Happy 35th Birthday, IBM PC

It was August 12, 1981 when Don Estridge and his team at IBM’s Entry Systems Division introduced the original IBM Personal Computer. It would become a monumental moment in computing history.

IBM’s Model Number 5150 came equipped with an Intel 8088 processor, 16k of memory, a 160k floppy disk, and an 11.5-inch black-and-white monitor. It was priced at $1,565.

Estridge later became known as the “father of the IBM PC” all because of IBM Model Number 5150. But 35 years ago, he had no idea the impact his small team of engineers and designers would truly have on the computing world. They revolutionized it.

IBM tasked Estridge’s Entry Systems Division to develop a low-cost PC to compete with popular products already in the marketplace from Apple Computer and Commodore International.

Estridge discovered he had to change the way IBM historically developed products to compete with its competitors. He was convinced the IBM PC would have to rely on third-party hardware and software to be successful. He was right.

When Estridge publicly released the computer’s specs, a third-party aftermarket hardware business rapidly took advantage of the machine’s expansion card slots. The IBM PC’s competitive cost and expandability options dramatically changed the industry, resulting in a huge increase in the demand for personal computers.

Estridge’s team didn’t introduce the first PC. Xerox’s Alto claimed that title in 1972. But the IBM personal computer was a game-changer. Because of its sheer success, the term “PC” came to mean more specifically a microcomputer compatible with IBM’s PC products. The rest is history.

Estridge became IBM’s superstar. As IBM’s Vice President of Manufacturing, he led the IBM PC division of nearly 10,000 employees to sell over a million PCs. Steve Jobs even offered Estridge a multimillion-dollar job as president of Apple Computer, which he turned down. Unfortunately, Estridge’s possibility for further success ended in a plane crash in 1985. Still, his legacy lives on today — 35 years later.

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