Influence of the IBM PC on the personal computer market

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The IBM Personal Computer (model 5150)

Following the introduction of the IBM Personal Computer, or IBM PC, many other personal computer architectures became extinct within just a few years.[1]

Before the IBM PC's introduction[edit]

Before the IBM PC was introduced, the personal computer market was dominated by systems using the 6502 and Z80 8-bit microprocessors, such as the TRS 80, Commodore PET and Apple II series, which used proprietary operating systems, and by computers running CP/M. After IBM introduced the IBM PC, it was not until 1984 that IBM PC and clones became the dominant computers.[2]

Around 1978, several 16-bit CPUs became available. Examples included the Data General Mn601, Fairchild's 9440, the Ferranti F100-1, the General Instrument CP1600 and CP1610, the National Semiconductor INS8900, Panafacom's MN1610,[3] Texas Instruments' TMS9900, and, most notably, the Intel 8086. These new processors were expensive to incorporate in personal computers, as they used a 16-bit data bus and needed rare (and thus expensive) 16-bit peripheral and support chips.

More than 50 new business-oriented personal computer systems came on the market in the year before IBM released the IBM PC.[4][5] Very few of them used a 16- or 32-bit microprocessor, as 8-bit systems were generally believed by the vendors to be perfectly adequate, and the Intel 8086 was too expensive to use.[6]

Some of the main manufacturers selling 8-bit business systems during this period were

The IBM PC[edit]

On August 12, 1981, IBM released the IBM Personal Computer.[7] The IBM PC used the then-new Intel 8088 processor. Like other 16-bit CPUs, it could access up to 1 megabyte of RAM, but it used an 8-bit-wide data bus to memory and peripherals. This design allowed use of the large, readily available, and relatively inexpensive family of 8-bit-compatible support chips. IBM decided to use the Intel 8088 after first considering the Motorola 68000 and the Intel i8086, because the other two were considered to be too powerful for their needs.[8][9] IBM's reputation in business computing allowed the IBM PC architecture to take a substantial market share of business applications,[10] and many small companies that sold IBM-compatible software or hardware rapidly grew in size and importance, including Tecmar, Quadram, AST Research, and Microsoft.[11]

Many other companies at the time made "business personal computers" using their own proprietary designs, some still using 8-bit microprocessors. The ones that used Intel x86 processors often used the generic, non-IBM-compatible specific version of MS-DOS or CP/M-86, just as 8-bit systems with an Intel 8080 compatible CPU normally used CP/M.

The use of MS-DOS on non IBM PC compatible x86 based systems[edit]

In the beginning, when the IBM PC did not yet dominate the market, these x86-based systems were not clones of the IBM PC design, but had different internal designs, like the CP/M-based 8-bit systems that preceded them. Even a few years after the IBM PC's introduction, manufacturers such as Digital, HP, Sanyo, Tandy, Texas Instruments, Tulip Computers, NEC, Wang Laboratories, and Xerox continued to introduce personal computers that were barely, if at all, hardware-compatible with the IBM PC, even though they used x86 processors and ran MS-DOS. They used MS-DOS the way Microsoft had originally envisioned: in the same way as 8-bits systems used CP/M. They implemented standard ROM BIOS routines to achieve hardware independence as had 8080 (Z80) compatibles. So each machine had a different BIOS that, as long as software made only standard MS-DOS calls, would ensure compatibility.

While Microsoft used a sophisticated installer with its DOS programs like Multiplan that provided device drivers for many non IBM PC-compatible computers, most other software vendors did not.[12] Peter Norton, who earlier had encouraged vendors to write software that ran on many different computers, by early 1985 admitted—after experiencing the difficulty of doing so while rewriting Norton Utilities—that "there's no practical way for most software creators to write generic software".[13] To get the best results out of the 8088's modest performance, many popular software applications were written specifically for the IBM PC. The developers of these programs opted to write directly to the computer's (video) memory and peripheral chips, bypassing MS-DOS and the BIOS. For example, a program might directly update the video refresh memory, instead of using MS-DOS calls and device drivers to alter the appearance of the screen. Many notable software packages, such as the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3, and Microsoft's Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0, directly accessed the IBM PC's hardware, bypassing the BIOS, and therefore did not work on computers that were even trivially different from the IBM PC. This was especially common among games. As a result, the systems that were not fully IBM PC-compatible couldn't run this software, and quickly became obsolete, and with them the concept of OEM versions of MS-DOS meant to run (through BIOS calls) on non IBM-PC hardware.

Cloning the PC BIOS[edit]

One of the first computers to use a near-clone of the IBM PC BIOS and achieve 100% PC compatibility was the Compaq portable, released in November 1982.[14] Soon after Phoenix Technologies launched their clone of the IBM PC's BIOS and licensed it, which along with IBM's use of standard off-the-shelf ICs made it possible for anyone to develop a PC compatible computer.

Decline of the Intel 80186[edit]

Although based on the i8086 and enabling the creation of relatively low cost x86 based systems, the Intel 80186 quickly lost appeal for x86 based PC builders because the supporting circuitry inside the Intel 80186 chip was incompatible with those used in the standard PC chipset as implemented by IBM. It was very rarely used in personal computers after 1982.

Domination of the clones[edit]

You don't ask whether a new machine is fast or slow, new technology or old. The first question is, "Is it PC compatible?"

Creative Computing, November 1984[11]

In early 1984 BYTE cited the announcement by North Star in fall 1983 of its first PC-compatible microcomputer. Founded in 1976, North Star had long been successful with 8-bit S-100 bus products, and had introduced proprietary 16-bit products, but now the company acknowledged that the IBM PC had become a "standard", one which North Star needed to follow. BYTE described the announcement as representative of the great impact IBM had made on the industry:[15]

It's become painfully obvious that the key to survival as a major manufacturer is acceptance by the business community. The IBM PC has unquestionably open the door to that market wider than any personal computer before it, but in so doing has made compatibility a primary factor in microcomputer design, for better or for worse. Recent announcements by North Star ... and a host of smaller firms seem to indicate that the 8088/MS-DOS/IBM-compatible bandwagon is becoming much more like a speeding freight train.

Compatibility became so important that Dave Winer joked in 1985 (referring to the PC AT's incomplete compatibility with the IBM PC), "The only company that can introduce a machine that isn't PC compatible and survive is IBM".[16] By the end of the year, PC Magazine similarly stated that even IBM could no longer introduce a proprietary operating system for the PC, as rumors stated, without DOS compatibility. It added that "backward compatibility [with the IBM PC] is the single largest concern of hardware and software developers. The user community is too large and demanding to accept radical changes or abandon solutions that have worked in the past".[17]

Within a few years of the introduction of fully compatible IBM PC clones, virtually all the rival business personal computer systems, and alternate x86 using architectures, were gone from the market. Despite the inherent dangers of an industry based on a de facto "standard",[18] a thriving PC clone industry emerged. The only non-IBM PC-compatible systems that remained were those systems that were classified as home computers, such as the Apple II series made by Apple Inc., or business systems that offered features not available on the IBM PC, such as a high level of integration (e.g., bundled accounting and inventory)[clarification needed] or fault-tolerance and multitasking and multi-user features.

Compaq's prices were comparable to IBM's, and the company emphasized its computers' features and quality to corporate customers. From mid-1985, what Compute! described as a "wave" of inexpensive clones from American and Asian companies caused prices to decline; by the end of 1986, the equivalent to a $1600 real IBM PC with 256K RAM and two disk drives cost as little as $600, lower than the price of the Apple IIc. Consumers began purchasing DOS computers for the home in large numbers; Radio Shack estimated that half of its popular Tandy 1000 clones went to homes, not offices, newcomer Leading Edge Model D comprised 1% of the US home-computer market that year, and some Toys "R" Us sold a clone made by Hyundai. The inexpensive clones succeeded with consumers where IBM had failed two years earlier with the PCjr; unlike the IBM product, they were as fast as or faster than the IBM PC and highly compatible. Their popularity caused consumer-software companies to increase the number of their IBM-compatible products; Electronic Arts, for example, began developing games specifically for the PC as opposed to conversions from other computers.[19][20][21][22][23]

At the January 1987 Consumer Electronics Show both Commodore and Atari announced their own clones.[24] By 1987 the PC industry was growing so quickly that the formerly business-only platform had become the largest and most important market for computer game companies, outselling games for the Apple II or Commodore 64. With the EGA video card, an inexpensive clone was better for games than the other computers.[25][26][27] By 1989 80% of readers of Compute! owned DOS computers,[28] and the magazine announced "greater emphasis on MS-DOS home computing".[29]

By 1990 Computer Gaming World told a reader complaining about the many reviews of PC games that "most companies are attempting to get their MS-DOS products out the door, first".[30] It reported that MS-DOS comprised 65% of the computer-game market, with the Commodore Amiga at 10%; all other computers, including the Apple Macintosh, were below 10% and declining.[31] The Amiga and most others, such as the Atari ST and various MSX2 computers, remained on the market until PC compatibles gained sufficient multimedia capabilities to compete with home computers. With the advent of inexpensive versions of the VGA video card and the Sound Blaster sound card (and its clones), most of the remaining home computers were driven from the market.

By 1995, other than the Macintosh, almost no new consumer-oriented systems were sold that were not IBM PC clones. The Macintosh originally used Motorola's 68000 family of processors, later migrating to the PowerPC architecture. Throughout the 1990s Apple would steadily transition the Macintosh platform from proprietary expansion interfaces to use emerging industry standards such as IDE, PCI and USB. In 2006, Apple converted the Macintosh to the Intel x86 architecture. Modern Macintosh computers are essentially IBM PC compatibles, capable of booting Microsoft Windows and running most IBM PC-compatible software, but still retain unique design elements that support Apple's Mac OS X operating system.

In 2008 Sid Meier listed the IBM PC as one of the three most important innovations in the history of videogames.[32]

Systems launched shortly after the IBM PC[edit]

Shortly after the IBM PC was released, an obvious split appeared between systems that opted to use an x86-compatible processor, and those that chose another architecture. Almost all of the x86 systems provided a version of MS-DOS. The others used many different operating systems, although the Z80-based systems typically offered a version of CP/M. The common usage of MS-DOS unified the x86-based systems, promoting growth of the x86/MS-DOS "ecosystem."

As the non-x86 architectures died off, and x86 systems standardized into fully IBM PC compatible clones, a market filled with dozens of different competing systems was reduced to a near-monoculture of x86-based, IBM PC compatible, MS-DOS systems.

x86-based systems (using OEM-specific versions of MS-DOS)[edit]

Early after the launch of the IBM PC in 1981, there were still dozens of systems that were not IBM PC-compatible, but did use Intel x86 chips.[33] They used Intel 8088, 8086, or 80186 processors, and almost without exception offered an OEM version of MS-DOS (as opposed to the OEM version customized for IBM's use). However, they generally made no attempt to copy the IBM PC's architecture, so these machines had different I/O addresses, a different system bus, different video controllers, and other differences from the original IBM PC. These differences, which were sometimes rather minor, were used to improve upon the IBM PC's design, but as a result of the differences, software that directly manipulated the hardware would not run correctly. In most cases, the x86-based systems that didn't use a fully IBM PC compatible design didn't sell well enough to attract support from software manufacturers, though a few computer manufacturers arranged for compatible versions of popular applications to be developed and sold specifically for their machines.

Fully IBM PC-compatible clones appeared on the market shortly thereafter, as the advantages of cloning became impossible to ignore. But before that some of the more notable systems that were x86-compatible, but not real clones, were:

Non-x86-based systems[edit]

Not all manufacturers immediately switched to the Intel x86 microprocessor family and MS-DOS. A few companies continued releasing systems based on non-Intel architectures.[39]

Some of these systems used a 32-bit microprocessor, the most popular being the Motorola 68000. Others continued to use 8-bit microprocessors. Many of these systems were eventually forced out of the market by the onslaught of the IBM PC clones, although their architectures may have had superior capabilities, especially in the area of multimedia. The PC architectures of that era often only had a CGA display, and no other sound system than the internal PC speaker.

Three systems of this era, while now extinct, have thriving legacies:

  • The Apple Lisa by Apple Inc. was the predecessor of the Apple Macintosh, inspiring the Macintosh's design. The original Macintosh used a Motorola 68000 chip like the Lisa, and had a sufficiently similar design that some Lisa systems were converted for sale as "Macintosh XL" computers.
  • The Acorn Computers Acorn Archimedes, later named the Risc PC, used a custom-designed microprocessor: the ARM. The ARM architecture continues to be popular, appearing in nearly all mobile phones and in many hand-held devices like Apple's iPhone, iPod and iPad, as well as small UNIX-based systems. The Risc PC's descendants include the A9home, the Iyonix PC and the RiscStation R7500.[40]
  • The Sun Microsystems Sun-1[41] and Sun-2 families of UNIX systems introduced the SunOS UNIX operating system, running on Motorola 680x0 chips. Sun's current large-scale UNIX systems use the SPARC processor family developed by Sun, but run a descendant of SunOS called Solaris.

Other non-x86-based systems available at the IBM PC's launch[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ about the IBM-PC and its dominance in the market
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ systems released in 1980
  5. ^ systems released in 1981
  6. ^ "Is 8-Bit Dead?". InfoWorld (Framingham, MA: Popular Computing) 4 (47): pp. 49–57. November 29, 1982. ISSN 0199-6649.  The editors asked 17 personal computer executives "Is 8-bit dead?" The response was mixed. Gary Kildall, author of the CP/M operating system, said "We're not too concerned that 8-bit stuff is going to die." Bill Gates said "We need the power of the 16-bit computers for good software design."
  7. ^ timeline of computing history 1981
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ THE 8088, FIRST INTEL'S REALLY SUCCESSFUL CPU (JUNE 1979) – an article about the influence of the i8088 on
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ a b Sandler, Corey (November 1984). "IBM: Colossus of Armonk". Creative Computing. p. 298. Retrieved February 26, 2013. 
  12. ^ Norton, Peter (1984-08-07). "A Modest Proposal On Compatibility". PC Magazine. p. 103. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Norton, Peter (1985-02-05). "Software for Once and All". PC Magazine. p. 103. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Compaq portable
  15. ^ Shapiro, Ezra (February 1984). "A Business Computer, A Business Program, and More on Voice Recognition". BYTE. p. 147. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Bermant, Charles; Dudek, Virginia (1985-05-14). "Endangered PCs". PC Magazine. p. 33. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  17. ^ Machrone, Bill (1985-11-26). "Compatibility Wars—Here and Abroad". PC Magazine. p. 59. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  18. ^ "Why the IBM PC is a Lousy Standard for the Industry". 
  19. ^ Bateman, Selby (August 1986). "An Eight-Bit Bonanza". Compute!. p. 20. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  20. ^ Bateman, Selby (October 1986). "A Great Year For Games". Compute!. p. 18. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Leemon, Sheldon (November 1986). "Microscope". Compute!. p. 66. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Halfhill, Tom R. (December 1986). "The MS-DOS Invasion / IBM Compatibles Are Coming Home". Compute!. p. 32. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  23. ^ Leemon, Sheldon (March 1987). "Microscope". Compute!. p. 81. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  24. ^ Bateman, Selby; Halfhill, Tom R. (April 1987). "The Fireworks Continue". Compute!. p. 18. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Brooks, M. Evan (November 1987). "Titans of the Computer Gaming World / MicroProse". Computer Gaming World. p. 16. 
  26. ^ Proctor, Bob (March 1988). "Titans of the Computer Gaming World / SSI". Computer Gaming World. p. 36. 
  27. ^ Keiser, Gregg (June 1988). "MS-DOS Takes Charge of Fun Software". Compute!. p. 81. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  28. ^ Scisco, Peter (October 1989). "Editorial License". Compute!. p. 4. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Announcing a Bigger, Better, Boldr New Compute!". Compute! (advertisement). October 1989. p. 97. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  30. ^ "The Too "Blue" Blues". Computer Gaming World. January 1990. p. 66. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  31. ^ "Fusion, Transfusion or Confusion / Future Directions In Computer Entertainment". Computer Gaming World. December 1990. p. 26. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  32. ^ Totilo, Stephen (2008-03-03). "The Three Most Important Moments In Gaming, And Other Lessons From Sid Meier, In GameFile". MTV News. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  33. ^ search here with ms-dos as Operating System
  34. ^ Morrow Pivot 1
  35. ^ NCR decision mate V
  36. ^ [3]
  37. ^ [4]
  38. ^ TI-professional
  39. ^ systems released in 1982, often non IBM-PC compatible
  40. ^ Risc PC legacy site
  41. ^ Sun 1 info
  42. ^ Intertec CompuStar
  43. ^ Fujitsu_Micro_16s
  44. ^ morrow designs micro decision
  45. ^ MTU-130
  46. ^ MicroOffice RoadRunner

External links[edit]