The first personal computer to be marketed for home use was the IBM PC 5150. It was introduced on August 12, 1981. The development process only took a year. When Bill Lowe, the man who presented the idea to the IBM executives, claimed that a personal computer could be invented in 12 months, the executives gave him 2 weeks to work on a proposal. 12 designers worked on the proposal, which included the hardware and software plans. The interesting part about the proposal was that the later programmers did not stray much from the design at all. The majority of the physical parts were outsourced to other companies –a stray from what had been the norm at IBM.

Physical Description

The first IBM PC

The IBM Personal Computer was about the size of a typewriter —and thus easy to ship and store. The monitor screen was 15 inches wide, 11 inches tall, and 8 inches deep. The computer part was 20 inches wide, 5 and ½ inches tall, and 16 inches deep. The IBM PC had a keyboard which was attached to the computer with a six foot cable, designed thus so that customers could place the keyboard in their lap and type. The keyboard weighed six pounds! Standard features included speakers for basic sounds and music, expansion slots, and a cassette player jack. (At this time, cassettes and floppy disks were both used.)


The IBM PC could be hooked up to a TV to play games.

The graphics consisted of 256 different characters, with 16 foreground and 8 background colors. It came with several programs, a basic word, spreadsheet, and a role playing game called “Microsoft Adventure.”
The computer had a speed of 4.77 MHz, paired with a RAM that ranged from 16 to 256KB (Depending on the version of the model).
The computer could be equipped with a printer (which was sold separately), that could print 80 characters a second.


The IBM PC was sold by Sears Roebuck and ComputerLand, as well as the IBM Product Centers. Sears was disappointed in their sales –PC purchases for home use were not popular. However, the IBM PC did very well when marketed to offices.
Depending on how many features wanted, the price fluctuated about $3000. The basic model, a system unit (no monitor) with just the television and audio cassette connection, ran at $1,565. For $3,000, the expanded model had a monochrome monitor, as well as a disk drive and a 64,000 byte memory. The business model, with color graphics, two disk drives and a printer, cost $4,500.


A year later, the summer of 1942 all sorts of improvements had been made to the PC: the memory and disk capability had doubled, and the internal programming had improved. Shortly after, the IBM PC was released worldwide. From there, the IBM PC snowballed –improvements in technology, memory, and better personal computer models occurred very quickly. The original IBM PC, the 5150, was discontinued April 2, 1987.


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