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PC celebrates 25th anniversary


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PC celebrates 25th anniversary

From correspondents in San Francisco

August 12, 2006

Source: The Australian

IT was no more powerful than a modern calculator, but the arrival of the original IBM personal computer 25 years ago was an epoch-making event in the evolution of modern life.

The PC has redefined modern life – from the way people work to the way they look for love, chat with friends and even shop.

The IBM 5150 PC was released on August 12, 1981, the product of a year's feverish development by a close-knit team of computer engineers working in Florida.

"Designed for business, school and home, the easy-to-use system sells for as little as $US1565," IBM's original press statement said back then.

That price is worth more than $US4000 ($5000) in today's money. But if you wanted colour graphics, two floppy disk drives and a printer, it would set you back triple the amount of the base model.

The PC weighed 11.5kg with one floppy disk drive fitted, over a third more than a present-day computer. The keyboard alone weighed 2.7 kg.

At 16 kilobytes, its memory was 50,000 times less powerful than modern PCs.

It offered VisiCalc, a breakthrough spreadsheet program, and EasyWriter, which IBM promised "will store letters, manuscripts and other text for editing or rapid reproduction on the printer".

And there was Microsoft Adventure, which "brings players into a fantasy world of caves and treasures".

Twenty-five years on, teenagers have gone from hiding secrets in locked diaries to baring all on social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Rather than inking letters to faraway pals, people send instant messages while watching friends on web cameras.

Computerised mobile telephones banished worry about missing calls or finding friends in crowds.

Long-distance toll calls have yielded to free chat via computers linked by the internet.

People can search online for anything from love to medical advice or bargain airfares.

Computers have enabled the masses to make videos, books, music or films at home for global consumption. Apple Computer's iPod music and video players have engendered a style of do-it-yourself radio called "podcasting".

Personal computers have given the world telecommuting, video games and sedentary lifestyles blamed for expanding waistlines.

Humanity's accumulated knowledge has been migrating to the internet for anyone to find while computers have become smaller, faster and more versatile.

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