Technology | Nostalgia | 1980s | Life Story

Remembering the IBM PC and Compatibles

Personal memories of using an IBM PC XT and Amstrad PC1640 in the 1980s

Alan AJ
8 min readNov 29, 2023

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This is an updated version of an article I wrote a few years ago for some of my now-defunct blogs.

An IBM PC 5150 with monitor and keyboard
IBM PC 5150 (Photo by Ruben de Rijcke licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Immediately Successful

The original IBM PC was released in 1981, and it was popular right from the start. One reason for its popularity was the IBM name. Other factors included its open standards and expansion slots.

Developers supported the PC by writing software and making expansion cards. Before long, almost any application software you could think of was available for the PC.

Even the video output came from an expansion card, which provided users with flexibility and choice.

Compatibles

After the BIOS was reverse engineered, compatible machines appeared on the market. One of the early ones was a fairly large and heavy ‘portable’ machine from Compaq.

A Compaq Portable with keyboard
The Compaq Portable was an early IBM PC compatible. (Photo by Tiziano Garuti 1000Bit, Public Domain)

Business Appeal

When the PC first came out, I wasn’t really aware of it. Being aimed at business users, the machine would have seemed expensive and dull as a home computer, compared to those designed with games in mind.

It was only years later that I saw the appeal of the PC at work. With a massive range of available software, it was the only realistic choice for many tasks.

Needing a PC at Work

When I started work in 1986, I spent quite a lot of time using the Apple II series and writing 6502 assembly language. Later, I hand-assembled 6303 code for Hitachi microcontrollers.

I would POKE my code into memory on the Apple II, and use an EPROM programmer card (in an expansion slot), to transfer it to a microcontroller. (The micro had a built-in UV-erasable EPROM.)

That was a slow and tedious development cycle — but it worked.

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Alan AJ

Random life stories, opinions, and a dry sense of humour. A 55-year-old former electronics engineer and programmer in England. Previously 'Autistic Widower'.