Twenty Five Years of Personal Computing
IBM PC's 25 Years Journey
For the past 25 years the word computer is
almost synonymous with IMB Personal Computer that is widely
known as PC. Its a quarter century of Personal Computing,
with IBM PC is celebrating its twenty five years of success
story. In this article we trace this journey from the pages
of history and then see the impact and future of it.
On August 12, 1981 IBM launched IBM 5150
- the first successful PC implementation that was a smash
hit. This $1565 starting machines were equipped with 16kb
of RAM and Audio Cassette port for data loading and saving.
Floppy Disk Drive was optional. This machine also boasted
of Green 'eye friendly' Phosphorous Screen.
8088 - 4.77 MHz
(80 x 24), Green Phosphor
FDD Drive (160 Kb) - Optional
for Audio Cassette and Keyboard
This machine was the first commercial
success for IMB in its PC business. But this was not its first
attempt in Personal Computer. The first PC debuted in the
year 1975 (IBM 5100), and more models were released till 1981.
All were quiet expensive and were failures.
So what made this 5100 tick
where as the other, more advanced PCs were a failure? IBM
PC was less advanced that other computers available in the
market, but it clicked because:
- It was backed by the brand IBM
- It used off-the-shelf components (rather
than IBM only)
- It had a Open Design, any one can make
peripheral and components for it as well as create an IBM
- It was a lot cheaper and almost in reach
of common people
- IBM was not the only one creating the
PC, so the over all market for PC grew fast, making it a
- This also lead to more people develop
software for it, make it even more popular
For creating this IBM deviated a lot from
its usual development policies, like, the development team
reported directly to the top management, chosen off the shelf
components, rather than in house and use of open design rather
than a closed one.
IBM had targeted it to sell 250,000 in five
years but in actual it sold One Million by the year
This started the success story of IMB PC.
Future models were also a great success. See the chart below
for the models and its release years.
IBM PC Timeline (click to enlarge)
Today it is estimated to have around one
billion PCs in the world. Almost all the countries around
the world use PC in one form or the other. The penetration
and distribution of PC varies largely around the world. See
the chart below for a better understanding.
Penetration (per 1000 people)
This penetration has created
a lot of wealth. The combined value of hardware and software
company stocks is valued at around $0.5 Trillion. PC has also
contributed a lot in increase of productivity. It has spun
off industries in big ways, like the computer gaming industry.
The popularity of Internet is also increased due to the increase
of PC penetration, which in turn has created a new set of
industry and market.
But it is not that PC has only
given goodness to the people. There is a dark side of this
With all the work getting more
and more PC centric, people have started to spend more time
with their PC than their spouses. This has not only created
a different type of work culture and life style but also given
a new breed of medical disorder.
PC Health Hazards
Refer the table below for the
problems faced by a PC user.
PC Health Hazards
Tunnel Syndrome, Finger Bones related Problems
Long working hour
spine and Neck related Pain and Problems
Strain and other Vision related problems
Environment Pollution: eWaste
Widespread use of PC and its constant evolution
has made a lot of PC getting obsolete quiet quickly. These
obsolete PCs are often dumped off. These computer sets have
poisonous content that cause pollution of the soil and environment.
This e-Waste forms a major concern to nations around the world.
Reports suggest that the toxic computer waste is being dumped
to the third-world nations like Africa.
Following table lists some of
the toxic elements found in the various parts of the computer.
As you can see they contain a lot of toxic metals that can
surely cause problem once getting into human contact.
Lead, Phosphorous, Cadmium and Mercury
Nickel, Cadmium, Lithium
elements, notably gold in contact plating and copper
in circuitry, Tin Solder, Fiberglass
Silicon, Silica, Phosphorus, Boron, Gold, Silver
Only solution to this is correct
recycling of the computer. Many companies are having strong
recycling programs whereby you simply return the old computer/equipment
for proper recycling.
IBM is no longer on the helm of the PC industry.
IBM sold its PC business to China-based Lenovo Group in 2005
(unlike GE which is still holding on to its bulb making business,
GE Edison Bulbs, mostly for sentimental reasons).
But even before IBM was gone, the Open Architecture
of PC had already taken the lead out of the PC manufacturer's
hands. This was one of the prime reasons why IBM had the business
in loss which prompted it to abandon it after around 25 years.
But it does not mean much to this highly
competitive PC industry, as the threat to this industry is
actually from other devices that grew out of the PC only.
These devices are getting as powerful as the PC and provide
many features and service that PC used to provide, and some
more. These have started to take some of the share of the
PC in the overall pie. But they provide and cater to almost
a different segment in which PC was present due to its very
general nature. Other industries and devices that grew from
the PC industry are:
- The Gaming Industry
This industry was present from early stages of computing.
But PC really shaped it into a multi million dollar industry
that has started to rival (and even surpass) the movie industry.
It is a big business and it is already churning out different
devices like Play Station or XBox. But today also PC continues
to have a major pie of the gaming industry in the world.
- Home Theater Industry
PC is a cheaper home entertainment system with all the major
components inbuilt like DVD, TV Tuner, Live TV recording
and pausing and so on. This segment has also started to
get out of PC centric to dedicated device centric which
perform all the required functions of the Home Theater a
fraction of the cost and convenience. Such arrangement will
take a big pie out of the PC, but overall PC will continue
to thrive due to its generic nature that can adopt new technologies
and stuff with an ease.
- PDA Devices and Smart Phones
Computer is very general purpose but was always bulky. You
cannot take it everywhere and was always an inconvenience
to carry. To cater to such unrestricted movement, handheld
devices came into the picture. Palm is one of the most successful
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) manufacturer, that almost
did the same to the PDA industry which IBM did to PC industry.
PDA devices allowed people to carry the mini-computer in
their pockets and hence were preferred over PC. As technologies
grew PDAs also grew and became quiet powerful and general
purpose like the PC. Its integration with mobile phones
lead to the term Smart Phone that is basically a combination
of PDA and a mobile phone. This became a killer product
as mobile phones have already surpassed PC in terms of market
penetration all around the world. So this has become a serious
competitor to the PC. Only factor differentiating it from
the PC is its form factor. This works both in favor and
against it depending on the use.
on the Wall, Who is the greatest Computer of All?"
I know you all know the answer. Despite the
shortcomings and problems with the PC it continues to lead
the computer industry as a general purpose Swiss-Army-Knife
that can do anything and everything. From productivity enhancer
to entertainment & gaming, to specialize business and
servers, the list is endless. It continues to grow amid competition
from other devices and computers.
August 9, 2006