When you ask someone about the "PS/2", they are more likely to say one thing: the Play Station 2. However, the Personal System/2 was the successor to the infamous IBM PC line.
The IBM PS/2 (Personal System/2) line of computers was a response to the massive IBM PC-clone market which grew shortly after the IBM PC 5150 was introduced in August 1981. IBM created the PS/2 computer mainly for businesses, ranging from the simple Model 25 to the Model 80 and 90, which were designed to be servers. IBM also produced the PS/1 computer for home and small business use.
The IBM PS/2 was originally released in 1987. IBM's OS/2 (Operating System/2) operating system was released in 1987 with the PS/2, which wasn't nearly as popular as Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system and Windows "operating environment."
The PS/2 boasted the then-new Microchannel architecture on the planar board. The PS/2 created many new standards in the PC industry, such as the IBM PS/2 keyboard and mice port, and VGA display port.
The later PS/2 computers utilized 386SLC or 486SLC processors. The SLC, or "Super Little Chip", was a product of IBM's own design team adding on to what Intel had produced. IBM had a special license to modify the chip designs (wafers) to produce SLC models. Later, IBM (although not much later) partnered with Apple Computer and Motorola to produce the PowerPC processors, under the "AIM" (Apple-IBM-Motorola) alliance.
The PS/2 computers also came equipped with the IBM Model M keyboard, which utilized the then-new PS/2 keyboard and mice connection standard. The Model M keyboard is highly sought after, especially as a collectors item, to this day because of its excellent tactile response (thanks to the buckling-spring key switches), and the crisp (yet loud) sound it made while typing. While Lenovo and some other manufacturers sell other keyboards with great tactile response and crisp sounds, many people say the Model M will never be beat. The Model M was in production until just a couple years ago, although it was made by Leximark (an IBM spinoff) during the 1990s.
Luggables to Portables to Laptops
In 1989, IBM released the PS/2 P70. The P70 was the first portable (or, due to it's great size, "luggable") PS/2, based on the PS/2 Model 70 desktop. The P70 was based on the Intel 386DX microprocessor. The P70 included a 3.5" floppy disk drive, which was problematic for many due to its odd orientation. The drive was mounted so that it swung out when the case was opened. Debris could easily fall into the drive, especially since it had no shutters, and damage it. The P70 also featured a neon-backlit screen, which was greatly improved over the previous PC Convertible which preceeded it, although the backlit ate much of the battery life away. The display was better than the non-backlit LCD panel in the Macintosh Portable from Apple, which was introduced in September of the same year. The P70 was replaced by the P75, released in 1990.
The P70 and P75 were replaced with the N33 (Note 33) and N51. The N33 and N51 heavily inspired the ThinkPad which was released in 1992, and is still manufactured today.
Marketing the PS/2
Unlike with the PC line, IBM decided not to use Charlie Chaplin in their advertisements. Despite Chaplin not being the central "spokesperson" for the PS/2 line, he did appear in the "PS/2 It!" line of commercials for one second, as the camera pans across the skyscraper to the screen (see below.)
There was a jingle in the PS/2 commercials, which went like:
"How ya' gonna' do it?
How ya' gonna do it?
Earlier commercials starred the cast from the hit TV series, M*A*S*H. (See below.)
Was the PS/2 a "Failure"?
Yes and no. It was a failure when put into the shadow of the PC that was released six years earlier. However, the PC was groundbreaking, and creating something which would top it would have been nearly impossible.
However, the PS/2 did bring some nice innovations to the PC industry. The PS/2 somewhat failed at IBM's original goal to stop clone manufacturers from cloning their computers. The Microchannel architecture used in the PS/2 did not last long, and was not popular amongst clone manufacturers. Various aspects of the PS/2 design, including the BIOS and even the PS/2 ports were utilized by clone manufacturers, although many clone manufacturers used third-party BIOSes made by companies such as Award Software, Phoenix, and American Megatrends, whereas IBM made their own.
The PS/2, however, did have a lasting impact on the PC industry. One thing that found its way into clone machines and other computers was the VGA port. The VGA port was developed by IBM for use on the PS/2, as a replacement for the EGA and CGA graphics used in the PC line.
Around the end of the PS/2 series, the PS/2e computer was introduced. The PS/2e was a compact, energy-efficient computer. The PS/2e was Energy-Star compliant. The compact case was made possible by smaller parts, such as the much more compact hard disk drives, and reasonably smaller power supply units. The PS/2e was much more efficient in stark contrast to the PS/2 Model 90, which had a full power supply and could be used as a server or powerful workstation.
Between 1992 and 1995, IBM sold the "Personal System/Value Point" (PS/VP or PS/ValuePoint) to consumers. This was a "watered-down" version of the PS/2 that was sold to consumers and small businesses. The PS/VP cost much less than the PS/2 and PS/1. The PS/VP was replaced in 1995 by the PC Series.
All in all, the PS/2 was not a total failure, but failed to beat the legacy which the PC line put into place.
The End of an Era
Sadly, the PS/2 died around 1992, but remained in production until 1994 (albeit under the PS/2e and PS/VP names.) IBM released the IBM PS/ValuePoint in 1992, and later the Aptiva replaced the PS/1. The Aptiva and PS/ValuePoint were consolidated into the NetVista and, eventually, the ThinkCentre lines.