[SIGCIS-Members] Computer sales records

thomas.haigh at gmail.com thomas.haigh at gmail.com
Tue Sep 22 15:20:14 PDT 2020



I've been emailing back and forth with Allan and David, and we appear to
have converged on a sense that a 400 lb roll might plausibly been around 4
feet in diameter and that photos of the SSEC show space for rolls of at
least 3 feet in diameter, maybe as much as 4. So I am inclined to credit the
testimony of Grosch as being at most a small exaggeration. If you look at
one of the classic SSEC images at
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/ssec.html, the tape rolls are
the three large round things at the top of the machine on the back wall.
Each punch was directly above 10 tape readers, and it appears that the tape
emerging from the punch could be threaded through all 10 readers to create a
buffer memory with 10 chances to read each piece of data.


So with that and the hard drive platter taken care of, here is my next batch
of candidate records. I am trying a "power of 10" approach to computer sales
(or in the early days, leasing) records with the first machine to hit each
milestone. This has the advantage that I don't need to try to figure out
exactly with of the many estimates of CBM 64 and iPhone 6 sales are
accurate, just satisfy myself that they were the first to exceed the


Installed base in excess of.

first achieved by.

during sales years.


IBM 701



Probably IBM 650



IBM 650



IBM 1401



TRS-80 Model 1






CBM 64



Apple iPhone 6



Points of possible uncertainty: 


1: was the IBM 650 the first to 100 as well as to 1,000? Seems likely.

2: At the time that Commodore claimed the VIC 20 as the first million
selling computer, claims were also made for the ZX81 as the first computer
to sell a million. If anyone wants to make a case for Sinclair I will

3: In case any Apple fans are about to speak up, re the idea that the TRS-80
was first to sell 100K, let me explain my logic preemptively. I am going
from a combination of this advertisement from Computer World 18 Oct, 1979
celebrating 100,000 sold: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=UaKuzwnEiRMC
&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false and
these plausible seeming estimates of Apple II sales by model
w-many-apple-ii-computers-were-sold), which suggest only 65K sales of the
original Apple II. As Radio Shack must have written the copy somewhat prior
to the magazine date, say in mid-September it is had to imagine that the
Apple II Plus, introduced in June 1979, sold 35K in its first three months
to make up the difference (actually more than 35K sales would be needed, to
cover however many of the original model were sold between Sept 1979 and its
withdrawal in 1981). Apple II sales did not peak until well into the 1980s,
so although the Apple IIe eventually sold millions I believe the VIC 20 got
to the one million milestone first.


Best wishes,



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