25 years on from the first IBM, poll shows it's a PC world

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It may not fit into your pocket or entertain you at the mere flick of a button, but the PC heads a list of must-have technological inventions, according to a YouGov poll released yesterday to celebrate 25 years of the personal computer. Mobile phones, televisions and washing machines were all pipped to the post by the PC when it came to thinking about the one innovation that consumers could not live without.

In the quarter of a century that has passed since the first IBM PC went on sale, on 12 August 1981, computers have become the gateway to a world of information courtesy of the internet. PC users today can live the science fiction dreams of those early adopters in the 1980s.

The first machine, the IBM 5150, retailed at $1,565 - or around £2,500 in today's money. Bigger than some ovens, the original PC had just 16K of memory. That means it could barely store a couple of modest e-mails, in stark contrast to the machines of today.

At best, that early PC had a maximum 256kb of memory, around 8,000 times less than today's standard models.

Although IBM's machine was not the first attempt to bring computers to the masses, it came to be the model that defined the global standard. The term PC morphed into shorthand for machines that were compatible with IBM's specifications. Initially, rival models used IBM's BIOS software in return for a licence fee.

Keith Jones, managing director of PC World, said: "In the last few years the PC has started to move from the spare room into the living room as we use our PCs for films, games, e-mail, instant message and much, much, more."

PC World, Britain's biggest chain of computing superstores - which is owned by DSG international - is testing the market for a "connected home" service in two of its outlets, which offers consumers the chance to install integrated PC technology into their homes.

YouGov's poll showed that one-third of its 2,500 respondents said they could not live without PCs and the access they provided to the world wide web, compared with 19 per cent who chose televisions as their preferred innovation, 20 per cent who opted for washing machines and 7 per cent who selected mobile phones.

To cope with the rise in numbers of baffled consumers who cannot make their PCs do what they want, DSG is poised to roll out its chain of computer help stores, called Press F1.