The IBM PCjr leaves its mark

When it comes to history, the IBM PC Jr. may not be highly regarded, but it served Mark Kaelin well.

The IBM PCjr was my second real computer after the Commodore 64. I know that historically the PCjr is not considered to be one of the better personal computers to ever hit the market, but I actually liked mine and got quite a lot of use out of it. You can see more of the PCjr in the TechRepublic Photo Gallery titled: Dinosaur Sighting: The IBM PC Jr. does 123 and more.

The IBM PCjr is famous (or infamous) for several reasons:

  • The famous Charlie Chaplain advertising campaign, which championed the benefits of the PCjr
  • The chicklet wireless keyboard with infrared technology
  • Two slots for holding ROM cartridges needed to run larger applications like Lotus 1-2-3
  • The original Microsoft Flight Simulator

I used my IBM PCjr to write several University of Louisville Business School term papers, reconcile my checking account, and get a handle on my personal finances with a long-forgotten program called Dollars and Sense. It was a good little computer.

However, as you can tell from the TechRepublic Photo Gallery that I published, the PCjr did have some quirks that eventually doomed it as an also-ran in the annals of personal computing. But I don't care; it still served me well until I got an IBM XT clone from a nondescript, now defunct company. I mean, you have to keep upgrading don't you -- it's the law or something.


Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.


I was just researching some information on TechRepublic when I ran across this article you wrote. I have read many of your articles, but this one reveals something that we both have in common. I, too, owned an IBM PCJr. I was among the entering freshman class in Engineering at Virginia Tech in the fall of 1984. We were the first class that had to own a personal computer at the start of Fall 1984 classes. When I was accepted in the Fall of 1983, they only had two (2) choices. The IBM 8088 (at $4000) and the IBM PCJr (at about $1800). I had to pay for it, so I chose the latter. Later (after early decision had ended) many entering freshmen balked at the two (2) choices, and they introduced a couple of 30 lb. (yes, 30 lb.) portable computers. Most chose the portable. I had my IBM PCJr and I really liked it. I purchased extra RAM and a wired keybord (no chiclets) from Techmar. I wrote all of my papers, and I compiled many programs in C and FORTRAN. I ran Lotus 1-2-3 and DBase III on the computer. When I was not using the computer, all of my dorm mates played computer games (Ultima, Ultima III) using my color monitor. The portables had a 9 inch amber screen which s*cked for video games. Everyone always calls the IBM PCJr a failure, but I got years of good use from mine.


...although, I guess it was my first REAL computer. I don't recall the brand of my first computer, which I bought in 1986. It didn't even have a disk drive. It had a cassette drive. How's THAT for low budget?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The Commodore 64 shipped with a cassette tape recorder - we upgraded to the floppy drive as soon as we could afford it.

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