In the beginning ...

GCN's 25th anniversary

GCN marks its 25th anniversary this year (it debuted in December 1982), and we will devote a little space in each issue to some of the significant IT developments of the past quarter-century. We'll start at the beginning, with the shape of things in the year of GCN's birth, 1982, when Time magazine named the computer its 'Man of the Year.'


The IBM PC, also known as the 5150, wasn't IBM Corp.'s first microcomputer, but it was the company's first successful one. Introduced the year before, in January 1982 the IBM PC's CPU measured 20-by-16-by-5 inches, weighed about 28 pounds and had a honking 4.77-MHz Intel 8088 processor, 16KB of RAM and 40KB of ROM, and ran Microsoft's PC-DOS. It cost $2,945. Extra RAM (it could expand to 256KB), a monitor with color graphics adapter, basic printer and couple of other extras could push the price above $5,000.

The first virus known to spread 'in the wild' was called Elk Cloner, written by 15-year-old Richard Skrenta and aimed at the Apple II OS. It circulated via floppy disks, which were often exchanged among users, displaying a harmless, if annoying, rhyming verse every 50th time an infected computer booted up.

The emoticon, or smiley, familiar in e-mail as :-) and other forms, began appearing after Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University came up with the idea of using keyboard characters to express emotions in text.

The Compact Disk was introduced in Japan.

Freeware got its start when Andrew Fluegelman marketed the PC-Talk communications software in a way that requested voluntary payment from users and let them copy and share the software. At the same time, Jim Knopf took a similar tack with his PC-File program. Fluegelman trademarked the term "freeware", and in early '83, Bob Wallace coined the term "shareware" for his PC-Write word processing program.


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