On this day 42 years ago, on August 12, 1981, IBM released the first PC and quickly took over the market. Having the name IBM PC has made a huge impact on the global personal computer market. This computer model was so successful that it created a worldwide craze, inspiring other manufacturers to release devices with similar design and features, called “IBM Compatibles”. The IBM PC specifications became one of the most popular computer design standards worldwide. The most significant competition from incompatible platforms in the 1980s was the Apple Macintosh product line. The vast majority of modern computers are derived from the IBM PC.
In fact, the IBM PC wasn’t the company’s first attempt at creating a compact computer. Earlier in 1975, IBM introduced the IBM 5100 Portable. Despite the “Portable” name, the model was quite large compared to PCs released two years later. Still, it’s much smaller than room-sized computers. The price of the IBM 5100 “PC” is also very high. Depending on the storage capacity, the selling price ranged from $8,975 to $19,975 – very expensive at the time.
In 1980, IBM finally decided to create a real personal computer for both the home and the office. That’s why IBM PC was born in the lab in Boca Raton, Florida, by a team of 12 people led by engineer William C. Lowe. This new computer model has an open architecture, uses non-proprietary hardware and software, and is sold through retail stores. All of that goes against IBM’s business philosophy.
Several CPUs were considered in the IBM PC project, including Texas Instruments’ TMS9900, Motorola 68000, and Intel 8088. The last name chosen was Intel 8088 due to its reasonable price and IBM’s familiarity with the chip. during the design of the previous IBM System/23 Datamaster.
In terms of software, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer went to IBM and said that they would create an operating system specifically for the IBM PC. But basically, Microsoft still owns the OS and has the right to license its use to hardware companies other than IBM. To my surprise, IBM accepted this provision. There was only one small problem on Microsoft’s side: they still needed to quickly develop that operating system.
Microsoft decided to buy the QDOS license of Seattle Computer Products for only $50,000. The main developer of that OS, Tim Paterson, left the company to join Microsoft. Over the next few months, Tim and his associates at Microsoft created PC-DOS, the operating system platform that worked with the first IBM PC.
The end result was the IBM PC 5150, which launched for $1,565, including computer, monochrome display, and keyboard. Users can purchase additional options such as a color monitor, printer, floppy drive, etc. Software included in the PC includes the VisiCalc spreadsheet program and the Microsoft Adventure game.
The IBM PC achieved great sales, even at a relatively high price compared to the competition. At one point IBM sold 40,000 PCs in a month. It is estimated that between 50% and 70% of PCs sold in retail stores are purchased by individuals or households. By the end of 1983 IBM had sold more than 750,000 machines, while DEC, one of the competitors that had forced IBM into the market, had sold only 69,000 machines in the same period.