Hardware and Electronics History Networking


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Acer Inc. (/ˈeɪsər/ AY-sərChinese宏碁股份有限公司pinyinHóngqí Gǔfèn Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī, lit. Hongqi Corporation Ltd.) is a Taiwanese multinational hardware and electronics corporation specializing in advanced electronics technology, headquartered in XizhiNew Taipei City. Its products include desktop PCs, laptop PCs (clamshells2-in-1sconvertibles and Chromebooks), tabletsservers, storage devices, virtual reality devices, displays, smartphones and peripherals, as well as gaming PCs and accessories under its Predator brand.

In the early 2000s, Acer implemented a new business model, shifting from a manufacturer to a designer, marketer and distributor of products, while performing production processes via contract manufacturers.[3] As of July 2020, Acer is the fifth-largest personal computer vendor in the world.[4] Currently, in addition to its core IT products business, Acer also has a new business entity that focuses on the integration of cloud services and platforms, and the development of smartphones and wearable devices with value-added IoT applications.[5]

Acer History

Acer was founded in 1976 by Stan Shih (施振榮), his wife Carolyn Yeh, and five others as Multitech in Hsinchu CityTaiwan. The company began with eleven employees and US$25,000 in capital. Initially, it was primarily a distributor of electronic parts and a consultant in the use of microprocessor technologies. It produced the Micro-Professor MPF-I training kit, then two Apple II clones–the Microprofessor II and III–before joining the emerging IBM PC compatible market and becoming a significant PC manufacturer. The company was renamed Acer in 1987.

In 1998, Acer reorganized into five groups: Acer International Service Group, Acer Sertek Service Group, Acer Semiconductor Group, Acer Information Products Group, and Acer Peripherals Group. To dispel complaints from clients that Acer competed with its own products and to alleviate the competitive nature of the branded sales versus contract manufacturing businesses, the company spun off the contract business in 2000, renaming it Wistron Corporation. The restructuring resulted in two primary units: brand name sales and contract manufacturing. In 2001, the company sold its manufacturing units BenQ and Wistron in order to focus resources on design and sales.

Acer increased worldwide sales while simultaneously reducing its labor force by identifying and using marketing strategies that best utilized their existing distribution channels. By 2005, Acer employed a scant 7,800 people worldwide. Revenues rose from US$4.9 billion in 2003[6] to US$11.31 billion in 2006.

Acer’s North American market share has slipped over the past few years, while its European market share has risen.[7]

In the mid-2000s, consumer notebooks were almost the sole growth drivers for the PC industry, and Acer’s exceptionally low overheads and dedication to the channel made it one of the main beneficiaries of this trend.[8] Acer grew quickly in Europe in part by embracing the use of more traditional distribution channels targeting retail consumers when some rivals were pursuing online sales and business customers. In 2007, Acer bought Gateway in the United States and Packard Bell in Europe, and became the third largest provider of computers and the second largest for notebooks, achieving significant improvement in profitability. Acer has strived to become the world’s largest PC vendor in the belief that the goal can help it achieve economy of scale and garner higher margin.[9] However, such a reliance on the high-volume, low-value PC market made Acer exposed when buying habits changed.

In 2019, Acer announced esports social platform, which aims to provide gamers and esports enthusiasts game analytics, community-organized competitions, socializing experience and more.

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VPL Research, Inc. – Virtual Reality (VR) – 1984 AD

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VPL Research, Inc.

Jaron Lanier (b. 1960)

Founded by polymath Jaron Lanier and several friends, VPL (Virtual Programming Language) Research was the first virtual reality (VR) startup. Based in Silicon Valley, its seminal hardware and software were the first commercial products of their kind and helped bring the technology into mainstream consciousness. VPL is credited with creating the first real-time surgical simulator (a virtual knee and gallbladder) and creating the first motion picture capture suit, among its many varied contributions. VPL helped the city of Berlin plan reconstruction; it helped the oil and car industries simulate products and scenarios; it worked with NASA to experiment with flight simulation; it worked with Jim Henson to prototype a new Muppet; and it even worked with the International Olympic Committee to try to design a new sport that would take place in VR (that one did not come to pass).

The company’s core products included the “EyePhone,” which was a set of large goggles that covered the eyes to facilitate the virtual experience, and the DataGlove, whose sensors synced with the EyePhone so the user could move virtual objects. There was also the DataSuit, which enabled full-body movement. The employees of VPL—known as Veeple—had a vision to enable people to share virtual experiences simultaneously and help people realize a newfound appreciation for the beauty of physical reality once they left the virtual environment. As described by Lanier, before VR, there was never really anything to compare reality to.

Influenced and inspired by giants in the field such as Ivan Sutherland, Lanier was responsible for coining the term virtual reality, in part to distinguish VPL’s work from the concept of virtual worlds, which was understood as an individual alone in a virtual space, as opposed to a communal experience. VPL in turn inspired others: examples in popular culture include the movies The Lawnmower Man (the main character is based in part on Lanier) and Minority Report (which used representations of VPL’s DataGlove and EyePhone as integral elements in the futuristic storyline). By the mid-1990s, VPL’s heyday had passed, but its vision of an immersive world inside computers is inescapable, in movies, television shows, computer games, and more. In 1999, Sun Microsystems acquired the worldwide rights to VPL’s patent portfolio and technical assets.

SEE ALSO Head-Mounted Display (1967)

VPL’s virtual reality gear, including data glove, goggles, and body suit, exemplified “gloves and goggles” virtual reality.

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Artificial Intelligence History Software Engineering

TRON Movie – 1982 AD

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Steven Lisberger (b. 1951), Bonnie MacBird (b. 1951), Alan Kay (b. 1940)

“Like a modern Alice in Wonderland, game designer Kevin Flynn is kidnapped and beamed into computer company ENCOM’s mainframe, where he is forced to fight for his life as a player in the games he created.

The video-arcade craze was in full swing when Walt Disney Productions released TRON in the summer of 1982. The movie resonated with an audience enamored with the world of technology, just as “high-tech” became accessible to the masses. While the look and feel of the movie worked brilliantly for some, the story was simply too ahead of its time for others. Critical reviews were mixed. With its glowing space-age combat suits and high-concept narrative about a regular guy doing battle with anthropomorphized software, the movie was celebrated by technophiles and panned by many critics as a stunning visual display without a credible plot.

TRON broke ground in computer animation. It was the first movie to include whole scenes that were synthetically generated, totaling about 20 minutes of the movie, as well as scenes that seamlessly mapped live-action actors into a computer-generated world. Several animators refused to work on TRON, fearful that digital animation would soon put conventional, hand-drawn animation out of business. At the time, the technique was considered so radical that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disqualified the movie as a contender for a special effects award nomination because it felt that computer-aided visuals were a cheat.

Computer pioneer Alan Kay from Xerox PARC was a consultant on the film and helped to edit the movie script on the “Alto”—a prototype personal computer. Written by Bonnie MacBird and directed by Steven Lisberger, the film did not do well at the box office. The arcade games based upon the movie were incredibly popular, however, and out-grossed the movie — a harbinger of things to come. The film went on to develop a cult following among computer game geeks and spawned a franchise including the sequel TRON: Legacy, released in 2010.”

SEE ALSO Rossum’s Universal Robots (1920), Star Trek Premieres (1966), Xerox Alto (1973)

Poster from the movie TRON, written by Bonnie MacBird and directed by Steven Lisberger.

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