The IBM PC in 1981 was rapidly followed by a rich ecosystem of computers with x86 CPUs running MS-DOS, not all of which were compatible at the hardware level.

There is a list of some early MS-DOS computers at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandy_2000#History (go down a page or so). I'm interested in sales figures, though; I get the impression some of those machines were much more popular than others. For example, the DEC Rainbow is a notable example, but is it often mentioned because it sold many units, or just because it came from DEC, a company already well-known for other reasons?

Which were the most popular of the early MS-DOS computers apart from the IBM PC? To be definite, let's say 'early' means released before the end of 1985.

By 'popular' I mean, specifically, number of units sold worldwide. The ideal would be to have sources for sales figures, if those can be found.

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    @Raffzahn The reason why they died out is perhaps a matter of opinion, but that was just an observation on my part. For the question, I'm asking which ones sold the most units. That's a matter of objective fact. – rwallace Jun 28 '20 at 19:46
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    Worldwide popularity, in the USA, or elsewhere? This varied a lot by regions of the world. – John Dallman Jun 28 '20 at 20:32
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    I’m voting to close this question because it’s a list question. – Stephen Kitt Jun 28 '20 at 20:46
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    @Raffzahn Fair enough, removed opinionated statement, letting the question stand simply about most sold. Excellent answer, btw! – rwallace Jun 29 '20 at 0:03
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    I’m voting to close this question because it's a list question -- see Stephen's link. – Michael Graf Jul 3 '20 at 18:08

While it's hard to come by numbers, there are several non clone candidates that sold quite well:

  • Sirius 1/Victor 9000 1981-1984- Outsold the IBM-PC in Europe by far not at least due better hardware and a headstart of almost a year. It got screwed by company politics in the US ignoring the European success.
  • Sanyo MBC-550 1982-1986
  • Siemens PC-D 1982-1986
  • NEC PC98 family 1982-2004 - Last complete new model in 1992, more than 18 millions sold, the essential Japanese PC. It had it's own fellowship of compatible machines effectively making it the PC standard in far east. (*1)
  • TI Professional Computer and Portable PPC 1983-?
  • Tandy 2000 1983-1988 - Successful in the US, not much outside.
  • Olivetti M24 1983-1989 (also repackaged as AT&T 6300 and Xerox 6060) - Quite considerable sales in Europe. For example the defacto standard for everyone working in accounting and taxes in Germany during most of the 80s way into the 1990s.
  • TA Alphatronic P50/P60 1985-1990 - 80186 based office system.
  • Amstrad/Schneider PC1512 1986-1990 - Quite successful in the UK and Germany.
  • Fujitsu FM-Towns 1989-1997 - A Japanese household name.

and not at least

  • IBM's own PS/2 series.

Some machines with lesser, but still noteworthy sales:

There are many more that had some impact, but hard to judge - also while being somewhat Euro/US-centric, it leaves out many developments outside the UK and Germany.

If one really wants to go ahead and make up something like 'waves', this this would support three rough categories:

  1. Early systems predating or parallel to the introduction of the PC. If not cut due internal issues, most vanished in the mid 1980s
  2. x86/MS-DOS machines introduced after the IBM-PC offering considerable enhancements, if at all only in part compatible, most of them rather short lived.
  3. Business and home machines developed after the IBM-AT, often in some way compatible, but still different enough to need custom versions of most games/applications.

Bottom line: Several less than fully compatible machines/families enjoyed huge success, past the claimed 'early ones', some designed way after the PC-AT, which essentially defined the standard.

The holy grail of 100% compatibility was for most parts only present in the US. And even there some, like the Tandy 2000 could hold up. I'd still say it was mostly a sales argument for a few companies, carried by willing journalists.

*1 - Here a little indicatorhow popular the PC98 is/was in Japan: A new mini-PCI-E card, for Laptops, that plays the PC98 startup sound when booting.

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    I used the Victor 9000 pretty extensively and liked it quite a bit. Great graphics (for the time) made it a great coding/development environment (i.e.,: a text editor on it looked great). Used it at Alsys SA on development team for an Ada compiler for some Bull machine (I forget which). – davidbak Jun 28 '20 at 23:03
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    We had a couple Victor 9000s at the office as well. The specific one in our office had AutoCad, a digitizer pad, and a plotter. The other thing it had was a "screen pen" (for lack of a better word). There was some "fabric" on the screen that combined with an attached pen, could be used essentially as a mouse. I wouldn't drag with it, it was a bit rough, but you could certainly use it to position cursors and corners and such. From old-computers.com: "There is also an optional light-pen, which is in fact a touch pen using resistive mesh on the CRT." This, too, was integrated with AutoCad. – Will Hartung Jun 28 '20 at 23:10
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    To be honest, the most interesting thing it was used for was an engineer was using the digitizer to collect points on scale drawings of aircraft from Janes to work on radar profiles. On screen in AutoCad, it was just a bunch of lines, but it was a great way to get the raw data. – Will Hartung Jun 28 '20 at 23:11
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact True. Then again, the question does state "The IBM PC [...], not all of which were compatible at the hardware level." so it's about the specific product, not the company (which otherwise would be rather senseless).. – Raffzahn Jun 29 '20 at 7:11
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact yeah, the whole topic is way more differentiate than it appears.Not at least due the broad use of the terms PC, IBM, DOS and compatible. – Raffzahn Jun 29 '20 at 14:52

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