August 12, 2011

On This Day

On August 12, 1980, IBM released the IBM PC. From the IBM achives:

Non-IBM personal computers were available as early as the mid-1970s, first as do-it-yourself kits and then as off-the-shelf products. They offered a few applications but none that justified widespread use.

Drawing on its pioneering SCAMP (Special Computer, APL Machine Portable) prototype of 1973, IBM's General Systems Division announced the IBM 5100 Portable Computer in September 1975. Weighing approximately 50 pounds, the 5100 desktop computer was comparable to the IBM 1130 in storage capacity and performance but almost as small and easy to use as an IBM Selectric Typewriter. It was followed by similar small computers such as the IBM 5110 and 5120.

IBM's own Personal Computer (IBM 5150) was introduced in August 1981, only a year after corporate executives gave the go-ahead to Bill Lowe, the lab director in the company's Boca Raton, Fla., facilities. He set up a task force that developed the proposal for the first IBM PC. Early studies had concluded that there were not enough applications to justify acceptance on a broad basis and the task force was fighting the idea that things couldn't be done quickly in IBM. One analyst was quoted as saying that "IBM bringing out a personal computer would be like teaching an elephant to tap dance." During a meeting with top executives in New York, Lowe claimed his group could develop a small, new computer within a year. The response: "You're on. Come back in two weeks with a proposal."

It sold for $1,565.
The system unit was powered by an Intel 8088 microprocessor operating at speeds measured in millionths of a second. It was the size of a portable typewriter and contained 40K of read-only memory and 16K of user memory, as well as a built-in speaker for generating music. Its five expansion slots could be used to connect such features as expanded memory, display and printing units and game "paddles." The unit also ran self-diagnostic checks.

Containing 83 keys, the keyboard was connected to the unit by a six-foot coiled cable, which meant users could rest it in their lap or on the desktop without moving the rest of the system. It also included such advanced functions for the times as a numeric keypad and 10 special keys that enabled users to write and edit text, figure accounts and store data.

Options included:

•A printer that could print in two directions at 80 characters per second in 12 different character styles, and also check itself for malfunctions and provide an out-of-paper signal.
•A color/graphics monitor with 16 foreground and background colors and 256 characters for text applications. Its graphics were in four colors.
•Multiple 32K and 64K memory cards that could be plugged into the option slots to increase memory to 256K.
Needing new channels to distribute these new computers, IBM turned to ComputerLand; Sears, Roebuck and Co.; and IBM Product Centers to make the IBM PC available to the broadest set of customers.

The response to the announcement was overwhelming. One dealer had 22 customers come in and put down $1,000 deposits on the machines for which he could not promise a delivery date. By the end of 1982, qualified retail outfits were signing on to sell the new machine at the rate of one-a-day as sales actually hit a system-a-minute every business day. Newsweek magazine called it "IBM's roaring success," and the New York Times said, "The speed and extent to which IBM has been successful has surprised many people, including IBM itself."
I can remember working on XT's (10 MB HDD) and AT's. The 286 was a screamer for just under $3,000. It came with a CGA monitor that by itself sold for $600 under state contract pricing. Without an operating system the PC booted directly into BASIC.

I can still remember my first 66 MB MFM HDD. Unattached to a PC, it was a deadly weapon if hurled at an unsuspecting head, it weighed more than a brick and took 45 minutes for a high level format.


Doom said...

Yeah, my first machine as an XT. I think the modem was... 2.5 mb/s? Ah, and the bulletin-boards. Truly, the good old days. Hmm, and alph-numeric games! D&D, sort of, you didn't need a DM and a half dozen others to play. I remember "looking around" online and stumbling into a bank (their files and archives and all that, accounts and all). I just... backed out and never went back. :)

sig94 said...

Doom - there was the old DOS 640K RAM ceilings and fooling around with all those memory managers. And those first modems. But everything was character based and programmers kept the app size to a minimum. The old Radio Shack CoCos did multi-tasking with only 256K RAM.

T. F. Stern said...

We looked at the XT but ended up with TI's version because it had a better graphics card and monitor. They both sold for about $4000 at the time and the Omni printer had snap in font changes so you didn't have to look at the same basic font all the time. We had to swap floppy discs all the time from Program to Data Storage since there was no hard disk drive.

It was a long time ago and kids today wouldn't believe that we thought it was great. Thanks for posting. I still have my first Compaq laptop which "almost" works, the one with the "brick" power set up.

sig94 said...

Does anyone remember the "toaster" disk drives that took an 8" floppy disk?

A Pissed Off Irishman said...

one of the best posts I've seen in a long time. get em my friend, we have to win this ting the next time is our last time..

Andy said...

My first love, I mean Machine? A Packard Bell 386SX16 with 2MB of RAM, a 120 MB HDD and a 9 pin Rainbow color printer. With its 16 color VGA resolution, it came in at about $1,900.00 The most expensive system I ever owned.