Send in the clones
For many users, MS-DOS was sufficient, and the operating system became the standard, helped by Microsoft's entrepreneurial willingness to license MS-DOS to other hardware manufacturers. They, noting the stamp of authority the IBM brand had now placed on personal computing, were quick to emulate its offering, an approach made easier by the Chess team's use of third-party components.
The PC's Bios belonged to IBM, but clever coders worked to produce their own Bios implementations that, to the host OS and applications, would be indistinguishable from Big Blue's own.
Third-party Bioses, IBM's open hardware architecture and Microsoft's willingess to license MS-DOS made cloning an easier route to market than developing a machine from scratch. This serendipitous circumstance shifted the market IBM-ward and would quickly define personal computing's first de facto standard.
Columbia Data Products, introduced the first IBM-compatible computer in June 1982. The following November, Compaq announced the Compaq Portable, the first carry-around IBM clone, though the machine wouldn't ship until March 1983.
By which time, IBM was pushing its machine forward. That month, it introduced the XT - aka the 5160 - a 5150 with a built-in hard drive. Variants of the 5160 followed in October and, a month later, IBM introduced the ill-fated PCjr. It flopped, but February 1984's IBM PC Portable and the August-announced PC AT - aka the 5170, with a faster, 6MHz CPU - increased the PC's customer base even further.
The 6MHz IBM PC XT 286 debuted in 1986 - a year before the original 5150 was finally discontinued - and the series would go on to adopt each new generation of Intel processor, newer versions of MS-DOS and Windows. By now, though, IBM was just one manufacturer among many and its standing had been supplanted by Microsoft and Intel.
'PC' was now a generic term for machines using a Microsoft OS and an Intel processor.
IBM would go on to create the hugely popular ThinkPad line of notebook computers, launching the first in October 1992. The near total commoditisation of desktop and laptop personal computers persuaded IBM to exit this now low-margin business, and in 2005 it sold the whole lot to China's Lenovo. ®
The polytechnic I worked at took a decision in 1982 to install several computing lab's full of 5150's. Over the summer, we were inundated with the things, with boxes filling all the foyers, waiting to be unpacked. Horrible, horrible long persistence phosphor in the monochrome monitors, and the Poly' decided to ditch the one good feature (the keyboard) for a soft-touch silent Cherry keyboard as standard. Ugh.
I never liked them even then. Because they were floppy-disk only systems, the students had to book out the disks from a librarian for the software before they could use them, which meant that we had fragile 5-1/4 floppies moving around like crazy. We got an agreement through the distributor to allow us to keep the originals safe, and issue copies. Was not long before most of the students twigged on that they could further copy the disks, and then not bother with using the booking system.
I was glad when the first PC-ATs were installed, because we at least then only had to worry about keeping the hard disk clean, and repair the applications when the students trashed them. Introducing a virus on one of the ATs became one of the most serious offences, and we had to have disinfectant sessions to clean the student's own floppies to protect our systems and their work. Mind you, the 1.2MB floppy drives on the ATs caused no end of problems when students tried to write to 360KB floppies on them.
This was waaaaaay before disk cloning was thought about, and everything was done according to the installation process, although one of the labs (not one I worked with) was set up with a low cost (hmmm, relatively low cost, it was still bloody expensive) co-ax CSMA/CD Ethernet alternative called Omninet running at 1Mb/s for file and print sharing.
Interestingly, we had Pick installed on one of the ATs, and Xenix-286 on another.
I still regarded the PC's as poorer teaching tools than the lab of BBC micro's I also ran, and of course 'my' UNIX V7 (and RSX-11M) PDP11/34e (in Systime covers, with 22bit addressing and 2MB of memory, and CDC SMD disks to speed it up) was the bees knees as far as I was concerned, running Ingres to teach relational database. Knocked Ashton Tate DBase II (remember that!) into a cocked hat! And it was, of course, far less maintenance work.
The software line-up on the PCs was PC-Dos 1.1 (on the 5150s, the 5157's has PC-Dos 2.1 for the hard disk support) with Word 2, Multiplan (MS spreadsheet before Excel), and DBase II. I couldn't work with Word then, and still find it a traumatic experience now.
We definitely need either a rose-tinted spectacles or an old-fart icon here. I guess I'll just have to use the coat icon. It's the one with the big stretched pockets to hold the 5-1/4 disk box.
things may have moved on but nobody makes keyboards as good as the ones that came with the original '81 IBM PC!
Still in use in 1998
In the late 90s my mother volunteered at the local church doing admin work, and they were still using a model very similar to one of these! I don't think it was a 5150 because it had a 30MB hard disk, although I suppose that could have been added later. I was fascinated by this living antique and used to go in on my days off from college to play around with it.
It ran a very early DOS and a green-screen, keyboard-operated version of MS Works (or some equivalent, I forget), comprising a simple word processor and a spreadsheet program. There was a similar epson dot-matrix printer attached too. It booted in about 5 seconds and was ready to use.
The best part was, IT DID ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED.
Sometimes, I'm not sure how much progress we have really made!