PCGH Special: The 12 most important companies of PC history

Author: Henner Schröder (Jul 09, 2008)
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(2nd place: Apple) With this Wozniak brought his ideas to perfection: the Apple II of 1977. It has been the first mass-produced microcomputer, was build until into the 90s and thus is one of the most successful systems in history. It established today’s form of the computer and with its extensibility via plug-in cards predated one of the IBM PC’s successful features.
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6th place: Compaq – founded in 1982, overtaken by HP in 2002 as a brand of the producer.
(6th place: Compaq) The Compaq Portable of 1983 hasn’t just been the first almost portable x86 system – it also was the first fully IBM compatible PC clone. With the Reverse Engineering procedure, Compaq’s specialists copied the BIOS of the IBM original. This cleared the way for a range of very successful IBM clones. Those clones were responsible for the ultimate establishment of the PC and created the PC industry with its interchangeable parts. (picture:
(6th place: Compaq) The Deskpro 386 of 1986 was the first PC that used Intel’s new i386 CPU – the first 32 bit processor of the x86 series, a milestone in the history of the PC. Compaq became the new technological leader, while IBM hesitated to use the 32 bit technology.
5th place: Microsoft – founded in1975. Microsoft is market leader in the areas of operating systems, office applications and web browsers.
(5th place: Microsoft) With DOS (1981) the PC started its triumphant success – the operating system was hastily bought by Microsoft and delivered to IBM. It also was the cheaper alternative to CP/M and soon developed into the new standard. Microsoft also sold the program to the producers of the rising PC clones (see 6th place: Compaq) and thus got more powerful than IBM in the long run. (picture:
(5th place: Microsoft) DOS had been established, but with the Macintosh, Apple had popularized the graphic user interface. Microsoft wanted to deliver this too – in 1985 the first version of the graphical DOS attachment called Windows was released. Although Windows 3.1 was the first version to be really successful, Microsoft safeguarded themselves a predominant position in the operating system market with the series. Today Windows is the one piece of software associated with the Personal Computer. (picture:
(5th place: Microsoft) Because of the many different interfaces, it had been difficult to program games and multimedia applications for the PC – the situation changed in 1995 with the API DirectX, which soon superseded competing technologies and helped to establish the PC as a multimedia and gaming platform.
4th place: Intel – founded in 1968. Intel is the global market leader in the areas of processors, chipsets and graphics chips and also produces flash memory.
(4th place: Intel) One of Intel’s first products and at the same time on of the most important ones: the 4004 of 1971, the first microprocessor. Without this invention today’s PC technology would be unthinkable.
(4th place: Intel) The 8086 of 1978 hasn’t been revolutionary – but nevertheless the chip is one of the cornerstones of the x86-architecture, which should become the most important platforms of the computer. Its small brother, the 8088, was used in the second IBM PC. Today x86 chips are part of every PC – no matter if server or mini PC. (picture:
(4th place: Intel) No, this board is not made by Intel – but its form: ATX, the standard to define the design of power supply units, motherboards and computer cases since 1995, when it was introduced and pushed to the top by Intel. It’s the same with many other techniques like the PCI-bus of 1993.
3rd place: Xerox – founded in 1906. Today Xerox mainly produces printers and copiers.
(3rd place: Xerox) Xerox didn’t just introduce the first copier to the market but the company also invented the color printer as well as the first laser printer of 1969 and thus connected the paper world to the computer world.
(3rd place: Xerox) Others might have had the success – but Xerox had the idea: This Star computer of 1981 delivered innovations, that were copied by others years later – among them a graphical user interface which could be operated with a mouse, Ethernet support, printserver and E-mail. All this had been developed years before in the Xerox research center PARC. At a tour through this research center Steve Jobs saw the graphic interface – and adopted it to make it popular with the Apple Macintosh. The innovations of the Xerox Star and its prototype predecessor Alto affected the world of computers for decades.
2nd place: Apple – founded in 1976. In addition to computers the company today produces the successful iPod as well as the iPhone and sells music via the online shop iTunes.
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