The IBM PC turns 35, can now run for president

Happy birthday, you old rascal, you. Thirty-five years ago today you came into world with a compact design and a $1,565 price tag, at time when IBM’s entry-level “microcomputer” run $90,000 and looked more like a washer and dryer set.

Of course, not everyone was excited about you. As the company notes in its own online history, one of the company’s senior execs asked “Why would anyone want to take a computer home with them?” Another reportedly said of the project, “all it can do is cause embarrassment for IBM.”

Not that there wasn’t already some precedent for at-home computing for the IBM 5150’s arrival. Companies like Apple, Commodore and Atari had already taken some initiative, so the company enlisted systems manager William C. Lowe to create the prototype from which the company’s first PC was born.

The computer took flight under the project name “Chess.” And, in an unusual move, IBM went out of house from some key system components, including, notably, an Intel 4.77MHz 8088 processor and Microsoft’s QDOS operating system.

On August 12, 1981 the 5150 was unveiled to the world at a New York City press conference, and quickly deemed the IBM PC by press. Over the next two years, the computer played a pivotal role in moving the technology from hobbyist to mainstream.

So, happy birthday, IBM PC. The country could use a leader like you.