Happy Birthday To The Personal Computer
Intel Marks 20th Anniversary of the IBM Personal Computer
Remember when bubble skirts and fingerless gloves were the height of fashion? When Michael Jackson was renowned for his
Thriller album and dancing skills rather than his sense of the bizarre? What about the last time you had a long
four-hour lunch on the boss? And when were the terms PC-friendly, World Wide Web, Internet and Surfing the Web ever not
part of our vocabulary? A lot has changed over the past 20 years, and the PC has undergone the most significant advances
in speed and capabilities, as well as altering the way we work, learn and play.
Famous last words:
“There will only ever be a need for five computers in the world” – President, IBM, 1945
“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home” – Kenneth Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment
“640K ought to be enough for anybody” – Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1981
“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers” – Pablo Picasso
The PC celebrates its 20th birthday on August 12. With almost 631, 000* home PCs in use, New Zealanders have entered the
digital world on mass, connected to the Internet and have become adept at using a host of PC peripherals. Enabled by
high-powered Intel Pentium 4 processors, PCs have become important education, entertainment and family communication
tools, allowing consumers to edit home movies, create music CDs and have an immersive 3D Internet experience.
The driving force behind the explosion in computer power has been the rapid evolution of the microprocessor, the
“brains” of the PC. The latest computer brain chip, the Intel® Pentium® 4 processor, for example, is 30,000 per cent
faster than the Intel® 8088 chip used in the original IBM PC and is half the cost, enabling consumers to do new tasks
that were once unimaginable**.
“The two decades of progress since 1981 make it clear that the PC has revolutionised the way people communicate, work,
learn and play,” said Colin Purkis, Channel Account Manager, Intel New Zealand. “Evolving Intel processors will continue
to make PCs capable of things that people could scarcely imagine a year or two earlier, let alone 20 years ago.”
New Zealanders have grown to not only accept technology in their everyday lives, but for the majority of youths born
after 1981, a world without computers is unimaginable. Seventy eight per cent of Web users in Asia Pacific, for example,
are accessing the Internet from home, while the number of adults who go online to buy music-related content has
increased to almost 40 per cent this year. There has also been a phenomenal growth in the
purchasing of Web cameras in Asia Pacific, increasing more than 132 per cent in the last year alone. Furthermore, with
more than 80 per cent of Internet users in Asia Pacific under 35 years old, continued acceleration of online
entertainment and education usage is anticipated**.
Relentless technological advances and innovation over the past two decades have put powerful PCs at the centre of daily
activities for people worldwide. Today, the average desktop computer puts more power in the hands of consumers than the
U.S. government first used to send men to the moon. Continued innovations in processor technology and software
development ensure that the PC evolution will not come to a standstill at the 20-year milestone.
“Soon, one billion PCs will be connected to the Internet,” adds Purkis. “This milestone demonstrates consumers’
continued reliance on a connected high-performance PC as the gateway to rich, multimedia Internet and entertainment
20 Years of Powering PCs
To put it into an historical perspective, in the 20 years since the PC was launched:
In the first year after its introduction, IBM sold 136,000 of their first PC. In 2000, over 125 million PCs were sold
One out three people living today were not born when the IBM PC was released in 1981
The 8088 brain chip in the original IBM PC in 1981 had 29,000 transistors – a technology feat in its day. The Pentium
4 processor of 2001 has approximately 42 million transistors
Today’s Pentium 4-based PCs are 30,000 per cent (300 times) faster than the first PCs introduced 20 years ago
By the end of this decade experts believe the processing power of the PC will go from 1.5 billion cycles per second to
an amazing 10 billion cycles - ushering in a new age of computers that can listen to our every spoken command and
* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.
** The first IBM PCs were powered by the Intel 8088 chip, which ran at a rate of 8 million megahertz a second. Today’s
Intel Pentium 4 processor 1.7GHz runs at a clock speed 300 times – or 30,000 per cent faster – than the original 1981
IBM PC’s processor. Today’s top-of-the-line PCs, powered by an Intel® Pentium® 4 microprocessor, are nearly 200 times
more powerful, running at a rate of 1.5 Billion hertz per second.
The very first 1981 IBM Personal Computer cost approximately US$3,000 (about US$5,700 today) for a 4.77MHz Intel 8088
CPU, a single 5.25-inch floppy drive with 160K of capacity, and 64K of RAM (expandable to 256K). Today, consumers can
buy a PC with a state-of-the-art Intel Pentium 4 processor with at least a 40GB or larger hard drive, 128MB of RAM, and
a colour monitor for less than half of the cost 20 years ago.
*IDC New Zealand, 2001