The IBM PC is 30 this Week

Surely I feel old this week, because this week marks the 30 year anniversary of the original IBM PC, the 5150 was released this week back in 1981. I wasn’t one of the early PC adopters, and I found them to be quite unattractive and much less interesting than the Apple computers at the time. Indeed, at that time, I was more interested in the emerging video game world, and the original IBM PC was $3000 or more, which at my age, might as well been a million dollars. The IBM PC, however, began a new era in business computing, a space many competitors, like Apple, didn’t have a foothold in. The IBM PC wasn’t innovative hardware wise, but what it did do was spark the PC revolution to what it is today.

The reason was because IBM decided to enter the market quickly, and turned around the development and introduction of the IBM PC in a years time, which was incredibly fast for IBM. The only way they could do so was to outsource. The IBM PC was built with many off the shelf, and publicly available components, such as the Intel 8088 CPU, and Microsoft’s MS-DOS. The use of non-proprietary components gave rose to an uncountable number of clone manufacturers, a few of which are still with us today, Dell, HP, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, and Gateway for example. In these early years, before the internet, if you wanted to build your own PC Clone, it was a simple matter of going to your local news stand and buying a Computer Shopper magazine, which was the size of a small phonebook, pick a vendor (or vendors) and buying the parts you needed to make your own.

Here are some sobering specs to compare where 30 years has brought us in computing:

  IBM PC 5150  Generic High End PC
CPU  Intel 8088, 4.7 MHz  Intel i7, Quad Core, 3.8GHz
(Essentially 4 CPU’s)
Memory 16K – 640K 4GB (4,194,304K) 
16GB (16,777,216K) 

Monochrom or CGA, 16 Colors
Text: 80×24
Graphics: 320 x 200, 640 x 200 

Up to WUXGA: 1920 x 1200 or more

Dual 160K 5.25 Floppy Disk Drive
Cassette Drive 
10MB (10,240K) Hard Drive 

2TB (2,147,483,648K) Hard Drive 
4GB – 32GB SD Card
Blu-Ray Rom Drive (25GB)
Internet based Cloud Storage 

PC-Dos 1.0 8bit

Windows 7 64bit Home Premium


 It may have not been IBM’s intention to start this revolution, but undoubtedly, it was their decisions with the IBM PC that gave rise to Intel, Microsoft, and the many PC manufacturer’s today, so happy birthday IBM 5150, thanks for helping make the computing world what it is today!