Feds approve IBM PC Co. move to Beijing as an era in computer and business history draws to a close

Feds approve IBM PC Co. move to Beijing as an era in computer and business history draws to a close

Summary: Not to be outdone by Apple who, in 1980, had installed a lab of Apple IIs on the second floor of the University of Miami's business school where I was an undergrad at the time, IBM ended up with "equal play" with a lab of 20 first-generation PCs next door. It was only available to grad students but I snuck in one day and walked around the the lab touching the machines as though I was appreciating the works of art one might find in a Porsche showroom.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Not to be outdone by Apple who, in 1980, had installed a lab of Apple IIs on the second floor of the University of Miami's business school where I was an undergrad at the time, IBM ended up with "equal play" with a lab of 20 first-generation PCs next door. It was only available to grad students but I snuck in one day and walked around the the lab touching the machines as though I was appreciating the works of art one might find in a Porsche showroom. These were nothing like the Apples next door -- the ones I had been working with for the last six months. I remember begging -- no, pleading -- with the powers to be to let me have access to the lab. "Give me a job as a lab attendent, whatever, I'll do anything," I remember saying. It worked. They paid me $5.00 per hour to watch over 20 systems that rarely got used by anyone.

Each system had a 4.77 Mhz 8088 processor, 16 KB of memory, one single-sided 5 1/4-inch floppy diskette drive, a green screen, and a keyboard that produced a very noticeable click with each key depression. To do anything with one of these beasts (for example, run Wordstar, Visicalc, or dBase II), meant engaging in a never-ending swapfest with the diskettes. Can you imagine begging to get access to that?! But, compared to what I was used to -- handing an operator a stack of a few hundred punch cards and waiting an hour to get a ten-pound printout only to learn that I left a parenthesis out of a picture statement in the working storage section of my COBOL program -- being able to get instant feedback from the system after coding up some dBase routine was a dream come true. I was able write and debug far more useful programs in far less time. Visicalc was liberating. It was the experience in that lab -- with the first IBM PC -- that set me on the course to where I am today.

An era -- not just for me -- but for millions of other individuals and businesses was born. Dramatic improvements came next -- dual-sided floppies, eventually the Winchester hard drive, amber displays

Topic: Hardware

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  • Modem speed

    That was 300 and 1200 BITS (not bytes) per second.
    georgemcaliley
    • modem speed vs. file size

      But because those Wordstar files were so small, the modem speed was less a problem than people without the early eighties experience might think now.
      ymvdveen@...
  • I remember ....

    I was a freelancing management consultant back in the mid '80's. I carried my entire support system on 3 3.5" disks - DOS3.2, Wordperfect 4, and Lotus 1A. Anywhere I went where I could get access to an IBM XT or even a PCJr (my first love) I could work and produce finished reports. Life only got more complicated thereafter.
    fredoz1
  • Early Computing Memories

    Back in the Mid 70's I was running a market research and consulting company in CA using two Polymorphic Systems 8813 computers. Each system had three 5.25 FD drives, 56K RAM, S-100 bus, proprietary OS. One FD had the OS, a second the application (mostly word processing) and the third held the application files. The printers were serial daisy wheel type.

    We produced proposals, correspondence and a newsletter on these machines. They were very rugged and surprisingly reliable. The back up was an IBM Selectric typewriter.

    Polymorphic Systems was a Santa Barbara, CA based startup, that like many of its contemporaries, faded away by the early 1980s when the first IBM PC was introduced. Anybody remember Smoke Signal Broadcasting and Vector Graphic?

    Bob Wickham
    AV Systems Inc.
    Santa Fe, NM
    rwickham@...
  • I Remember the first 1200 baud modem

    In 1978, Ven-tel came up with the first 1200 baud asynch modem that would dial from commands sent via serial port. This is well before Hayes came up with the standard "AT" command set.

    Prior to that, modems had to be dialled manually with a handset twinned off the mod-jack. Plus, the 1200-baud speed was an exhilarating 4x improvement over the 300 baud we'd gotten used to in the 70's.
    waltbru
  • 96-column punched cards rocked my world

    About 1974, IBM came up with the 96-column punched card, which made my life a whole lot easier. Not only were they less than half the size of the 80-column punched card invented by Herman Hollerith in the 1890's, but they had 16 extra bytes of precious real estate to store customer and/or product info.

    Back then, bringing out the "Customer Master" file meant hauling 30 to 40 pounds of punched cards out of the safe, to be loaded into the computer's card reader so we could run the receivable's aging. The 96-column cards weighed half as much.
    waltbru
  • Kaypro

    The only computer that never failed me, and still works fine, is my good old (1980 or so) Kaypro CPM machine with 2 floppy drives and a 10 Mb harddisk. Remember being able to create a > 300 pages book in Wordstar 1.0 that fitted on two 64k floppies. And never had any conversion problems from PC to Publisher with those Wordstar files.

    WYSIWYG, multimedia, color etc. are great, but my Kaypro was superior in productivity and much more relaxing because it never let me down. Compare this with all the trouble and stress caused by my highend XP SP2 machine...
    ymvdveen@...
  • Things we remember with fondness

    I guess the thing which gave me my biggest computational thrill was when I first powered up
    my Heathkit H-8 and it worked. I only had a tape
    drive at that time, but still- there I was with my own computer! Not long after that, I got a pair of diskette drives and I was in hog heaven.

    Although I have PC type machines, I still prefer WordStar and dBase, stil have working programs in
    dBase I run on my laptop under XP Pro in full screen mode.

    And of all the things I miss, I still miss Heath
    the most.
    dr.jazz
  • Retired IBM Employee

    I remember wondering why the magic marker line was on the side of most punchcard decks..until I dropped one and attempted to re-assemble the deck! Also, I was ashamed that IBM named our first pc the "Peanut"! It is a sad day that the best thing that gave the company name recognition is going to fade away. I proudly incouraged my peers and friends to buy the ThinkPad..it was the Cadillac of laptops!
    Bobby.Hamm@...
    • Manhattan/Chess/Acorn

      Actually, the IBM PC had three code names, none of which was Peanut. It started as Manhattan, went to Chess and ended as Acorn. It was the IBM PCjr that had the code name Peanut. But what's in a name?

      I worked on the marketing team for these products and more in Boca Raton from 1980 through 1985.

      We were thrilled and amazed when David Bunell started PC Magazine. I was present when he came to Boca and interviewed Don Estridge, the project manager on the PC and later division president.
      halj78727
  • The good and bad

    The most frustrating part of computing was fiddling with the acoustic coupler (no mod jack, phones were hardwired into the wall, so a speaker / microphone arrangement was used to send data) and the fact that somebody whisteling loudly nearby could corrupt your session.
    My first computer was a Commodore 64. It had some cool games, a word processor, spreadsheet and a primitive CAD program available. The audio cassette storage device was slow and error prone with many retransmissions. I finally graduated to the SERIAL floppy disk, still slow, but at least it handled error retransmissions itself.
    The first PC we had at work was an XT with two 360 K floppies and a "turbo" mode that was 8 MHz, we bought it as a kit and myself and another engineer spent the afternoon putting it together.
    My most joyfull comuting moment was with Win95. A consistant hardware interface (so every program did not need drivers for each piece of hardware) and finally loosing that STUPID 8.3 filename convention.
    don3605
  • "Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful"

    This strikes me as an "I remember" piece. Well do I recall the days when my friends debated whether to pursue COBAL or FORTRAN while I had had enough with BASIC. The monochrome monitors, storage via modified audio cassette, and silver three inch thermal printer tape are part of the past during which I got away from computers entirely until Win98.

    <chuckle> And, the Internet had yet to be even a matter of speculation amongst my peers.

    I spend more time at present "keeping up with the future". It seems we shall not see a 90 nanometer 1024 FSB 4GHz (not to mention 5) Pentium due to a marshalling of resources toward dual core processors. In 25 years, the move from 32 to 64 bit processors may well be the equivalent of moving from a 300 bps modem to a 1200 bps modem. One imagines explaining at some future time, "They actually connected to the Internet by telephone !"

    A bit of nostalgia... the Waitresses had an album "Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful". It is a sentiment I can appreciate. On occasion I wonder about old friends who threw caution to the wind and went ahead and entered the majorly impacted Computer Science major. Despite the leaps and bounds made by computer technology, if I might be analogous, I feel we have only made the leap from the Model T to the Model A. The next 25 years will be fascinating. And just think, we can look forward to "horsepower wars" !

    As far as the IBM move to China, look what IBM hath wrought here in the US. It is not outside the realm of possibility that one day computers and the Internet will make strides internationally of as vast import as they have here. Time will tell. Fasten your seatbelts !
    bookmonger
  • the early PC days.....

    Well, it really wasn't a PC, but a forerunner, The Brother Word Processor which we used to print a 100-page cookbook; and we still have it with the flopy disks. We loved it and it occupies a prominent position in the closet.
    Joe and Bobbi Schott
    Castroville, Tx 78009
    We entitled our published book, "Cooking With Gas on The Interstates," and revealed such kitchen secrets as the vanilla that one major chain added to their pancake batter; then there was the cafe that spiced up its chili con carne with a teaspoon of unsweetened Hershey's cocoa.
    schott56@...