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  • Interesting Factoids about Tech Underdogs

    Posted on November 23rd, 2009 schmeeve No comments

    Was looking at this list of The 20 Greatest Tech Underdogs of All Time from Technologizer, and while it’s as subjective as any other list, there’s a few interesting factoids book-ending a few of the items:

    #17. Digital Research GEM

    What it was: A graphical environment, debuting in 1985, that provided a Mac-like windowing interface for DOS and the Atari ST.

    What made it an underdog: All Digital Research products were underdogs to all vaguely comparable Microsoft products, for one thing. Also, Apple sued Digital Research over the PC version of GEM’s more-than-passing resemblance to the Mac, forcing a new version of GEM that was less Maclike and probably less appealing.

    Random factoid: Like all defunct operating systems and environments, GEM isn’t completely defunct. It eventually ended up as an open-source application dubbed FreeGEM, available in distributions such as OpenGEM. Windows 7 it’s not, but it’s still capable of running on ridiculously underpowered old computers. As far as I can tell, though, things have been pretty quiet in GEMland over the last few years.

    #13. Sonic the Hedgehog

    Random factoid: Sonic is most likely the only video game character ever to have a mammalian protein named in his honor.

    #11. FireWire:

    Random factoid: According to Wikipedia, the Space Shuttle uses FireWire 800 “to monitor debris (foam, ice) which may hit the vehicle during launch.”

    #8. WordPerfect:

    Random factoid: In 2008, WordPerfect cofounder Bastian gave $1 million to fight California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 while his cofounder Ashton gave $1 million to support it.

    #7. Apple Macintosh

    Random factoid: During the brief period in the mid-1990s that Apple Computer licensed other companies to make Mac-compatible computers, systems from companies such as Power Computing were under-underdogs, destined to stand in the shadow both of Apple’s own machines and of the Windows PCs whose sales dwarfed those of any Mac.

    Now, I owned many an Atari ST — 520, 1040, 520STE, Falcon, TT030 — most of which still sit in my storage room. They all used GEM. I wrote my first “commercial” software on them during a Christmas break in high school. GEM got better over the years, but never even achieved multitasking (some cooperative via desktop add-ons ala Mac’s Control Panels, the Atari name of which escapes me at the moment.) By the time Atari computers faded in the early nineties, it was clear Mac OS and Windows would go on to dominate.

    I also have a Power Computing machine, a PowerTower Pro 225, again, in storage. I have a few of their iconic ads in poster form which I have yet to hang on the wall of my office.

    You can see the rest of the list yourself. Firefox, Zune, AMD? Um, no so much underdogs as simply competitors.