When the IBM Personal Computer (IBM 5150) was introduced to the world 33 years ago, it was dramatically clear to most observers that IBM had done something very new and different. (Here’s an excerpt from the IBM archives) Here you had a large company, steeped in tradition, that had been willing and able to set aside its “business as usual” methods to produce in volume a highly competitive, tiny computer of top quality, intended for both consumers and businesses. And IBM was able to do all that and roll out its first PC in just one year.
It wasn’t that long before the August 1981 debut of the IBM PC that an IBM computer often cost as much as $9 million and required an air-conditioned quarter-acre of space and 60 people to run and keep it loaded with instructions.
The IBM PC changed all that. It was a very small machine that could not only process information faster than those ponderous mainframes of the 1960s but also hook up to the home TV set, process text and store more words than a huge cookbook — all for a price tag of less than $1,600.
Though personal computers of various types had been spawned by and built for hobbyists, IBM’s new offering was also a business tool with advanced features to immediately make it a very attractive offering for a variety of users. The announcement of the IBM Personal Computer signaled the company’s determination to compete in the emerging and growing segment of the information processing industry in which PCs were soon to become general business machines.
In short, the introduction of the IBM Personal Computer a quarter-century ago set a worldwide personal computing standard and helped to establish a multibillion-dollar industry.