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|Fate||Acquired by Samsung on 11 August 1996, dissolved in 2001
Intellectual Property sold in 1999 to become AST Computers, LLC
|Founded||1980 in Irvine, California, United States|
|Headquarters||Irvine, California, United States|
AST Research, Inc. was a personal computer manufacturer, founded in Irvine, California, in 1980 by Albert Wong, Safi Qureshey and Thomas Yuen (the name comes from the initials of their first names: Albert Safi Thomas). In the 1980s AST designed add-on expansion cards, before shifting to a major personal computer manufacturer towards the '90s. By the late 1990s AST was acquired by Samsung, but was forced to close shortly after due to a series of losses.
AST's original business was the manufacture and marketing of a broad range of microcomputer expansion cards, later focusing on higher-density replacements for the standard I/O cards in the IBM PC. A typical AST multifunction card of the mid-1980s would have an RS-232 serial port, a parallel printer port, a battery-backed clock/calendar (the original IBM PC did not have one), a game port, and 384 KB of DRAM (added to the 256 KB on the motherboard to reach the full complement of 640 KB) - marketed under the product name 'SixPakPlus'. A similar expansion card was produced for the 8-bit Apple II, named the AST Multi I/O, which offered a serial and parallel interface, plus a battery-backed clock/calendar.
In 1987 AST produced a pair of expansions cards for the Apple IIGS computer: The RamStakPlus, a dual RAM/ROM memory expansion card, and the AST Vision Plus–a real-time video capture card. The latter card was eventually sold to Silicon & Software and licensed and sold through Virtual Realities (and later LRO and then Alltech Electronics). AST Research also produced for the Macintosh line the Mac286, a pair of NuBus cards containing an Intel 80286 and RAM, allowing a Macintosh to run MS-DOS side by side with its existing operating system. These cards were announced March 1987 alongside Apple's Macintosh II line (AKA, the 'Open Mac'). The product line was eventually sold to Orange Micro, which developed the concept further.
As PC manufacturers improved the integration of peripheral controllers on their motherboards, AST's original business began to dry up, and the company developed its own line of PCs, for the desktop, mobile, and server markets.
In 1992 AST became a Fortune 500 company at place 431.
AST computer's reliability was considered close to that of quality leaders Compaq, Gateway, and IBM. AST managed to gain a decent market share of the PC market, however, it never came close to overtaking Compaq and Dell. During 1992-1995, AST owned the largest market share in China with Legend (now Lenovo) as the largest local reseller of AST computer.
In 1993 Radio Shack sold its computer manufacturing division to AST, and in 1994 they reached a deal to sell AST computers in Radio Shack stores. A year later, the electronics chain started selling IBM-brand computers instead.
AST's fortunes turned south due to their strategy of sticking to only offering premium models in an increasingly competitive personal computer market, while Compaq Computer Corporation and other top-tier manufacturers slashed prices to go head-to-head with the cheapest clones. The failure of AST to recognize the movement towards the commoditization of the PC contributed to its downturn. AST insisted on developing and using its own components in the PCs it produced, instead of those of specialized OEMs. One often used saying at AST, in an attempt to dismiss such competitors, was "the best technology they have (e.g., Dell, Compaq) is a screwdriver."
AST Research was acquired by Samsung on August 11, 1996. Prior to this move, Samsung had already owned a substantial stake and provided considerable financial support to keep AST going. However, Samsung was forced to close the California-based computer maker after a string of losses and a mass defection of research talent.
AST Computers, LLC
In January 1999, the name and intellectual property were acquired by a new company named AST Computers, LLC.
AST Computers disappeared from the market in 2001.
Revival of the AST trademark
- "Radio Shack To Sell Tandy Division To Ast". Orlando Sentinel. May 27, 1993.
- "Company News; Tandy's Radio Shack to Sell AST and Packard Bell PC's". The New York Times. September 20, 1994.
- Dan Margolis (August 10, 1995). "Radio Shack Pact With IBM Deals Blow to AST Research". Los Angeles Times.
- Lawrence M. Fisher (January 31, 1997). "Samsung Electronics Plans to Buy the Rest of AST Research". The New York Times.
- The new AST Machines website
- The AST trademark - US Patent Office