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Icons of Progress

The PC

Personal Computing Comes of Age

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • William C. Lowe 

    William Lowe

    Bill Lowe earned his bachelor of science degree in physics from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and joined IBM in 1962 as a product test engineer. In 1975, he was named director of development and manufacturing operations for the General Systems Division. By the end of 1978, he was lab director of the division’s Boca Raton, Florida, site. In this capacity, Lowe approached the IBM® Corporate Management Committee (CMC) recommending the company purchase a microcomputer designed for small businesses and consumers to sell under the IBM name, or develop their own. He was given a month to come up with a prototype. Lowe put together a task force to develop the proposal and prototype. It was approved by the CMC, which then gave the group one year to bring the microcomputer to market. Soon after, Lowe was promoted to vice president of the Information Systems Division and general manager of IBM's Rochester, Minnesota, facility. Don Estridge took over the microcomputer project.

  • Phillip “Don” Estridge 

    Phillip Estridge
    Don Estridge is known as the “Father of the IBM PC”

    Don Estridge graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He joined IBM in June 1959 as a junior engineer, and held various positions in the Federal Systems Division and the General Systems Division throughout his career with the company. In 1981, Estridge was named director of Entry Systems Business, and took over responsibility for development of the IBM PC. He led the team of engineers tasked with bringing the PC to market within the one-year timeline dictated by the CMC. To meet this deadline, he made the decision to go to outside vendors for many components, including common hardware parts, the operating system and application software. He also decided on an open architecture for the IBM PC, allowing other manufacturers to produce and sell peripheral components and compatible software. Estridge later became general manager of Entry Level Systems, and was appointed IBM vice president in 1984. At the time of his death in a 1985 plane crash, more than one million IBM personal computers had been sold. In 1999, Estridge was identified in CIO Magazine as one of the people who “invented the enterprise.”

  • William Sydnes 

    Bill Sydnes received a bachelor of science degree from Florida Atlantic University, and is a graduate of the IBM Executive Development Program at Cornell University. At IBM, Sydnes was manager of the IBM 5120 desktop computer, which was developed on time and on budget. So Bill Lowe selected Sydnes to lead the team of 12 hardware engineers working on the prototype for the microcomputer. At the time, IBM had no microprocessor ready for release, so Sydnes decided to use the Intel® 8088 processor. He also chose Microsoft to supply the operating system and compiler. Sydnes accompanied Lowe to the CMC review, and noted at the time that other open and processing standards would be adopted to keep down costs. He went on to serve as product manager for the IBM PC Junior before leaving IBM in 1983.

  • Jack Sams 

    Jack Sams was the engineer in charge of software development for the prototype. He had worked on the IBM System/23, and had spent a year building the BASIC compiler for it, pushing the product behind schedule. He didn’t want to repeat the same struggle with the new microcomputer, so he decided to license most of the software from an outside company. Sams met with Bill Gates to evaluate whether Microsoft could handle the task of writing a BASIC compiler for the IBM PC. This led to his recommendation to William Lowe that they use Microsoft software in the final product. In addition, when he was unable to make a deal with Digital Research Intergalactic for the operating system, Sams and his team turned to Microsoft. This led to the development of an operating system released by IBM as PC-DOS and by Microsoft as MS-DOS. The rest, as they say, is history.

  • H. L. “Sparky” Sparks 

    H. L. Sparks was responsible for marketing, communications, sales and service, for what some industry observers have called the “most successful new product launch in history.” He got Sears Roebuck and ComputerLand executives involved early in the project, and relied on these retailers for important knowledge of the marketplace. They became the main sales outlets for the IBM PC. Sparks later developed the IBM authorized dealer network, before moving on to Compaq as vice president of sales and service.

  • Dave Bradley 

    He is credited by some for inventing the "Control-Alt-Delete" key combination that was used to reboot the computer.

    Dave Bradley began at IBM after receiving a PhD from Purdue in 1975. He worked on the IBM Series/1 system, and in 1978, he developed the I/O system for the IBM System/23 Datamaster. Bradley was one of 12 engineers assigned to the microcomputer project. Bradley developed the ROM BIOS for the PC, and is credited by some for inventing the Control-Alt-Delete key combination to reboot the computer. This was meant to be used for developers, who found it so useful, they revealed the code to the public. Bradley went on to manage the BIOS and diagnostics for the IBM PC XT, and development of the Personal System 2 Model 30. He continued at IBM in various roles until his retirement in 2004. He holds seven US patents.

  • William W. Eggleston 

    Bill Eggleston holds bachelor of arts and master of science degrees from the University of Michigan. He joined IBM as a sales representative in 1953, where he held several positions in marketing and product management before joining the Systems Development Division in 1966. In 1979, he became president of the General Products Division, where he was involved in the IBM PC project early on. Eggleston attended the CMC review with Bill Lowe and Bill Sydnes, where the initial prototype was presented. In September 1982, he was named directeur general des services techniques et fonctionnels, IBM Europe, and a member of the board of directors of IBM World Trade Europe/Middle East/Africa Corporation. Three years later, he became vice president of quality.