In the late 1970s and early 1980s, personal computers began to revolutionize consumer technology. With the first of these machines appearing in 1977, the consumer computer market was changed forever. The first successful personal computers, including Apple's Apple II, the Commodore PET and TRS-80, and the IBM PC, paved the way for the technology we know today.
The first widely successful personal computer was the Apple II, produced by Apple Computer Inc. The 8-bit machine sold at a retail price of $1,298 and weighed 16lb. It came with a mounting board capable of displaying color graphics, 4K RAM, an audio cassette interface for loading programs, and two 5.25" floppy drives. It could also play simple games and create basic programs, and although it was primitive even by the standards of the day, it established Apple as a major player in the market.
The Commodore PET appeared on the scene in 1977 with the intention of being a low-cost computer for educators, but became more widely used for home and office use. At the time, it was considered advanced for its price point, retailing at $795. The base model came with 4K RAM, a version of the BASIC programming language, and a monochrome display.
The TRS-80, also known as the "Trash 80", was another early personal computer from the mid-1970s. It was sold by Radio Shack at a price of $599, making it one of the most affordable computers of its time. It could be programmed using BASIC, featured a 40 character display, and could store data on cassette tape.
Finally, the IBM PC was another classic personal computer of the 80s. With advanced features and a proprietary operating system, the first model retailed for the relatively expensive price of $1,565. It had 64KB of RAM, one or two floppy disks, and could run programs written in DOS or BASIC.
Personal computers have come a long way since their humble beginnings in the late seventies and early eighties. Today’s laptops and PCs are lighter and more powerful than ever before, making them must-have gadgets in a modern world. By taking a look back at the first personal computers, we can truly appreciate how far we have come.