The fact the original IBM PC... Model 5150... celebrates its 30th anniversary this month is getting a lot o' play in certain circles, including this charming piece in Wired. An excerpt:
Introduced 30 years ago, and once embedded in homes and offices across America, the IBM 5150 is the forebear of much of the technology I take for granted – the Mitochondrial Eve that eventually led to the sleek laptop computer on which I live so much of my life. As I sit at the IBM’s 80-column wide display, I half expect my fingers to know what to do with the machine’s clacky keyboard, guided by some subconscious aptitude distilled from living among the 5150’s distant offspring. Instead, the screen and I stare blankly back at each other, separated by decades of technological evolution.
“It has a 16 bit CPU, 8 bit memory bus, and ran at a solid 4.77 megahertz,” says Erik Klein from over my shoulder. “The original one had a motherboard which supported 16 to 64K. And you could put extension cards in it all the way up to 640K!”
I didn't buy my first computer until 1986 so I can't claim to have been on board at the beginning, ignoring the fact that the IBM 5150 PC wasn't even the first personal or home computer. But it was IBM that opened the floodgates, and it was IBM that first graced MY personal desktop. I've posted about that old box in the past, sayin' this:
Speaking of our first computer… it was one of these. I bought my XT in early 1986, and it was the model that did NOT come with a hard drive; it had two 5.25” floppies. I bought a 10 megabyte… yes, MEGAbyte… Seagate hard drive from a mail order firm and installed it myself. The drive only cost about 300 Yankee Dollars, if I recall correctly. The XT itself was about $1500.00, if memory serves. As far as connectivity went, I had a 9600 bps outboard modem to access BBSes and the like. You cannot imagine how impressed I was when I upgraded to a 19.2 Kbps modem. Oh, the power and the glory!
We’ve come a long way, Bay-bee. But ya know what? I miss those clickety old IBM keyboards. Those things were built to last, in addition to having the best feel of any keyboard I've ever used. They were heavy enough to have made damned good weapons, too... and I'm sure someone, somewhere, beat the snot out of another person using one. I wouldn't take odds on anyone surviving a determined attack with that keyboard.
I still miss those keyboards... there has NEVER been a better keyboard made, ever... but that's about all. I like Windows and its graphical user interface, I like having gigabytes of RAM, and hundreds of gigabytes of hard drive space. I like my fast internet connection as opposed to that old 9600 bps modem. But Hey! All that went before started what we enjoy today and it began... for me and millions of others... with the 5150 and its descendants.
Illustration snagged from Wired.