DeskMate - Finding Success Through a Different Demographic

By Orion Shea
April 30, 2020

Being able to achieve success with an alternative route to the mainstream is something you would almost exclusively see in movies - but Tandy’s DeskMate was able to do just that.

DeskMate was initially released in November of 1984 by Tandy Corporation (now known as RadioShack) 1. It is a systems software, which is basically a visual interface for your computer (Windows is a good example of a systems software). The big software companies at the time, like Microsoft and Apple, were heavily focused on creating products for corporations and governmental agencies 2. As a result, the everyday home, school, or small business did not really have access to this type of technology just yet. Thus, an opportunity presented itself.

As the economy was growing quite rapidly in the 1980’s, more people were able to afford more things, technology included 3. To make things even better, DeskMate was especially simple to use, unlike its competitors, which required more training and effort to understand 4. These two factors lined up perfectly to catapult DeskMate into being one of the more popular softwares of its time. As put by Stewart Alsop II, a heavily involved figure in information technology journals and magazines, “Tandy seems to have discovered that DeskMate turned into a competitive advantage [because of] … home and school users” 5. I want to put an emphasis on the word ‘discovered’, as Tandy did not premeditate DeskMate’s booming success - rather, they got a little bit lucky, but were more importantly able to pinpoint why and capitalize off of that reason.

  1. Stewart Alsop II, "Tandy Deskmate: Viva La Small Business," P.C. Letter: The Insider's Guide to the Personal Computer Industry, Vol. 4, No. 2 (January 28, 1988), 9-10, http://vintagecomputer.net/cisc367/PC-Letter_19880118.pdf

  2. Alsop.

  3. Katharine Bradbury, “The Changing Cortunes of American Families in the 1980s,” New England Economic Review (July 1990), 25-40, https://ideas.repec.org/a/fip/fedbne/y1990ijulp25-40.html.

  4. Alsop.

  5. Alsop.

DeskMate

This is what DeskMate actually looked like on an old computer screen. Specifically, this is a look at the phone dialer option. 

DeskMate