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It's widely known that the Commodore 64 was the best-selling single model of personal computer. Which computer make & model got second place?

To clarify, I'm looking for an objective answer about a particular make & model, not a nuanced answer arguing for backwards compatibility or what constitutes minor vs. major revisions. As an example of potential answers, not knowing where the numbers actually break out, I might list the following myself (in no particular order): Atari 800xl, Apple //e, Amiga 500, Commodore 128, IBM PC(5150), XT(5160), Macintosh Plus, ZX Spectrum, etc.

(References with well-researched sales estimates will be nice.)

closed as off-topic by a CVn, JAL, Wilson, Raffzahn, Brian H May 21 '18 at 19:09

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about retrocomputing, within the scope defined in the help center." – a CVn, JAL, Brian H
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Are you using the branding as the way to determine what counts as a particular machine? There are some machines that are the same thing but branded differently in different places, and others which have a different branding with a translated ROM. There are some with the same name that are different (I think; I can't think of the name of the one that I'm thinking of). – wizzwizz4 May 17 '18 at 15:56
  • I am not using branding. I'm using make & model. If there was different localized branding, the branding in the dominant region can be used to describe the same machine that existed in multiple regions. – Brian H May 17 '18 at 16:06
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    Fitting the data to a particular answer using many nuances seems like a way to not get to an objective answer. Plus I'm 99% certain the correct answer is in my list of potentials, though available sales data may lead to some over-lapping 3-way tie or some such. Really, a few sentences and supporting sales data should be the best answer here. – Brian H May 17 '18 at 16:22
  • Actually I wouldn't be surprised if it were the PCW as they sold a total of 8m of those; I just don't know to what extent refreshes prior to the PCW16 were just case changes, like the C64C — which was branded as that, on the box, distinctly from the unsuffixed C64 — and to what extent they were actually hardware revisions (other than board revisions and IC changes as, again, the C64 did both. The later SID isn't even fully compatible re:PCM tricks). – Tommy May 17 '18 at 16:59
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    Probably every single model of the iPhone outsells the C64. Apple sold 77 million of them in the last quarter alone. – JeremyP May 21 '18 at 8:59
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Commodore famously inflated their sales numbers, so while you'll find many resources claiming 25 or 30 million 64's sold, it appears the number is closer to 17 million.

Behind that are two machines that sold about 5 million units:

  • the Apple II was on the market for years, with reasonable sales well into the IBM era
  • the Spectrum was a huge seller in the UK

And in third:

The Atari 8-bit requires special mention here. During its main run, it is estimated to have sold about 2.5 million machines, mostly in the US. However, the line had several "rebirths" as it entered new markets, first in western Europe, and then again in eastern Europe. Estimates on sales during this late period are very hard to come by, and various commenters put the total during this period anywhere from 1 to 2 million, which would put total sales anywhere from 3 to 5 million.

Others were generally much less:

  • TI99 ~2.5mm
  • Amstrad CPC ~2.5mm, Wiki says 3mm.
  • VIC-20 ~2mm
  • TRS-80 ~1.mm
  • BBC Micro ~1mm

Most of these numbers were compiled by Jeremy Reimer and are available in XL format on his site. However, I don't think he dove too deep into these numbers, so take them with some grain of salt.

  • Where did the original 8088-based IBM PC (model 5150) come in? – Jeff Zeitlin May 17 '18 at 11:43
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    I guess we're pushing up against the bounds of what @BrianH counts as a "single model" with these numbers, particularly re: the Apple II, the CPC and the Spectrum, but I'm on your side of the debate. Especially just adding some RAM and/or a disk drive doesn't feel like a big deal. But Brian would have to clarify. – Tommy May 17 '18 at 13:17
  • What does "mm" mean? – Wilson May 17 '18 at 14:35
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    It also might help to qualify what counts as a personal computer. The Atari 2600 could program a dialect of BASIC using the keypad controllers, after all. – supercat May 17 '18 at 14:48
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    @MauryMarkowitz I'm guessing the 800xl outsold all other Atari 8-bits. Also is the 5MM Spectrums just the ZX, or does it include ZX80/ZX81/128/whatever else was called a "Spectrum"? – Brian H May 17 '18 at 16:37
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I would say the raspberry pi would be, according to https://www.techspot.com/amp/news/73709-raspberry-pi-model-b-arrives-time-pi-day.html

"To date, over 19 million Raspberry Pi computers have been sold. Out of which, the Raspberry Pi 3 accounts for over 9 million units"

  • Despite having deleted my answer because Brian said he wanted to know only about contemporaries of the C64, I still think this is correct. – Tommy May 18 '18 at 11:24
  • The question currently doesn't put any kind of restriction on when the computer was sold. Given that, the Raspberry Pi looks kind of pathetic set against nearly any version of the iPhone. – JeremyP May 21 '18 at 9:01
  • The iPhone doesn't qualify. See @Tommy 's answer below. – Paul Humphreys May 21 '18 at 9:05
  • Don't see my answer necessarily, so much as @BrianH's comment on it. Maybe my StackOverflow etiquette is askew but I took Brian's comment "I was more thinking of computer models that coincided with the C64 lifespan of 1982-1994, which makes this question more distinctly about Retrocomputing." as implicitly modifying the question. I guess it depends on whether you think the person that asked the question is definitive as to what the question means once it's been written. As a law school graduate I decline to take a position on that; it's a bit too civil-versus-common-law. – Tommy May 21 '18 at 18:24
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Hard to be sure; the old translucent iMac G3 (gumdrop models) were slightly different, but sold for five or six years, circa 2 million per year. Should we count colors as differences? CPU speeds? Included ports (graphite and later had the Firewire ports)?

That was on the cusp of computing taking off in the mass market, not just gamesters and enthusiasts.

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I would say that the Commodore 64 was probably the 2nd best selling computer ever.

I don't have the numbers to back this up, but I believe at least one model of the iPhone has outsold the Commodore 64. Apple doesn't release numbers for specific iPhone models so only they know for certain.

Of the list you gave, I'd say the Amiga 500, which sold 6 million units, putting the entire Apple II series and ZX Spectrum series in third and fourth place.

The Apple II and ZX Spectrum series each sold no more than 5 million but individual models sold less than that obviously.

  • Oh, unambiguously so. Apple sold 13m 6s and 6s+s in its first weekend — engadget.com/2015/09/28/apple-iphone-6s-sales-record . So that's at least 6.5m of either one in three days of a handset that is still on sale three years later. – Tommy May 18 '18 at 16:11
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    I would say that the iPhone doesn't count for the same reason the NES doesn't, as it was never sold as a "computer", but rather as a "smartphone". – Paul Humphreys May 19 '18 at 15:42
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    @PaulHumphreys following up on whether it had ever been sold as a computer, the 2007 keynote that introduced the iPhone is also the one in which Jobs announced: "So, today, we’ve added to the Mac and the iPod. We’ve added Apple TV and now iPhone. And you know, the Mac is the only one that you think really of as a computer. ... So we’re announcing today we’re dropping the computer from our name, and from this day forward, we’re gonna be known as Apple Incorporated". Apple was so sure they didn't want to sell it as a 'computer' that they changed the name of the company! – Tommy May 20 '18 at 13:47
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    @JeremyP That's your opinion. The manufacturers opinion is that it is not. Is a washing machine a computer then? Most have microprocessors now and run programs. You could modify the processor in them to run programs of your own devising. – Paul Humphreys May 21 '18 at 9:16
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    If smartphones are considered computers, then shouldn't games consoles also be considered so? Then the C64 isn't even nearly the most popular computer of all time. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_game_consoles – Paul Humphreys May 22 '18 at 13:20

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