IBM 5150 PC, a product of right decision and collaboration

IBM 5150 PC

Image of an IBM 5150 PC, taken at MAL.

By Xiang Luo
April 29, 2020

The PC 5150, was one of the most successful personal computer that IBM made, which not only made a selling record of 50,000 units within 8 months since its release 1, it also influenced a lot of other products that came after it. More than impressively, its development process only took 1 year. How did IBM achieve that? Wise prediction of the market and collaboration with other companies were the two keys that lead to PC 5150’s success.

It was by 1980, that IBM had seen the rise of computers that are made of microprocessors, and there was a small group within the company suggested that IBM would be the dominant player in the market if they could make a machine very quickly 2. Later as proved by the sales, they succeed. But the success wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration with other corporations at the time. PC 5150 used a non-IBM microprocessor, the 8088 chip made by Intel. Besides hardware, IBM also chose to let a third party be in charge of its operating system. They first found Intergalactic Digital Research hoping to use its CP/M software but failed to reach an agreement. They later found another small company at the time to create the PC-DOS. This company is now known as Microsoft.

With having made the right decision to go into the new market and also the collaboration with other companies, PC 5150 is eventually released on August 12, 1981. From there, it left a remarkable place in computer history.

  1. "IBM 5150 Personal Computer," Steve's Old Computer Museum, accessed April 1, 2020,

  2. Anthony Hey and Pápay Gyuri, The Computing Universe: a Journey through a Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 151.