.

4) At the time ADAM came to market, the computer industry was anything  
but settled. Everything from hardware to operating systems and  
accessories had been under development for some time, but had not  
achieved the degree of consumer acceptance that began somewhere in the  
early to mid 80's. In my office then there was one IBM XT for use by  
16 people. That unit set our budget back about $3000. After 1985 that  
changed, and changed so quickly that manufacturers without deep  
pockets just couldn't keep up. The adage, "build a better mousetrap  
and the world will beat a path to your door," didn't hold.

In the mid to late 80's everyone was a programmer. We had a lot of  
fun, and ADAM was a part of all that. We felt that we were on the  
leading edge of something. The 75 members of the ADAM User Friendly  
Group in Ottawa circa 1986 were about as dedicated a bunch of computer  
users as I've ever met anywhere (before or since). We all read the  
criticism of ADAM at the time, and we all were like, "Nah! They don't  
know what they're talking about."

Hence Daniel's question.

ADAM was my first computer, and my son's first computer. For both of  
us it was an entry into a world that was completely new. For both of  
us there were the challenges of making it work. There were the  
challenges of programming, the challenges of hardware maintenance, and  
the newsletters whose authors were always on the same page - hopefully  
a little further ahead, but not much.

Then we met our fellow ADAMites in Ottawa and in the wider world. They  
had their  arguments, their debates, but through ADAM I've met as fine  
a group of people as I could ever hope to meet. That to me, is a huge  
part of what keeps us together.

The computer world passed us by too quickly. Users who joined us later  
when there was Windows, graphics, MP3's, processor speed and tons of  
memory, would have absolutely no idea the feelings of excitement that  
Guy Cousineau conveyed to us when he managed to save 33 bytes of code  
in one of his programs. When Dr. Richard Drushel found ways of  
enhancing SmartBASIC that essentially utilized existing space more  
efficiently,  an good number of us failed to grasp what he had  
accomplished. All you have to do is read the foreword in his docs to  
SmartBASIC 1.x, and you can feel the satisfaction he got from owning  
an ADAM.

So for the rest of us,  what's the attraction? I have a suspicion that  
this topic is a that university students will write papers on, if they  
haven't done so already.  I don't think anybody really understands why  
we still meet every year. I don't think anyone has the slightest idea  
why we take great pleasure in "messing with " a computer that was  
technologically outdated almost before it hit the market. But then  
some of us still think the 1957 Chevy was the sexiest car ever  
produced, and that the DC3 remains the world's greatest aircraft. Let  
the newer and faster equipment do its thing -  I enjoy that too....  
but......

Like the Chevy and the DC3, the ADAM generates memories for us that  
nothing new will ever replace. And that's why we hang onto it with a  
passion.

And at the time ADAM came out, it was a MUCH better mousetrap.

Ron Mitchell









On 17-Nov-10, at 1:46 PM, Daniel Bienvenu wrote:

> Question : In your words, elaborate why do you think that Coleco  
> ADAM is a good computer despite the bad reputation it seems to have?
>
>
> It appears that one of the most hated vintage computers (that I'm  
> aware of) is unfortunately the Coleco Adam. At the opposite,  
> Commodore 64 is one of the most beloved vintage computers.
>
>
> My personal experience with the Coleco ADAM isn't enough to tell why  
> adamites do annual meetings around this home computer... except that  
> at one time they were ADAM users, while many people consider this  
> computer to be the direct cause of Coleco Industries bankruptcy.
>
>
> I will probably get a respond like "SmartLOGO is the best LOGO  
> program and a good example of why Coleco ADAM is a good computer",  
> but I need more than that, something more elaborate.
>
>
> Daniel
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Coladam mailing list
> Coladam at adamcon.org
> http://adamcon.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/coladam
>



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