Chapter 10. The PC: Historical Information about an Important Tool

The personal computer, in particular the IBM PC and its descendents, is an important product that has successfully evolved over three decades. In this chapter, I look at the evolution of the PC, including source material from its introduction. Too often we think of tools as static entities, born fully formed and staying unchanged, with their use and potential fully understood at the outset. Looking at the evolution of important products can help us get a better feel for what really happens.

The Evolving Personal Computer

The PC has stayed relevant by evolving its components.

I was interviewed by PC Week magazine for an "end of the millennium" Vision 2000 look at the PC (December 20/27 issue, page 66). I related to them my latest explanation of why the personal computer is a general-purpose platform for computing. At that point, on the phone, I realized that the original IBM PC design has really evolved and is continuing to evolve and that this evolution is part of its strength and staying power. This essay looks into that a little further.

The early personal computers, such as the S-100 bus machines and the Apple II, borrowed from minicomputers the concept of using plug-in parts. When Apple wanted to add diskette drives to the Apple II, Woz just had to design one (elegant) board to plug in and all Apple IIs could upgrade to include disk storage. Serial and printer adapters were added the same way.

The IBM PC ...

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