12 August 2006

IBM PC turns 25 today

Wow, time flies!

On August 12, 1981, the original IBM PC, the 5150, was introduced. I just ran into an article describing its features, what it did, what it didn't, and how influential it proved to be.

Without the credibility of IBM behind its design, and without the ability of other manufacturers to build clones using the same parts, the IBM PC would not have taken off, the PC revolution as we know it would not have existed, and Internet may still only be a nerd's tool.

Some interesting facts according to MSN Tech:
  • Base price was $1,565 in 1981 dollars (closer to $3,500 today), but a functional example would've cost $3,000 or so.
  • A monochrome monitor was optional, so was a floppy disk drive. MS-DOS was also an option at $80.
  • The standard machine defaulted to BASIC programming module instead of a real operating system, and used cassette tapes for data storage. Despite using cassette tapes, a beep was the only sound that it could make.
  • The 5150 weighed 21 pounds - without the optional monitor.
It all feels so quaint, compared to my HP laptop, which is a descendant of the IBM PC, but weighs only 6 pounds WITH the color monitor (and even then I consider it heavy). The floppy drive is obsolete now, replaced by a drive that plays CDs and DVDs, neither of which existed 25 years ago. Those floppies could only hold 180 KB of data if lucky - now I count not kilobytes, not megabytes, but gigabytes, in fact hundreds of them in my hard disk (which the IBM PC didn't even offer for years). The microprocessor, made by Intel in either case, runs thousands of times faster - and more efficiently.

But this evolution had to start somewhere. Here's the article about the original IBM PC.

MSN Tech