History of the Personal Computer, Part 3: IBM PC Model 5150 and the attack of the clones

By Jos ยท 13 replies
Oct 1, 2014
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  1. history personal computer part ibm model apple microsoft amd intel ibm cpu nostalgia

    The only remarkable thing about the product that revolutionized the personal computing business was the fact that IBM built it. If any other company of the era built and marketed the IBM Personal Computer Model 5150, it might be looked back on with fondness but not as a product that changed an industry.

    IBM's stature guaranteed the PC to initiate a level of standardization required for a technology to attain widespread usage. That same stature also ensured competitors would have unfettered access to the technical specifications of the Model 5150, since IBM was obligated to disclose such information under the Department of Justice 1956 consent decree, which the company operated under as an accommodation for its previous monopolistic practices.

    This is the third installment in a five part series, where we look at the history of the microprocessor and personal computing, from the invention of the transistor to modern day chips powering our connected devices.

    Read the complete article.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2015
  2. Stephen Pate

    Stephen Pate TS Rookie

    Thanks for the article. It brought back so many memories. I was a kit computer guy in the 1970s and went with an even earlier IBM desktop at work, the IBM 5120. It was a fantastic ride after that - 5150 then the 5160 XT, the war of the clones with Compaq, the US then Japanese clones followed by Taiwan and Korean. We made so much progress in 10 years. Thanks again.
    dividebyzero, Jos and Julio Franco like this.
  3. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,477   +126

    Clones where alright they did more than IBM ever had offered back then.
  4. Wow. I had a better one than the one in the picture. I had one with 4 floppy drives that fit in half a slot. And wait, later on I had 4 drives that had dual 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 inch drives in the half hight bay. What an upgrade. Then later I had CDs and yet later I had DVDs. Progress. Oh, this is $10,000 and 4 firings later. I kept getting late to the jobs because of my video game addiction. 12 steps did not help. Games are more exiting than workgroup.
  5. Martyg

    Martyg TS Rookie

    " after Atari approached IBM about building a personal computer, if IBM were so inclined to design one."

    That never happened, Atari already had their own set of computers in design long before. In fact they started right after the VCS (Atari 2600) project was completed in '77.
  6. I love you guys! (you mentioned the 68000!)
    dividebyzero likes this.
  7. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Well, thanks for that, although the actual subject was covered extensively in a number of publications of the day (and a few notable books). The marketing of an IBM/Atari computer led to a proposal for IBM to buy Atari outright, which is where most of the speculations interest actually lay. IBM's supposed licensing of Atari product featured quite prominently (albeit heavily abbreviated) in Bill Lowe's online obituary carried by CNET and reprinted all over the net
  8. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,374   +69

    Why didn't ibm patent their entire pc?
  9. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Not really possible when virtually all the hardware was sourced from third parties. The only thing IBM manufactured (that wasn't already patented) was the BIOS ROM chip - which they did patent.
    IBM were a special case ( 70+% worldwide market share in computers during the 1960's), and were skating on thin ice since the 1956 Consent Decree. When the IBM PC was being designed, IBM were also still embroiled in their January 1969 antitrust case, and there was considerable pressure to break up IBM as happened to AT&T in the same timeframe. Patenting the competition out of the market would have just added fuel to the political fire.

    The other side of the coin is that IBM wanted copycats to accelerate IBM's standards into the market. What IBM didn't understand was that the consumer electronics business moves faster, and has more competition than their traditional mainframe and minicomputer business. IBM assumed they could rule by default because they did so in their big iron markets and it probably never occurred to them that smaller companies could source/make parts cheaper than they could, or that these companies could evolve and innovate faster.
  10. Jac Goudsmit

    Jac Goudsmit TS Rookie

    Tiny caption mistake: the monitor on the photo of the IBM PC with the printer is an MDA monitor, not a CGA monitor. The CGA monitor had 3 knobs on the front right side, the MDA had two. If I recall correctly, the MDA monitor was plugged into the back of the PC so it came on when the PC was switched on, however the CGA monitor used too much power so needed its own power cord and power switch. If you've seen enough of them, you can also make it out from the text on the screen; the MDA had a much higher resolution than the CGA, so text looked a lot better on MDA.

    Incidentally, the monitor on the top photo is an EGA monitor if I'm not mistaken. It has the three knobs like a CGA monitor but it has a grey bezel instead of a black bezel, and the screen is larger. The photo is a slight anachronism because the EGA standard didn't appear until a few years after the initial PC came out.

    Thanks for this great article series! Looking forward to the rest of it.
    Phr3d and dividebyzero like this.
  11. gunste

    gunste TS Rookie

    A wonderful recap of my early searches on what PC to buy in 1983. I ended up with a Columbia, which provided both MS-DOS and CPM, as well as the virtually identical precursors to all the office software: Perfect Writer, Perfect Cal and the rest of that family. That PC served me well for learning the software and it main purpose, writing and being able to revise the manuals for the test instruments which I was building for the magnetic media industry. - Since then, I have upgraded sparingly, usually when a PC failed and cost too much to repair. But I went from DOS2 to Windows 3A which came with my second PC. The choice of DOS over CPM was justified and decided on by reading about the casual attitude that CPM people had for their product and support.
    It is unfortunate that Microsoft put out so many dud OSs, after Windows 98: Millenium and some later ones. I skipped from Windows 98 to 2000 to XP and dislike upgrading for any reason.
    The main problem with early PCs was the backup numerous floppy disks.
  12. bexwhitt

    bexwhitt TS Guru Posts: 355   +73

    The deal Bill Gates got from IBM made Microsoft never mind luck of the Irish
  13. strollin

    strollin TS Rookie

    Further correction of the captioning error mentioned by Jac Goudsmit. There was no such thing as a MDA monitor or a CGA monitor. There was a monochrome monitor that connected to a MDA (Monochrome Display Adapter) and there was a color monitor that connected to a CGA (Color Graphics Adapter). At one time I had an XT with both a MDA and a CGA installed both with appropriate monitors. It was a great setup for running Lotus 123 since I could display my spreadsheet on the monochrome monitor while displaying a graph on the color monitor. Pretty high tech for the time period!
  14. AdamStepsUp

    AdamStepsUp TS Rookie

    I've recently stumbled upon a perfect condition an in working order a vintage (Feb 1980) IBM5110/3 aka IBM5120 database computer at 105lbs it's challenging to transport an with that said I'm not very fond of it and wondering if anyone could enlighten me of price value or potential buyers for the computer at hand..
    Much appreciated...
    ~Adam. A.. (415)5800609

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