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Columbia Data Products (CDP) was a company which produced some of the first IBM PC clones. It faltered in that market after only a few years, and later reinvented itself as a software development company.

Columbia Data Products Inc.
IndustryData security
Founded1976; 43 years ago (1976)
FounderWilliam Diaz[1][full citation needed]

Beginning and early computersEdit

Columbia Data Products was founded in 1976 in Columbia, Maryland.

In 1980, Columbia Data Products made some Z80-based computers, most notably their Commander 900 series, which had several models some of which were multiprocessors and had graphics capabilities.[2]

Publicly listed PC-clone makerEdit

Columbia Data Products MPC 1600 IBM PC Clone

CDP introduced the MPC 1600 "Multi Personal Computer," designed by David Howse,[3] in June 1982. It was an exact functional copy of the IBM PC model 5150 except for the BIOS which was clean roomed. IBM had published the bus and BIOS specifications, wrongly assuming[citation needed] that this would be enough to encourage the add-on market but not enough to facilitate unlicensed copying of the design.

CDP advertisements stated that the MPC "can use software and hardware originally intended for the IBM Personal Computer".[4] The "Multi" in its name hinted to the fact that it could also run the multi-user operating system MP/M-86.[5] The MPC was the first IBM PC clone and was actually superior to the IBM original. It came with 128 KiB RAM standard, compared to the IBM's 64 KiB maximum. The MPC had eight PC expansion slots, with one filled by its video card. Its floppy disk drive interface was built into the motherboard. The IBM PC, in contrast, had only five expansion slots, with the video card and floppy disk controller taking two of them. The MPC also included two floppy disk drives, one parallel and two serial ports, which were all optional on the original IBM PC. The MPC was followed up with a portable PC, the 32 pound (15 kg) "luggable" Columbia VP in 1983.

In May 1983, Future Computing ranked Columbia and Compaq computers as "Best" in the category of "Operationally Compatible", its highest tier of PC compatibility.[6] PC Magazine in June 1983 criticized the MPC's documentation, but reported that it had very good hardware and software compatibility with the IBM PC.[7] BYTE in November 1984 approved of the portable MPC-VP's PC compatibility, reporting that it ran Microsoft Flight Simulator, WordStar, Lotus 1-2-3, dBASE II, and other popular applications without problems. It concluded that the computer was "one of the best overall bargains on the market today".[8]

MPC specifications
Date June 1982 (Marketed)
Price US$2.995,00
CPU 4.77 MHz 8088 16 bit registers
RAM 128 KiB, 1 MiB max
Video 16 colors 320×200 CGA
Audio Simple tones
OS MS-DOS, CP/M-86, MP/M-86, OASIS, Xenix
Interface 2×RS232, parallel, monitor, keyboard
Storage 5.25" FDD

The success of the MPC and its successors built CDP revenue from US$9.4 million in 1982 to US$56 million in 1983, with an IPO at US$11 in January, 1983.[9]

In February 1984 IBM announced the introduction of their first portable PC, thus putting pressure on its competitors in this niche a well, which besides CDP already included Compaq as the market leader in this segment, as well as Kaypro, TeleVideo Corporation, and Eagle Computer.[10][11]

Columbia also released upgraded desktop models in order to compete with IBM PC XT. Their MPC 1600-4, briefly reviewed in PC Magazine of April 1984, was found a worthy competitor of the XT and without major compatibility problems, even though its hard drive controller was quite different from IBM XT's, being based on a Z80 microprocessor with 64 KB of RAM emulating the ASIC used by IBM.[12]

In May 1984, Richard T. Gralton, formerly a vice-chairman of Savin Corporation, became the president and chief operating officer of CDP.[13]

The competition in the PC market became more intense in June–July 1984 with several companies, including IBM, announcing price cuts, and with AT&T entering the PC market as well.[14] Besides CDP, other PC clone companies like Eagle were also having a hard time as a result. Discussing the perspectives of the smaller PC firms like CDP, Eagle, or Corona Data Systems, one Morgan Stanley analyst was quoted in the June 9, 1984 issue of the New York Times saying "Some of them are operating at 5 percent pretax margins, and there is just no room for more price cuts."[15] By August 1984 the CDP sales were faltering and CDP announced layoffs of 114 employees at its Maryland headquarters and 189 employees at a second factory in Puerto Rico.[16] By April 1985 their stock had dropped to US$0.50 and was delisted.[17] The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in May 1985.[18]

Subsequent historyEdit

The company was taken private in 1986 and continues to operate under that name.

In 1987 CDP shifted emphasis from hardware to software.[citation needed] They developed and licensed Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) software to Western Digital (WD), a supplier of hard drive controllers. In 1991, WD sold their SCSI business to Future Domain, where it languished.

CDP is now headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The company currently specializes in data backup.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Puerto Rican Engineer, graduated CAAM. University of Puerto Rico, retired and lives in Florida
  2. ^ Columbia MPUs Get Graphics. Computerworld. 15 September 1980. p. 70. ISSN 0010-4841.
  3. ^ Aboard the Columbia, By Bill Machrone, Page 451, Jun 1983, PC Mag
  4. ^ Advertisement (October 1982). "Check The Chart Before You Choose Your New 16-Bit Computer System". BYTE. p. 83. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  5. ^ "PERSONAL COMPUTERS; RIVALS STAY ONE STEP AHEAD OF I.B.M. PORTABLE". Columbia Data Products (301-992- 3400) turns out another split-personality computer, appropriately named the Multi-Personal Computer. Using only the Intel 8088 microprocessor, it manifests its duality in an ability to run both I.B.M.-oriented software and software requiring an operating system called MP/M-86.
  6. ^ Ward, Ronnie (November 1983). "Levels of PC Compatibility". BYTE. pp. 248–249. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  7. ^ Sandler, Corey (June 1983). "Columbia: Call It A "Work-Alike"". PC Magazine. p. 447. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  8. ^ Callamaras, Peter V. (November 1984). "The Columbia Multipersonal Computer-VP". BYTE. p. 276. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  9. ^ New York Times, February 16, 1984
  11. ^ "IBM Will Sell Portable Version of its PC Model", Wall Street Journal, February 17, 1984.
  12. ^ Columbia MPC 1600-4. PC Magazine. 3 April 1984. p. 122. ISSN 0888-8507.
  13. ^ BUSINESS PEOPLE; ; Columbia Data Lures Key Officer From Savin
  14. ^ Price Cut Pressure on Compatible Makers. InfoWorld. 16 July 1984. p. 49. ISSN 0199-6649.
  16. ^ New York Times, August 15, 1984
  17. ^ Wall Street Journal, April 26, 1985
  18. ^ Chapter 11 Filing

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit