The IBM PC is 30 years old today

As we have been reporting earlier in the week, the IBM personal computer turns 30 years old today. The launch of the IBM PC turned out to be a turning point in computing in particular. The technology world in general was also changed as the design of the IBM PC was copied and used by most of the successful PC makers over the next three decades. The release of the IBM PC also started the launch of Microsoft's rise as its MS-DOS operating system was included in nearly all IBM based PCs.

IBM posted up the original press release issued on August 12, 1981 on its web site and its an interesting look back at both the technology of the time and how the IBM PC was marketed to the masses. One interesting thing is the price. The IBM PC was sold for "as little as $1,565." That amount today would buy you a fairly powerful PC today. Indeed you can get a fairly decent PC for much lower than what the original IBM PC sold for.

The first IBM PC could be bought with "up to 262,144 characters of user memory". The PC's screen had a "text system capable of displaying 256 characters in any of 16 foreground and 8 background colors." It also had a graphics capability of a whopping four colors 30 years ago. The keyboard for the IBM PC had 83 keys and a six foot cable that allowed it to "be used in the lap or positioned across a desk top without moving the computer itself."

Image via Wikipedia

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19 Comments

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I have a customer/user that STILL insists on using that original keyboard. She now has a Windows 7 system, using that same original IBM keyboard

And Apple were already somewhat sparse with the truth in their adds. back then both Tandy and Commodore had a far higher PC production than Apple had.

I was already on my 3rd PC when the IBM came out with the memory limited to 512k because no one would ever need more than that :-).

cypherboy said,
And Apple were already somewhat sparse with the truth in their adds. back then both Tandy and Commodore had a far higher PC production than Apple had.

That brings back memories.. my old Tandy Model 16 with Microsoft Xenix. Fun stuff, and yea built pretty solidly.

I miss the old IBM Model M keyboards though, the ones that had a good solid click and were heavy enough to double as a blunt weapon. Those things were built like tanks, not like the cheap plastic you get today.

Jen Smith said,

That brings back memories.. my old Tandy Model 16 with Microsoft Xenix. Fun stuff, and yea built pretty solidly.

I miss the old IBM Model M keyboards though, the ones that had a good solid click and were heavy enough to double as a blunt weapon. Those things were built like tanks, not like the cheap plastic you get today.

I love old keyboards, I'm still using the one from my 486 to this day. The new ones are all junk. The Model M is really nice, but there's also the Model F which feels even nicer (but is ridiculously loud). It came with the original IBM PC and PC/XT, but there is a somewhat rare AT version of it as well.

TRC said,
The Model M is really nice, but there's also the Model F which feels even nicer (but is ridiculously loud). It came with the original IBM PC and PC/XT, but there is a somewhat rare AT version of it as well.

Hrmm maybe that's the one I'm thinking of, it's been so long I can't remember. Made of metal, heavy enough to break your foot if you drop it, and a click loud enough to be felt from the next room. I would love to see something like a Logitech G15 built like that.

Jen Smith said,

Hrmm maybe that's the one I'm thinking of, it's been so long I can't remember. Made of metal, heavy enough to break your foot if you drop it, and a click loud enough to be felt from the next room. I would love to see something like a Logitech G15 built like that.

Yeah, both are built like tanks. The Model F was an 84-key keyboard though; that's a picture of one in the article. The AT version has LEDs for caps lock, scroll lock and num lock.

It had stronger springs in the key switches and felt more like the Selectric typewriters. The model M is pretty loud but the Model F will wake the neighbors.

Edited by Bonfire, Aug 13 2011, 12:01am :

PlogCF said,

If only there was a Xerox ad congratulating Apple to entering the PC business...

"We look forward to responsible competition"

If only someone called Apple out on this today, now they're suing every tablet maker it seems. Responsible competition indeed.

a) If you consider a $35,000 machine the size of a dishwasher a "personal computer", and;

b) As many companies are suing Apple as Apple is suing. Welcome to the game, 2011. It sucks.

lunarworks said,
The IBM PC was not very impressive compared to other available systems, but IBM was a powerful name in the business world.

Here's an ad Apple put in the Wall Street Journal that day:

http://cdn.techi.com/wp-conten...ads/2011/07/Welcome-IBM.jpg

Oops.

Great find on that! I'd almost forgotten it. Interesting combination of intelligence, sincerity, and pure arrogance. One of the best print ads I've ever seen.

I was in my teens at the time, and fascinated by the computer industry even if I was too broke to actually HAVE one. I remember very clearly just how important IBM's entrance into the market was considered; in many ways it "legitimized" the industry.

zeta_immersion said,
no mouse, but man that is some kick ass machine with the storage of well ...2 A drives

(how big were they? 4-700 kb?!

As low as 160k for the earliest disks but 360k soon became the most common.

I still have half a dozen unopened boxes 360k floppy disks and a lot of old software on others. They still work too unlike the more modern 3.5" 1.44MB disks that seem to die at the drop of a hat.

Skyfrog said,
…1.44MB disks that seem to die at the drop of a hat.

A friend of mine claims that he was able to erase a 1.44MB by getting a call on his smartphone