30 Years Ago: PC Week Chronicles Explosive Growth of IBM-Compatible PCs

eWEEK 30: The precursor of today’s eWEEK, PC Week started covering the evolution of the personal computer industry in February 1984. Now eWEEK will publish a 30-week series of retrospective articles highlighting the technology and trends that shaped the industry.

In 1983, several technology and business trends were converging to demonstrate that computing had permanently broken out of the air-conditioned glass house and was moving into homes, schools and on the desktops at businesses of every size and description.

That was also the year that a small group of editors and writers gathered in the Boston suburbs to create a weekly news magazine dedicated to the idea that personal computers had become sufficiently powerful and practical enough to become effective business tools.

That publication, PC Week, the predecessor of what became eWEEK.com, debuted Feb. 28, 1984, as the "News Weekly of IBM System Microcomputers." To celebrate 30 years of covering the computer industry, eWEEK will publish for the next 30 weeks, feature stories that look back at how the world of personal computers has evolved from those first simple, bulky devices into today's ecosystem of ubiquitous computing via the Internet and mobile devices.

Back in 1983, not many people were convinced that personal computers could ever be taken seriously as business tools. Certainly, people involved in the world of enterprise data processing dismissed PCs as toys for their kids, and devices on which to play games and store address lists and favorite recipes. In the IT professional's view, nobody in their right mind would try to run even a small business with a PC.

Not surprisingly, few people thought the world needed a weekly news magazine about personal computers. There were already a number of magazines devoted to business computing, including Datamation, founded in 1957, (which like eWEEK is now published by QuinStreet) and Computerworld, which International Data Group started publishing in 1967. But these magazines had long focused on large-scale data processing.

There were also magazines devoted to computer hobbyists and home computers such as the Apple II, Commodore 64 and Atari. How would the market take to a weekly news magazine focused on the IBM PC and PC-compatible computers? We were about to find out.

PC Week owed its existence to the surprising success of the IBM PC. IBM had experimented with microcomputers during the 1970s, but after witnessing the success of the Apple 2, the Tandy TRS-80, and the Commodore and Atari models, the company decided in 1980 it was time to test the waters.

IBM was in a hurry to get the product to market, so it created the IBM PC from off-the-shelf, third-party components and an operating system dubbed PC DOS, which it licensed from an ambitious six-year-old company named Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft had acquired the rights to DOS from another company, Seattle Computer.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...