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IBM PC celebrates silver anniversary

Misty eyed hack remembers when....beer was 60p a pint

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Nostalgia The IBM compatible PC turns 25 this weekend.

Yes, a quarter of a century ago IBM interrupted the start of the grouse shooting season to launch its first green screen little counting machine.

The first PC was a mere snip at around $1,500. To put that in perspective a pint of lager back then would have set you back around 60 pence. The IBM PC ran something called MS-DOS on a 4.7MHz processor made by an up and coming Silicon Valley firm called Intel.

Don’t remember the big day? Can’t say we blame you. Kraftwerk may have been in the charts with Computerlove, but lets face it, they were a bunch of very strange Germans. In fact you were probably still recovering from the street parties accompanying the marriage of Charles and Diana. Or perhaps you were puzzling over the launch of this thing called MTV? Or lets face it, you probably hadn’t been born yet.

Even if you were lucky enough to have one of these things on your desk back then, windows were something you opened in the summer cos you didn‘t have air conditioning. The Internet was something to do with a football club in Italy, applications were something you wrote by hand when you wanted a new job, and a CD drive meant a late night taxi ride through Soho.

By 1985, only 13 per cent of homes in the UK had home PCs, according to government stats. And few of those were likely to have been IBM Compatibles.

But as virtually everyone knows, IBM boffins patched the thing together from odds and sods and standard parts and never got round to patenting the design. Which meant that within a couple of years lots of bright sparks started putting together their own “IBM compatibles”. Next thing you know, Microsoft launched Windows and half the world was introduced to the joy of watching a little hour glass flip up and down while you waited for something to happen.

Thankfully someone went ahead and invented broadband, while Intel, and others, eventually produced chips fast enough to allow you to do something a bit more interesting that run spread sheets. By 2002 over half of UK homes had PCs.

Still, if beer was still 60p a pint, we'd all be doing something a bit more fun than relying on a grey/beige box for our entertainment.®

Bootnote

PCWorld has one of the original IBM PCs on display at its store at Staples Corner in North London.

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