A Long Way From Univac

Adv. Eng. 9

Can you imagine a world without computers? You most probably interact
with some form of a computer every day of your life. Computers are the most
important advancement our society has ever seen. They have an interesting
history, many interesting inner components, they are used nearly everywhere, and
continue to advance incredibly fast. Because the field of computers is so broad,
this paper will focus mainly on personal computers.

Although computers have been evolving for quite some time, they really
didn¹t gain popularity until the introduction of the personal computer. In 1977,
Steve Jobs, co-founder of the Apple Computer Company, unveiled what is
generally considered to be the first personal computer, the Apple II. This
computer was introduced on April 16, 1977, at the First West Coast Computer
Faire, in San Francisco. In 1981, the International Business Machines Company
introduced the first IBM PC. Unlike Apple, IBM used a policy of open
architecture for their computer. They bought all of their components from the
lowest bidder, such as the 8086 and 8088 microprocessor chips, made by a Intel,
a Hillsboro, Oregon company. When IBM¹s computer¹s design had been finalized,
they shared most of the inner workings of the computer with everyone. IBM hoped
that this would encourage companies to manufacture computers that were
compatible with theirs, and that in turn, would cause software companies to
create operating systems, or OS, and other programs for the ³IBM Compatible²
line of computers. One of the computer manufacturers was a Texas company called
Compaq. A company called Dell Computers was the first ³factory direct² computer
seller. A small Redmond, Washington company called Microsoft made a large
amount of software for the ³IBM Compatible² line of computers. This open
architecture policy of IBM was not without it¹s flaws, however. IBM lost some
business to the ³clones² who could offer more speed, more memory, or a smaller
price tag. IBM had considered this an acceptable loss. One of the few
components of the IBM PC that was kept from the clone manufacturers was the
Basic Input Output System, or BIOS. This program, which was usually etched
permanently on a chip, controlled the interactions between the internal hard and
floppy drives, the external drives, printers, and monitors, etc. Clone
manufactures had to make their own versions of an input output system. Some
manufacturers copied the IBM BIOS exactly, such as Eagle Computers, and Corona
Data Systems. This is one adverse affect that IBM had not thought of. However,
all of IBM¹s copyright violation lawsuits against these companies ended in IBM¹s
favor. IBM has continued to grow to this day, however, the clone manufacturers
make far more personal computers than IBM, while IBM makes more business
machines, and the Power PC microprocessor, used in Macintosh computers. IBM
clone are now made by Packard Bell, Sony, Acer, Gateway 2000, and more. The
clones have continued to use software and operating systems made by Microsoft,
including: DOS (Disk Operating System), Windows, Windows 95, and Windows NT.
The clones also primarily use microprocessors manufactured by Intel, including
the 8086, 8088, 80286, 80386, 80486, Pentium and Pentium Pro, which offer speeds
over 200 megahertz, and will be even faster in the near future (Silver 7-28).

Apple took a somewhat different course during this period. Not willing
to enter the IBM clone manufacturing market, Apple continued to make their own
kind of computers. They made minor improvements on the Apple II line, but
eventually decided they needed to make a new type of computer. They first
introduced the Apple III in September of 1980. It was a dismal failure. The
first buyers encountered numerous system errors and failures, because of a poor
OS. Besides that, it was poorly manufactured, with improperly fitting circuitry,
loose wires and screws, etc. The later released Apple III+ did poorly because
of it¹s brother¹s poor debut. The next big release was the Lisa in January of
1983. It was the first personal computer with a mouse, and nice graphic
capabilities. Experiments showed that it was 20 times as easy to use as the IBM
PC, and it drew enormous praise from computer magazines. It had flaws too,
however. It strained the power of the aging Motorola 68000 microprocessor, so
it lost in speed tests to the IBM PC. It also came with a $10,000 price tag,
over twice as much as most IBM clones. The Lisa failed, not as catastrophically
as the Apple III, but failed, nevertheless. Apple had but one more ace up their
sleeve, and they released it in January of 1984. They called it the Macintosh,
and it was very