Can you imagine a world without personal computers? Neither can I!
Although the IBM PC, launched on August 12, 1981, was not the first computer for personal use, it was the PC that made computer technology available to the average person. First in the workplace, and then in private. And to a degree where the number of households without a computer in most Western countries today must be counted in low, single-digit percentages.
IBM had been making giant computers for the industry for decades, but in 1980 they decided to try making computers that were so small and inexpensive that they could be owned and used by individuals. Something that, among others, Apple had had success with through their Apple II.
A top secret and fast-working project team was launched, and the following year they gave birth to the IBM PC. The hardware was made by IBM, but the software was developed by others. Not least the crucial operating system that was delivered to the rather young company Microsoft. That Bill Gates himself had bought the operating system for $20,000, and changed the name from Q-DOS (Quick and Dirty Operative System) to MS-DOS, is another story …
Could be used by anyone
It seemed arrogant to call the product Personal Computer, but due to its versatility and relatively low price (you could buy a PC for less than £10,000 – of which the 5-10 MEGAbyte hard drive accounted for about three quarters of the price) IBM PC became a universal tool in all kinds of companies. And whether you were an accountant, a journalist or a used car dealer, there would soon be a PC on your desk.
Cloning made the PC a standard
The big breakthrough, however, came in January 1983, when Compaq succeeded in making the first PC-compatible computer. In other words, a computer that behaved 100% like IBM’s own. And thus the PC was as a standard was born.
If you have a PC on your desk (and most people do), then it is a direct and genuine heir to the IBM PC that was announced on August 12th 40 years ago. Although it is unbelievably much faster, more powerful and more advanced than the first model from 1981, your PC (in principle and with a little ingenuity) can run any program that could be run on the original PC. The standardization and versatility of being able to be used for any task is exactly what the PC to a common standard that is likely to be among us for just as many decades yet.
(article photo: Wikimedia)