“Microsoft is not a hardware company.” How many times have you heard this or read this? I’m guessing more than once. It’s a simple lie we keep telling ourselves despite the underlying truth: Microsoft has been designing and selling hardware products for 32 out of its 37 years in business. And hardware has been a consistently successful venture too, even in the early days. (Little-known fact: Between 1983 and 1986, sales of Microsoft mice (in units shipped) matched those of the company’s software products!)
Over the years, Microsoft’s portfolio of hardware expanded from a handful of mice and keyboards to include areas as diverse as game controllers, webcams, routers, cordless phones, speakers, MP3 players, cell phones, game consoles, and much more. And, as of late, Microsoft is now in the PC business, with its upcoming Surface tablet line.
This is what most people know when it comes to Microsoft and hardware. What you probably don’t realize is that Microsoft created a rich line of computer expansion hardware throughout the 1980s—a line that began with the SoftCard for the Apple II in 1980 and ended nearly a decade later. Even Microsoft Hardware, a division founded in 1982, forgot its true heritage in a recent 30-year company retrospective.
I’m here to remedy that—to show you what both time and Microsoft forgot. Here are ten “lost” Microsoft hardware products that debuted in the 1980s. If I left out anything significant (yes, I know about its mouse line), please let me know in the comments area.