Computer history - 1981

Updated: 11/12/2023 by Computer Hope

Major computer events in 1981

MS-DOS logo

On August 12, 1981, IBM joined the computer race by introducing the IBM 5150 PC (personal computer). It featured the 4.77-MHz Intel 8088 CPU (central processing unit), 16 kB base memory, and the Model F keyboard. Its retail price was $1,565.

The same month, Microsoft received a request from IBM to create a new operating system for the IBM PC. The result was MS-DOS 1.0, branded as PC-DOS when shipped with IBM PCs. PC-DOS and MS-DOS would eventually fork into separate products, and MS-DOS would mark the beginning of Microsoft's massive influence in the world of PC software.

Xerox Star workstation.

On April 27, 1981, Xerox introduced the Star workstation. The computer's GUI (graphical user interface) greatly influenced future Apple computers, including the Lisa and Macintosh, and inspired many features of Microsoft Windows.

In September 1981, the Internet Engineering Task Force published RFC 791. The RFC document formally defined IPv4, the fundamental communications protocol the modern Internet still uses.

New computer products and services introduced in 1981

IBM PC 5150

Sage was founded by David Goldman, Paul Muller, and Graham Wylie in 1981.

IBM introduced the IBM PC in 1981. The computer was code-named (and sometimes called) the Acorn.

With its new computers, IBM also introduced the planner board, which became what we know today as a motherboard.

The first internal computer speaker was invented by IBM in 1981 and produced basic, low-quality sound.

The Kermit file transfer protocol was developed at Columbia University.

IBM introduced VMEbus, CGA (Color Graphics Adapter) displays, and the game port.

Hayes introduced the Smartmodem 300 with its standard-setting AT command set that operated at 300 bits per second.

Osborne I computer.

Adam Osborne introduced the Osborne I, the first successful portable computer. It weighed 25-pounds.

Commodore shipped the first VIC-20 computers. They would become one of the world's most popular computers, costing only $299.95.

MIPS (millions of instructions per second) began as a research project led by John Hennessey at Stanford University in 1981.

The ZX81 launched in the United Kingdom in 1981 as the successor to Sinclair's ZX80.

IBM introduced the 3081 Model Group K processor, offering 32 million characters of main storage and significant internal performance improvement.

IBM released MVS (multiple virtual storage) architecture, providing additional memory and greater efficiency for large systems users.

IBM introduced the 4700 Finance Communication System with compact computer devices for teller and administrative operations.

IBM announced the 3880 Storage Control Unit that attaches multiple IBM central processing units at data rates up to 3 million characters per second.

Computer and technology-related events in 1981

Satya Pal Asija received the first U.S. patent for a computer program on May 26, 1981.

VHDL (VHSIC Hardware Description Language) was first proposed in 1981. It was soon adopted by the US Department of Defense and adopted by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) as a standard. It is still used today, primarily in programming ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) hardware.

In May 1981, 19-year-old Jeff Dailey of Calumet City, Illinois, was reported to have suffered a heart attack after scoring 16,660 in the classic video game Berzerk. It was the first reported death from computer gaming.

The computer book The Soul of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder was published in 1981. The book would later win a Pulitzer Prize.

In 1981, Microsoft purchased the rights to an unauthorized clone of CP/M, which it marketed to IBM as PC-DOS for the first IBM PC. For all other PC OEMs, Microsoft marketed PC-DOS as MS-DOS.

In 1981, Ian Murphy, also known as "Captain Zap," became the first hacker convicted of hacking.

Computer companies and organizations founded in 1981

Creative logo

Creative Technology was founded on July 1, 1981.

Diskeeper was founded on July 22, 1981.

Adaptec was founded in 1981.

APC was founded in 1981.

BITNET (because it's time network) was founded in 1981.

CTX was established in 1981.

DFI was founded in 1981.

DTK was founded in 1981.

Gemlight was founded in 1981.

Kensington was founded in 1981.

Linear Technology was founded in 1981 by Robert H. Swanson, Jr. and Robert C. Dobkin.

Logitech logo

Logitech was founded in Apples, Switzerland, in 1981.

Longshine Technology was founded in 1981.

Progress Software was founded in 1981.

SoftBank Group was founded in 1981.

STB Systems was founded in 1981.

SuperSpeed was founded in 1981.

Totevision was founded in 1981 by Bill Taraday.

Virgin Interactive was founded in 1981.

Weitek was founded in 1981.

WYSE was founded in 1981.

Computer company events in 1981

Microsoft bought the rights for QDOS from SCP (Seattle Computer Products) for $25,000 on July 27, 1981.

Buffalo Technology entered the computer peripheral market in 1981 with an EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory) writer.

Discontinued products and services in 1981

The TRS-80 was discontinued in 1981.

Computer pioneers born in 1981

Cali Lewis

Cali Lewis was born on January 25, 1981.

Johnathan Wendel was born on February 26, 1981.

Jake Lodwick was born on July 25, 1981.

Barrett Brown was born on August 14, 1981.

Jolie O'dell was born on September 16, 1981.

MG Siegler was born on November 2, 1981.

Albert Gonzalez was born in 1981.

Chad Davis was born in 1981.

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