Attack of the Clones
November 4, 1982: First IBM Compatible PC Clone
Compaq announces their Compaq Portable PC, one of the early portable computer designs and, more significantly, the first successful IBM-compatible PC clone. Compaq eventually succeeded because they took considerable care in creating their product on two fronts.
First, they created the first 100% IBM-compatible BIOS, the only proprietary component of the IBM PC. Spending $1 million to reverse engineer the IBM BIOS using clean-room techniques, this also allowed them to avoid copyright infringement charges. Second, they were legally and financially prepared for the inevitable lawsuit IBM would bring against then, which was dismissed as expected.
Compaq’s efforts were also possible because IBM had used mostly off-the-shelf parts for their PC, and because Microsoft had kept the right to license MS-DOS to other computer manufacturers.
Thus a few guys from Houston, getting together to design the first true PC clone, beginning as a place mat sketch at a Houston restaurant no less, opened the Pandora’s Box starting the flood of IBM-compatible clones. Sure, at nearly 30 pounds it wasn’t a lightweight, but it was “portable” and, most importantly, you could run Flight Simulator on it.
The PC sold for a price of $3,590, this “luggable” suitcase-sized computer was an early all-in-one computer. Compaq sold 53,000 units in the first year and set revenue records for American businesses in its first three years of operation.