First IBM PC 5150 turns 40

That large cupboard that you now have on or under your desk or that mini laptop that you put in your backpack every day, they can all be traced back to the first computers of the past. One of the first and most famous PCs, the IBM 5150, is celebrating its 40th anniversary today.

The IBM 5150 was released on August 12, 1981. It was certainly not the first personal computer, because the Apple II came out four years earlier, but it was the first PC with components that did not come from the manufacturer itself. The device cost $1,565.

IBM built the 5150 with the aim of offering a simple and relatively inexpensive home computer. For the first time, the computer contained components that IBM had not built itself, such as the processor that came from Intel. The 8088 chip had a clock speed of 4.77MHz and the computer could be supplied with 16 or 64KB of ram. The computer did not have a hard drive, but worked with floppy disks.

Before the sale, the company had signed a deal with Microsoft for the use of an operating system. This immediately made the computer very practical for the average user. Microsoft had recently acquired the operating system from a company called Seattle Computer Products. The IBM 5150 also proved to be an important step in the popularity of Microsoft software.

Also unique to the computer was that the specifications were made public. This also allowed other manufacturers to make computers relatively easily and develop parts for them; while IBM took a few years to develop, dozens of competing variants appeared on the market within a year. That made the IBM 5150 a new standard in personal computing. Partly due to the popularity of other manufacturers, IBM found it difficult to keep up with the market. IBM stopped selling the PC in 1987. In 2005, it sold its PC division to Lenovo.