Saturday August 13, 2016

The IBM PC, Which Changed Computers Forever, Turns 35

The IBM 5150, considered by many to be the catalyst of the desktop computer, celebrated its 35th birthday yesterday. It was not only the first computer that the typical person could take home but was also the first IBM system to use components and software from other companies (e.g., Microsoft and Intel). The simplest configuration of the 5150 offered 16KB of RAM with no hard drive and used an audio cassette to load and save data.

Not long before the 5150 debuted, IBM computers had cost as much as $9 million to run and needed a staff of 60 people and an air-conditioned room that took up a quarter of an acre. The company's entry-level computer, the IBM System/38 minicomputer cost $90,000. But when the idea of a home computer was first floated at IBM it was met with a cold response: "Why would anyone want to take a computer home with them?" Facing competition from the likes of Apple, Commodore and Atari, then-chief executive Frank Cary decided IBM needed to buy one of those smaller computers or design its own microcomputer that would cost a seemingly impossible $1,500.