Back in 1995, our family got our very first Windows-based PC, the IBM Aptiva running Windows 95. I remember being in awe of this wondrous ivory tower of technological goodness, from the fast (LOL) dial-up modem, the CD-ROM drive where I could play games (like ‘Torin’s Passage‘) AND listen to music CDs, and that awesome mechanized door that covered the CD-ROM and 3.5″ disk drives (you remember, that little blue button you pressed and the cover would lower down; pure sweetness). Nowadays, IBM isn’t around as a consumer product anymore, due to their sale of that division to Lenovo in 2005, but I want to take a look back at the IBM Aptiva line and get a technical glimpse into that product line’s history.
The IBM Aptiva personal computer was introduced in September 1994 to replace the IBM PS/1, and all models included a modem and a standby/hibernation feature referred to as “rapid resume”. The first Aptiva models were based on the Intel 80486 CPU, while later models used the P5 (microarchitecture) Pentium AMD CPUs. All Aptiva’s were developed in-house, except for the later E series which was developed by Acer. The usually sold Aptiva computers bundles included: a monitor, 2 speakers, PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse. While the initial set of Aptiva models came packed with IBM PC DOS 6.3 and Windows 3.1, the later Pentium-based versions came equipped with Windows 95 and OS/2 ‘select-a-system’ (PC DOS 7/Windows 3.1 and OS/2 Warp) on certain available models. Sound and modem functionality was provided on M, A, C and S models by an IBM Mwave, but it encountered several compatibility and performance issues, so they were later replaced with standard modems and sound cards (owners were refunded to purchase the replacement parts as part of a settlement).
IBM even decided to take on Microsoft Windows/Office by developing and marketing Lotus SmartSuite and OS/2, but in retaliation Microsoft raised prices, gave a late license for Windows 95 and withheld technical and marketing support for IBM. It wasn’t until FIFTEEN MINUTES before the release of Windows 95 on August 24, 1995 when Microsoft granted OEM rights to IBM, and IBM was forced to sell initial releases of their computers without Windows 95; meanwhile Compaq, HP and other companies had Windows 95 on day one. The final Aptiva system was withdrawn in May 2001 without any direct replacement/updated model, as IBM made the decision to leave the personal computing market (sticking with integrated e-commerce and Internet technology solutions), being unable to compete with Compaq, Dell, and HP. Online community-based support for the Aptiva line (the most well-known being Don Schneider’s “DON5408’s Unofficial Aptiva Support Site”) continued up until October 31, 2008 when American Online discontinued its web hosting services.