It is now 30 years since IBM kick-started a revolution in computing with the PC, and it is a testament to the far-sightedness of the company's engineers that the platform has lasted for so long, although newer device formats are challenging its position as the dominant business client.
IBM launched the model 5150 personal computer on 12 August 1981 when the IT industry was very different from today. At the time, having a computer for a single person was a relatively new concept, and the PC, along with other pioneering small computers such as the Apple II, challenged the huge, centralised computer systems in use at the time.
"The significance of the PC platform cannot be overestimated. It democratised IT, giving users not just access to technology, but control over it as well, unlike the mainframe," said Ovum principal analyst Roy Illsley.
However, it took a long time for the PC to become established in the enterprise. The original model, with a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 processor, 16KB of built-in memory and no hard disk storage, was seen as underpowered even in those days and irrelevant for large organisations equipped with mainframes and minis.
Instead, it was smaller companies that were the enthusiastic early adopters, driving the market for applications such as WordStar, early spreadsheets like Lotus 1-2-3, and numerous accounts packages, allowing such companies to get the benefits of IT probably for the first time.
And while there were many early microcomputer models around, the fact that IBM was a tried and trusted name in the computer industry undoubtedly had a hand in its success.
"I recommended the PC for my company over the Apple II+, which I owned personally, because it was an IBM (at the time a well respected computer maker). It had more memory, a separate keyboard, dual floppies built-in, and it seemed like the best choice," recounted V3 reader Jim Collins.
Another reason for the success of the IBM PC was the relatively low cost. This was partly down to IBM's decision to speed up development by using commercially available, off-the-shelf components such as Intel processors, rather than design its own chips to do the job.
This decision had the knock-on effect of enabling others to build machines using the same components, and which were capable of running the same software. Within just a few years, vendors such as Compaq and Apricot had sprung up to compete with IBM on price or features, and the PC industry was born.
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