IBM sale may bring us next generation of PCs

It is the end of an era. I obtained my first IBM PC in 1982, before it officially was on sale in the UK.

It is the end of an era. I obtained my first IBM PC in 1982, before it officially was on sale in the UK.

The single biggest change it made for me was that I no longer needed three terminals to access the PDP-11, Wang and System/38 systems. Suddenly, the PC became the single point of entry.

It changed the way I worked in other ways too: you did not need to start with pen and paper to write a presentation; I used Chartman instead.

The killer application was the spreadsheet Supercalc. Before the PC, accountants had to struggle with mainframes to do simple account management. Now they could ask questions interactively.

The PC has moved from being a significant capital item costing more than $3,000 for a very basic machine to a piece of equipment which today retails at £500. I imagine this is why IBM does not want the business any more.

In the past, people spoke of IBM compatibles. The IBM PC was the de facto standard. Now it is just called a PC.

I think a few IT directors will be upset by IBM’s departure, but it does have a reputation of moving out of hardware business areas. And the PC, after all, is now a commodity and Dell, for example, has been very good at managing corporate user accounts via the internet.

If, out of this sale, a product emerges that is lower cost and has the quality and brand of IBM, we may all be better off.

Ray Titcombe is chairman of council at the IBM Computer Users Association

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