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With 42 years of researching and tracking the technology market under my belt, I have observed many of our industry’s major successes and failures. While many shortcomings of the past, like the Apple Lisa, Apple Cube, first-gen MP3 players, and many more, have littered the tech world, it is the successful products most known about and remembered today.
Being a professional market researcher, early on, I looked at one big question we got asked when new technologies or products hit the market. That question was, “Who will be the first buyers of these products?”
This question has raised its head again with the introduction of Apple’s $3500 Vision Pro. And as in the past, the answer is rooted in the tech world’s history.
I started covering PCs in the mid-1970s but began studying them professionally in 1981. My initial interest in PCs came about when Ed Robert’s original Altair PC was created and highlighted on the cover of Popular Mechanics in 1975.
However, there were others who were highly interested in the Altair 8800. Two other consequential people who also loved the Altair 8800 were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. However, Steve Wozniak, who could not afford the Altair 8800, decided to create one of his own. That is how he came up with the Apple I, which led to the Apple II and the birth of the commercial PC.
Another highly influential group in Silicon Valley formed around that time known as the HomeBrew Computer Club.
According to Amanda Curry, writing in the Smithsonian Lemelson Center-
“One forum for Wozniak’s inventive activity as an adult was the Homebrew Computer Club, founded in 1975 in a Menlo Park garage by electronics hobbyists galvanized around the new Altair 8800 personal computer kit. The Altair looked like a box with blinking lights, but it gave the first glimmer of what a personal computer might be, at a time when most computers were enormous, expensive, and inaccessible to the average individual.
Homebrew soon outgrew the garage and met in a Stanford auditorium, where engineers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, activists, and social scientists gathered to share information,…