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Snapshots in History: August 12: Remembering the IBM 5150 and Where We Came From…

August 13, 2015 | John P. | Comments (0)





On August 12 and beyond, take a moment to remember the debut of the International Business Machines (IBM) personal computer (PC), in fact the IBM PC model 5150, onto the consumer market on August 12, 1981. Although the Apple 2, the Commodore PET, the Osborne 1, and the Tandy TRS-80 preceded the IBM 5150, the IBM 5150, in conjunction with MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), was seen as popularizing the idea of a personal computer in most homes.  Over the last few years, a debate has been occurring over whether the personal computer is obsolete and has been superseded by mobile devices.

Writing in 2011 around the thirtieth (30th) anniversary of the IBM 5150, Mark Dean, Chief Technology Officer of IBM Middle East and Africa, helped design the IBM 5150 but has “moved beyond the PC”. Dr. Dean saw the PC as no longer being on computing’s cutting edge and joining other items seen as obsolete including the typewriter, vinyl records and incandescent light bulbs. He used a tablet in 2011 but saw innovation occurring primarily in social spaces where people and ideas come together rather than through the devices themselves. IBM sold its PC division in 2005 to Lenovo and Dean saw IBM being on the leading edge of the “post-PC era.” Apple’s Steve Jobs referred to the iPhone, iPod, and iPad as “post-PC devices” at the unveiling of the iPad 2 in March, 2011.

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President – Corporate Communications, saw things differently as the “PC-plus era” where some 400 million personal computers will be sold in the coming year but Microsoft’s software dovetails with various evolutionary devices, including the Windows PC, the Windows Phone platform, and the Xbox. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have already taken on tasks that were previously the sole purview of PCs such as document creation/editing, email, and internet browsing.

What were others saying in 2011? Ed Oswald, writing on PCWorld, cited his agreement with both Dean and Jobs and emphasized the growing importance of the server and cloud computing and the reduced significance of personal computers. Kevin C. Tofel, writing on GigaOm, stated his concurrence with Dean on the importance of mobile social networks and consumer interaction reducing the PC influence, and pointed to the continuing trend of smartphone sales beginning to outpace PC sales at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011. Joel Santo Domingo, writing on, offered six reasons why the predicted demise of the PC has been great exaggerated, including: simple ergonomics; large screens/HDTV; storage; number crunching (i.e. working on spreadsheets is better suited to PCs); dings and dents on mobile devices (with less likelihood of accidents with PCs); and, separate keyboard.

Fast forward to 2015. The website reported in a July 2015 update for the United States of America (USA) that mobile digital media time was 51% of the total so far in 2015 compared to 42% digital media time for desktops/laptops and 7% for other connected devices. Contrast these numbers with 2008 when desktop/laptop digital media time comprised 80% of the American total compared to 12% for mobile devices and 9% for other connected devices.

Within the mobile device spectrum, Ben Taylor, writing on on February 26, 2015, listed five (5) ways in which the smartphone has been outperforming the tablet: Larger smartphone sizes provides a better option for reading; the best apps are available through smartphones not tablets; smartphones tend to have better battery life than tablets; smartphones generally have better cameras than tablets; and, tablets have an identity crisis in the web experience in which users on many web sites must choose between the classic, desktop view or the mobile view that is better suited to smartphones.

Consider the following titles as examples for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


The computer Computer a history of the information machine third edition The connected Apple family discover the rich Apple ecosystem of the Mac, iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV Working with an Android 4.4 tablet for seniors suitable for tablets from different manufacturers Android tips and tricks My Samsung Galaxy S5 for seniors IPhone portable genius second edition

IPhone 5s and iPhone 5c portable genius IPhone for seniors in easy steps IPhone All-in-One For Dummies 4th edition The third screen the ultimate guide to mobile marketing revised and updated edition

The mobile application hacker's handbook


IPhone 5s and iPhone 5c portable genius IPhone portable genius second edition IPhone All-in-One For Dummies 4th edition Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for dummies


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