August 14, 2011

A milestone I missed

So it turns out this Friday was the 30th anniversary of the IBM Personal Computer, the prototype of the modern desktop PC that we all know and love.

Back then, an IBM 5150 computer came with an Intel 8088 CPU running at a whopping 4 MHz, two 5-1/4" floppy disk drives, no hard drive, and a 12" monochrome, 80x25-character monitor. Its base RAM was 16 KB. Yes . . . kilobytes. Graphics? Well, the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet made pie charts.

I actually used one of these in my first summer job, between high school and university. I was compiling survey results at my local public library, and had to switch between WordPerfect and Lotus. With two floppy disk drives, you had to boot the computer into DOS with one drive, then swap the PC-DOS disk for the WP or Lotus one. The other drive held the data floppy. It was a pain, but it was still a superior system to the Commodore 64 I used at home. Thirty years later, of course, the C64 still has nostalgia value. The IBM PC? Not so much - probably because we are still using the same machine today, though it has evolved subtly over the years, and is obviously orders of magnitude more powerful.

But, still - I do like to play a round or two of Sopwith every now and then . . .