Computers and Cabbage Patch Dolls

adam-box.jpgHey, remember that time when the Rug City was going to become the Silicon Valley? Well, almost, anyway, back when Coleco had operations in Amsterdam, New York, and its Adam family computer, assembled right there on the banks of the Mohawk, was supposed to be the next big thing.

This one requires a little back story. Coleco started life as the Connecticut Leather Company, selling leather craft kits, much like another company called Tandy. They branched into plastic molding, creating kiddie pools, ditched the leather, and rebranded as Coleco in the 1960s. (Tandy, without quite ditching leather, bought a little operation called Radio Shack, which also got into computers around this time.) Inexplicably, Coleco got into the manufacture of video game consoles in 1976, jumping into the vast market created by Atari’s Pong. They created the Telstar console, a number of handheld games, and then the ColecoVision in 1982.

Just a year later, Coleco announced its entry into the not-even-nascent home computer market, with a product called the Adam. And the Adam, for reasons I have yet to uncover, was assembled in Amsterdam. They announced it in the summer of 1983, promising to move 500,000 computers that Christmas. They were only able to put together 95,000, and most of those had issues (so serious that they had to open up repair stores around the country). Like most computers of its day, it was intended to hook up to a TV (or to the ColecoVision). It came with a dot matrix printer, 80 kilobytes of RAM, something resembling a word processor, and a Buck Rogers videogame. When the Adam was officially abandoned in 1985, Coleco employed 4,000 people at its Amsterdam facility, but said that most of them weren’t involved in Adam production.

The company went into the doll and computer business at exactly the same time. While taking a massive loss in the computer department, Coleco was enjoying huge success with Cabbage Patch Dolls, which sparked a wild craze.  The dolls weren’t made in Amsterdam; they were shipped in from China, but Rug City workers would dress them and place them in their boxes with their “adoption” papers. (The Business Review has a good reminiscence of the crazy doll days here.)

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