Computer Closet Collection

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IBM 5100 Personal Computer

See below for specifications and information on this system.

Specifications and information

Key Dates: Announced September 9, 1975 (Just eight months after the Altair 8800)
Original Price: $8975 to $19,975 depending on memory (16K, 32K, 48K or 64K) and language (APL, BASIC, or both) options
Companion printer IBM 5103, $3675 (132-column dot matrix, 80 characters per second)
Auxiliary tape drive IBM 5106, $2300
CPU: IBM circuit module
Memory: 16K-64K
Operating System: BASIC and/or APL
Input/Output: Built-in 5" monochrome monitor with 16-line by 64-character display; built-in tape drive with 204KB capacity; proprietary printer connection for 5103 printer and 5106 auxiliary tape drive
Bus: N/A
Other Items in Collection: Numerous tapes, documentation, IBM 5103 printer
Items Needed: IBM 5106 auxiliary tape drive

This was IBM's first personal computer, and very nearly the first personal computer on the market. The MITS Altair had shipped a few months earlier.

The 5100 was also the first personal computer I ever saw. In junior high school, we took a field trip to the IBM building in downtown Seattle. We'd all seen big mainframe computers on television, so the first hour of the tour was only of mild interest.

At the end of the tour, the IBM executive took us back to his office, and on the desk was an IBM 5100. None of us had ever seen a computer that small. It was really a "gosh, wow, sense of wonder" type of encounter. I'll never forget that moment, and I'm proud to have an original 5100 in the Computer Closet collection.

As the logo above shows, the IBM 5100 was considered a portable computer, although it weighed in at over 50 pounds. Its high price prevented its success in the burgeoning personal computer market of the late seventies. It was followed by the IBM 5110, which had optional 8" external floppy disk drives.

The 5100 was largely copied many years later by Hewlett-Packard, in the HP85.

IBM's "5100" numbering scheme continued with the IBM PC, model number 5150. Many people have forgotten the IBM 5100, and think the IBM PC was IBM's first personal computer. The IBM PC was only IBM's first commercially successful personal computer.

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Last modified: April 17, 2003