The PC Turns 30 Today

The PC is celebrating its 30th birthday today, as the
IBM 5150 made its debut on 12 August, 1981.

While the 5150 certainly wasn’t the first of its kind, the
IBM PC was the first computer which captured the imagination of the public and
paved the way for the explosion in the personal computer industry for the next
30 years.

Back in 1981, the IBM 5150 came with the Intel 8088 processor running at a
whopping 4.77MHz, which at the time wasn’t even the most powerful of Intel’s
processors but it was felt anything more powerful was unnecessary in a personal computer.

IBM 5150

For home use the computer attached to an audio-tape cassette
player and a television set (which meant no floppy drives or video monitor) and
sold for approximately $1,565. PC-DOS, the operating system, was not available
on cassette at the time, so this basic system was only capable of running the
Microsoft BASIC programming language, which is built-in and included with every

The basic system came with 64kB of RAM, but just like today’s systems the 5150 was upgradeable, up to
256kB and you could tack on a monchrome display and one or two floppy drives
paying up to $6,000 (or $15,000 in today’s money) for the pleasure..

The success of the 5150 paved the way for the PC revolution
which saw huge changes in the next three decades and saw a big chunk of ugly white plastic sit in the corner of millions of homes for many years. In that time we’ve seen the
rise (and fall) of the Commodore 64, the first Mac, laptops, Pentium processors, Windows,
Mac OS and now tablets.

                        IBM 5150

Steve Jobs famously said earlier this year that we are now
in a post-PC era where people will use tablets and other mobile devices rather
than PCs. And it seems as if one of the group of 12 engineers involved in
designing the original IBM 5150 agrees.

IBM engineer Mark Dean said he has switched to a tablet and
that the PC is going the way of “vacuum tubes, typewriters, vinyl records,
CRT and incandescent light bulbs.”

With 400 million PCs shipping this year, we’re not sure that
the PC is dead, but whatever the future is, the PC has had a pretty incredible 30 years
and we wish it a very happy birthday.

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