The first IBM PC was released 36 years ago

Do you remember the release of the first IBM PC? Hint: It was 36 years ago.

While IBM didn’t invent the very first personal computer (PC), they did pioneer the modern computer with the 1981 release of the IBM 5150 – a personal computer with innovative design, technical specifications and semi-affordable price tag in the soon-to-be exploding personal computer market.   It would be two years before the personal computer would grace our eager tech market in Brisbane, and is something many team members of iFactory remember quite fondly.

On August 12, we celebrate the 36th birthday on the first IBM personal computer. Let’s take a look at the innovative technology of PC computers in 1981.

An “everyone” computer

IBM didn’t build the personal computer with technology nerds and future website designers in mind. They wanted their personal computer to be used in the office, on the university campus and even in the home. “This is the computer for just about everyone who has ever wanted a personal system” boasted former IBM Vice President C.B Rogers at the time of the 5150 release. “We believe its performance, reliability and ease of use make it the most advanced, affordable personal computer in the marketplace.

While the IBM 5150 couldn’t process information faster than any other personal computer on the market, it could be hooked up to the home television, play games and process more words than a large cookbook.

The technical development of a game changer

From the time the developers got the green light, it took less than a year to build the 5150. Using off-the-shelf components, the IBM PC used the Intel 8080 micro-processor with a processing speed of 4.77 MHz.

Along with a 16-64K memory, it included external data storage consisting of floppy drives, cassette tapes, and later on hard drives, which thanks to our nifty research were retailing at a whopping US$1,700 for a measly 5MB of storage, which is the equivalent of $4,755 USD in today’s currency.

It’s not about the price tag

The IBM 5150 wasn’t exactly affordable for all, but was certainly within reach for some. The beginner model retailed at $1,565 and came with the system unit, a keyboard, built-in speakers and colour/graphics capability. Users could get the option of a display, printer, diskette drives, additional memory, gaming adapter and app packages

Why the IBM explosion?

IBM weren’t the only company releasing personal computers into the market, so what made IBM 5150 so special? Upon speaking to iFactory’s Brisbane website design and development team who were around at the time of IBM’s release, it not only came down to tech specifications, but compatibility. You see, the 5.25 floppy disks may have looked the same for all personal computers; yet it didn’t mean they were compatible to use with any computer. Every computer company made their own storage. The IBM floppy disk could only be read by and IBM computer, and an Apple floppy disk could only be read by an Apple computer and so forth.

Given that IBM was the computer of choice for the business world, it then became necessary for those who wanted to work on a file both at work and at home required a computer which could successfully read the file. Fast forward a few years and IBM personal computer is the most popular computer for both the work and home office.

iFactory is a Brisbane-based full service creative and digital agency. With over 14 years in business, our specialist team of website designers, developers and strategists have been in the thick of the digital revolution, creating innovative web apps, meaningful web design and purposeful digital marketing strategies. If your digital strategy needs a refresher, get in contact with iFactory today.

Read more insights