| April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

Ibm_pc_5150_attrib_Ruben_de_Rijcke1981 does not seem to be an ancient time given the speed of computer technology advancement. Computer years seem to be similar to dog years but even more accelerated.

The first IBM PC was introduced around this day in history in 1981, although some put it’s introduction in the month of August 1981.

It was not the first “home” computer – in fact, IBM was very slow in getting its act together.

There were already many “micro-computers” out there. and in 1981 Commodore ruled with its Commodore Pet computer closely followed by quite an array of companies and their own models.

The IBM PC 5150 used an 8088 microprocessor as its CPU “brain”. It rapidly became the most popular processor and replaced the leader at the time made by Zilogthe Z80 – which was in everything from the tiny and cheap Timex T1000 computers to under the dashboards of Corvettes.

The Z80 is still my favorite microprocessor. Maybe it was because of it’s chip set family that was so very easy to put together to make a system. Maybe because it is the first CPU I wrote machine code for … whatever the reason, it was solid and reliable.

Zilog Z-80 early advertisement, Electronics May 27, 1976. pages

Zilog_Z80_attrib_DamicatzThe big battle of the CPUs in the late 1970s was between Zilog with its Z80 and Intel with its 8080 CPU. A bloody war not unlike any other rivalry such as Coke VS Pepsi, Florida State VS Florida or crunchy VS smooth peanut butter with rabid fans on either side.

But the new Intel 8088 in the new IBM PC 5150 changed everything. It shows that IBM was the 800 pound gorilla despite it being so late to the market. Soon it was to spawn a “clone” market and would make the Intel 8088 the software platform for everything to run on. Not to mention the advent of the operating system everyone would end up with.

Atari_400_XL_Sears_1979IBM saw the market for the 5150 to be private homes. But at the time, spending $2000 on anything was like spending $20,000 today – and that was just to get started. If you wanted to print anything, that was another unit that costs as much as the 5150 !

There were already cheaper in price and cheaper in hardware computers out there. The IBM PC 5150 was a tank – literally – heavy metal all the way.

Most existing computers used cassette tape for loading and storing data and programs.

That was the big trick – data storage. Even booting up a computer in those days was a long and tedious task.

These days we complain about being forced to enter a password ! If you think that’s inconvenient – you should have tried booting up an IMSAI 8080 in 1976 !!!

Even with Sears stores setting up computer departments it was not going well. They were already selling the popular yet clunky Atari 400 computer among others. And then there was the chain of Computerland stores which was the real geek hang out I can tell you !
IBM 5150 birthday
So then IBM took its eyes off the home market and concentrated on the office – and the rest is history …

floppy_disc_5p25inchHappy birthday 5150 …

Not one … but TWO floppy drives ! Both at 180 kilobytes each !!! wowee !!!

Of course, drive A was always occupied with the OS disc. It was a really expensive electric typewriter to some and just a hobby contraption to others.
CP/M days were numbered at that point. Even the Kaypro had to give in and make a PC Clone eventually. Its line of “luggable” computers were seeing their final days.

Even S-100 bus computers were even getting PC clone cards in them.

Superior systems were being pushed out by cheaper clones – as well as the one who started it all; the 5150.

IBM had to make its own clone to stay in the game. Soon came the IBM PC-XT and the world would never be the same.


Category: Tony Rollo Blog

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