The personal computer revolution was a phenomenon of immense importance in the 1980s. What the average American commonly refers to as a PC, or personal computer, did not even exist before the 1970s. Mainframe computers had been the norm, and they were primarily relegated to business and scientific use. With the dawn of the personal computer all Americans were allowed potential access to computers. As competition and modernization increased, issues of cost became less and less of an inhibitor, and it appeared that a new technological "populism" had developed. Companies such as Apple Computer became household names, and words such as software and downloading became commonplace. It was predicted that by 1990, 60 percent of all the jobs in the United States would require familiarity with computers. Already by 1985, some 2 million Americans were using personal computers to perform various tasks in the office. The impact of the personal computer to the average American has been enormous—in addition to its usefulness at the office, it has become a source of entertainment, culture, and education.
Founded in 1976 by Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, Apple Computer was to be the spearhead of the personal computer revolution. Apple had achieved moderate success in the late 1970s, but in the 1980s the company developed its innovative vision of how computers could relate to the average person. By 1982 Apple became the first personal computer company to have an annual sales total of $1 billion. In 1983 Apple introduced the Lisa. Lisa was to be the successor of the Apple II and was the first computer to widely introduce the concept of windows, menus, icons, and a mouse to the mainstream. The Lisa computer was phased out by 1985 and sur-passed by the Macintosh in 1984. Macintosh was faster, smaller, and less costly than the Lisa; it retailed for around $2,500 and was packaged as a user-friendly machine that was economical enough to be in every home. Although the machine possessed less processing capability than IBM PCs, one did not need any programming capability to run the machine effectively, and it became popular.
Not satisfied to be simply "the easy PC," Apple in 1986 introduced the Mac Plus, PageMaker, and the LaserWriter. The infusion of these three, particularly PageMaker, an easy-to-use graphics page-layout program, helped give rise to a new medium known as desktop publishing. Creating this new niche made Macintosh the premier, efficient publishing computer. Apple expanded its hold on the graphics market in 1987 with the introduction of the Mac II computer. Its color graphic capability fostered the introduction of color printers capable of reproducing the color images on the computer screen. By 1988 Apple introduced Macs capable of reading DOS and OS/2 disks, thereby closing some of the separation between Macintosh and IBM PCs.
On 12 August 1981 International Business Machines (IBM) created its first personal computer. Simply called the IBM PC, it became the definition for the personal computer. IBM was the largest of the three giant computer firms in the world, and the other two, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Xerox, had previously attempted to make efforts into the new PC market but failed. IBM initially was not convinced that the American public was interested in computers, particularly for their own home usage, but after viewing the early successes of Apple they were determined to enter the race. In creating the software for the PC, IBM turned to a young company called Microsoft to formulate MS-DOS.
IBM PCs were immensely powerful, fast machines, and their entrance into the market legitimized the personal computer and created a new cottage industry. In 1983 IBM introduced the PCjr, a less expensive version of the PC. Despite strong advertisement PCjr was not a success and cost IBM quite a bit in reputation and money....
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