The 10 Most Important Computers From The Last 30 Years

ibm pc

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago today, IBM released the 5150, marking the birth of the personal computer as we know it today.Modern computing exploded and suddenly there was a rush to see who could improve on the idea of a “personal computer.”

Plenty of people threw their hats into the ring, designing machines that were alternately duds and breakthroughs.

We like to focus on the breakthroughs, so we’ve collected the 10 most important computers since the release of the original IBM PC.

1981: The IBM PC

It broke all kinds of preconceived notions about computers -- it was affordable, it was small, and it made the term 'PC' commonplace.

1982: Franklin Ace 100

This machine is the cause of the first software copyright lawsuit -- it was more or less a physical clone of the Apple II's operating system and hardware. After an appeal, the courts found in favour of Apple, a decision that established that computer software could be copyrighted.

1982: Commodore 64

The Commodore might just be the most famous home computer. Between 1982 and 1993, almost 30 million of them were sold around the world.

1982: ZX Spectrum

The Spectrum did for the UK what the Commodore 64 did for the US -- it got people excited about computing and it got companies developing software for it. It was produced by Clive Sinclair, who earned a knighthood for services to British industry.

The Spectrum sold roughly 5 million units.

1983: IBM PC XT

An update on the original IBM PC, the XT came with an internal 10 MB hard drive, something that just wasn't done at the time. It quickly became the standard afterwards.

1983: Apple Lisa

The Lisa was the first consumer-grade computer with a graphical interface. The $10,000 price tag presented quite a barrier to consumers, though.

1984: Macintosh

This computer was such a hit that today's Apple computers are its direct descendants, nearly 30 years later. It had a graphical user interface just like the Lisa, but its reduced price tag made it much easier to sell.

1990: NeXT Turbo Dimension Cube

Yes, NeXT was the computer company that Steve Jobs started after getting booted out of Apple, but this specific computer is important for a different reason -- it was the model used by Tim Berners-Lee to host the World Wide Web in its infancy.

1996: Deep Blue

After losing in chess to Garry Kasparov, IBM engineers got busy improving Deep Blue (renaming it 'Deeper Blue'). It came back to beat Kasparov in 1997, demonstrating incredible processing capability.

1998: iMac

Up until the iMac, computers were boring beige boxes. Apple revolutionised the idea of what computers could look like when they unveiled a curvy, jaw-dropping new line available in a number of explosive colours.


A controversial idea, we know -- the iPad is arguably a mobile device. But consider this: in 5 years, will computers look more or less like an iPad?

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