The Development of the Vital IBM PC in Spite of the Corporate Culture of IBM
The public history of the PC began in August 1981, when IBM first announced “The IBM Personal Computer.” . This was The original PC. The time period for the development of this landmark, legacy product was approximately a year. It must be remembered that IBM was a centralized committee paper top down organization at the time. Everything went by snail mail and paper, communication was slow and lines of communication as well as the necessary and essential corporate approval up the 078-000-085 command chain was to say the least primitively slow by today’s standards. Hence this short one year time frame for the development of the PC is rather remarkable – even the more so because without realizing it we are left with the basics and the standards to this day of the original IBM PC.
At the time that the PC was being planned, all personal computers belonged to a now obsolete category called 8 bit computers. According to one legend the IBM PC almost became such an 8 bit machine. This would of more than severely limited and reduced the capabilities compared to what could have been to become and well as made the growth of the original PC into its family more than difficult and stilted.
IBM was planning to make the PC an 8 bit computer as that was the clear and dominant standard at the time. However one of the industry “experts “that IBM consulted in the planning of the PC was Mr. Bill Gates himself. Gates understood that although the 8 bit computing was the power machine of its time that the days of the 8 bit computer were more than numbered, For the IBM PC to be really successful convincingly detailed to the IBM contacts this new computer had to “lead the way” into the much more powerful realm of 16 bit computing. Gates knew this and successfully talked IBM into changing its plans.
IBM corporate structure and dominance in the computer industry of the time must be understood and put into its relevance. IBM at the time was the dominant computer company of the day. Most computing was done on large mainframe computers. This was a very lucrative position for IBM which was the dynamo and model of the corporate structure with its cadre of blue suited employees , graphs and charts at meetings , technical prowess with leading edge technology and scull sales and tech support and very importantly vital corporate financing of these mainframe computers for business , industry , government and large educational facilities. This was a smoothly running money machine for IBM. IBM had no interest in having their bread and butter market change – even if they were to be the decision makers and the leaders.