IBM PC 30th Anniversary Extravaganza

August 12th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Can You Do Real Work With The 30-Year-Old IBM PC 5150? at

If you haven’t heard by now, the IBM PC platforms turned 30 years old today. On August 12th, 1981, IBM announced its new PC, the 5150, at a press conference in New York. It was a big deal then, and it’s an even bigger deal now. For the last 30 years, most of us have been using computers descended from a standard set in motion 30 years ago.

To celebrate this momentous anniversary, I’ve put together a few articles for PC World and Technologizer. The first is titled, “Can You Do Real Work With the 30-Year-Old IBM 5150?” A few weeks ago, I locked myself in a room with a vintage IBM PC 5150 to see if I could use it for real, modern computing work. That article spells out the results.

The second is something more predictable: IBM PC Oddities over at Technologizer. It’s the latest in my Oddities series of interesting and bizarre trivia slideshows for that site. If you’ve ever used a PC, you should enjoy it.

Then there’s the stuff at VC&G. I just posted a few thoughts on the IBM PC’s anniversary and an essay on history’s treatment of the IBM PC, and on Monday I posted a new Retro Scan of the Week that features a 1982 IBM PC ad. In turn, that Retro Scan post lists previous Retro Scan entries that deal with the PC.

Happy Birthday, IBM PC!

8 Responses to “IBM PC 30th Anniversary Extravaganza”

  1. Jim Leonard Says:

    This was a wonderful collection of trivia for the PC’s 30th birthday, thank you. I consider myself a bit of an expert on the 5150/5160, but I had never seen the keycap “sleeves” before!

  2. SirPaul Says:

    Good article, I enjoyed reading it.

    On a side note, I did notice the tweet you sent from the 5150, and I thought I responded to it. Looks like I didn’t, though…

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    I’m glad you liked the articles, guys. Thanks for your comments.

  4. s1500 Says:

    Anyone have any sound samples of what cassette programs on the IBM PC sounded like? I’m curious to hear it. Remember what the TI-99/4A sounded like.

  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    Funny you should ask, s1500 — there’s an MP3 of an IBM PC cassette on M Brutman’s site:

    Very cool.

  6. PS3D Says:

    What’s so special about the IBM PC? What did it “change” about computing? Was it simply more popular with businesses because of the IBM association?

  7. Rowan Hawkins Says:

    It bridged the gap between completely home brew system and the more expensive mainframe computers Since IBM was then the biggest player it drove a certain amount of standardization to the PC market which was lacking. Apple didn’t start impacting on the education market truly until the mid to late 80’s.

    Other systems of that era were the 5160 which is the 8086 or PC AT and the 5170 which a version of the AT designed to be a terminal node of of an IBM System 360. Unless you have a 360, you should stay away from a 5170 since it doesn’t load standard dos.

  8. idisjunction Says:

    There’s nothing wrong with the 5170; that was the standard AT. You’re probably thinking of the 3270.

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