Happy 25th Birthday to the PC

August 12, 1981. If you were ready to plunk down about $1,600, you could have owned a piece of history: The original IBM 5150 PC, generally considered to be the "first" PC.

At 25 years old, it's fun to look back on how far we've come. At 21 pounds (without drives), the 5150 wasn't much fatter than the PCs of today. Under the hood, things looked a bit different: 40KB of read-only memory and 16KB of RAM (upgradable to 256KB). You could configure the machine with one or two 160KB floppy drives, but a jack for a cassette player was included. Users certainly loved the "power-on automatic self-test of system components" and "built-in speaker for musical programming." And the keyboard (included) weighed six pounds. The 11.5-inch monochrome monitor, capable of displaying 25 lines of text, weighed in at 17 lbs. and supported both upper- and lowercase characters. Whoa.

Mock it if you must, but remember that the 5150 was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. The Apple II, released a few years earlier, came close, but it was more of a hacker toy and game-playing machine than something that would be at home in a business. The 5150 had built-in BASIC and Pascal support for writing programs, and it included a ton of business software: VisiCalc, Peachtree accounting software, and the EasyWriter word processor. And yes, Microsoft Adventure, a text-based adventure game, was available for diversions.

So that was 25 years ago. Looking ahead 25 years is almost impossible (and the further we get from the birth of the PC, the harder and harder it gets), but let's imagine. Magnetic storage will still be around, and your average hard drive will hold something in the vicinity of 30 terabytes (30,000GB) and cost $50 or less. CPU architecture will be vastly different. If we're still using silicon wafers, you could have a 32-core CPU with dedicated encryption and graphics components. In 25 years, graphics will have evolved to the point where Toy Story will seem quaint. You'll be able to compose a production like that in real time, and it'll look perfect on your wall-sized display. And dare we dream of something in true 3-D? Memo to Silicon Valley: Better get busy!

For another walk down memory lane (or rather, a walk down a lane filled with computers that predate the PC most of which you have probably never heard of), check out this page of personal computer milestones, dating back to 1950. And let's hear your memories of the early days of the personal computer. What was your first machine, and how did it change your life? The comments are open!

pc trade post

Daemon Poster
man, its so incredible how far we've come. its pretty much impossible to predict the route pcs will take over the next 25 years. all i know is, i can wait to have all that new technology, and be able to look back on today's technology and say, "how did we ever live with that?"


Golden Master
It's pretty suprising to see what we had for computers 25 years ago, and then look at what we have today. Pretty damn impressive.


In Runtime
actually the first computer would probably be the Altair in the 70's there was no monitor just 8 switches using binary code... but a guy got it to play a song using frequncies interfereing with a radio (pretty impressive for a box people thought was useless)... also Xerox's Palo-Alto facillity had done a GUI, Networking had a mouse and keyboard long before apple even did just the GUI... Xerox could have been the leader of their time in computers but they had no idea what they had made... i bet they kicked themselves in the A** over that


Fully Optimized
remember when you had a 200 mb hard drive and people said you would never use all that space. or when when the laptops came out with the ultra light weight of 42 pounds. :D :D


Solid State Member
dude i remember this old IBM at my dads work. I was about 12 when I started fiddling around with it and it had DOS 3.0 i think but anyway, it was ancient. it was an IBM PS/2 model 30 286 with a 20mb hard drive if memory serves me right. Bloody ancient all the same!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I then used a Compaq Prolinea 4/66 i assume that means series 4 and 66mhz processor. I think it either was a very old pentium 1 or a top of the range 486 but all the same, they were great computers and they really formed the way the world thinks and works with computers to this day. I own a Compaq Evo P4 2.4Ghz and an IBM Thinkpad T40 and its because of these computers that I used nearly 10 years ago, I own the same brands.