It has been mentioned in a few places, that in the 8-bit era, schools preferred computers with a bulky all-in-one form factor, in the hope of reducing damage and theft, to the point where they preferred e.g. the Apple II and BBC Micro to the Vic-20 and C64, but considered still better the PET and TRS-80 3/4.

But after that era, schools ended up using PCs in desktop (not all in one) or laptop (the whole unit is quite small and light) form factors. If schools still had a strong preference for all-in-one, I would expect some company to manufacture PCs in that form factor to capture that market.

Was there a point at which they stopped caring? If so, when and why?

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    Do you got any source for this? Preferably one with some authority? Your question is the first tme I ever heared about this. So far all selection decisions I know could be attributed do specific government contracts and suggestions.
    – Raffzahn
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:30
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    Would be nice to get some pointers, as far as I know Commodore was quite running behind Apple. Even though Apple computers where not easy to secure. I have several setups in my collection of special cases made for Apple II to be secured in school. In fact, it was the school market where Apple constantly earned money with their IIs, almost like a monopolist.
    – Raffzahn
    Aug 15, 2018 at 22:07
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    The theft protection system at my school was based on a door, a lock, and a key to that lock - Not on the computers' form factor.
    – tofro
    Aug 15, 2018 at 22:26
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    Take a look here: youtube.com/watch?v=9XoBVlomJVw The locking bolt was ment to keep the lid closed - so noone can tamper with the inside (or take cards). To secure the whole computer a wire (steel cable) was to be inserted thru a dedicated hole at the 'backpack', slung thru some fixture at the desk and then closed by a lock. The Backback did also include three power outlets, so no power bar to be lifted either :))
    – Raffzahn
    Aug 15, 2018 at 22:56
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    My school "solved" the theft problem by simply having only obsolete Olivetti PCs that nobody in their right mind would want to steal. ;-)
    – ErikF
    Aug 16, 2018 at 2:02

3 Answers 3


This is my take on the topic: PCs became an off the shelf product and the case for special school computers diminished.

As Thomas says, in the first half of the 80s several countries had their own big budget projects to introduce computers into the education. Custom hardware was built. In Sweden where I live we had Swedish made computers like Telenova Compis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compis, which was developed specially for education and ABC 80 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_80, which was sold for general purpose but commonly used in education. The problem was that the computer business moved fast (as always) and these computers were obsolete in a couple of years. Many of these machines either used proprietary operating systems or operating systems that are now obsolete e.g: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CP/M

When the projects to build specialized computers and use them in schools where finished and the PC had arrived as the standard I think that there were no new money assigned for using specialized hardware. Education generally do not have huge budget and specialized hardware is resource intensive to develop. It is always cheaper to buy a standard configuration. The fact that the old systems were more or less proprietary made their software unusable and their legacy faded. PC clones were just too cheap and the added value of specialized systems did not meet the extra investments needed.

Apple has been successful in selling computers to schools as they have special discounts for the education sector. In my children's school they use IPads and Mac laptops. I would say that we are moving away from the PC form factor in education.

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    You could also compare with the OLPC (one laptop per child) project that serves to provide "computer literacy" to development countries. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child It is a more modern take on introducing computers in schools. The computers they provide are either laptops or pad style
    – mortb
    Aug 17, 2018 at 13:45

This had nothing to do with schools but with political budgets.

In many countries schools were equipped with computers manufactured there. There was the BBC micro in the UK, Thomson TO7 and MO5 in French schools and Apple 2 in the United states.

Some countries had several manufacturers; a non exhaustive list would be (from countries I know): UK had the BBC, Acorn, Amstrad and Sinclair, France had Thomson, Goupil, Oric and a few others and the USA had Apple, Atari, Commodore and IBM.

In the UK, the BBC was government funded, so having the BBC Micro in classrooms made sense.

In France, the government is a shareholder of Thomson, so again, having these computers in classrooms made sense.

In the USA, Steve Jobs approached a congressman that drafted a bill to put computers in classrooms; it didn't pass congress and another congressman introduced a similar bill (but not for Apple computers). He managed to get a similar text passed in California, which opened the school doors to Apple. After that, other schools just followed.

You can read the story here: http://hackeducation.com/2015/02/25/kids-cant-wait-apple

(To clarify things, I lived in France when I was a kid and then in the USA, so I've seen these two things; About the UK, it is merely what I learned later on)


Dell currently manufactures the AIO (all in one) that is a single monitor/computer form factor. Nobody in their right mind (in my opinion after working with them) buys them because they use laptop hard disks (that are much less reliable) and take a special tool to open (making their support much harder) and if the screen died the entire computer is scrap. You can buy a micro form factor and a cheap $100 monitor that occupies the same space. This is true today and it was also true back in '83 when I was in high school. (although they didn't have micro form factors back then)

The original beige all in one Mac also took a special torx wrench to open. And the original iMacs with the colors also took special tools and techniques to successfully open without breaking the little wires in them. I supported school labs with these in them and we hated the things. When the schools I supported started talking about upgrading I told them if they got another AIO style form factor my prices for maintaining those would jump significantly. Many other IT consultants and admins said the same thing. The shift to standard form factors was driven much more by the IT departments and consultants in these school districts wrenching control of computer purchasing away from the educators and into the hands of the dedicated IT departments, due to problems created by the computer manufacturers attempting to make AIO designs unserviceable.

The focus today is on tablets but every education-related application out there that is released for the iPad is also available in Android. And the Android tablets are dominating. 4 years ago when my son was in High School the district went to iPads only because Apple literally gave the devices to the district. Then the district discovered how fragile they were and started demanding the parents buy insurance if they handed out a tablet. I told my son he had a choice I'd pay the insurance for the ipad or I'd give him the money for the insurance and if he could find a cheaper Android tablet and run all the apps his teacher required he could keep the tablet and pocket the difference. He showed up the first day in his classes with the tablet and some of the teachers squawked but I told them unless they could find an app that wouldn't run on the Android tablet I wasn't going to get him the iPad. They never could. He was the only kid with an Android tablet that first term. But word spread quick and 4 years later when he graduated every kid in the school was bringing their own Android tablets and the iPads were collecting dust and the district was getting no insurance payments from anyone. Last I heard they discreetly sold them all off to a used computer dealer.

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