[vcf-midatlantic] Random thought: VCF East clones exhibit

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Fri Aug 9 23:50:56 EDT 2019

> William Sudbrink  
> Wed Aug 7 11:38:28 EDT 2019  

 > When does cloning stop and an industry start?
> When did ISA bus PCs stop being clones?  
> Are all S-100 bus systems Altair clones?  
 > [are all SS-50 boxes SWTPC 6800 clones?]

Bill, the answer on S-100 and SS-50 is, "they are an industry", they are 
not clones, they are bus-compatibles. That's a good call I think.

One might make an exception for the IMSAI as an "Altair clone". I do, on 
my Web site, I make a case about it.

.. but what also happened is that half a dozen or so "Altair compatible" 
board companies (IMSAI could hav been one) collectively decided to stop 
calling their products "Altair compatible" and started calling them 
"S-100 compatible". They settled on a bus that was not 100% Altair 
original. Later they created the IEEE-696 (Compupro) bus which was a 
great improvement. Hundreds of companies big and small made S-100 boards 
and systems. Few of THEM are "Altair clones" but some copied some 
other's boards.

The SS-50 was also a consensus among makers of SWTPC-compatible boards, 
I don't know the details. They were fairly interchangeable early on, but 
boards got MUCH better and differentiated later on. Dozens of SS-50 

Keep in mind: these were early "hobby computer" bus architectures. They 
weren't "invented" to be standards for other companies. They weren't 
products of big-name corporations. They *created* an industry.

STDbus, Multibus, DEC-bused, other "industrial" bussed computers: also 
had their cloned or design-copied product competitors. These came from 
big companies: Pro-LOG, Intel, DEC. Each bus has its own history. These 
weren't hobby systems at the time; they have become hobby systems.

On the IBM-PC. I'm no expert except I lived through the era. There's a 
history of 1) making ISA-bus compatible cards. 2) Making MS-DOS based 
computers (some before the IBM PC) that ran many or some but not all IBM 
PC programs 3) Computers that looked a lot like IBM PCs and had a mobo 
with ISA slots, but were maybe 80% IBM PC compatible (whatever that 
means) like say Heath/Zenith.

Calling most of these "clones" would not be satisfactory because they 
weren't called "clones" at the time. Percent of compatibility, was a 
thing, once.

And then there were the Tiawan made PCs (or at least mobos) which very 
very closely copied the IBM-PC models. They were called, within the 
industry, at the time,  "PC clones". That's definitive.

Less definitive, companies like Compaq. They got ahead of IBM at times. 
Clones? Enhhh.... kind of misses the point. "Compatibles with better or 
worse features."

Before you start posting counter-arguments, let me explain where I'm going.

These considerations aren't written on clay tablets. They are part of a 
discussion. An exhibit is also a kind of discussion. So I think these 
are the sorts of things one could exhibit and represent, if one wants to 
have an exhibit about quote clones endquote. The exhibits and the 
exhibitors and the attendees, can make the arguments.

So what I said above, doesn't have to be absolutely correct. It just 
stakes out territories.

Also: I take Evan's point, and decades-later copies of various vintage 
computers are not "clones". At least they are not vintage clones. They 
are modern replicas made to exactly represent vintage originals. I think 
that's a different discussion.

Herb Johnson

Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT info

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