History of the IBM PC

The Invention of the First Personal Computer

IBM 5100 computer
IBM 5100. Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In July of 1980, IBM representatives met for the first time with Microsoft's Bill Gates to talk about writing an operating system for IBM's new hush-hush "personal" computer.

IBM had been observing the growing personal computer market for some time. They had already made one dismal attempt to crack the market with their IBM 5100. At one point, IBM considered buying the fledgling game company Atari to commandeer Atari's early line of personal computers. However, IBM decided to stick with making their own personal computer line and developed a brand new operating system to go with.


The secret plans were referred to as "Project Chess." The code name for the new computer was "Acorn." Twelve engineers, led by William C. Lowe, assembled in Boca Raton, Florida, to design and build the "Acorn." On August 12, 1981, IBM released their new computer, re-named the IBM PC. The "PC" stood for "personal computer" making IBM responsible for popularizing the term "PC."

Open Architecture

The first IBM PC ran on a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor. The PC came equipped with 16 kilobytes of memory, expandable to 256k. The PC came with one or two 160k floppy disk drives and an optional color monitor. The price tag started at $1,565.

What really made the IBM PC different from previous IBM computers was that it was the first one built from off-the-shelf parts (called open architecture) and marketed by outside distributors (Sears & Roebuck and Computerland). The Intel chip was chosen because IBM had already obtained the rights to manufacture the Intel chips. IBM had used the Intel 8086 for use in its Displaywriter Intelligent Typewriter in exchange for giving Intel the rights to IBM's bubble memory technology.

Less than four months after IBM introduced the PC, Time Magazine named the computer "man of the year."

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Bellis, Mary. "History of the IBM PC." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/history-of-the-ibm-pc-1991408. Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 27). History of the IBM PC. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-ibm-pc-1991408 Bellis, Mary. "History of the IBM PC." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-ibm-pc-1991408 (accessed May 29, 2023).