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30 years of PCWorld, 30 pivotal moments in PC history

Loyd Case | March 5, 2013
Talk about longevity. Thirty years ago to this month, PCWorld published its very first print issue, a 310-page magazine loaded with essential news, reviews, and features about IBM PCs and compatible "clones."


Windows 3.0 ships: Transforming a simple graphical file manager into the main way that users interact with their PCs, Windows 3.0 en­­ables a staggering 16MB of addressable memory. Applications vendors support it in droves.


PCI Bus is developed: The Peripheral Component Interconnect, created by Intel, makes life vastly easier for PC users and manufacturers. PCI (the eventual progenitor of PCI Express) permits auto­configuration of interface cards, improved speeds, and enhanced interoperability.


AMD wins legal right to sell x86 clone CPUs: In 1982, to satisfy IBM's desire for a second source of x86 chips, Intel licenses AMD to make them. Intel cancels the agreement in 1986, however, and AMD disputes the decision, prompting a protracted legal battle. AMD wins the right to continue making x86 CPUs in 1992, though court appeals last into 1994. AMD's competition eventually drives Intel to abandon the Pentium 4 for its more power-efficient Core CPUs.


Mosaic Web browser is released: Built at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Mosaic is not the earliest graphical Web browser, but it rapidly becomes the most popular, and serves as the precursor to all modern Web browsers. Mosaic's lead programmer, Marc Andreessen, goes on to found Netscape.


Windows 95 launches: Windows 95 turns what was a shell on top of DOS into a complete operating system. The new release effectively kills off MS-DOS. Through clever programming, Windows 95 spans both 32-bit and 16-bit applications. One of its innovations--which initially puzzles users--is the Start menu.


First significant 3D chips ship: The first instances of truly gaming-capable 3D accelerators, the Rendition Vérité 1000 and the 3dfx Voodoo, set the stage for a new generation of graphics cards. It's a development that drives a stake into the heart of old-school VGA and "Windows accelerator" cards.


USB emerges: In contrast to serial and parallel ports, which can be finicky and headache-inducing, USB enables self-configuring devices, vastly simplifying the chore of hooking up keyboards, mice, and cameras, and spawning the USB flash memory key industry.


DVD players and discs go on sale: DVD drives eventually come to computers and become the last standard optical drive to see almost universal adoption, as Blu-ray later fails to achieve widespread market penetration in PCs.


DMCA passes: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits the reverse engineering of content-protection schemes, becomes law. The DMCA exempts Internet sites from copyright liability provided that they comply with DMCA takedown notices.


802.11a/b standards are ratified: The first 802.11 standards for wireless networking are adopted, and the Wi-Fi Alliance is founded to promote and certify products based on the standard. Wi-Fi goes on to become one of the widest-implemented networking technologies, and is hugely popular with both business users and consumers.


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