When International Business Machines (IBM) had come on to the scene as an office technology company, there weren’t many technologies around that made office life more productive. Now this company has built up a steady path of innovation in this field and it has culminated with the development and refinement of the mainframe computer through the 1960s and 1970s; and the establishment of a highly-desirable office electric typewriter equipped with an interchangeable “golf-ball” typehead, known as the “Selectric”.
But this company had a strong hand in the personal-computing scene with the arrival of the IBM PC. This desktop computer, which was based on Intel electronics and a Microsoft operating system had set the benchmark for an affordable desktop computer for small businesses. Through the 1980s, this computer was refined through the use of colour graphics, hard disks and faster processors. Australian readers may know that a lot of these computers sold in that market were built in a factory in Wangaratta, Victoria.
In a similar vein, another company called Lotus had developed the quintessential desktop spreadsheet application known as Lotus 1-2-3. Due to its flexibility and capability, this program became the preferred spreadsheet application to be run on an IBM PC.
But these computers had effectively brought the desktop computer out of the realms of the hobbyist and in to the hands of business. This was initially in to the hands of the bookkeepers and similar employees but, in the late 80s and early 90s with the arrival of cost-effective computer networks, ended up in the hands of most office workers from the top floor to the bottom.
The PS/2 era wa a markedly different era with an attempt by IBM to develop their own operating system and graphic user interface, which was known as OS/2. These computers also used a high-speed interface bus, known as the Micro Channel Bus, that was different from the EISA bus that was used by the rest of the industry. The main benefits that these computers had provided for the industry-standard Intel-based computing environment included the use of micro-DIN keyboard and mouse interface ports, including a standard interface for the mouse; a small power-supply reference design which allowed for the power switch to be located on the front panel; and the use of 1.44Mb 3.5” diskettes on the Intel-based PC platform.
Through the late 90s, IBM had shifted away from its hardware roots and moved towards its role as a hardware-software “solutions provider” for big business. This was evident with them devolving their main hardware lines to other companies; like Lexmark for printing and imaging, Hitachi for data storage, and Lenovo for personal computer systems. It was although they bought out Lotus and implemented Lotus, who had shifted to “Notes” as an information-management system, in their solutions. Here, it has led to them being able to work on “cloud-based” computing projects that can help these businesses manage their information across many locations.
Infact, I would consider the existence of IBM to be a “milestone to the connected lifestyle” in itself due to its development and refinement of both “back-end” and desktop computing equipment central to this lifestyle.
Happy 100th Birthday, IBM