Can you do real work with the 30-year-old IBM 5150?

Our intrepid reporter spends a week trying to write, browse the Web, edit photos, and even tweet on IBM's first PC.

By Benj Edwards, PC World |  Hardware, I'll try it, IBM

IBM did not design this PC to be a gaming machine. It was not intended to be a gaming machine. It was a serious computer for serious business, doggone it. A typical PC shipped with a monochrome graphics adapter. If you wanted color--CGA--you got 16 colors in text mode and a mere four colors (four ugly colors, at that) in 320-by-200 graphics mode.

For audio output, IBM equipped the PC with a simple one-channel speaker whose beeps often resembled the sounds of a miniature duck being strangled to death. And of course, the 5150 didn't ship with joystick or paddle ports (although IBM offered an optional adapter that added a port for those accessories).

Despite IBM's sobriety, game developers brought entertainment software to the PC in droves. Stopping them was impossible: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when you weren't word processing, gaming was the most useful thing you could do with a personal computer.

To test the PC's gaming muscle, I whipped out a few titles I had handy. A port of the arcade hit Arkanoid II worked well in CGA mode, although with only four colors I found it hard to tell some of the power-ups from the background.

Next I loaded up one of my personal favorites, ZZT, a text-based adventure game programmed by Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games (more recently, the same company created the Gears of War franchise).

I also played Jumpman, Alley Cat, and Digger--all of which are fun games that you could play for quite a while. But my time was precious.

Mousing Around

When I'm not busy typing letters of the alphabet into a computer, I'm usually crafting images for slideshows or touching up scans or photos for illustrations. I normally use a Photoshop-like application for this task on a modern PC, but what was the closest equivalent available for the 5150?

To do any decent image composition or editing on a computer, I first needed to hook up a mouse. This turned out to be a cinch. I had plenty of mice to choose from, including official Microsoft models that operated through a PC's serial port.

After simply plugging in the mouse, I loaded up a mouse driver (remember "mouse.com"?) from an official Microsoft Mouse disk, and ka-boom, it worked.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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