Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PC truns 25 years-old this week

The personal computer (PC) sitting on your desk today is a descendant of the one first launched on 12 August, 1981, by IBM.

With an Intel microprocessor, the 8088, and a Microsoft operating system, MS- DOS, no one could have predicted that this machine would secure the multi- billion dollar future of Intel and Microsoft, and that IBM who built the machine would eventually get out of the PC market altogether - last year, 2005, selling its PC business to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo.

Anyway, back in 1981 the PC was created as a business (office) machine, that was going to compete with several such computers already available.

Within a few years it became the standard business computer, with IBM allowing Intel and Microsoft to cooperate with other manufacturers to produce ‘PC Compatibles’, starting with a Compaq PC and the rest is history.

Around the mid-eighties, IBM PC compatibles found their way into homes, as their prices dropped, and that sparked the home computing revolution.

Being able to run the same software at work, school and home resulted in the enivtable conclusion of ending the chances of other computing platforms that still existed in the early nineties like the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and even almost killed the Apple Macintosh; but how that survived is another long story.

Now, looking back, it is believed that businesses thought of personal computers as toys, up until they saw IBM’s “stamp of approval” on a PC. IBM was already a leader in large computing systems (mainframes and mini computers- not so mini actually, they filled up half a room).

So, when IBM produced a powerful but relatively compact desktop system (costing around $5,000) the business world took notice, yet not entirely sure what to make of it. The following years would show the massive productivity gains, and resulting profits to business, that would result from using PC software.

At around that time several software companies like Lotus, Borland, WordStar, WordPerfect led the office applications market. But, as we all know, Microsoft then entered the applications business and crushed them all.

So, gone are those early software players too, as the lasting legacy of the
1981 PC that remains with us today is Intel architecture and Microsoft’s OS.

If you’ve been in computing as long as I have, and you’ve seen it happen over the past two decades, you always wonder ‘What If IBM didn’t work with Intel and Microsoft in 1981? What if someone else created the platform that became the standard?

Too late for that now. The PC has grown to something even beyond IBM’s reputation. Ask a teenager today, do you have an IBM Compatible PC? And he’ll think you’re an idiot! Well, that’s what they’re called, and IBM started it all in 1981.

A quarter of a decade later, there may be some lessons to be learned from the first 25 years of the PCs life.

Will the PC, with its current architecture, still be with us 25 years from now? With all the devices (PDAs, smart phones) we’re seeing and Internet-based systems and applications, it’s difficult to answer that.

We’ll see.



At 9:31 PM , Anonymous Qwaider قويدر said...

Very nice article Zeid, and very informative.
The world of the PC has changed so much. The movers and shakers of yesterday are the biggest losers in Today's market!
From the original PC Cast, all that are left in the market today are Microsoft and HP. It's a very aggressive market to say the least with cutthrought money makers setting the trends!
Who would have thought that Apple is the new PC? Who would have thought the wimpy DOS would evolve to be Vista? And all other OSes crushed to oblivion!?

Ahhh, feels like a million years ago!

At 12:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary.
Nice post.


At 7:29 AM , Blogger Emirates Mac said...

Nice post. Just please distinguish between the PC as in the IBM PC and personal computers in general. The IBM PC is what's 25 years old.

IBM didn't pioneer much of anything in their PC. Others had been making personal computers way before then, including Apple, Commodore, and others.

The IBM PC and it's followers is the best-known and most widely adopted personal computers, but let's not think they were the first.

At 6:56 PM , Blogger Zeid Nasser said...

Thanks for your answers and kind words Qwieder, Emirates Mac and Mr. Anonymous - Cut Throat Idiot :)

To Emirates Mac I say, YES IBM PC WAS INDEED THE FIRST to put together a computer with the components from which every IBM PC compatible evolved.

It's true, others produced personal computers before: there was the Apple I and II, the Tandy Computers, the Commodore PET, the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81... LOADS of other computers. I'm a retro-computing fatantic so I can go on and on.

But, THE FIRST people to put Intel and Microsoft together and create the 'grandfather of the PC of today' were IBM.

At 12:26 AM , Blogger Abu Shreek said...

الارثوذكسية قطع فيك
i am very happy it did.


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