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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."


Electronic Arts ships The Sims: Designed by Will Wright, The Sims allows players to guide simulated people through their everyday lives. Though its game play is somewhat snoozy, The Sims promptly claims the throne as the bestselling computer game of all time, consuming countless hours as players try to optimize the lives of their artificial creations.


Windows XP arrives: Merging Windows 2000 and ME into a unified, 32-bit operating system, Windows XP becomes the most successful operating system in Microsoft's history.


Tablet PCs debut: Although tablets existed well before Microsoft's Tablet PC specifications, those based on Windows XP Tablet PC Edition are the first such devices to gain widespread attention. Although they fail to achieve significant market penetration, they succeed in laying the groundwork for Windows 8 tablets.


AMD delivers the first 64-bit x86 CPU: Beating Intel to the punch, AMD ships the Athlon 64, which offers both 64-bit registers and 64-bit memory addressing in its architecture. Microsoft starts building a version of Windows to support 64-bit, spurring Intel to deliver its own x86-64 product two years later.


Intel Pentium M arrives: Developed by Intel's Israel-based design team, the Pentium M CPU is a heavily modified Pentium III that emphasizes power efficiency over raw clock speed (unlike the Pentium 4, Intel's then mainstay). The M serves as the precursor to the company's Core processor line.


Apple switches to Intel CPUs: With its personal computers hitting a performance and power-efficiency dead end due to their reliance on PowerPC CPUs, Apple adopts Intel's processors and natively ports its OS and applications to Intel's architecture.


Intel ships the Core 2 Duo: The chip maker puts its Pentium 4 architecture to rest with the Core 2 Duo CPU. Even though the new processor runs at a lower clock speed, its greater instruction-set efficiency allows Intel to retake the performance crown from arch rival AMD. Core 2 Duo uses substantially less power and runs cooler than AMD's offerings, too.


Apple iPhone premieres: Apple's iPhone reinvents smartphones, becoming hugely successful and eventually prompting Google to enter the mobile OS business. Microsoft takes note of the iPhone's success too, later incorporating touch and user-interface simplicity into its own PC and mobile operating systems.


Laptops outsell desktops: Mobility becomes the primary focus of computer design, as the widespread adoption of Wi-Fi and dropping prices encourage users to flock to laptops. In many instances, a laptop becomes the only PC that a person owns.


Windows 7 is released: After the critical, if not financial, failure of Windows Vista, Windows 7 proves to be the comeback that Microsoft needs. Substantially streamlined and more responsive than its predecessor, Windows 7 is the OS that allows Microsoft to pull the plug on Windows XP. Windows 7 also leads the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit computing, eventually selling more 64-bit copies than 32-bit versions.


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