IBM 5150 – The First Desktop Personal Computer

Anniversaries are useful occasions. Aside from the opportunity to give and/or receive nifty gifts, they also provide markers for events, allowing us to reflect on changes that have occurred over a given number of years.

Take, for example, August 12,1981. That would be 30 years, more or less, depending upon when you are reading this. What could possibly happen in 30 years? A trumpeter swan lives about that long, so 30 years is the end of the line for it. On the other hand, Galapagos tortoises are barely out of their childhood, with another century or more ahead of them. An olive tree is just two or three inches in diameter, but it can look forward to upward of 2,000 years of additional growth. At 30, a car is still considered “used” and not “classic” but most brands of roof shingles and pressure-treated lumber are still under warranty. An American at age 30 is below the median (36.8, for men) and is just now eligible to be elected to the United States Senate. An average American man will have been married just 18 months, but a woman will have been married three and a half years.

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Choosing the Power Supply

The power supply, or PSU as it is also known, is often overlooked by those building their first computer. It is essential that the PSU be chosen with care. Buying one that is not good enough for reliably supplying power to your computer can cause system instabilities at best and permanent damage to components at worst. An adequate power supply may cost considerably more than you hoped to spend, but it is something that should not be skimped on. The total power output of power supplies is measured in watts, but there is much more to a good power supply than just this. For a decent PSU for a mid- to high-end computer, expect to spend around $100.

Power Supply Requirements

For a very basic machine, a 500 watt power supply should be sufficient. However, it is also possible for a very reliable and high quality 500 watt PSU to supply power to a fairly powerful machine with a decent mid-range graphics card. You should never rely solely on the overall wattage of a power supply unless it is from an exceptionally good and widely respected brand. Even then, it is always a good idea to read the more detailed specifications The total wattage of a power supply is also only its maximum theoretical power output. Power supplies are never 100% efficient. A percentage of power always gets lost and converted to heat. For example, a 500 watt power supply will probably only ever be able to produce 400 watts consistently. The very best power supplies have an efficiency of around

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Choosing the Optical Drives

When building a new PC, buying an optical drive is normally only a minor consideration. DVD drives are used less and less on an everyday basis The optical drive is often used for nothing other than watching the occasional DVD or installing a program or game. Some laptop computers don’t even come with an optical drive.

DVD or Blu-Ray

Unless you plan to watch Blu-Ray movies on your computer or want to be able to copy data to 25 or 50 GB Blu-Ray discs, a Blu-Ray drive is not going to be of any use to you. Blu-Ray drives still cost two to three times more than DVD-RW drives Don’t buy one if you don’t need one. All PC programs and games are still supplied on DVD discs or obtained from the Internet, and this is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

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Choosing the Motherboard

The motherboard is one of the key components in a computer. It is what everything else in the machine connects to. Because of this, choosing the right motherboard can be a complicated decision. With regards to the performance of your new computer, the motherboard that you get will not make much difference, though some provide easier overclocking and performance tweaking possibilities. Choosing the motherboard has to be done with the other components in mind. It needs to be compatible with everything else. Many first-time system builders end up buying a kit which includes a compatible motherboard, CPU and memory. This saves a great deal of time. If you plan to choose your own, there are two important considerations: compatibility and connectivity


The first thing to consider is the CPU that you are planning to buy. This is not as simple as it might sound. Even if the motherboard has the correct socket for your CPU, it may not be compatible due to other issues To find out whether a motherboard is compatible with the exact model of the CPU you are planning to buy, be sure to check the manufacturer’s compatibility list.

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Choosing the Memory

The system memory, or RAM, is a vital component to any computer. More RAM means that you will be able to run more programs and run more demanding games and software. The price of RAM is generally dropping all the time, so there is rarely any need to skimp on memory. RAM is also exceptionally easy to upgrade. If you are building a new computer on a tight budget, you can always get less RAM now and upgrade later


The capacity of RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB). For an average or better home PC, 2 GB is the minimum you will want. If you are running a 32-bit system, the computer will only ever be able to recognize 3.2 GB of RAM at most, even if you have more than 4 GB installed. However, all but the most basic of new computers should be running a 64-bit operating system these days A 64-bit system can access all the RAM you have installed up to a total of 192 GB.

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