On August 12, 1981, IBM introduced the IBM5150, the first personal computer inexpensive enough for the public. Though at the time $1500 was a lot of money, it was far less than most business computers, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars and needed to be kept in certain temperature conditions, often requiring a large staff to maintain them.

The IBM5150 used an Intel 8088 processor and ran on Microsoft DOS. It had no hard drive and only 64K of RAM. I am old enough to remember using, if not this exact model, one very similar. In the library where I worked, we had two programs, Lotus 1-2-3, version 1.0, a spreadsheet, and Wordstar, the precursor to Word. You used a five and a half inch floppy to load the program, then removed that and put in another floppy that allowed you run the program, then entered the floppy you wanted to save your work on. The computer itself had a small screen, with a black background and either gold or green lettering. It was clunky, it was inconvenient, and it was wonderful.

The 5150 was developed in only a year, using microchips from Intel, and an operating system from Microsoft. This was both its strength, and its weakness. By combining already existing hardware and software, it made the machine less expensive. But it also meant others could do the same thing, and it wasn’t too many years before IBM lost the PC market.

The new technology put more computing power on the desktop than in many of the older, larger mainframes. It also led finally to the Internet, without which no one could read this blog. Today we salute the day when the first IBM PC went on the market and changed the world. Without them, we would not have the better, faster, more versatile machines of today.

Quotes about computers

The question of whether computers can think is like the question of whether submarines can swim.–Edsger Dijkstra

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 MPG.–Bill Gates

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.–Joseph Campbell

To err is human – and to blame it on a computer is even more so.–Robert Orben

A computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mind.–Joseph Weizenbaum

The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That’s where we come in; we’re computer professionals. We cause accidents.–Nathaniel Borenstein

One of the most feared expressions in modern times is “The computer is down.”–Norman Ralph Augustine

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.–Isaac Asimov

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.–Pablo Picasso

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog.–Doug Larson

To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.–Paul R. Ehrlich

First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure.–Douglas Adams

Computers are good at following instructions, but not at reading your mind.–Donald Knuth

Buying the right computer and getting it to work properly is no more complicated than building a nuclear reactor from wristwatch parts in a darkened room using only your teeth.–Dave Barry

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