The Evolution of the PC and Microsoft
Xerox, Apple, IBM, and Compaq all played major roles in the development
of the Personal Computer, or PC, and the success of Microsoft. Though it may
seem so, the computer industry did not just pop-up overnight. It took many
years of dedication, hard-work, and most importantly, thievery to turn the
personal computer from a machine the size of a Buick, used only by zit-faced
nerds, to the very machine I am typing this report on.
Xerox started everything off by creating the first personal computer,
the ALTO, in 1973. However, Xerox did not release the computer because they did
not think that was the direction the industry was going. This was the first of
many mistakes Xerox would make in the next two decades. So, in 1975, Ed Roberts
built the Altair 80800, which is largely regarded as the first PC. However, the
Altair really served no real purpose. This left computer-lovers still yearning
for the perfect PC…actually, it didnt have to be perfect, most nerds just
wanted their computer to do SOMETHING.
The burning need for a PC was met in 1977, when Apple, a company formed
by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, released its Apple II. Now the nerds were
satisfied, but that wasnt enough. In order to catapult the PC in to a big-time
product, Apple needed to make it marketable to the average Joe. This was made
possible by Visical, the home spread sheet. The Apple II was now a true-blue
In order to compete with Apples success, IBM needed something to set
its product apart from the others. So they developed a process called open
architecture. Open architecture meant buying all the components separately,
piecing them together, and then slapping the IBM name on it. It was quite
effective. Now all IBM needed was software. Enter Bill Gates.
Gates, along with buddy Paul Allen, had started a software company
called Microsoft. Gates was one of two major contenders for IBM. The other was
a man named Gary Kildall. IBM came to Kildall first, but he turned them away
(He has yet to stop kicking himself) and so they turned to Big Bad Bill Gates
Microsoft would continue supplying IBM with software until IBM insisted
Microsoft develop Q/DOS, which was compatible only with IBM equipment.
Microsoft was also engineering Windows, their own separate software, but IBM
By this time, PC clones were popping up all over. The most effective
clone was the Compaq. Compaq introduced the first BIOS (Basic Input-Output
System) chip. The spearheaded a clone market that not only used DOS, but later
Windows as well, beginning the incredible success of Microsoft.
With all of these clones, Apple was in dire need of something new and
spectacular. So when Steve Jobs got invited to Xerox to check out some new
systems (big mistake), he began drooling profusely. There he saw the GUI
(graphical user interface), and immediately fell in love. SO, naturally, Xerox
invited him back a second time (BBBBIIIIGGGG mistake) and he was allowed to
bring his team of engineers. Apple did the obvious and stole the GUI from Xerox.
After his own computer, the LISA, flopped, Jobs latched on to the project of
one of his engineers. In 1984, the Apple Macintosh was born. Jobs, not wanting
to burden his employees with accolades, accepted all of the credit.
Even with the coveted GUI, Apple still needed a good application. And
who do you call when you need software? Big Bad Bill Gates. Microsoft designed
desktop publishing for Apple. However, at the same time, Gates was peeking
over Jobss shoulder to get some hints to help along with the Windows
About the same time, IBM had Microsoft design OS/2 for them so they
could close the market for clones by closing their architecture. This was the
last straw for Microsoft. They designed OS/2 and then split with IBM to
concentrate fully on Windows. The first few versions of Windows were only
mediocre, but Windows 3.0 was the answer to what everyone wanted. However, it
did not have its own operating system, something that Windows 95 does. 3.0
sold 30 million copies in its first year, propelling Microsoft to success.
So, neither the PC industry nor Microsoft was built overnight. Each
owes a lot to several different people and companies. Isnt it amazing that so
much has developed in just twenty-three years? Heres something even more
amazing. Remember the ALTO? Guess what it had… a GUI, a mouse, a networking
system, everything. So maybe we havent come all that far.