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Saturday, 9 October 2010

It Was IBM Not Silicon Valley That Created the Modern Computer Industry and Market

It is hard to imagine life without the ubiquitous computer the ordinary "PC". Yet although we think of early computers and "Silicon Valley" as being upstarts in their back yard garages it was the market stalwart IBM not the "innovators" who laid the basis and standards of today's computers that grace all our desks.

The very first microcomputer machines were as impressive as they assisted people do functions at speeds that were never fancied beforehand. But, they were not as superb and fast as we know them today. Much has been utilized to enhance them over the years. Early computers had countless problems. They were infested by constant hard disk failures. Without any caution, a user's disk would break down and vital and crucial data would be lost.

Sure the upstarts are they Apple, which started the Apple computers in an ordinary garage and used a case made of wood the IBM execs, initiated a crash program to develop a "personal "computer. Apple computers were turning up in the back offices of many corporations all too often. Not only were those but staff in the offices and companies finding these "mini computers "with their basic software all too handy and easy. Even threats to the IT departments by blue suited even intimidating IBM sales people would not stop this trend or even reduce its occurrence.

IBM, the market behemoth and market leader was goaded one would say into the development of the IBM PC. Yet it was all supposed to end there. IBM, one of the largest, and most lucrative of firms of its day, the very basis of the "free worlds" major computer hardware and day to day behind the scenes highest level of technical support had little intention of making a "go" of the personal computer. Why after all ruin a good - if not great thing - for IBM, its employees and hefty bonuses? Why change a good thing, change IBM's business plan and the computer industry market. After all IBM's basis, its business and the basis of its profits and profitability were based on one thing and one thing alone - giant single computers referred to as "mainframes" large behemoths. IBM had little interest or intentions of creating, promoting and marketing smaller personal computers -PCs- as opposed to the giant computers the mainframes. There was little money in it for IBM.

Yet the engineers involved in the IBM PC project were determined. Egos were perhaps involved. It seemed that to add insult to injury that many of the Apple computers in the field so to speak were placed on departmental budgets as fund requests for "IBM Selectric Typewriters." Both it seemed cost out at approximately $ 3,000 dollars. To put the figure in relative terms at the time a new car cost in the range of $ 3,000. So did an Apple computer and so would an eventual IBM PC computer?

What made the final approach and resulting product of the early IBM PC different was that in their determination to bring the product to market within the short time frames specified that they had to use and utilize "off the shelf "components. Previously all other earlier products from IBM were proprietary products produced in house by IBM itself or one of its dedicated trusted suppliers.

The IBM PC development team in its determination used off the shelf components to bring their product to market within the time frame allotted for the development of the project. One has to remember that the purpose of the committee to develop the PC was to shut down the project effectively and bury it in the dust.

Yet by using standard, run of the mill components, IBM laid the seeds and the very basis of "computing industry". Ordinary electronic hobbyists, who previously had "built" computers and assembled early computer kits such as the "Altair", quickly realized that they could put together or "build" their own computers out of the same commercial components as IBM. It was all the same, or most similar - except for the blue IBM logo.

It may not have exactly been an IBM branded computer yet Michael Dell and a host of other "clone makers" realized that they could put out a most similar product to the genuine IBM product at a portion of the price. Even if they bought only one or two components at the time, with no volume purchasing power they could sell their product, and offer options as well that the market leader could not, sell it cheaply and still make good money.

Michael Dell's company "Dell Computers" itself grew out of his computer assembly services in his own college dorm. What a success story.

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