The Commodore-Amiga was offered for sale to home users from 1985 (original A1000 in North America) until 1996, when Escom stopped selling the A1200. By 1996, Apple was selling PowerPC-based Macs for home users, and the other major home computer manufacturers from the 1980s had left the industry, I think. Obviously, by 1996, the vast majority of new home computer systems were Windows PC clones.

My question is whether there were any legacy processor (not Intel, Intel clone, or PowerPC) retrocomputers that were actively marketed and sold to home users beyond the end of Amiga 1200 sales in 1996?

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    I wouldn't call a 68k based computer in 1996 "retro". :-) – cbmeeks Jun 16 '17 at 17:50
  • I don't know what you mean. I'm saying the Amiga is "retro" now, and asking if there are any later machines that used "retro" processors (not x86 or Power). – Brian H Jun 16 '17 at 17:52
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    in other words, this question is asking "what was the last home computer to be sold before Intel-based PC's and Macintoshes achieved a combined market share of 100% in the home?" The assumption behind this question is that today there are only 2 architectures to choose from, but before it was reduced to just 2 there must have been more, so what was #3? – Ken Gober Jun 16 '17 at 23:05
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    You can class the Raspberry Pi as a non Intel home computer, so the answer is 2017 and counting. – JeremyP Jun 18 '17 at 10:04
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    @cbmeeks The question's definition of "legacy" is somewhat suspect. The x86 archtiecture is definitely legacy, but the question arbitrarily excludes it from consideration. – JeremyP Jun 22 '17 at 8:47
up vote 23 down vote accepted

If you include clones, home retro computers were sold far into the 90's, including the Milan (Atari ST compatible, 1997-1999) and various Amiga compatible machines. There were also lots of ZX Spectrum clones produced in East Europe until the late 90's. However, if it's just about systems supported by their original manufacturer, the answer is likely:

Acorn.

Acorn introduced the Archimedes in 1987, replacing it with the Risc PC a few years later. Acorn sold the rights to Castle Technology in 1998, which still supported and sold RiscPC and RiscOS until 2003. The machine was supported and manufactured until 2003 with enthusiasts later running Risc OS on the Raspberry PI.

  • Welcome to Retrocomputing Stack Exchange. Thanks for the answer. I always thought that Risc PC was discontinued much earlier and that Risc OS was the only thing supported until 2003. (I was wrong, it seems!) You might want to look at the tour if you haven't already. – wizzwizz4 Jun 17 '17 at 8:31
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    Clarification: Acorn sold the rights to Castle Technology in 1998, which still supported and sold RiscPC and RiscOS until 2003. – user2369305 Jun 17 '17 at 9:45
  • Thanks for the clarification. You might want to pick a name for yourself - I can see you becoming a contributor and it'll be hard to keep track of another user nnn. – wizzwizz4 Jun 17 '17 at 11:25
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    My only issue with this is that the original question was phrased as being in terms of legacy microprocessors, which the ARM definitely isn't if the contemporaneous x86 isn't. Moreso in the RISC PC which bumped there architecture up to the StrongARM, introducing minor compatibility considerations. – Tommy Jun 17 '17 at 14:51
  • I believe the original WebTV would qualify too. I believe it was introduced in 1996 and ran from a MIPS compatible processor. – cbmeeks Jun 21 '17 at 17:43

If we are looking back to home computers, maybe the Q60 was the last real "Home computer clone", a Sinclair QL on steroids using a Motorola 68060 CPU in a PC case using ISA slots. It was first available 1999. I don't know how long exactly it was sold, but I seem to recall well into 2005.

Its home page is still up (although it is named after its predecessor, the Q40 that used a 68040 CPU) in case you want to learn something about this really rare "home computer".

Apart from running an extended version of QDOS, the QL's native operating system, the Q60 could also run its predecessor, SMSQ/ and 68k Linux.

I do, however, think that the classic home computer has never died - Still today, it was proven to be possible to get well over 700kGBP funding for a project like the Spectrum Next on Kickstarter - This will, once released, obviously be the next "last Home Computer".

Some elaborations on the Sinclair QL history as comments (somehow) seem to ask for them:

After the demise of the Sinclair QL which wasn't going to be continued by Amstrad starting from the Sinclair buy 1986, QL owners were kind of orphaned from any backing by suppliers.

Some of the peripherals suppliers jumped in and continued to produce first expansion boards, then, after the original supply of new computers made by Sinclair and cheaply thrown onto the market by Amstrad dried out, continually moved towards supplying complete QL compatible computers. Some examples (in roughly chronological order, and only the most important developments):

  1. Miracle Systems Gold/SuperGold Card: Produced during the Sinclair/Amstrad transition phase - A plug-in card to replace most of the original QL except video and peripherals. Had a 68000 CPU and 2MB of memory (GoldCard) or a 68020 and 4MB RAM (Super GoldCard). Both copied and runtime-patched the original QL ROM into fast RAM, mainly for speed and circumventing any copyright issues (Amstrad initially threatened to sue anyone who would copy Sinclair intellectual property)
  2. Sandy QXT-640 Was a complete computer built from original QL motherboards and Sandy components into a new case.
  3. CST Thor A QL compatible range of computers, initially only an original QL built into a new case, then expanded with a 68020 CPU (but retaining the 8-bit data-bus), later the Thor 16 that was a completely new development based on the 68000. Last produced in Denmark by Dansoft, their biggest customer was Ritzaus, a news agency. Used Argos, a (claimed) re-engineering of QDOS for copyright issues, how much of it was just stolen and how much was actually CST property was never really worked out.
  4. Miracle QXL card - A PC-ISA co-processor card that had a 68040 and 4/8MB of memory as the core and used PC peripherals (video, disk, keyboards, other peripherals). This used SMSQ/E, a complete re-development (and major enhancement) of QDOS by the original QDOS developers.
  5. Q40/Q60 a described above

Today, QLs live on in the form of quite a number of emulators, the MiST FPGA platform, and a number of smaller community-based projects supplying hardware. There is also a number of forums that host the still active user community.

  • Interesting. It seems to be a motherboard-only/kit-based clone computer aimed at QL fans. Not really a boxed, sold-at-retail-outlets, "plug it in and play" sort of "home computer". – Brian H Jun 16 '17 at 22:36
  • @BrianH Nope. Was a "real", ready-to-run Mini-Tower computer. The mainboard-only was actually an option. D&D Systems in the UK built them. I have one of them in my basement ;) – tofro Jun 16 '17 at 22:38
  • Ok. Didn't really get that from the existing web page. So my understanding about the QL was that it wasn't popular/successful. Also Sinclair sold off to Amstrad, who I assume wanted nothing to do with the QL. So how did the QL manage to have a 21-year run (1984-2005) with no backer? Gotta be an interesting story... – Brian H Jun 16 '17 at 23:22
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    With the Q40/Q60, I doubt that more than several 100 were built. However, there is still an active scene behind the QL – tofro Jun 17 '17 at 7:13

Slightly disagreeing with the accepted answer because the questioner asked about computers that were built around legacy processor architectures and I wouldn't classify the ARM as such, I propose the Amstrad PCW range.

Sold only for home use, in a conventional desktop form, its final form was not discontinued until 1998. Although it had lost software compatibility with the older models, and with CP/M in 1995, and didn't sell very well, the final iteration remained Z80 based and therefore is almost certainly the final mass-produced 8-bit computer, and probably post-dates mass production of 680x0 machines.

If the question didn't require that the thing be a computer then the pre-GBA Gameboys would be a decent suggestion. If the implied desktop restriction were relaxed and ARM were an acceptable answer then the Psions would be in with a shot. If processor weren't part of it then I think the FM Towns carried on being produced as x86-but-not-PC machines also until 1998. But by then Windows 95 had been ported so you couldn't tell.

  • The Risc PC did indeed use an ARM v3 or v4. I understand that with ARM v4 and earlier, it’s assumed that address given for fetching contents is memory aligned, and this changed in v5 such that software compiled for v4 and earlier may not run on v5 and later. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) If a compatibility-breaking change is introduced in a line of CPUs, are the CPUs before that change considered "legacy"? I think the validity of the accepted answer hinges on the answer. – traal Jun 18 '17 at 6:51
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    The phrase "legacy processor" is a bit nebulous and difficult to define. The Intel x86 architecture which is in almost every computer sold today (excluding phones and tablets) can be described as legacy since it dates to the beginning of there 1980's. – JeremyP Jun 18 '17 at 10:06
  • Right. I took legacy processor to mean one of a family that is long-since dead, as otherwise it is hard to reconcile with the not-Intel rule, and thought that the fact that a major manufacturer was still designing new Z80 hardware in the mid-'90s was therefore a decent pitch. – Tommy Jun 18 '17 at 13:06
  • Yes, the Z80 is definitely more legacy than ARM v4, so I'm glad you took the time to submit your answer even though it wasn't accepted because now I know a little more about the Z80. Thanks! – traal Jun 18 '17 at 19:17
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    Having looked into it more, that final PCW is a very strange machine. A 16Mhz Z80, 1mb of flash storage and 1mb of RAM. I guess either it was cheaper to use the existing engineering talent or backwards compatibility was originally intended. For such a budget GUI machine it's hard not to imagine that at least a 68000 would have been faster for the price, coming without the address-space issues and probably allowing a much simpler bus. – Tommy Jun 19 '17 at 16:53

Commodore went bankrupt in 1994 and sold their assets to ESCOM who re-released the A1200 and A4000T. Then ESCOM went bankrupt in 1997 but one of their licensees, QuikPak, continued to produce the 68060-based A4000T into 1998 until ESCOM's lawsuit against QuikPak halted production. Here is a photo of an A4000T manufactured on 1998-03-30.

Soon we will see ARM-based computers running Windows 10, but those of course won't be retro (even though ARM as the main CPU for a general-purpose computer debuted in 1987) and they, like the ones that used the Transmeta Crusoe processor in the early '00s (which did not natively execute x86 instructions but used emulation), will probably be laptops and tablet computers, not home computers. Also, SGI produced MIPS workstations until about 2006, and Sun produced SPARC workstations until 2008, and DEC/Compaq/HP produced AlphaStations until sometime in the '00s, but those are all for business, not the home.

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    I'm not sure I would qualify a Sun SPARC machine as "retro" as they're still being produced today. Sure, the microSPARC might qualify from an age perspective since UltraSPARC succeeded it in the late 90s, but Sun SPARC is still available in the server arena (for now!) – bjb Jun 19 '17 at 17:30
  • @bjb That's a good point. The CPU itself isn't retro because it's still being produced, just not for workstations or home computers. For the same reason, can we say that the 6502 and Z80 also are not retro? – traal Jun 19 '17 at 19:14
  • Sun SPARC boxes are still being produced, though not as desktops anymore. However, you COULD use a Sun server as your PC if you really wanted to and it would be more-or-less comparable to what you bought 20 years ago. I wouldn't include the x86 Solaris machines in this since that is different from the CPU front, but for the most part a Solaris SPARC application from 1995 could run on a 2017 Solaris SPARC server. But as 6502 Apple II? No, definitely retro since the platform no longer exists despite the CPU still being available in 2017. A 2017 6502-based platform isn't retro, IMHO. – bjb Jun 19 '17 at 20:24

Pentagon-1024SL was a ZX Spectrum souped-up clone, manufactured and sold in Russia in the late 2000s. This was of course already oriented towards retro enthusiasts, and probably only a limited amount of units has been produced for sale (as opposed to DIY construction).

  • This retro-computer actually was a retro-computer when sold! – wizzwizz4 Jun 17 '17 at 8:29

Palm was selling 68k based Zire handhelds (pocket computers?) in 2002.

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    I thought that the zire range were based on ARM processors, but apparently the M150 model was based on a Motorola Dragonball. Wikipedia suggests it may have been manufactured until 2005. – Jules Aug 4 at 10:21

What about the PowerMac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors) which was discontinued in June 2004? This was last computer Apple sold that could boot Classic MacOS and use native MacOS drivers. The Classic Environment provided with MacOS X 10.0-10.4 could not run some programs like Toast which required driver support. Given that the last version of Classic MacOS 9.2.2 came out in 2001 it can be considered a retro operating system.

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