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How the IBM PC Changed the World 232

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the 25th-anniversary-special dept.
Sabah Arif writes "On August 12, 1981, IBM released the IBM PC 5150. In less than two years, IBM had created a computer that would not only change IBM, but the entire world, mostly because it did not follow IBM tradition. It used an outside microprocessor (instead of the nascent IBM 801), operating system and software. Low End Mac recounts the birth of the IBM PC 5150."
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How the IBM PC Changed the World

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  • by ian_mackereth (889101) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:55AM (#15886973) Journal
    I reckon it was the Turbo button that was the best part of early PCs.

    These days, no turbo button, so I'm stuck at a crawling 3GHz...

    • by Squarewav (241189) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:14AM (#15887062)
      I wish there was a modern version of the "Turbo" button

      for thoes that don't know.. so many games and programs were made for the 8086/8088 that when they started upping the clockspeed many games ran too fast so they implimented the turbo button so that you could slow down the cpu to make old games and such useable

      would be nice now to beable to push a button and have games from around 1995~ or so that I have lieing around playable again.. but alas that would be an interesting trick sence you'd have to impliment 3dfx voodoo 1, soundblaster and true dos in software/hardware
    • by pimpimpim (811140) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:29AM (#15887294)
      Hmmm, let me think, reintroducing something from the 80's as if it was your own innovation..... Maybe you should just wait for the next WWDC! Except that it won't be called 'turbo' anymore (that is really too 80's), but more something like "Engage". And it won't be an actual button, but more some sort of fancy transparent widget.
    • Actually, today it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a "Slow Down" button, to drop the clockspeed to a lower level. I guess this is effectively done in software anyway (how the chip turns parts of itself into low-power mode when it's not being fully used), but there are definitely times when I don't need my computer running at full speed. A simple switch that turned the clock down for a more power-friendly mode wouldn't be bad.

      Or something that briefly over-clocked the processor, maybe running the fans at a sp
    • Yup. Turbo let you feel like you had some control. Flip the nitro switch and peel out at a blazing 10 mhz. I can remember setting a full test of my dBase program running before I left for the day and didn't check the Turbo switch. It was still running when I got in the next morning.
    • What was the point of that button? Backward compatibility with slower machines? I didn't know, all I knew was that it was a speed switch and my mom always told me to keep the "turbo" off because I didn't need that speed and she thought it used a lot more electricity when it was on. At the time, I simply didn't know how to respond to that because I didn't know what it did other than change the computer speed.
  • CPM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:56AM (#15886979) Homepage Journal
    I don't know why it is considered so great historically. CPM machines had spreadsheets and dBASE and word-processors and were doing quite well. The IBM PC stole that market and killed CPM because of the brand name. CPM would have been the base framework of the machines we use today had it not been for the IBM PC. In fact, the PC barrowed CPM-machine hardware in many cases.
    • Re:CPM (Score:5, Informative)

      by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:13AM (#15887057)
      CP/M was one of the OSes that IBM offered on the PC. So the PC itself didn't kill CP/M, rather it was probably Microsoft's much lower pricepoint for PC-DOS, along with all the customers who didn't feel that CP/M offered enough additional value to justify the extra cost.
      • Re:CPM (Score:3, Informative)

        by mbstone (457308)
        CP/M 86 was about the same price. But nobody wanted to type >pip >b:file=a:file (or whatever it was) instead of >copy a:file b: ?
        • Re:CPM (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          > CP/M 86 was about the same price

          CP/M: $240
          IBM PC DOS: $40

          Identical, except for a leading digit.
        • by Agripa (139780)
          Sigh. I miss PIP. Of course, I miss FID also if only for sentimental reasons. I did not have access to hardware capable of running Unix for a long time or I am sure I would have made that transition earlier.

          One of the first utilities I wrote for CP/M involved pacing the output to our printers because we had no flow control by keeping track of both carriage and roller movement. If I had had the source to PIP, I would have modified it instead of writing a separate program.
    • by reporter (666905) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:03AM (#15887215) Homepage
      The IBM PC exerted a tremendous impact on the entire computer industry due to the confluence of 4 important factors.

      1. The IBM PC was initially sold for about $1295. That was much cheaper than any other IBM computer. Apple and Commodore had cheaper computers, but small-business owners want the IBM name on their computers. Business people tended to view Apple computers and Commodore computers as toys.

      2. The computer had the IBM label on it. These days, the IBM label does not carry the same cachet that the IBM name carried in the 1980s. At that time, IBM dominated the mindshare in the computer industry. People often said, "No one was ever fired for buying an IBM computer."

      3. IBM encouraged other companies to build hardware and software for the IBM PC. It literally came with a full set of manuals documenting the entire BIOS and the internal wiring among the chips of the motherboard. Compare that open approach to, say, the typical Sony laptop. The plethora of software and hardware peripherals for the IBM PC enabled it to be adapted to a wide-range of useful applications: music synthesis, video games, desktop publishing, real-time intruder monitoring, etc.

      4. Phoenix Technologies cloned the BIOS, enabling an army of companies to legally build functioning clones of the IBM PC. This army of cloners then spawned an entire universe of component suppliers. This intense competition among so many cloners and suppliers drastically lowered the price of the IBM PC and its clones. In turn, the lowered prices dramatically increased sales of the personal computers. Today, you can buy a Dell laptop for $500.

      As prices dropped, more people bought computers; with more people owning computers, more companies building software and hardware for the computers appeared. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

      Among the four factors, item #4 is probably the most important factor in amplifying the impact of the IBM PC on the entire computer industry.

      You can easily see the impact of #4 by comparing (1) the size of the ecosystem of companies building hardware and software for IBM PCs (now known as Lenovo PCs) and their clones and (2) the size of the ecosystem of companies building hardware and software for 68000 Macintoshes or PowerPC Macintoshes. Still more interesting, the enormous size and supercompetitive nature of the 1st ecosystem has swallowed even Apple: the new x86 Macintoshes are essentially (in a very general sense) an IBM clone. The x86 Macintoshes use the x86 (the central component of an IBM clone) and take advantage of the super-cheap VLSI chips from which IBM clones are built.

      • by pimpimpim (811140) on Friday August 11, 2006 @03:17AM (#15887432)
        It's easy to see that point (4), copying the idea and standards to other hardware companies, couldn't have happened if they didn't give away all the documentation as in point (3). And, point (4) not only increased the impact of IBM on the history of PCs, but it also decreased their market share as a PC supplier enormously.

        What I find interesting to speculate on, is if they would've been bigger now if they had used some sort of "trusted hardware" contract, the same as which microsoft already tries to put through for some time now: forcing suppliers to develop hardware/software only under contract, and making sure that only hardware from those suppliers will actually function on their platform (not that the hardware capacity was there to check stuff like that at the time, I guess).

        Or, would they have been marginalized by the more open competition if they would've chosen that path, and their current technique to support open standards, but deliver paid service and support for companies that need reliable software/hardware, is actually the best one?

        • When the PC became such a success and IBM found itself more and more out of the loop, they tried that approach.
          With the introduction of the PS/2, a new bus (MCA) was introduced and everything was more or less closed again.

          It became a miserable failure, because the genie was already out of the bottle and the clone manufacturers could just ignore IBM and go on making their clones without having to incorporate more than the keyboard and mouse connector. The early issue of "is this clone really compatible with
        • Restrictions are designed to increase the profitability of the vendor and therefore always increase the costs to customers. Inevitably at some point a more open and lower cost alternative always appears. If IBM hadn't released the specs, something else would have appeared which we'd be using now. It's economically inevitable. This is actually why Linux will ultimately replace Windows and most other operating systems.

             
        • Actually, no.

          There were a LOT of companies stealing the IBM BIOS code by typing in the source in the Technical Reference Manual. That was ruled illegal.

          What the later cloners (including Compaq) did was take the programming reference manual, hire people who would sign a legally binding statement that they had never seen the BIOS code and do a black box reverse engineering job on the functions. The best jobs were done by Compaq (who didn't resell their clean BIOS) and Phoenix who just did a much better job th
      • $1295 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sithech (858269) on Friday August 11, 2006 @03:25AM (#15887455)
        Yes, I remember going downtown in SF to see the PC. For $1295 you got a machine with 16 K of memory, no graphics adapter, no floppy drives. You could hook it to a cassette recorder. Pretty much a clone of the bottom-end configuration of the Apple II, at about the same cost (no, Apples weren't significantly cheaper). What it had going for it was a keyboard that included lower-case and function keys . And the graphics modes of the color adapter were very impressive. Also it could be configured with an enormous 640 K of memory, which was more than the floppy drive held.


        For the record, all the popular small systems of the time had third party add-ons. That's a tradition that goes back all the way to the Altair. The Apple II didn't even have an RF modulator, because a third-party deal saved some headaches for Apple. All the systems came with full documentation. Apple even gave you the source code for the whole ROM in a separate manual right in the box, along with the schematics. Cloning the BIOS happened long after the PC had established its place - and the first clones had significant compatibility problems. Clones really didn't take off until Compac beat IBM to market with a 386-based machine.

      • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:04AM (#15887697)
        >Business people tended to view Apple computers and Commodore computers as toys.
        I'm not convinced. Over here in the UK CBM Pets and Apple IIs were all over the business world. Heck, even huge multinational banks used Apple II's. I knew some poor guy who had to log credits in to an Apple II running a database by Stoneware.
        Business magazines of that era were full of ads for Apple IIs and all the business software/hardware you could buy for them.
        Early reviews of the PC were also very negative, most noting Apple had nothing to worry about.
      • 2. The computer had the IBM label on it. These days, the IBM label does not carry the same cachet that the IBM name carried in the 1980s. At that time, IBM dominated the mindshare in the computer industry. People often said, "No one was ever fired for buying an IBM computer."

        IBM's previous attempts at a home or personal/small-business were laughable. And the first PCs were pretty crap compared in features and performance - whilst the first 8088 or 8086 IBMs and compatibles struggled on with 80x25 character

        • whilst the first 8088 or 8086 IBMs and compatibles struggled on with 80x25 character displays, a beeper and crude user interfaces, the Mac + Atari + Amiga people had bitmapped colour displays, digital audio and WIMP.

          For business applications, after evaluating both those early color displays and the IBM monochrome text displays, most people would have chosen the the text display. For the time it was very crisp, with a nice font and special long-persistence phosphors. Early color displays (including IBM's

        • And the first PCs were pretty crap compared in features and performance - whilst the first 8088 or 8086 IBMs and compatibles struggled on with 80x25 character displays, a beeper and crude user interfaces, the Mac + Atari + Amiga people had bitmapped colour displays, digital audio and WIMP.

          BS. The Mac, Atari ST, and Amiga didn't come out until years after the first 8088/86 PCs. Three years later, in the case of the Mac, and four years later (1985) for the ST and Amiga, by which time the first 386s/EGA d
          • Although when the IBM PC came out, it sure did look sad--visually--next to the displays of the Atari 800. But remember, that was the point. IBM wanted a serious business machine, not a game playing, recipe-filing computer.
        • Back in 1986, it amazed me that home computers like the Atari 800 could do 16 colour graphics, while the IBM PC could only do four colours from a fixed palette.

          EGA was a slight improvement, but it wasn't until VGA came along with multisync monitors that the fun really began. And there were all those wacky coprocessor cards that tried to bypass the CPU (some image processing cards had four transputers or a i860 for signal processing (Microway Quadputer/Number Smasher 860) [hw.ac.uk], Other had a TMS34020 for graphics
      • 3. IBM encouraged other companies to build hardware and software for the IBM PC. It literally came with a full set of manuals documenting the entire BIOS and the internal wiring among the chips of the motherboard. Compare that open approach to, say, the typical Sony laptop. The plethora of software and hardware peripherals for the IBM PC enabled it to be adapted to a wide-range of useful applications: music synthesis, video games, desktop publishing, real-time intruder monitoring, etc.

        I'm not sure about

      • While I agree with all your points, if Phoenix hadn't cloned the BIOS someone else would have. In fact, the first "clone" (Compaq) did not use Phoenix and other, later, clones (Dell, etc) did not either. Furthermore, AMI offered a competing BIOS eventually. Vendors like Dell switched to Phoenix to obtain the marketing benefit much like they take the kickback for having the Windows and Intel stickers on their boxes.

        Phoenix desired 100% penetration and was willing to give their product away to get it sinc
    • CP/M was fine, but I installed ZCPR on all my Kaypros...
  • First personal PC (Score:3, Informative)

    by zymano (581466) on Friday August 11, 2006 @12:59AM (#15886988)
    Was the 'blue box' Altair.

    It inspired most of the techno-nerds from Gates to Jobs.
  • the x86 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:11AM (#15887047) Journal
    On the one hand, the x86 is a terrible design. It doesn't have enough registers, and the assembly interface is awkward (especially in the FPU). On the other hand, the openness of the architecture has freed us from the shackles of dependency on a single company for hardware (which DRM would like to lay back on us). If you don't like Intel, you can go to AMD. There are tons of board manufacturers to choose from, and all the parts need to be (more or less) interoperable.

    This prevents one manufacturer from imposing their wishes on us. If Microsoft had control of their personal computer platform the way apple does, we surely would have lost the battle to DRM already. Computers would be more expensive because there wouldn't be competition from cheap manufacturers in Taiwan to drive the prices down.

    The x86 may be an ugly beast, but it gives us the freedom that only openness can bring. And I will drink to that.
    • Re:the x86 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:08AM (#15887235) Journal
      This prevents one manufacturer from imposing their wishes on us. If Microsoft had control of their personal computer platform the way apple does, we surely would have lost the battle to DRM already.

      If the PC was as tightly controlled as Apple's platform was... You probably would not ever have heard of Microsoft.

      Microsoft didn't make the PC, IBM did. They were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, to ride the wave of "openness", which depended on their closed software for interoperability.

      • If the PC was as tightly controlled as Apple's platform was... You probably would not ever have heard of Microsoft.

        Microsoft didn't make the PC, IBM did. They were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, to ride the wave of "openness", ...


        Ummm, no. The reason we have all heard of Microsoft is because Gates wisely insisted that IBM *not* have an exclusive on PC-DOS. Microsoft reserved the right to sell their OS to other computer manufacturers. IBM agreed, probably due to arroganc
      • Don't pretend the openness didn't come by accident. IBM wanted the PC to be closed, but unlike Apple they fucked up - partly because they thought nobody would want to clone a PC, and even if they did, they couldn't just copy the ever so valuable IBM-BASIC in the ROM.

        Remember that IBM called the PC an "open architecture" because they used of the shelf parts, not because they wanted people to clone it.

    • Re:the x86 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by linguae (763922) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:21AM (#15887266)

      There are just a few problems:

      The x86 has managed to kill off every other competing processor in the desktop space and relegate them to embedded computing or history books. First Alpha, then MIPS, and finally the PowerPC. (I'm typing this on an Intel Mac). We are now back to one architecture again, which is good for compatibility, but sucks for platform diversity. Not that I'm complaining about my computer (or the latest x86 offerings in general); you can't go wrong with the 1.83GHz Core Duo. The new Xeon chips make a dream machine. Intel did a very good job with the internals of the processor, by making it RISC-like (while still maintaining the x86 instruction set) and making it perform fast and relatively cool at the same time. I also like AMD's offerings; the Athlon 64 makes 64-bit computing very affordable (with great performance). But what about 10-20 years from now? Where will the new computer architecture ideas (or, more specifically, microprocessor ideas) come from? Will we finally get beyond the x86 instruction set? (Anybody who can point me to some recent academic/industrial research in this area will make me happy).

      Secondly, guess who is in the Trusted Computing Group? Intel and AMD. My Intel Mac has a TPM chip used to make sure I don't do something like purchasing a $299 Dell special desktop and installing OS X on it. Most new Core Duo laptops sold have some sort of TPM chip on them, although as of yet they have no use (unless you have a Mac). Imagine what happens when the law/**AA/Microsoft/whatever demands hardware-enforced DRM. Well, we already have the hardware on the Intel machines. AMD probably doesn't want to lose a few sales and doesn't want to look out of date, so they'll implement a TPM chip, too. Since there are no other architectures to choose from, you're stuck.

      Now, hopefully this doesn't happen. I am optimistic that this won't happen. There is quite a bit of backlash of DRM (even with normal consumers; look at the Sony rootkit fiasco, for example). However, it can happen, and the architecture for hardware-enforced DRM is falling into place. It's just the software that's falling behind, as usual.

      • We are now back to one architecture again, which is good for compatibility, but sucks for platform diversity.

        Well, IBM's Power/PowerPC seems to be doing just fine, as are several handheld architectures (Arm, MIPS, SHx).

        And, you're acting like a single common architecture is a bad thing. With the switch to x86-64, and other parallel advances, almost all of the benefits of the alternative architectures are gone. Who's to say that a common hardware platform is bad?

        Where will the new computer architecture ide

    • If Microsoft had control of their personal computer platform the way apple does, we surely would have lost the battle to DRM already. Computers would be more expensive because there wouldn't be competition from cheap manufacturers in Taiwan to drive the prices down.

      Ah, but if both the PC and Mac were locked-down single-manufacturer platforms, than another, more open platform would appear. Do you really think all those clever little Koreans would just sit on their arses and make nothing but MS-PC (for want
      • Ah, but if both the PC and Mac were locked-down single-manufacturer platforms, than another, more open platform would appear. Do you really think all those clever little Koreans would just sit on their arses and make nothing but MS-PC (for want of a better name) bits? You'd probably find something heavily Motorola-based would beast up the market. I still wish it would...

        Enter MSX [wikipedia.org].

    • by Flying pig (925874) on Friday August 11, 2006 @03:14AM (#15887420)
      In the late 70s/early 80s I worked with a number of 16 bit architectures - TMS9900, 8086, 68000, F101, PDP-11. The great thing about the X86 was that it was extremely easy to use for the migrating 8-bit programmer and it was easy to teach. Not so easy for me, I began on 16 bit and then in later years had to do embedded work with 8 bit processors which I hated!

      In fact all the early processors had their architectural horrors. The 9900 had an absurd system in which the bit order of IO was reverse numbered with respect to the bus and we actually got an I/O board into production before we realised this owing to the poor documentation. The 68000 constantly caught out assembly programmers because of its word alignment issues, resulting in one occasion in a programmer going near berserk and having a screaming fit in the lab, fortunately when the boss was out at a meeting. And don't talk to me about the F100/L except to say that Ferranti did not get as much pain as they deserved for creating it. Not that it would ever have become mainstream...

      It's easy to be clever with hindsight, but the Power architecture came later and too late. After, as I recall, the NS32032 which, despite some performance issues, was a processor I really liked.

    • Re:the x86 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nickos (91443) on Friday August 11, 2006 @04:37AM (#15887634)
      Originally, IBM's engineers had wanted to use the much nicer Motorola 68000, but some of the business types at IBM had a deal with Intel so they went with the 8088 instead. I see no reason why things couldn't have developed differently with the 68k series being used instead of the x86 - the platform could still be open and other companies would still clone the 68k...
      • The IBM PC was designed when desktop systems were still 8-bit. IBM wanted to design an 8-bit system, but certain people recommended to go for 16-bit, and a compromise was found in the 8088 that had a 16-bit architecture but an 8-bit bus. So the hardware could be built for 8 bits, and the software still could use 16 bits. This fell within the design criteria and cost objectives.

        The 68000, on the other hand, was one step up. This was a 32-bit processor with a 16-bit external bus. Costs would certainly ha
        • As I recall it had a 16 bit ALU. As a result fixed point multiply and divide were bottlenecks. It had 32 bit data registers and address registers, but this does not make it a 32 bit microprocessor. (In the same way, the RCA 1800 series had 16 bit registers but an 8-bit ALU, and nobody would ever call that a 16 bit processor).

          I know this is heresy, but IMHO the 68000 was actually a dead end, which is why it was ultimately abandoned by Apple. The 86 instruction set forced Intel to redesign the processor below

          • At first I had included this note in my reply (the 68000 really being 16 bit) but I left it out for readability. But you are right about that.
            However, to the programmer it appeared to be fully 32-bit and it could in later models be easily extended to be 32-bit without effect on software.
            (compare that to the 386 which needed new software that used 32-bit opcodes)

            Of course the main reason the 68000 became a dead end, is that it was not used in the PC and no development money went into it.
            The 68000 could have
            • The 68000 didn't have fixed opcode size. The minimum was 2 bytes though. If you think 2 kinds of registers are a nuisance you should try programming on the x86!

              Later 680x0 processors allowed you to use Dx registers as address registeres IIRC, but had a performance hit.
      • by scharkalvin (72228)
        First of all the 68000 cpu was not yet available when IBM started
        to design the PC. In fact, they were going to use an 8085 cpu, which
        they were using in their DataMaster series of machines. The PC ended
        up with the same bus already used in the DataMaster. IBM switched to
        the newly released 8088 at the suggestion of Bill Gates.

        The very first deliveries of 68000 cpus were locked up in advance sales
        to General Motors for use in auto electronics (smog control computers).
        Until Motorola could ramp up production ve
    • the x86 is a terrible design. It doesn't have enough registers, and the assembly interface is awkward (especially in the FPU).

      I agree about the FPU thing, but otherwise the x86 was the absolutely best for assembly programming in the 1980s. I did a lot of assembly code then, because with the low clock speeds it was the only way of doing many things.

      Despite what many people who never did assembly code think, Intel had a great advantage in being little-endian. This makes things much easier if you have to mix

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:13AM (#15887055)
    The article gave pretty short shrift to the Compaq engineers for the reverse engineering of the PC architecture.

    Imagine you were Chinese and had laid bare before you the innards of some cool technology that until now was locked up tight. You'd be the first one to put down your eggroll and cat-kabob and get right to the task of extracting its secrets. That's when you'd open up the clone market. It wouldn't be the prerogative of the original company whether you created the clone or not, it's out of their hands once they decided to use an open architecture.

    Compaq blazed the clone trail, not IBM.
    • by Terje Mathisen (128806) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:37AM (#15887144)
      Just after the PC introduction (at NCC fall 1981) I told my father-in-law that we should re-implement the software used for OCR processing in his downtown office. We should select something PC-compatible since this new open architecture was bound to generate compatibles, thereby ensuring a pretty long lifetime.

      After looking around the market, we bought two Columbia PCs, one desktop (with an immense, never to be filled, 10 MB hard drive) and one luggable, for the same price as a single IBM PC.

      The Columbia machine came with a BIOS/HW manual that documented all the various lowlevel interfaces, including the port adresses for things like the serial port and the interrupt controller, which allowed me to write a hw interrupt driver for the incoming 9600 baud OCR data stream.

      Columbia was both earlier than Compaq and more compatible, but that didn't matter, they still went under a couple of years later. The PCs lived for many years however. :-)

      Terje
    • Compaq reverse-engineered IBM's BIOS, and wrote their own. Result: Compaq made PC-clones.

      Not too long after that, Phoenix Technologies reverse-engineered IBM's BIOS, wrote their own, and licensed it. Result: tons of companies made PC-clones.
    • But all that reverse engineering would have come to naught if IBM hadn't chosen an outside company to provide the OS and that company hadn't pushed for the right to sell the OS to others. MS also played a key role in making the multiple-vendor PC market possible.
  • My first computer. Of course, mine was gotten in 1987, when the 386 was common and the 486 was t3h 1337 b0xx. Castoff from my uncle's CPA practice. One hell of a little machine.
  • I retired a 5150 in 1995. It had a hard drive and maybe 128k. We used it every day. It was the computer we all used to store our CNC programs on. Connected to a serial port switch box running 100's of feet of cable to the CNC machines. It worked until the day we turned it off and replaced it with a contemporary Pentium. That was the last time I saw a 5150 in working order.
    • That is more likely to have been a 5160. The 5150 did not come with a harddisk. It was usually seen with two floppies, but it even had a cassette recorder interface.
      The memory often was only 32 or 64K.
      The 5160 (IBM PC XT) followed shortly after the 5150 and had a whopping 10MB Harddisk, 8 instead of 5 slots, no cassette interface, and some more memory by default.

      Somewhere in 1983 (maybe early 84) we got one of those in the office, fully populated with memory (640K) and running XENIX.
      It was used as a low-e
  • by iota (527) on Friday August 11, 2006 @02:12AM (#15887246) Homepage
    What the IBM 5100 really represents, in retrospect, is the beginning of the turnaround for IBM in the minds of the public. It's difficult to think of another example of a company so large and so universally despised eventually becoming the (mostly) developer friendly company it is today.

    By allowing their teams to skirt the system occasionally, we've seen truly open hardware (PowerPC) availablity, open source contributions, free training seminars for developers, etc. The 5100 was the first great example of the success that a little rule-breaking can bring to the company.

    IMO, it was exactly that product and the example that it was to IBM internally that allowed IBM to do the one thing no one was entirely sure it would be able to do in the age of personal computers -- survive.

    My hat's off to the improvements IBM has made in the last 25 years, and I hope that those lessons won't be forgotten over the next 25 years.

  • In the IBM Site http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/pc25/pc 25_intro.html [ibm.com] reffers that IBM PC 5150 was released on September 1981.
  • by Vollernurd (232458) on Friday August 11, 2006 @03:43AM (#15887504)

    Man, the hardware... Hewn from a single piece of purest iron those things were (literally?) bullet-proof. The keyboards would last for years before even one of those keys stopped working.

    Of course, you couldn't lift them. But whilst machines now whirr away at insane speeds and generally work well their keyboards suck.

    Er... that's it. Just got misty-eyed there for a second.

  • personal computing had been going strong since the mid 70's, I don't understand why everyone fusses about the IBM PC. I'd been into the hobby for four years already when that thing came out.
    • by pe1chl (90186)
      The fuss was about a computer that could be used in a business, vs the hobby computers that were popular before that.
      Most of the hobby computers could not stand up to professional daily use, and the IBM PC could.
      Personal computing went from hobby computing to being a business tool.
  • BBC Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by andytuna (860940)
    There is more on the BBC website, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4780963.stm [bbc.co.uk] with some nice old adverts for the PC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/06/t echnology_ibm_pc_anniversary/html/1.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday August 11, 2006 @04:58AM (#15887681)
    We're spoiled. I remember a friend enthusing that his firm had just fitted Maths CoPros to their XTs (I think) and that they could now refresh big AutoCad drawings in mere minutes.
  • It's amazing what's written on the net. I always used LowEndMac for information about low end Macs and liked it very much. Yet does this story mean LowEndMac wants to switch to provide information about low end PCs after Apple switched to Intel processors?

    Yet this story raises many other questions. How does IBM feel being famous for the most used kind of desktop processors but not being able to participate in that business anymore? How does Sony feel now its long time partner in several technologies (Apple)
  • by sirwired (27582) on Friday August 11, 2006 @05:25AM (#15887748)
    Did you ever wonder why ALL XT/AT motherboards in standard form factors had two power supply connectors? Especially since they were not keyed? (swapping the two could easily blow your motherboard.) I have heard that when IBM was preparing to ship the 5150, the supplier of power supply connectors (it happened to be Molex at the time) was out of stock of the 12? pin connectors necessary to integrate the whole PS connection into one. After that, every single PC Power Supply for many years shipped with two connectors on the output, because it had always been done that way.

    Probably a crazy urban geek legend, but a cute story nonetheless.

    SirWired
    • Probably a crazy urban geek legend, but a cute story nonetheless.
      It certainly would be an urban legend. There were (are) plastic nipples on the connectors that stopped you messing it up unless you forced them. Besides, the first thing we were taught (I unpacked one of the first 5150s in Australia) was that the red wires went together.
      • I remember the keyed connectors only being some models... Yeah, I was taught about the wires too, so I never burnt anything out, but I do know some folks that did. Certainly since the connectors weren't fully enclosed, defeating the keying certainly didn't require much force beyond normal insertion force.

        SirWired
  • This is a nice article that explores how the PC industry might have turned out if Microsoft never came to power as we know it in this world.

    For alt-history buffs: "Now, here's an interesting question that looks back 25 years: What if IBM demands an exclusive license to that operating system? One of two things happens: Microsoft and IBM don't get a deal done, or Microsoft caves. Let's follow both scenarios as far as they can go:"

    http://news.com.com/The+great+PC+what-if/2010-1042 _3-6102503.html?tag=fd_carsl [com.com]
    • The thing is, POCs weren't successful because they were clones. They were successful because they were IBM clones. Apple had their own OS. So did Commodore, Sinclair and all the others. Even more recently, Sun, SGI and all the big non Wintel companies have used their own OS. Selling the OS as a separate item has always been atypical.

      So, Scenario 1: MS manage to convince HP and DEC to licence their OS. This makes two a big assumptions in the first place - That they wouldn't want to make their own s
  • Everytime I see this I have to shake my head... I had my first "desktop" in 1978. Ok it was not much.. A Radio Shack TRS-80 16K LevelII. sporting an 8088 blazing at 4mhz, a tape drive(cassettes). Heck it even had voice recognization(worked ok, bout as good as todays stuff). I still have this machine and it works just fine.... There where also many a Heathkits out there to in those days... IMO statements such as this article makes "about IBM changeing the world" will are just plain false....
  • by nblender (741424) on Friday August 11, 2006 @09:03AM (#15888366)
    I had one of these speed demons. I grew up playing on my dad's Apple ][ (not plus) but played a lot of games. So he got me a 5150, fresh off the line. It had cassette ports even! But he splurged and got me the dual floppies. I still have my DOS1.0b diskettes and manual here, along with the other 3 manuals that came with it but sadly, the machine itself is no longer. In a bid to ensure that I wouldn't play games on it, my parents did not buy me the color graphics adapter and monitor. I had the monochrome monitor and adapter. I was a sad, sad boy. I couldn't even understand its assembly language. Sad, Sad boy of 15. Eventually I ended up getting a 300baud acoustic modem, shortly thereafter upgrading to 1200, and eventually ending up with an email address starting at !ihnp4!.... Life became more interesting around then...
    • I still have my DOS1.0b diskettes and manual here If I remember right it was a burgandy red manual in a light olive green hard slip cover. Or was it an Olive manual in a grey slip?

      Ah the memories as I put those in the boxes and taped them close for people in doctor's surgeries and accountancy practices to buy ;)
  • by the way, what're you (591901) on Friday August 11, 2006 @10:00AM (#15888722)

    ...in his album, 5150: Home 4 Tha Sick [amazon.com]

  • was that the IBM PC wasn't the best machine around and it actually killed a lot of machines that were far better...

    How many remebers the OKI 800, Commodore Pet, HP-85B, Osborne 1 or Luxor ABC80/800???

    A lot of other computers has also been manufactured with different functionality. OK the bad thing was that they weren't standardized, but on the other hand, how funny is it really with all computers around running the same core hardware configuration...

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