Announced by GSD in July 1981 — one month before the IBM Personal Computer — the System/23 Datamaster was another demonstration of IBM's efforts to shrink the size and cost of computing. The new system combined word processing and data processing in a machine to give small businesses the big benefits of information processing.
With a viewing screen, keyboard and diskette drives packaged in a single desktop console, the Datamaster was designed to be taken out of the carton, set up, checked out and operated by first-time users. It offered a choice of two printers, up to 4.4 megabytes of diskette storage, along with Business Management Accounting and Word Processing programming.
The IBM System/23 Datamaster could include two computer workstations (as shown above), which permitted two people to use the system simultaneously. Datamaster could be used for a wide variety of commercial applications in both small businesses and larger companies with standalone data processing needs within departments.
A full-function data processing installation, with a single computer workstation and an 80 character-per-second printer, cost $9,830, making Datamaster IBM's lowest-priced small business system. The cost of the word processing option, with associated hardware and software, ranged from $1,100 to $2,200.
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But it was the IBM Personal Computer, announced in August 1981-- and its immediate descendants — that took the features and characteristics of all these early small computers and provided them in one incredibly utilitarian machine. With the PC, the widest possible range of users could now perform with a single product all of the functions which had up until then been optimized in such offerings as the 5100, Displaywriter and 5520. If the IBM Personal Computer signaled the dawn of a new era in computing, then its quick ascent to mass acceptance and success had been made possible by those little remembered IBM pioneers that had come before.