Today is November 6th, in many ways it is a most pivotal date in the history of the modern computer. It was on November 6th 1980, that IBM made possibly the biggest mistake a corporation could ever make. They signed a contract with a small startup silicon valley company to create an operating system for the IBM PC.

There has been much written about the IBM PC and the mistakes that IBM made. You can read the chapter from my book here.

IBM signing up with Microsoft was a colossal disaster for IBM, it meant that IBM had no control over the software that was going to be used on the IBM PC. This was a complete change from the standard IBM policy of keeping everything in-house.

The result of this mistake and of them using off the shelf processors built by Intel resulted in IBM having very little of any proprietary worth inside this new computer. It did not take long for many other manufacturers to start making copies of the beast.

While we may not like Microsoft’s monopolistic situation right now. We likely should be glad that they are there. If IBM had followed through with their original plan to develop their own CPU and their own Operating System the computer world would be significantly different today. We would probably not have a computer at home because it would come with a $10,000 price tag and virtually no software!

Simon Barrett

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