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This Week in Tech History: Launch of the Personal Computer

The phonograph is born, a new way to wash clothes is patented, and the personal computer makes its debut… It all happened This Week in Tech History.

This week in 1876 – Thomas Edison patented the mimeograph machine. He described it as a method of preparing autographic stencils for printing Many of us remember mimeograph copies from school. Those nice-smelling papers with the purple ink on them.

Ol’ Thomas was a busy man… a year later in 1877 – Edison finished figuring out his first phonograph. He handed the model of his invention to John Kreusi with instructions on how to build it. Kreusi bet the inventor $2 and said that there was no way that the machine would ever work. Less than 30 hours later, they had a machine that worked on the first try.

1910 – Alva Fisher of Chicago, IL received a patent for an invention that moms, grandmas and single guys certainly came to appreciate: the electric washing machine. Previous to Fisher’s invention, washing machines were cranked by hand, or you used a washboard.

And this week in 1981 – IBM introduced the personal computer with their 5150 model. The IBM PC ran on the Intel 8088 microprocessor at 4.77 mHz. It had 16 kilobytes of memory, no built-in clock or video capability — it was available however, with an optional color monitor. Prices started at around $1,500. The IBM PC was a smashing success and IBM quickly became the #1 microcomputer company, dropping Apple to #2.

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Written by Chris Graveline

Chris has covered consumer technology for over 20 years. He is the host of This Week in Tech History as well as a regular co-host on "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" and our Technical Director.

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