[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Now It’s a Tough Choice

November 1st, 2010 by Benj Edwards

Popular Computing October 1984 Cover - IBM PCjr vs. Apple IIc - Now it's a tough choice.Shades of Tasha Yar

If you were shopping for a home PC in 1984, you were bound to face this decision: should I get an Apple IIc or the flashy new IBM PCjr?

From late 1983 to early 1984, the press hyped the PCjr to absurd proportions, which set IBM’s consumer machine up for a mighty fall not too long after its introduction (IBM withdrew it from the market within a year of its release). The Apple IIc, on the other hand, was one of Apple’s more successful products of the era. Apple won the battle, but IBM won the war with the PC line overall.

(…or did they?)

[ From Personal Computing, October 1984, front cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: It’s 1984, and you can only buy one computer: an IBM PCjr or an Apple IIc. Which one will you choose and why?

16 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Now It’s a Tough Choice”

  1. Stan Says:

    Our house went with option #3, the Coleco Adam, which meant I was jealous of everyone else *except* that one poor bastard with a PCjr.

    The Adam did have a few things going for it, including an extremely nice keyboard and a legendary implementation of LOGO that fully supported the Coleco’s graphics and sound hardware.

  2. technotreegrass Says:

    Apple IIc, only because I grew up with them at school and played SO MANY great games on it, and had a great lineup of fun educational games.

  3. lilimist Says:

    You might remember me from previous comments b*tching about my old man selling my C64 and getting a PCjr. /Troy McClure voice.
    (In 1986, and an epson model no less.) 😉

    So, unless the thing came packaged along with instructions and ingredients for making a molotov cocktail for the purposes of a little explosive catharsis (PCjr go boom!), I’m going with the Apple.

  4. EdNixxon Says:

    My family bought the IIc. Plenty of software, nice peripheral devices (we had the external drive, modem, tv interface & epson dot matrix printer). Don’t forget the portability! This was a great machine and lasted me until i was away in college for a semester and my future and future ex-brother-in-law plugged in the external disk drive while the machine was running. Smoked the I/O chip on the main board. Never got it fixed and went to PC in 92. Never bought another Apple until my MacBook this year. (The MacBook is phenomenal!)

  5. SirPaul Says:

    That is a tough choice. If it were the PCjr versus the IIe, then hands-down, I’d go for the IIe. More than enough expansion slots for my needs. On the other hand, IIRC, the IIc does have most of the optional expansions most people got for the IIe.. I’d probablly have to go with the IIc then, mostly because of of the additional features, plus the fact that I wouldn’t trust the PCjr as a doorstop.

  6. anachostic Says:

    I had an Apple //c and I felt cheated. It had none of the expandability of the IIe. I later had a Franklin Ace 2100, which had expandability, but – if you can believe this – did not have a Disassembler. You could break into the monitor anytime with ctrl-closed-apple-reset (a hacker’s dream), but you couldn’t display any disassembled Assembly code.

    Going back in time as I was then, I would probably still buy the //c because that’s what I knew. But to have the chance to start over knowing what I know now, I’d be all over the PCjr and learning Assembly on that.

  7. Xyzzy Says:

    Definitely the IIc… My father had one, and it got heavy use most nights — it had basically every kind of program we could possibly need (database, banking, an excellent WYSIWYG word processor, games) and many were in much higher quality than we would have had in DOS. It seemed like such a horrible shame when Jobs led Apple to undercut the IIgs/II Series to death.

  8. Daniel Says:

    I had a PCjr – bought it myself. My father worked for IBM, and to this day he refuses to consider anything from Apple.

    I liked the PCjr, and wouldn’t have known what to do with an Apple II. I never had or used an “Apple” computer – I was a PC-DOS, NeXT, and Linux user until I switched to OS X for good in 2001.

  9. Daniel Says:

    Oh, and… I always liked Tasha Yar. 🙂

  10. Cozfer Says:

    My first computer was an IBM PCjr, and I actually liked it and learned quite a bit. A couple friends had a IIc and I had plenty of opportunity at school to use them…and I’d have to say I’d still favor the PCjr (especially since Kings Quest looked so nice, and in color)

  11. PS3D Says:

    Apple IIc. It’s more compatible, less crippled.


  12. Bob Says:

    I’d have gone with the Apple IIc for sure, as there was already a massive amount of software, peripherals, etc, etc. Sure, it was a 1984 vintage lugable and less expandable than the desktop versions, but it was certainly a lot less crippled than the non-starter that was the PCjr. That said, I’m from the UK, so it wasn’t like either of these machines were available here back then in great numbers. So we got an Acorn BBC Model B, which was amazing.

    @EdNixxon Was smoking the IO chip cited in the divorce? Cos that’s grounds for divorce right there, ;D

    @Daniel A moratorium on Apple machines? Even when they went powerPC? Even when they switched from the G4 to the G5?

  13. Ant Says:

    Apple //c for me. I just got rid of it a a few years ago. 😛

  14. Justin Says:

    Option 3, the Coleco ADAM, is not a bad choice. It came with a word processor in rom and SmartBASIC on cassette. If you wanted additional programs, there was plenty to choose from; spreadsheet, database, modem communications, address book, CP/M, typing tutor, stock market monitor, LOGO, tax preparation programs and that’s just by Coleco! There’s a ton more by 3rd party developers! So when the big one hits, you know, the BIG VIRUS, which takes out all the Windows, Mac & Linux based systems, I’ll be turning my ADAM on and configuring my ADAMLink modem to get in touch with the other 5 computers left working in the world. 🙂 I know, I just silly!

  15. mousemoon Says:


    I have a PC XT that unsurprisingly has never been on-line. I might be one of the five stations reporting in 🙂

  16. Daniel Thomas MacInnes Says:

    Given that bad suit, I’m guessing she made the wrong choice.

    Back in 1984, I was just a kid, and the IBM PC was the most boring thing imaginable. I’d much rather have an Atari 800. Four-player MULE is far more interesting than…actually, I never knew what the heck “Lotus 1-2-3” even was. And we had Apples at school.

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