Personal computers have revolutionized the way we do research, work, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even the way we think. There is a computer in nearly every home, office, and university – and many more in many other places. They have truly become something we can’t live without.
But computers weren’t always the powerhouses they are today. A lot of research, long nights, and trial and error went into developing the desktops, laptops and ultrabooks we know so well. Let’s revisit 10 groundbreaking computers that have shaped modern-day personal computing as we know it.
IBM 610 Auto-Point Computer
Although the IBM 610 had a predecessor – Simon, an early “computer” with a processor the ability to do simple math calculations – the IBM 610 was the first computer that could be controlled by a keyboard by a single person. It was as big as a desk and had a large rudimentary control panel that acted as its central processing unit. Users would input calculations or simply type on the keyboard, and it would print the results, or output, at 18 characters per second. It was developed between 1948 and 1954.
Note: A few other computers, such as the ENIAC and Manchester Baby, came out around the same time and could also be considered contenders for being groundbreaking first computers.
IBM was at it again with another groundbreaking computer – the IBM 360. It was so big it could occupy a whole room, and was the first computer to have 32-bit architecture. It was the first computer that had swappable components and interchangeable software, which meant it could be upgraded. It could also hold up to 4MB (yes, megabytes) of memory, which was an incredibly expensive option back then.
Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET
These three groundbreaking computers were released at the same time, 1977, and were arguably the first real retail home computers. They had all of the same basic components that PCs have today – a keyboard, RAM, processor, monitor – but supposedly, the Apple II far overtook the TRS-80 in sales. The Apple II sold 5 to 6 million units during its production time. It is said that the TRS-80 had better early sales, but because Apple continued to produce the Apple II, it overtook the market. The Apple II was the computer involved in the Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs scandal; it’s the computer that was partly built out of Wozniak’s garage.
The Commodore 64 was released in 1982 as the first 8-bit computer system. its parent company, Commodore Business Machines, sold between 10 and 17 million units, which makes it one of the most best-selling PCs of all time. It sold for about $600 and got its namesake for having 64KB of RAM.
Windows 1.0, released at the end of 1985, was the very first PC to run Microsoft Windows. Many say this PC “failed,” especially when comparing it to its highly successful competitors and the fact that it took too long to be developed. Nevertheless, Windows 1.0 set the stage for all future versions of PCs running Windows, and it was heralded for its far cheaper price tag of $99. It came with a notepad, the game Reversi, a calculator, MS Paint, a clock and calendar, and a few more features. The very first version of Word was also on it, called “Microsoft Write.”
Apple Mac, Mac Plus, SE and Mac II
There was a huge jump in computing technology with these Apple PCs, which were developed at about the same time in 1986-1987. The biggest improvement was the extended ROM/RAM in them, with the Mac Plus seeing 1MB of memory, which was enough to run the new Mac OS. The Mac II was more expensive than SE, with a price tag between $3,898 and $5,498, depending on the upgrades chosen. The Mac Plus a bit more affordable at $2,600. The Apple Mac truly revolutionized Apple computers, as it is seen as the first PC to make good use of its GUI (graphical user interface). Its popularity eventually died down as new contenders entered the personal computing game, forcing Apple to keep making bigger and better PCs.
Windows 3.0 and Onward
Windows 3.0 was released in 1990, and was a much needed improvement over the original Windows 1.0. Windows 3.0 and 3.1x had more available virtual memory, which allowed users to have a better experienced in terms of the GUI and general usability. Windows 3.1x could even run a few notable games, including Rodent’s Revenge, Pipe Mania (now known as Pipe Dream), SkiFree, and Minesweeper.
IBM ThinkPad Line
The IBM ThinkPad line was arguably the first successful laptop line. Launched in 1992, these bad boys sold for about $2,400, and ran on MS DOS 5.0 with an IBM OS. They later ran on Microsoft Windows 3.1.
Personal Computers of Today
In terms of market share for the personal computers of today, PCs running Windows takes the cake. HP, Lenovo and Dell are the top three highest-grossing PC vendors today. Although Windows is obviously the OS of choice, the overall PC market share for Apple is notable as well, at nearly 7 percent, and its total 2017 revenue alone is phenomenal: $215.6 billion.