IBM, then the top player in business computing, didn’t fail to notice the success of personal computers. “Big Blue” took up the challenge of creating a credible competitor to the Commodore PET, Apple II, and Atari 800. To pull it off, IBM formed a small team of engineers who were given special permission to bypass the company’s usual time-consuming development processes in order to get the product designed as quickly as possible. “Project Chess”, as it was called, succeeded within just one year.
The PC broke with a number of IBM’s standard procedures. It was no longer built from in-house hardware, but was assembled from components provided by various third parties. But above all, the key to the PC’s worldwide success was the decision to give it an open architecture. Any manufacturer was allowed to produce compatible peripherals or write software for it without paying any royalties. Starting in 1982, companies like Phoenix, Award, and American Megatrends succeeded in reverse engineering the PC’s BIOS, resulting in the first appearances of “PC-compatible” products.
The original PC, the IBM 5150, used an Intel 8088 processor running at 4.77 MHz, two 5.25” diskette drives, and either 16 or 64 KB of RAM. BASIC was its programming language, and PC-DOS its operating system.