Overtom's weblog

RECYCLING  (5 april 2005)

There are few industries where so many producers have disappeared in such a short time as the chess computer industry.

Two examples of major companies that stopped producing chess computers recently are: Fidelity and Mephisto.

Fidelity used to make very pretty machines, many of which were called Chess Challenger:

   (Chess Challenger Elegance)

But in the nineties, Fidelity went bankrupt. Parts of the company have been taken over by a company called Excalibur .

The other manufacturer that closed its doors recently was Mephisto. Their first machine, nicknamed Brikett, was made in 1980:


Many of Mephisto's machines became world champions. But producing champions is a costly affair. So a few years ago Mephisto had to quit the race and was taken over by Saitek, a player in the field since 1980.

You may wonder why Saitek survived where so many of its competitors failed.

I think an important part of the answer lies in recycling

For instance, Saitek is the owner of a program that was made by Frans Morsch and was originally used in the Mephisto Miami.

  Mephisto Miami

As far as I know, this program has been used in several other computers. such as Advanced Travel Chess and Chess Explorer

The program is reasonably strong and will offer good counterplay to more than 90 percent of all chessplayers, so a large market there with no extra cost.

But it's not only software what they recycle at Saitek's. Ever looked at their chessmen?

Saitek chessmen

If you look at Saitek's tabletop chess computers, you'll see that the same type of chessmen are used in the following machines all made by Saitek:

Eighteen chess computers that all use the same chessmen. Speaking about recycling!!!

A third element that Saitek have re-used again and again is the hardware.

One popular model of pocket chess computer is this one:


This one here is the Chess Express, which -- with a 16K program -- can offer reasonable play to most chessplayers.

But the same housing is also used in a weak computer like the Tandy 1650L, but also in computers like the Aurora, the Cavalier and the Plus Coach.

Don't misunderstand me: I don't criticize Saitek for their way of producing chess computers. 

I'm just just trying to find out how Saitek succeeded where others failed.

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