History of Personal Computers - The IBM PC

The IBM PC

IBM responded to the success of the Apple II with the IBM PC, released in August, 1981. Like the Apple II and S-100 systems, it was based on an open, card-based architecture, which allowed third parties to develop for it. It used the Intel 8088 CPU running at 4.77 MHz, containing 29,000 transistors. The first model used an audio cassette for external storage, though there was an expensive floppy disk option. The cassette option was never popular and was removed in the PC XT of 1983. The XT added a 10MB hard drive in place of one of the two floppy disks and increased the number of expansion slots from 5 to 8. While the original PC design could accommodate only up to 64k on the main board, the architecture was able to accommodate up to 640KB of RAM, with the rest on cards. Later revisions of the design increased the limit to 256K on the main board.

The IBM PC typically came with PC-DOS, an operating system based upon Gary Kildall's CP/M-80 operating system. In 1980, IBM approached Digital Research, Kildall's company, for a version of CP/M for its upcoming IBM PC. Kildall's wife and business partner, Dorothy McEwen, met with the IBM representatives who were unable to negotiate a standard non-disclosure agreement with her. IBM turned to Bill Gates, who was already providing the ROM BASIC interpreter for the PC. Gates offered to provide 86-DOS, developed by Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products. IBM rebranded it as PC-DOS, while Microsoft sold variations and upgrades as MS-DOS.

The impact of the Apple II and the IBM PC was fully demonstrated when Time named the home computer the "Machine of the Year", or Person of the Year for 1982 (January 3, 1983, "The Computer Moves In"). It was the first time in the history of the magazine that an inanimate object was given this award.

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