A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PERSONAL COMPUTER (PC)
In the late 1970's into early 1980 many companies and hobbyists were playing with and introducing various small home computers. Radio Shack had their TRS-80, there was the Commodore 64, and the ever present Apples. Most of these were strictly for hobbyists who like to experiment with writing their own code to do small tasks. Apple was giving their Apple 2 and 2C into schools to get a foot hold there. But there was no real personal/business computer for the general public.
Enter IBM's facility in Boaco Raton, Florida. They had been working on a small computer for the small businesses that did not need or could afford a whole room sized mainframe computer that their parent company produced. Their engineers and designers were working to make that happen. They designed a working version of their design and then took it to the IBM board for funds and approval to produce this Personal Computer (PC) that is the name they gave it. Well many on the board were of the opinion that IBM didn't need to be in the PC business. However, they gave them the go ahead and funds requested but with a crippling delivery schedule. They had only six months to build and get the first units to market.
The only way they could make that schedule was to open source to outside vendors to build the components of the computer and then assemble it internally. The problem then was how to keep their design secret so others could not copy it. IBM lawyers together with the engineers agreed that if they did not outsource the Basic Input Output System (BIOS) integrated circuit (heart of the computer) and built it in house they would be able to patent the computer.
IBM also needed an operating system for their computer. They heard about a gentleman in Puget Sound, Washington who had written an operating system that with a little work would fit the bill. They dispatched three IBM Suits out to see him and purchase it. However, the man they wanted to see was out flying his airplane and would not return until he was through flying. Well after several hours the three gentlemen from IBM left frustrated. Enter Bill Gates and Paul Allen. They also had heard about this guy and his operating system and also that IBM was looking at it. They were not as impatient as the IBM Suits and met the OS writer, looked at his OS that he called "Dirty Operating System" and they could see the potential. They scraped together $80,000 and bought it. They massaged the software slightly, named their company Microsoft, and the operating system became "Disk Operating System (DOS) and sold it to IBM for a great deal more than $80,000. Additionally when they sold the OS to IBM they kept the intellectual properties. IBM didn't care they needed to get their product to market. And Microsoft was on their way to fame and fortune.
Well IBM made their delivery date and the first IBM PC hit the market in August 1981. The only real problem was really no software for it to run except a very simple Pong game and the ability to write your own basic code to do simple tasks. The PC drew a lot of attention but not many sales at $5000.00 (in 1981 dollars) -it was dying on the vine without software to do some real work.
Enter Visacalc to the rescue. Visacalc was a spreadsheet program like Excel (way before Excel saw the light of day). When accountants and middle-managers saw what they could do with this new machine and Visacalc they stared buying them in large quantities and putting away their 10 foot long rolling chalkboards.
The PC was a commercial success. More software like Wordperfect was developed and the PC became part of our lexicon.
At this time IBM had it their way and was assured by their lawyers that the PC patent was good and their investment was solid.
Well not quite. Three Texas Instrument engineers were unhappy working a TI and wanted to start their own business. Literally on the flip of a coin they decided to start a computer business instead of a pie shop. They looked around and saw the IBM PC and wondered if they could legally copy it. Their lawyer told them he believed they could if they could duplicate the BIOS as everything else was open sourced. They contacted several of their friends who were software/hardware types and asked them for their help. They gave them all the open source data that IBM had released then sequestered these friends in a room for several weeks with no outside communication only food and water and quite a bit of money. At the end of their isolation they produced data that they said would do what was needed to create the BIOS. The three TI guys created their BIOS and installed it in place of the original IBM BIOS and it worked perfectly. IBM sued. IBM lost the lawsuit.
The rest my friends they say is history. If the lawsuit had gone the other way we would only have IBM computers and pay their monopoly prices. No Dell, no HP, no ASUS nothing but IBM or maybe the others at a very inflated price to pay for the IBM royalties.