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The IBM System/23 Datamaster – Throwback Tech Thursday

The year was 1981. It was a time that saw many important things of historical significance. It was when the Iran hostage crisis ended. The space shuttle, Columbia, was launched. Princess Di married Charles, and most importantly – it was the year that Raiders of the Lost Ark hit the cinemas. July 28, 1981, was an especially important time for the tech world. It was the year that IBM introduced their first desktop, the Datamaster.

The intention of the Datamaster was to be an all-in-one computer that didn’t need computer specialists to set it up. The computer was also known as the System/23 Datamaster. This computer was designed to keep in line with their goal of shrinking the size and cost of computing. They felt that this system with its combination of word processing and data processing would offer “small businesses the big benefits of information processing.”

According to IBM, the Datamaster consisted of, “a viewing screen, keyboard and diskette drives”. It offered customers the choice of two printers. In terms of memory, it offered 4.4 megabytes. The computer was aimed towards businesses and was equipped with  Business Management Accounting and Word Processing programming.

IBM tells us that the cost of the computer at the time was $9,830 – which made it their least expensive small business system.

The Datamaster TV campaign

A month later, in August 1981, IBM launched their first PC, the 5150. While there was such a thing as a PC prior to this, IBM pretty much took over the name. Consequently, the PC or Personal Computer became synonymous with the brand. The PC was built with open architecture, which meant third-party suppliers could sell software that could be used on it. This is where the famous phrase “IBM compatible” came from. Much of what was on offer in the 5150 was as a result of what was with the Datamaster.

Even more information on the IBM System/23 Datamaster can be read in the IBM archive here.

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