IBM-5150 “Alice”

Alice is an all original IBM Personal Computer. At first she was just a twinge of memory; a glimpse into the past, if you will… Alice got her start as a conversation several years ago between a co-worker named Sean, and I. We were talking about how bad the keyboards at our desks were. Sean suddenly brought up the “clicky” keyboards IBM manufactured so many years ago. I remembered these keyboards from my college days, so I started looking for one. Our office is filled with computer geeks, so I started asking people I knew, and eventually, a keyboard showed up. It was Sean himself who had brought it in. Sadly, upon checking out the keyboard, it was not the venerable model M I had learned about during my searches, but a rather good keyboard nonetheless. The keyboard Sean brought in was a model KB-8923, which was manufactured after the introduction of Windows 95. It was a good board, but still not the same, so I kept looking.

Eventually a real Model M keyboard came into my possession. I fell in love with it immediately. But, that was only the beginning! That one keyboard, which is currently being used to compose this document, has become the only keyboard I will use as far as I can see. It also brought back memories of working with a similar keyboard and more importantly, the computer I used while in College. That computer, little did I know, would turn out to be a project that would take over eighteen months to complete. But I wanted one. I didn’t know the model, or much about any of it at all for that matter. All I knew what it was the computer in the labs I had access to back in 1981 and 1982. The computer had two large 5 ¼” floppy drives, no hard disk, and a monochrome display. As I remember, the display was green, but I had seen some with a plain black and white, or even amber. The green display was standard IBM. Other colors available were due to the differences in manufacturer; mostly third parties.

This is the first setup used with the IBM 5150 PC after it arrived. The system had not been named until later on in the refurbishment process. In fact, it wasn’t until after I received the IBM 5161 that the computer finally got it’s name. As you can see in the accompanying photos, the computer arrived in its original boxes. That was an especially nice touch. When I initially purchased this computer, having the original boxes was one of its selling points. And, rather than taking the chance of having any or all of the system damaged somehow during transport, my wife and I decided that we could wait a couple of months to get the computer, so we called one of my wife’s brothers, and asked if he wouldn’t mind making the buy for us, and of course, we would send him a check prior to his meeting with the seller. He agreed, so we went ahead with our plan. My wife picked up the computer system on her way home from taking a trip to Southern California. That also saved us almost $125.00 in shipping fees as well.

Everything seemed to be in great condition, and later I found out why. This particular PC was placed back in storage in the early 1990’s. Before that it was on display in a computer repair shop. It was there that the computer saw most of its abuse, as I’ll explain in a moment. When my wife got the system home we proceeded to un-box it in our living room. There were no marks, scratches, discoloration or any kind of flaws in the computer case, nor on the monitor, but there was one small spot on the keyboard where someone has used a permanent ink marker. There was also something similar on the space bar as well. Oh, well. A little cleaning took care of that. All of the metallic labels were perfectly intact, and none were missing. To the rear, none of the expansion bay covers were missing either. This computer really was turning out to be everything the seller said it was.

We did have a good scare while removing the main PC from its box though. As we finally freed the computer from is confining cardboard; we both noticed a rather startling rattle coming from inside! We boththought there was something seriously wrong, so I immediately opened the case only to find that someone had stuck a small number of coins into the PC through either one of the floppy drives, or an open slot. As it so happens, it was probably both. (As I discovered later) After removing the money; all $0.38, we put the computer back together, and proceeded to boot the system. As far as we could tell, it was AOK. Since there were no floppy disks, I had to rely on what I could see, and what I saw was the computer going through its normal routines and booting to BASIC.






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