PCs

Poll: In what decade did you buy your first non-IBM PC?

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the IBM PC, we ask this poll question: In what decade did you buy your first non-IBM PC?

Long before I joined the editorial staff of TechRepublic I worked as a lowly staffer for a local public accounting firm. This was the 1980s, and the IBM PC was the calculating tool of choice. The office had two of the original IBM PCs, both with amber displays.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the IBM PC, and those of us at the proper age are feeling a bit of nostalgia for that old workhorse desktop computer. If you are feeling sentimental about the "good old days" of computing, you should check out our IBM PC photo galleries:

By sheer happenstance and blind luck, I became the de-facto IT admin for that little public accountant office I worked for in the mid-1980s. That meant that I also became the "go-to guy" when it was time to expand the office and add another computer to the operation. This was around 1989, I believe.

In much of the 1980s, there was a mind-set that only IBM made a reliable business computer. To suggest an IBM-clone PC could be acquired for business use was tantamount to lunacy. I know this was a real mind-set even in 1989 because I naively thought my boss would want to save money so I recommended a PC-clone. I had an IBM-clone PC at home and was very happy with it. I was overruled.

So my boss, a very conservative man (some may say cheap) ordered that I get an IBM PC, but an inexpensive one as possible. We ended up with a PS/2 -- it worked, but it wasn't the best deal. If he had taken my advice, he would have saved money and have had a more capable PC, albeit not from IBM.

Not long after that, I left the public accountant's office and was on my own. My next PC purchase was from Gateway, which was so small at the time I think Ted Waitt actually took my order. I, like so many others, have been buying non-IBM-produced PCs ever since. That is not a knock against IBM; it is just the nature of a highly competitive personal computer market.

When did you first buy a non-IBM-built personal computer? What did you buy? Do you think IBM actually built the best PCs? When did IBM lose that distinction?

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About

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.

94 comments
LeonBA
LeonBA

I bought my first non-IBM PC around September 1989, for writing papers for college. It was a clone. 286s and 386s were out, but my needs were minimal, so I got an old Turbo XT machine with no graphics card, 512K of RAM, two low-density floppy drives (one 3 and one 5), and no hard drive. It's amazing what we got by with back then!

Barry ZA
Barry ZA

And yes, I think Apple may still exist...

oljoe
oljoe

In 1976 I bought a SWTPC M6800 in 1976. SWTPC is the place where Mr. Gates wrote his first Basica. M6800 instructions were a colored layout sheet and the words "mount all parts". Did so and had it working in 2 days. Started with 4k memory and eventually went to 20k. Used a model 33 tty, paper tape for I/O. Second computer was Radio Shack Model II with 2 floppy drives, TRSDOS, CP/M with tons of software. First IBM clone - never owned IBM, was a Tandy 1000 -great machine at under $1000 price. 18 of my friends also bought it. We upgraded together - memory, Hard Drive etc. The Radio Shack guy would actually come to our location to help (and get orders). Also had Sinclair, Commodore, and many others. Have owned 83 different computers. Currently have 13 still operating. No the SWTPC is long gone - sold it for more than what I paid for it when I bought the Tandy 1000. A friend of mine had a DEC PDP-8 that he bought at a garage sale for $25 - an amazing machine.

fitzgerrell
fitzgerrell

My first non-IBM computer was a laptop in 1987. Zenith ZFL-181 with dual 3 1/2" diskette drives. That largely replaced my HP41CX for computing. 3 1/2 " diskettes were relatively new then. All the software Zenith provided with the laptop (Lotus 1-2-3, DBASE III, Wordstar) came on 5 1/4 floppies and I had to get help making working copies of these on 3 1/2" diskettes.

mike21b
mike21b

It was 1986. I convinced management to get me a computer after pleading my case: I could write all my own letters. I could do complex calculations on a spreadsheet. Despite my insistence that my first work PC had to be an IBM ("well, a Compaq would be OK, too....") corporate HQ decided for me and a week later, my shiny new 286 showed up. "Hey, who's this PCs Limited company??? You got me one of those cheap IBM Clones!!!" Well, at least it had some cool "Kitt Car" (Knight Rider) sequential LED display on the front. I set it up, I plugged it in, turned it on. Watched the bootup process....... C:\ What the !@$%&??? I wouldn't admit to not having a clue as to exactly HOW I was going to write those letters and create those spreadsheets. After days of "Bad command or filename", I called the 800 number for PCs Limited and talked to a nice guy named Mike. After having me type some commands in, he said "You have your software already loaded". He suggested a trip to the book store to buy a book on MS-DOS.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

My first was Heathkit version of a Zenith 8088 PC. Learned a good deal soldering all the components (or their sockets) on the boards. And the thing actually ran, too!! Eventually upgraded it with an Turbo (8MHz!!!) 8086 add-in CPU card and a gigantic 20 MB (for you young'uns, those are not typos) Seagate hard drive. It lived a long and and useful life. too!

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

My first DOS machine was an old Zenith 386DX PC that used a "processor card" plugged into a back-plane board. Another memory board was literally plugged on top of the processor board and held 2 Mb of RAM. Ran DOS 5.5 with 4DOS, QEMM and Desqview.

Kansan52
Kansan52

ELF II microtrainer from a kit based on PE's design. Timex Sinclair. C64. White box PC. Still have the Elf and C64. The Amiga was also the first PC with stereo. We created the first amplified PC speakers (at least the first I ever saw advertised) for the A500.

jeromemueller
jeromemueller

The first computer I bought for my employer was in 1973. it was a DEC PDP8E with 8K of 12 bit core memory, a teletype console, and a DECTape random access tape drive. The first home computer was in the late 1980's. It was a Compu-ad 286 with 20 meg hard drive and an EGA color monitor.

wwoef
wwoef

Got a Sinclair ZX81 with 1k memory as a kit in 1981 from the UK. I build my own 4 k memory extension! My first IBM compatible was an Amstrad PC1512 in 1986, both at work and at home. It had an incredible 40M drive, but then I did not realize yet that a hard drive is always too small!

noydbt
noydbt

8 K RAM, twin 8" floppy drives, front panel switches. Like the one in the movie War Games.

dan man
dan man

Personally, around 1990. It was a white box from a local 'Mom and Pop' that disappeared years ago, although not while my system was still under warranty. I think it was called 'People PC', but I wouldn't bet a nickel on that. Professionally, the first place I worked was still strictly IBM when I left in 1990. I spent three years in a mainframe environment and didn't see any Windows PCs. When I started where I am now, we were buying Compaq 486/33s for general use and 486/66 white boxes for development.

wa3zgt
wa3zgt

i had a friend give me his personal O/S, since i luckily used a set up and hardware very similar to his personal computer's design. i wish i could remember the brand name of the CPU board ! i had to hand solder 12 times 100 connections just for the back plane PWB. As most know, Z-80 A ran at a blazing 4 MHz ! Where is Captain Zilog; i still have his T-shirt !

TheChas
TheChas

My first IBM PC style computer was a Leading Edge XT clone purchased at Sears. That was also the first and last desktop system I have purchased. All of my following desktop systems I have been built from parts. As to quality and construction, the Leading Edge was on par with the IBM systems of the same technology. True, the Leading Edge keyboard could not be as effective a club as the IBM. But, who really needed a 10 pound keyboard? So many hardware and retail companies in the PC business have come and gone or merged into other companies. At least 25% of the companies that manufactured hardware I have used and 75% of the local retailers I have used are no longer around. Chas

billmichie
billmichie

I'm sure my first 'non-IBM' was a used Superboard II from Ohio Scientific (paid about $150, new ones listed at only $278). Bought it 1978-79. (No, I didn't remember that list price - I Googled it. My $150 price is pretty close to what I paid tho.) Thanks guys (and gals?) for a great thread/discussion! I saved *all* comments here in a text file for my 'computer history' archives. I surely did not remember some the models mentioned, and I have been in the 'field' since college ('54)! I didn't see the Oborne mentioned (yet) -- I had two of those (paying about $1600 and $1800 for them!). Most folks bought them because of the bundled software -- at that time, worth $1000-1200 to buy separately . So valuable that I kept one set of 5-1/4" floppies in our bank safe deposit box! There was a very active User Group for many years (even after Osborne went belly up) -- Phrog, Philadelphia region Osborne Group). Through the years I have had too many computers to list here (besides, I probably can't remember them all). Notable were: Unisys MicroIT (bought that from my employer), used a Burroughs B26 at work, Kaypro: [Does anyone remember the 'RATS' game? (on the B26) - even bosses used to come early, just to play it. I'm not a gamer, but sure would like to find it.] And (all which I had) -- NEC Multispeed, TRS Model 100, NCR Decision Mate (along with its 10MB hard drive!), Sharp Datevue, ...... And on and on.... Many fond memories, Bill

ros
ros

First PC running m'soft DOS was in the mid-80s but... prior to that cut my teeth on a build-it-yerself kit that my dad bought my brother in the mid-70s. It had to be soldered together and it plugged into the TV. Instructions had to be typed in (Basic) and couldn't be saved. A year or so later, it became possible to attach a cassette recorder and save programs, which still had to be typed in laboriously, copied from Practical Engineering (and then de-bugged LOL! After that I progressed to a spectrum, an OPD (one-per-desk which came with a built in telephone - they were nice machines - anyone else remember those?) Then there was the Speccy QL (Quantum Leap), Amstrads and an Amiga along the way. The amount of stuff that a PC can do nowadays is brillinat, but a little part of me regrets that we have now become so specialised that the ordinary intelligent person can't just build and program a computer from scratch (and yeah - I feel the same way about cars too! :-)

george.millwood
george.millwood

I bought a President XT clone from an assembler in Sydney, Australia. It had twin 5,25" floppies and I ran Framework 2 on it. It created a whole new career for me. IBM lost its way with the PS/2 series.. Brilliant industrial design but too slow, too late and it took ages to get a Token Ring card for it. At the time, I was in charge of buying approx 500 computers for a Government Department and I longed to buy Apple but they didn't have a 3270 emulation card. When the Token Ring cards did arrive we made Netware networks and created hundreds of millions in increased income. Great days.

torg
torg

In 1976 I bought a Processor Technology SOL-20 S-100 bus 8080 machine ($2K for the kit, another $495 for dynamic ram to bring the memory up to 512K. It had 2 portable cassette recorders for storage, and an 8080 assembler and BASIC bought from George Morrow's Thinker Toys - bought a 5.25 floppy drive and CP/M for it in 1978 or so.. Not only did you have to solder a bazillion ICs and backplane socket pins, the only cost effective monitor I could afford was to buy a Sony TV-100U B&W portable TV at a pawn shop for $35, and do some circuit modification to get it to accept the 1v p-p video output from the SOL-20. I get a kick out of people who tell me how they "built their own" computers today ;-)

tom
tom

I bought the first Linc-8 that Digital Equipment sold back in 1963 with UCLA Med School expansion funds.The machine was my personal computer for 2 years. A few years later in 1969, I bought an early PDP-12 at West Virginia University. That machine was used to teach Medical Students, Engineering and Computer Science students integrated laboratory instrumentation and analysis. We also developed desktop publishing tools for students to use in preparing thesis and dissertation work. In 1978 I was responsible for software development for Digital Equipment's PDT-11 which were personal computers based on Digital's VT-100 terminal and Q-Bus LSI-11.

harryolden
harryolden

I bought my first IBM compatable pc in 1986 from singapore it had a 8088 chip in it a seagate hard drive 10 megabite, 520k memory, and also the IBM basic memory chips and a color texan screen and a star printer the cost was $5200.00. Aust I later put a 8086 chip in and it run a lot faster. it used to run my busines and it would take 6 hours to print the bills after mods and changing the chip in the printer and installing printq I got it down to two hours I still have the complete the computer. That is how I got into computing.

windowssupportnow.com
windowssupportnow.com

1988 Commodore Amiga 500 with full color screen and stereo sound. Made every other computer system of the time look very primitive. Used it for 4 years until we bought a 486DX, 400MB HD and Windows 3.1. Sold the 4 year old Amiga for $400!

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

I never owned an IBM PC... My first computer was a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A I think it was called???? Then I had my first and only APPLE product the good old Apple IIe (Mac,ipod,ipad or anything). I have had Packard Bells, HP's and now only Dell's. Can wait to show my now 2 1/2yr old twins what daddies first 2 computers looked like (yes I do have my Texas Instrument in a box!!)

rod
rod

4 floppies and cassette. I cobbled together GL, payroll, and cost accounting for my construction company. Figured out that I was going broke due to Carter's 20% inflation so I shut down and went back to school. I was working for a retail/consulting shop when IBM came out with the PC. We couldn't get a dealership because the showroom was on the second floor of the building so we sold the first Fujitsu PC in America.

bonifaceaw
bonifaceaw

In late 1976 I bought an IMSAI 8080 kit which I got running in early spring 1977. This required making about 2000 solder joints. The IBM 5100 existed at this time, but, much as I liked APL, I couldn't justify $10K for an APL box. IBM's 5110, with 2 disks and BASIC wasn't announced until 1978. So, I spent only $2K for a computer with all of 4K of memory.

rmartis
rmartis

Xerox PC running CPM. It actually got a 5 MB MFM Hard Drive. Then I got a Kaypro portable after that.

999silver
999silver

Was the TRS80 Model 100. 8-line LCD screen, penlite batteries, built-in modem and WP and spreadsheet software, 24K of ram. Cost $1,000. Being a newspaper reporter, I thought, boy, if there were just a way to have a wireless telephone, a guy would never have to go into the office ...

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

NorthStar S-100 in an Imsai-8080 Blue Box with the toggle switches and lights. I got it at the Trenton Computer Fest

gadjet
gadjet

the first "computer" I "played" with was a metal drum with a piece of paper wrapped around it, where you put the hole in the piece of paper created "contact" when one of the eight wires on top rode across the spot. This completed different circuits to complete different tasks. Extremely high tech at the time.... .... no gigling in the back row!

gadjet
gadjet

First, non IBM personal computer... technically.... that would be my first calculator, 1972, 4 basic functions, the size of a brick, weighed almost as much, and get this, it was rechargeable! PS; The batteries didn't last long!

gadjet
gadjet

Late 1977, Radio Shack Model I Computer, with a screaming 4K of internal memory, I later upgraded to 16K. For storage, we didn't need no stinkin' hard drive, we used cassette tapes! It had beautiful 14" full color screen, ...Black AND white! (for you geeks, white is all the colours!) Eventually that was replaced with a Model III with ALL the bells & whistles ..ahem.. beeps and whirs, floppy drives, Internal monitor, 32K, etc. My first hard drive, a really big deal I might add at the time, was very expensive 40 get this, 40 K drive for $345.00. Ahhh, those were the days!

krama
krama

Aussie manufactured. CPM System. Audio tape to save and load files. 32kb memory.

tw5000
tw5000

8088, 10 mhz ("Turbo" at the time), probably purchased 1987 or 1988. I've since hand-built every desktop PC I have owned, so I've never owned a PC that said IBM on it. I'm sure their are people in the current generation that don't even realize that IBM used to make PCs...

dwood005
dwood005

Key board and monitor built as one unit. Only one 5 1/4" floppy drive. All programs ran from that one drive, even the PC-Dos boot. All games and apps were in Basic and easy to modify. The system only had 4Kb of memory, still managed to do what was asked of it. Of course this was in the year 1980.

Mattheus Paulus
Mattheus Paulus

With two, count 'em, TWO 5.25" floppy drives. That thing was awesome. Probably still works... if I can find it in the barn. Second computer, 1989 Wyse 286 computer - with the 80287 MATH CO-PROCESSOR! And max'ed with 1 MB RAM! Freakin' powerhouse! Yep, Wyse is still in business. Apple... I think I saw something about them in the news, so I think they may still be in business, too. I think they sell Walkmans or something.

redave
redave

My first computer was an Apple, I was a test engineer and designed test equipment for the video editers my company was building. I went from three hours of manually test, to ten minutes with the Apple. Also reduced the failure rate at functional test to Zero. This reduced test technicians from twenty two to nine, and functional test from two to one. I hated Apple though, the machine ran fine but Apple's answer to any of my inquiries. "you are doing an unauthorized use of our equipment, we cannot answer any of your questions." Nest job went to the brand new IBM PC. Got the IBM published books, the gave everything and anything you would ever need or want to know about it. I never looked back. My viewpoint Apple consumer, PC business.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

A hand-me-down from a friend who had spent almost 3k in total for all of it. Expansion interface, 2 5.25 Floppies, tape deck, RS232-C interface (300 baud modem), desk, chair and all. I still vividly recall getting that thing hooked up to compuserve (with a little -ok LOTS of- help from my buddy). Was so "mystical" at the time to me. A wholloping 64K if memory serves me correctly. Moved from that to an AT, then a 386 laptop with Windows, next around 91 or so picked up an Apple PowerBook. Still have very fond memories of the Power Book. Since then there have been far too many to count. Today, between myself, wife and son we have 3 PCs, an iMac and an iPad. Yes, it has indeed been a fascinating and wonderful ride to where we are today. All in all I would have to say that our collective vision of this industry has progressed at a reasonably quick pace.

cheesel_z
cheesel_z

How I miss it! Amiga was superior to anything else in the 80's....

DugaldSt
DugaldSt

Consultants in Ottawa were using 4k Ohio Scientific open board, cassette drive PCs over dial up modems to directly research online data from various countries at huge savings to my projects. So I went to a great little shop on Rideau street (one of the main shopping areas no less). I tried an open board unit with a modulator (?) to tune it in on a small TV (what a pain). We had very young kids so I had to disassemble and rebuild each evening and it would often not reestablish the TV "monitor" signal. My wife thought I was completely nuts - not a techie bone in her body! The solution was ??!! a better box, right! They had some huge 8k units out of MIL spec metal 2x2x3 ft with 10 inch floppy about 10inx2ftx2ft and monitors of sorts - all incredibly expensive! Then a few months after I started, there was it was, the new C4P! A metal box with wood sides and a matching 5 1/4in floppy drive to stack on top of the Apple II sized PC. It had tons of I/O ports, current loops, serial ports AND an RCA jack to connect a monitor. One of the guys hanging around the shop said he had heard that Zenith had a $99 monitor selling at a Heath Kit store across town. They did and could have one for me next week! I could also trade in my open board unit for 75% of its price since the young guys hanging out at the shop would snap it up at a used price. I negotiated away my birthday, etc., gifts for years to come, set it up on a card table in a corner in a home made locking cabinet to hold all the gear, manuals and later an Epson serial printer. I got many, many magazines, Heath newsletters and tips at the shop and started writing my programs in Basic, including mods to the OS etc., etc. Then packaged SW started to show up for shareware like prices, hence the printer for correspondence (good buy typewriter)!! My wife now saw some real utility. I could be her secretary, at home. Expensive to maintain in "decent equipment" to be sure. (I recently cleared the garage of about 5 used units plus many components retired over the last 33 years not counting a few I had given away. My wife has her pay back too! Mainly email, shopping sites, recipes and video Skype to the far reaches of the world. She complains right away to her live-in tech when anything goes wrong with her computer or net connection, i.e. frequently. I get some respect when I fix it, particularly without hours in help queues. Thanks for the chance to look back and appreciate how far and fast we have come. Still, a lot of it is the same thing as what the consultants were doing back then, except we can do it ourselves, anytime and from anywhere, almost, if you include the mobile devices. All the best!

dyens
dyens

1978 - Compucolor, one of the first color desktops, made by a company in the Atlanta suburbs.

ksprbob
ksprbob

I bought what I thought was a computer type machine with paper tape to load programs, one at a time. It had 16 MB of memory so our programs had to be really tight. But it worked and I have been using Burroughs machines since 82-85. Now I can do more on my desktop than ever imagined possible. Oh yes, I dabbled with a Cado machine for some time but no one in my office ever got it working.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I used PCs, IBM, Compaq etc., before I ever bought a PC, but my first PC was a Macintosh SE. I upgraded to a Mac II, and not long afterwards bought an XT clone, Everex. That was mid 80s.

Realvdude
Realvdude

My first non-PC was a Commodore VIS-20, $79 from Toys R Us as they were being phased out for the C64; then a SX-64 from Kmart for $500, at post Christmas closeout. My first PC clone was a homebuilt AMD 386DX 40Mhz with a whopping 1Mb of RAM. The $1000 cost was more double what it could have been, because of a 13" color VGA adapter and monitor. The companies I worked for were pretty much Packard Bell XTs, just a better deal. The 8088 CPU was 8Mhz compared to 4.77Mhz for the IBM XT.

gdburton
gdburton

Nascom1. Hand built & debugger with a ceramic ear piece. 2K DRAM, most of the 2nd kbyte was used for video data, but with clever programming you could use the address which were never displayed, during the flyback time! First "PC" at work was CP/M Z80 box shared across the small start-up designing sat-comms equipment! Monday development, Tuesday Sales, Wednestday Admin, Thursday accounts. First real PC was Ollivetti M24, WAY faster than an IBM PC as it was an 8086, not those stripped down 8088s! Oh and 10MB Hard disk bought for schematic entry & PCB layout! Them was the days!!

tim
tim

It was an Olympia that used a 40286 chip! Everything out there was produced for 4086 so had to be coonverted to run on Olympia. Paid around $5m for the system!! Had just started my own company and wanted "The Best" of everything.

lcplwilson
lcplwilson

I had a Radio Shack TRS-80 in the seventies and then built a Zenith Heath-Kit a few years later in the early 80's. It had both a Z80 and 8086. I almost bought an early Apple but they wanted an exorbitant amount for a keypad that the TRS-80 had built into the keyboard.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

I loved 4DOS because of the many more DOS commands and batch file commands it had over MS-DOS. 4DOS was actually a replacement for Command.com and a far better version, and on some AMD CPU systems a faster running version. I converted to Take Command (the version od 4DOS ment for Windows machines)

pegarner
pegarner

Damn, this one will date me. First one that I bought was an Exidy Sorcerer. Lots of good ideas but p**s poor design. Next computer was a Kaypro. Claimed to be portable (what a dream from an ad exec's fertile imagination) and built like a tank. Actually, you could have driven over it with a tank for that matter and it would still function. IBM - what's that?

fiosdave
fiosdave

I think that the Apple company sold Newton's to Lisa, or was it Lisa's to Newton?

krama
krama

I bought one of these in 1988. Join an Amiga user group to get free programs

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