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The IBM PC-XT launched 40 years ago today but it got competition from the Compaq Portable

The IBM PC-XT personal computer

In 1981, the first personal computer desktop was launched by IBM. However, the IBM PC had some limitations, such as the lack of a hard drive and too few expansion ports. 40 years ago today, on March 8, 1983, the company came out with its next-generation desktop computer, the IBM PC-XT.

One of the two big hardware improvements in the IBM PC-XT was an increase in expansion slots from five in the original IBM PC to eight in the new PC. This allowed for owners to add more hardware, like an additional floppy disk drive or another hard drive. Speaking of which, the second big hardware improvement was the addition of a Seagate 10 MB hard drive. This allowed the IBM PC-XT to boot up the PC-DOS 2.0 operating system from the hard drive, rather than rely on using a floppy disk. The PC did come with a 5.25-inch floppy disk drive as well. Later models were sold without the included hard drive.

Unfortunately, the company decided that the IBM PC-XT would get the Intel 8088 microprocessor, which is the same processor that shipped with the original IBM PC a year and a half earlier. The IBM PC-XT originally was sold with 128KB of memory, but later versions had 256 KB and finally 640 KB of memory on the motherboard. You had to purchase the monitor for this PC as an accessory or have it bundled with the computer. You can find out a lot more about the hardware specs on the PC from the DOS Days website.

The original IBM PC had a starting price of $1,565 when it launched in 1981 according to PC Mag. By contrast, the price for the first model of the IBM PC-XT was a whopping $7,545, thanks to that included hard drive. That's part of the reason why the company sold later versions without the hard drive to make it more affordable. One model with just a single floppy drive and a bundled monochrome monitor sold for £1,736 in the UK, or about $2,058.

By the time the IBM PC-XT was released, other companies were coming out with their own personal computers that were IBM PC-compatible. One of them was released around the same time as the IBM PC-XT, the Compaq Portable. It was the first PC in what turned out to be a long line of Compaq personal computers.

The Compaq Portable PC
Compaq Portable

It had a built-in 9-inch green phosphor CRT, but the original lacked the built-in hard drive that the IBM PC-XT had included. Another thing about the Compaq Portable is that while its BIOS was coded from scratch, it was made to run any apps that the IBM BIOS could. It even came with its own carrying case (hence the "Portable" in the title)

When it launched, the Compaq Portable cost over $3,000, but according to ZDNet, the PC still sold about 53,000 units in its first year. More importantly, it started the "IBM PC compatible" era, as more personal computers from other companies soon joined in to compete directly with IBM. It was the true start of the PC industry that continues to this day.

What was your first PC, and when did you acquire it? Let us know in the comments below.

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