Old School 4 Life‘s Today’s Memory
The IBM Personal Computer
Originally shared by Old School 4 Life™
On this day:
At 12th August of 1981, IBM released their IBM Personal Computer for USD$1,565, with 16K RAM, no disk drives, and 4-color CGA graphics. The design becomes far more successful than IBM had anticipated, and becomes the basis for most of the modern personal computer industry.
On this day, August 12 in 1981, the biggest shake-up in the history of computing took place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City: the IBM Personal Computer model 5150 was released.
International Business Machines (IBM), one of the world’s largest companies, had a 62% share of the mainframe computer market in 1981. Its share of the overall computer market, however, had declined from 60% in 1970 to 32% in 1980. Perhaps distracted by a long-running antitrust lawsuit, the „colossus of Armonk” completely missed the fast-growing minicomputer market during the 1970s, and was behind rivals such as Wang, Hewlett-Packard, and Control Data in other areas.
IBM’s first personal computer arrived nearly 10 years after others were available, but instantly legitimized the market. Unlike most previous IBM products, the PC incorporated hardware and software from other companies. IBM published design details, inspiring often superior “clones.” Many companies were dubious. Could small personal computers really be serious business tools ? The IBM name was a reassuring seal of approval.
In July of 1980, IBM representatives met for the first time with Microsoft’s Bill Gates to talk about writing an operating system for IBM’s new hush-hush „personal” computer. IBM had been observing the growing personal computer market for some time. They had already made one dismal attempt to crack the market with their IBM 5100. At one point, IBM considered buying the fledgling game company Atari to commandeer Atari’s early line of personal computers. However, IBM decided to stick with making their own personal computer line and developed a brand new operating system to go with.
The secret plans were referred to as „Project Chess”. The code name for the new computer was „Acorn”. Twelve engineers, led by William C. Lowe, assembled in Boca Raton, Florida, to design and build the „Acorn”. On August 12, 1981, IBM released their new computer, re-named the IBM PC. The „PC” stood for „personal computer” making IBM responsible for popularizing the term „PC”.
The first IBM PC ran on a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor. The PC came equipped with 16 kilobytes of memory, expandable to 256k. The PC came with one or two 160k floppy disk drives and an optional color monitor. The price tag started at $1,565, which would be nearly $4,000 today. What really made the IBM PC different from previous IBM computers was that it was the first one built from off the shelf parts (called open architecture) and marketed by outside distributors (Sears & Roebucks and Computerland).
The Intel chip was chosen because IBM had already obtained the rights to manufacture the Intel chips. IBM had used the Intel 8086 for use in its Displaywriter Intelligent Typewriter in exchange for giving Intel the rights to IBM’s bubble memory technology. In promoting their PC, IBM touted their long history of making computers. But the PC was designed, built and sold very differently from any of their previous computers.
As the leading business computer manufacturer, IBM had a large, loyal customer base. It also had credibility, which reassured companies that personal computers weren’t just playthings, but made good business sense. Businesses bought IBM PCs in quantity. Personal computers and workstations ultimately reached desks at every corporate level.
Growing sales nourished a rapidly expanding software market for the PC platform, including: spreadsheet and word processing software that became integral parts of corporate life. This expanding library of programs made IBM PCs an ever more versatile tool, which further generated sales.
Many IBM PCs have remained in service long after their technology became largely obsolete. In June 2006, IBM PC and XT models were still in use at the majority of U.S. National Weather Service upper-air observing sites, used to process data as it is returned from the ascending radiosonde, attached to a weather balloon, although they have been slowly phased out.
Factors that have contributed to the 5150 PC’s longevity are its flexible modular design, its open technical standard (making information needed to adapt, modify, and repair it readily available), use of few special nonstandard parts, and rugged high-standard IBM manufacturing, which provided for exceptional long-term reliability and durability.
Many newer PCs, by contrast, use proprietary parts and PCs themselves become obsolete quickly. The slot specifications are still used in current PCs as well as the limitation of having four active partitions on a hard disk. Many systems still come with PS/2 style keyboard and mouse connectors, and power supply connectors are based on later standards.
The IBM model 5150 Personal Computer has become a collectable among vintage computer collectors, due to the system being the first true “PC” as we know them today. Today these systems can fetch anywhere from $100 to $4500, depending on cosmetic and operational condition. The IBM model 5150 has proven to be reliable; despite their age of 30 years or more, some still function as they did when new.