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Tandy began life in 1919, in the business of leather goods — making it something of a US analogy to Finland's Nokia, which started off making paper. Along with Commodore (another entry in this list), Tandy was at the forefront of the PC industry in its time.
The 1977 TRS-80, sold through Tandy's Radio Shack stores, was one of the first popular personal computers. The company later moved to IBM compatibility, and its PCs' video and sound capabilities led the market in the early 1980s. However, the introduction in the early 1990s of VGA graphics cards and Sound Blaster audio cards killed this competitive advantage. Tandy even moved into notebooks for a time from the end of the 1980s, with products including the 1400 (pictured).
Tandy sold its PC business to AST in 1993, and the new owners soon shut down their newly purchased manufacturing facilities. Radio Shack began to sell other brands of PC, and the Tandy brand disappeared for good in 2000.
Photo credit: Retep412
Acorn was founded in 1978 by Clive Sinclair colleague Chris Curry and his friend Hermann Hauser. The company was actually called CPU Ltd, with Acorn Computer Ltd the trading name for its PC business — CPU also had a consultancy business.
The £80 Acorn Microcomputer was launched in early 1979 for engineering and laboratory use. Four more iterations followed, with the last Acorn rack-mounted product being 1983's System 5. Meanwhile, Sinclair had launched his ZX80 system, prompting Curry to target the home computing market with the Atom (which is unrelated to Intel's processor family of the same name). Acorn then wanted to provide a 16-bit successor to the Atom, and found a willing partner in the BBC.
The BBC was keen on launching a computer literacy drive, as were the Department of Industry and the Department of Education and Science. Throughout the 1980s, the Acorn-made BBC Micro series of microcomputers became a British staple, and Acorn became extremely profitable.
At the same time, Acorn decided to create a business computer using its existing technology. This became the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) project, which now manifests itself in the architecture used in almost all mobile phone processors today. However, Acorn's Electron — a competitor to Sinclair's ZX Spectrum — suffered supply issues in the Christmas 1983 period, and the company was also spending much of its resources on development. Acorn's finances hit a rocky period and, in 1985, the Italian firm Olivetti took a controlling share.
Acorn went on to work alongside Apple on ARM, which was spun off in 1990. It also enjoyed some success in the set-top box market, and had an educational computer joint venture with Apple called Xemplar. However, ARM became much more successful. The Acorn brand disappeared in 1999, as the company became a silicon developer for digital TVs.
Photo credit: Stuart Brady
It's easy to forget how important GeoCities was, in the days before WordPress and social networks. Founded in 1994 as Beverley Hills Internet (BHI), the original version of the service was a web directory that let users place their own pages in virtual 'cities', corresponded to their subject matter.
Community elements such as chat were added, and at the end of 1995 the service became known as GeoCities — previously it was called GeoPages. Adverts were first placed on people's pages in 1997. Later that year, GeoCities got its millionth user. In 1998 the company went public, and the following year it was the third-most-visited site on the internet.
Not long before the dotcom bubble burst, GeoCities was taken over in 1999 by Yahoo for $3.57bn. The new owners instituted new terms of service, claiming ownership over all content put on GeoCities pages. Users left in droves, and Yahoo performed a dramatic U-turn. The service was unprofitable and stayed so, despite Yahoo's 2001 attempt at a launching a paid premium version of the service. Yahoo closed GeoCities down in 2009, and it remains one of the prime examples of a popular service failing due to its inability to make money.
Screenshot: Internet Archive Wayback Machine