Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Crosley Personal Computers

Before anyone gets excited: no, there are no Crosley computers. But can you imagine if the Crosley Corporation had been around for the personal computer revolution--with Powel or someone with his marketing outlook in charge?

For openers, the Crosley PC would have cost less than any other computer, low price being one of the basic tenets of Powel's school of marketing. And where Apple tried to get people hooked on its computers by giving them to schools, Crosley would have responded by putting his PCs in the hands of high-power celebrities, just like he did with his radios in the 1920s. Photos of the rich and famous with Crosley PCs would show up in newspaper stories and magazine ads.

The computer itself would have been really different. The first Crosley PC would have come with a (small) color monitor. The disk drives would have been on top of the monitor, and the computer would have more knobs and switches than necessary, plus a keyboard with 18 function keys, and a Crosley mouse that you could clip to your wrist and wave (patented by Crosley, of course). All in the interest of giving people more for less--just as with Crosley radios, appliances, and cars--and being different to get attention.

Crosley might have had its own OS early on, but Powel would have seen DOS and Windows as a practical direction. He may have tried to emulate the Mac, just to cover all (marketing) bases. And he might have lost a lot of money and a lawsuit trying to do that. Or, he may have won the suit, as he did with the Armstrong patent.

You can bet the Crosley PC would have been in Macy's and department stores across the country, as well as any shop that sold Crosley radios. With 17,000+ distributors and tens of thousands of dealers already in place, the Crosley PC would have overwhelmed the market.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

3 comments:

Jim Bollman said...

I don't think Powel would have used Dos or Windows. He would have had his own OS and it would have been radio station based with communications with home Pups (cheap PC) by subcarrier on the WLW and other Crosley stations regular broadcast. This would allow Powel to update and improve his offering as needed and gve him control of any advertising stream.

No mouse but an XerVac interface so you could communicate directly from your head.

Jim...

Michael A. Banks said...

I can see the Crosley OS--and the fierce arguments it would have inspired. "It's always updated!" "Crosley's spying on us with the radio!" ha-ha!

By the time PCs came on the scene, exactly what you suggest with subcarriers was possible. And you're right; they would have used it. I should have thought of that, as I'm writing about just such a system that was operating in the 1970s: terminals that were linked by FM sideband.

Xervac interface ... yeah, they never let anything go to waste. As with the Crosley Temporator, the chassis of which was basically from the template for 1920s Crosley cone speakers!
Nice! And home Pups--perfect!
--Mike

Michael A. Banks said...

Almost forgot: the Disk Operating System for a Crosley computer would be named (what else?) "PC-DOS!"
--Mike