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This Day in 1981: The IBM PC was launched #IBMPC #MSDOS #VintageComputing #RetroComputing @IBM @Microchip

38 years ago, IBM took a big leap on something small. Instead of a mainframe, they built a business and home computer.

As Adafruit’s self-proclaimed PC champion (with others falling into Apple, Commodore, Nintendo, and other camps), I’ve blogged about this and similar machines. While not the fastest or the most flexible, the IBM PC legitimized computing in our lives in a way that other computers had not quite reached. And with the advent of Lotus 1-2-3, dBase and WordPerfect, productivity took a huge leap.

That your smartwatch or other devices can now run rings around the original PC is moot. We had to start somewhere and IBM helped push the industry in a good direction.

If I could tell myself in 1985, buying my first PC (a Compaq DeskPro, the original PC clone) that I would be typing this on a 3.5 GHz Intel i7 with an nVidia GTX1080 graphics card, 32GB memory, dual 4k displays, I wouldn’t believe future me (or I would invest in the right companies).Image

What is the killer machine equivalent today?

Just like in those days, things were smaller but underpowered. Much like Microcontrollers were just a few years ago. I’d posit that the faster Microchip SAMD51 M4 class of microcontrollers, connected to the nice LCD TFT displays just out, are the IBM of today. And CircuitPython is the “killer app” like 1-2-3 was. This combination of hardware and software is disrupting the ecosphere with a new ease of programming and use in our lives. Bookmark this blog, and in 38 years let’s see if I was right.


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2 Comments

  1. I remember that announcement…

    Nice picture up top, with the little tramp character and the PC… but have to note that the pictured computer with him on the table is a IBM PC-AT (Advanced Technology) – which was the 3rd generation of the PC.

    You have the correct image a little lower, with the side-by-side 5.25" black floppy drives.

    The system between the PC and the AT was the XT, which sported a 10MB hard disk. (woohoo!)

    I was in high school, and dad worked for IBM. I remember him looking at the processor and RAM specs for our new PC. 8088, 4.77Hz. with 512 K RAM. He pointed out that the processor power and memory were pretty near the same as the IBM S/360 he helped install at one of the major airlines in 1965 to handle their world wide reservation system.

  2. Nice catch Peter. I saw that the picture was an AT only as I was finishing up, but it’s a cute picture so I left it in. I have one PC, 2 XTs, one IBM portable and two Compaq portables in my shop as well as our first real computer a Compaq original Deskpro circa late 1995 on my shelf. I’m still looking for a decent AT to join things eventually.

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