Photos: From the first PCs to the ThinkPad – classic IBM machines

Photos: From the first PCs to the ThinkPad – classic IBM machines

Summary: A walkthrough some of IBM's best known creations: from the Selectric typewriter to the IBM PC to the ThinkPad.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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  • IBM produced a number of point of sale terminals, such as this 1985 IBM 4683 machine.

    The 4860 system consists of a PC-based controller and thin client-based POS terminal, typically connected via a Token ring network.

  • The lightweight, for the time, IBM PC Convertible can be considered to be IBM's first laptop.

    Released in 1986 the machine used a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 processor and came with up to 256KB of RAM, expandable to 640KB.

    It came with a monochrome CGA-compatible LCD screen and twin 720KB 3.5-inch floppy disk drives.

    In total the machine weighed less than 13 pounds or 6kg, thanks in part to its use of the latest surface mount technology to allow more components to be packed into a smaller area.

  • The IBM RT PC, known as the IBM 6150 in the UK, is based around IBM's ROMP processor. It was introduced in 1986 as the Risc Technology Personal Computer.

    The machine ran IBM AIX, Advanced Interactive Executive, an IBM port of UNIX 1.x and 2.x but could also run the Academic Operating System (AOS) or Pick Operating System.

    It was followed in 1990 by the IBM RS/600 and the POWER (Performance Optimisation with Advanced Risc) processor line, which was the basis for the PowerPC processor.

Topic: Hardware

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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16 comments
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  • I remember...

    I remember going to computer camp one summer and learning basic programming techniques on the 5110 (or something very similar). A few months earlier my mother had bought me a Sinclair ZX81, and thus began my long, thrilling journey into the world of computers.
    dsf3g
    • OMG.

      I had one of those Sinclair computers. I can't believe I actually loaded and saved my programs to and from cassette tape. How far we have come....
      MCTronix
      • I still have one in my basement somewhere

        along with TRS-80 and an IBM PC Jr. Beat the heck out of the punch cards I had to work with by day.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • I've never seen that Butterfly keyboard system

    but it does sound as though it's likely a nice piece of mechanical engineering.

    Nice.
    William.Farrel
  • IBM Selectric Typewriter

    I remember that from a high school typing class. Back then, typing was still extremely gender specific. A friend and I signed up for the class because we knew we would be the only males. Who knew how important learning "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" would be!
    robradina@...
  • Selectric Typewriter

    Many writers focus on the ball as the innovation of the Selectric. The key to the typewriter is the Paper did not move. In all previous typewriters (and printers) the type stayed stationary and the paper moved. No printers today use the old method, all move the type head and leave the paper stationary.
    DonG43
    • Teletype had the idea first.

      Teletype printing devices, many years before the IBM Selectric, used a small cylinder attached to a vertical shaft that could be rotated up to 180 degrees in either direction, then return to its home position, and lifted up or down as needed, before swinging the shaft, with the proper character facing the paper, at the ribbon and paper. IBM engineers basically changed the cylinder to a sphere, the lifting axis of motion to a tilt, and made the ball removable, whether because they wanted to make the mechanism more reliable and durable, or to avoid violating Teletype patents, I am not sure. Incidentally, I have seen the lift-and-rotate cylinder mechanism both on the very old (pre-WWII) 5-level Teletype printers capable of printing a 52-character set (very popular for ham radio once they hit the surplus market), and on the 1960s 8-level ASCII coded Teletype printers used as operator/user consoles by almost all non-IBM minicomputers in the 1960s (larger character set was possible but not always implemented).

      The big advantages of the Selectric over the Teletype were more attractive styling for use in an office, and the ability of the operator to change the typeball in mid-page, or even in mid-line, to substitute a different font, or even a special-purpose character set (foreign language or math symbols, for example).

      The big advantage of BOTH the Teletype and the Selectric over the "classic" typewriter was that the desk space footprint did not have to allow for both extremes of position of the platen (not to mention the vibration when the Return function was performed by an ELECTRIC interface or a very angry or hurried typist!). This meant that more Teletype printers could be installed side by side in a newsroom, and secretaries had more space for necessary supplies on each side of the typewriter (or pictures of the family, or the boss could issue a narrower desk and put more TYPISTS side by side).
      jallan32
  • I'm caught in a time warp

    I still have:
    6 5150 PC Classic
    6 5160 PC XT (first hard drive and color monitor)
    2 5140 PC Convertible (first LCD screen and battery power)
    2 5155 Portable PC
    2 Pro Printers
    Everything works. I have every version of DOS, many add-on boards and a lot of software such as Lotus 123 and Visicalc. I also have all the manuals including the Tech Reference and repair manuals. When I develop programs in C I first use a PC-XT running Borland Turbo-C, when I am satisfied with the code I transfer it to a newer computer and a more modern C compiler. I have a newer PC dual booting Windows XP and DOS. I use it to transfer programs and data back and forth to my IBM PC's using a serial cable and a gender-mender. I also use it to find PC software on the internet. I first acquired all this when I lived near Boca Raton Florida, where the IBM PC was invented and manufactured. I now live in the California mountains and can't part with all this stuff.
    Ronim
  • Missing is the Magnetic Card Selectric

    In the army in 1970 I was a PFC fresh from training assigned to work as a clerk in G-3 Intelligence at Ft. Hood, TX. The office had IBM Selectrics at every desk, but also a new Magnetic Card Selectric that allowed recording a typed page on a hard card, about 3" X 7", that inserted into a slot in the machine. I think we could put a page on each side of the card, but memory is fuzzy on those details. It allowed us to make corrections and print letter-perfect documents. A lengthy staff report would need a stack of cards to record.
    bradson
  • Displaywriter was a defensive release.

    "The Displaywriter System, announced in June 1980, introduced some of the convenience of PC word processing software at a time when documents were generally created on typewriters."

    Actually Wang Labs WP was kicking out 1000s of Selectrics of all stripes for the previous 5 or 6 years. All it took was a demo for an hour or so and the customers were sold. At least those that didn't have IBM mainframes in house with IT directing purchases. Wang owned the market for law firms back then.

    By later 70s Wang WP had multiple display stations sharing a common document store CPU system and printers. All networked.

    But they, Wang, didn't really understand the importance of standards and by the end of the 80s were dying. That with a total foul up of the "Good Dr" putting his son in charge for cultural reasons.
    raleighthings
    • Wang vs.IBM Word Processors

      Actually the Displaywriter was IBM's LAST dedicated word processing machine.

      IBM's first Selectric based WP product was the Magnetic Tape Selectric typewriter (MT/ST), introduced in 1964. Wang's first Selectric based WP product did not arrive until years later.
      Beerhunter
  • Great Stuff

    Well,Well we have come a long way since then.
    http://www.electricalhub.co.uk
    Mick Grundy
  • Memories

    My, my. Such good memories. I was in college and professional school when the middle part of this revolution was taking place. What amazes me the most is remembering how all of that technology wowed us at the time and what we have now.(I'm typing this an android tablet). What does the future hold?
    Anthonyjt
  • Great article! -- Sorry, but I won't look at it!!!

    Twenty-seven, count 'em, 27 excruciating page loads! Sorry, I won't look at them or the ads. Oh well, on to other things.......
    410miler
  • PS/2 95

    My first Windows 95 PC was a PS/2 95. 486DX2/66 with 16MB of RAM. I thought I was in hog heaven. Ran that puppy with an external CDRom drive for a couple of years. I wish I still had it.
    palmkrawler
  • PCjr

    What, no picture of an IBM PCjr? I owned one, warts and all! It really wasn't as bad as the publicity made it...after they replaced the "Chiclet" keyboard with a real one. Kept it two years and got a compatible. Never looked back!
    kipmcfarland