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For instance, architectures rivaling the IBM personal computer (based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor and the MS-DOS operating system) generally failed once the IBM standard became established. The standard was entrenched in distribution channels and the mind of the consumer; the price of IBM-compatible machines had been reduced sharply by cumulative experience; and, perhaps most significantly, the vast majority of software and peripherals were specifically engineered for compatibility with the standard.
IBM's prestige as the world's number one producer of computer hardware and software lent the company an aura of dependability that the newer companies lacked. Software and peripherals manufacturers were already accustomed to dealing with IBM. The IBM way of doing things would dominate simply because it was the most well-known, and the most well-established. Nevertheless, the IBM way of doing things became, in the case of the personal computer, an adaptation of other companies' ways of doing things, but with an IBM stamp:
Because Apple and other firms had already defined what a personal computer should look like, and because IBM wanted to develop its own product fast, the IBM PC would be a computer unlike any the company had ever offered. Most of its components would be built not by IBM itself but by outside contractors. Its operating system -- the language that gives instructions to the computer's processor -- would be provided by someone outside the company, as would the software for the PC. More important, the computer would have an "open architecture" so that other companies could design and make components that would operate in it. And IBM would sell the personal computers through retail outlets instead of through its large in-house sales staff. All of these were major deviations from the normal IBM way of doing business.
Thus, the development of the personal computer, and IBM's entry into that market as a major player, virtually completed the computer revolution of the pre-Internet years. The creation of the IBM Personal Computer was a sign that the computer was now to be a fixture of the average home, and a piece of equipment that could be used and enjoyed by the masses. The computer had finally left behind the flashing lights, and huge air conditioned rooms of its infancy, and moved into a position where it was an indispensable feature of everyday life. The process had been a fairly long one. It took decades to make the transition from the Military's original IBM's to the small and easily affordable personal computers. The first step had been in bringing the computer out of the government laboratory and into the hands of private industry. From there, it was just a matter of accustoming the public to the computer, and gradually disseminating its use in ever-widening circles - first large corporations, then smaller businesses, and ultimately mom-and-pop enterprises and private homes. Students, businessmen, government contractors, military tacticians, and politicians - all are beneficiaries of the computer revolution, the computer revolution that IBM made possible.
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David C. Mowery, ed., a Comparative Study of Industry Evolution and Structure (New York: Oxford, 1996) 23.
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Robert Pool, Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) 94.[continue]
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