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The PC

Personal Computing Comes of Age

When IBM announced the IBM ® Personal Computer (IBM 5150) on August 12, 1981, microcomputers were already being sold and were becoming popular. But many people and businesses didn’t take them too seriously—until IBM arrived. The IBM PC changed the world by making computers with the power of the 1960s mainframes available to small businesses and consumers. The new IBM PC could not only process information faster than those earlier machines, but it could hook up to the home TV set, play games and process text. It revolutionized the way the world does business.

In the first decade following the launch of the IBM PC, the company steadily introduced personal computers that increased processing speed tenfold over the original PC, increased the instruction execution rate (MIPS) a hundred fold, grew system memory a thousand times (from 16KB to 16MB) and beefed up system storage by a factor of 10,000 (from 160KB to 1.6GB).

The PC goes mobile

With increasing globalization in the early 1990s, the business field for many companies expanded to the point where PCs with higher mobility were needed. The demand grew for PCs that were compact, lightweight and robust for carrying around—and featured long battery standby time, high-speed communication and ergonomics for prolonged use.

IBM had developed mobile computers before. The IBM PC Convertible 5140, released in 1986, was the company’s first laptop computer and the first to use the 3-1/2 inch floppy disk that soon became the industry standard. In 1991, IBM Japan released a notebook computer that was aimed solely for sale in Japan. The IBM PS/55 Note was a hit in Japan and in Europe, where it was released the next year.

In 1992, IBM decided to make a similar laptop computer for the US. The IBM ThinkPad 700 series of notebook computers was released later that year. Based on the PS/55 Note, the ThinkPad computers featured the same signature black design with an added feature: the red TrackPoint, which became the symbol of the brand. The ThinkPad notebook quickly became popular, making mobility a reality for many business people around the world. ThinkPad computers even flew into space on the Shuttle Endeavour during its Dec. 2, 1993 flight to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronauts used ThinkPad 750 computers to view color images and sketches of the telescope that were loaded on the computer's hard drive.

When released, the ThinkPad notebook computer was an immediate hit, and collected more than 300 awards for design and quality. It also earned PCWorld’s first Hall of Fame award in 2004 “because it has embodied World Class qualities—innovative design, excellent reliability, powerful features—since 1992.”