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Brief History of the Progression of Computer Technology

The IBM Compatible or Clone

The PC marketplace changed radically after the introduction of the IBM PC in August of 1981. As the IBM PC was built from commercially available off-the-shelf parts - a concept similar to the original Altair microcomputer, companies began trying to clone it. This created a generation of MS-DOS computers which called themselves compatible, but which weren't 100% compatible. This created numerous headaches for unsuspecting end users. Some systems offered the capability to run both CP/M and MS-DOS. The first company to successfully build a 100% compatible IBM PC clone was Compaq computer, who introduced their first system as what they called a portable. Its size and weight made it a luggable computer. Then other companies followed with true IBM compatibles, mostly built overseas in Taiwan. Most of the CP/M computers quickly disappeared, as did the not true compatibles, leaving their owners in a category which is now well known and feared in the PC world - orphaned computer owners.

Just as IBM appeared to conquer the marketplace by 1983, Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh, whose graphical user interface and mouse presented a totally new approach to personal computing. Microsoft had to walk a careful narrow line, saying nice things about the Mac because they worked closely with Apple, while not offending IBM. At the same time Bill Gates had plans for his own graphical user interface, which he called Windows. Gates was convinced that a graphical user interface based operating system was the future.

IBM also had plans for its own new operating system, trying to break its reliance on Microsoft by developing their own character-based but windowing operating system they called TopView. This went absolutely nowhere. The heralded new Intel 80286 processor also wasn't fast enough to run Microsoft's Windows at acceptable speed, and had a design flaw related to multitasking which caused Industry Analysis to refer to it as "brain dead". Microsoft and IBM continued to argue over operating systems, with Microsoft trying to convince IBM to go with Windows. IBM however opted to develop their own GUI operating system which they named OS/2, and enlisted Microsoft's help in writing it. This created years of doublespeak by the two companies as to where each product was going to fit into the marketplace. Meanwhile the millions of IBM PC and compatible users got along fine with plain old DOS, and Apple's Macintosh with a GUI-that worked continued to gain market acceptance.

In 1986, Compaq computer beat IBM to the punch and introduced the world's first 80386-based PC, using an Intel processor which finally had the power and design to run a GUI-based operating system. By this time, IBM's PC sales were taken over by clone PC sales. In fact, the word clone was a misnomer, as these copy-cat computers actually offered better performance and features, and more bang for the buck.

The relationship between IBM and Microsoft finally exploded and evaporated, with IBM taking over the job of trying to write OS/2, and with Microsoft going full speed ahead with a market plan for Windows to dominate the world. The power of the 386 processor made this happen, and Windows 3.0 actually worked - to a degree. It was released in May, 1990, and was a complete overhaul of the Windows environment. With the capability to address memory beyond 640K and a much more powerful user interface, independent software vendors started developing Windows applications with vigor. The powerful new applications helped Microsoft sell more than 10 million copies of Windows, making it the best-selling graphical user interface in the history of computing.

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