Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) spawned by the digital revolution are allowing the resurrection of an all-time great personal computer, the IBM PC, which this year celebrates its 40th birthday.
On August 12, 1981, IBM unveiled the 5150 personal computer, which enabled users to experience enhanced computing power at home. It had an Intel 8088 processor that was clocked at 16MHz, 16KB of RAM standard, as well as a 16-color graphics card. The price was $1,565, making it attractive to a wide audience of aspiring computer users.
The path to past computing glory will soon be available with the limited-edition collectible, 40th-anniversary collectible IBM PC NFT, thanks to Steven Brendtro, a “serial” FinTech entrepreneur who is the creator and Principal Artist of the IBM PC NFT Experience. He first encountered computers at six years old, when his father brought home a TI-99/4A for the family, soon followed by an IBM compatible PC. The IBM PC NFT Experience will be launched on August 12, the same day IBM unveiled this computing legend 40 years ago.
Brendtro’s interest in NFTs developed after he launched an asset-backed cryptocurrency business. “I wanted my first NFT project to be both fun and relevant, so I looked around to see what type of art collection might be a good fit. What I noticed was the vintage/retro vibe seemed to consistently resonate within the NFT community,” Brendtro said.
Looking through the Computer History Museum’s website got him thinking about his first computers. “It was then I discovered that 2021 is the 40th birthday of the IBM PC. It just all clicked. The IBM 5150 was the original PC—this is where it all started.”
Brendtro said the creation has been quite a journey. The research alone took significant effort because he wanted to keep the project historically accurate. “I dug for days before finding the original 1981 prices for the upgrades. Not many people thought to preserve this type of information,” he said.
The undertaking also was a learning experience for Brendtro. With a career in web development and software engineering, he had a solid understanding of design but never produced this amount of technical artwork from scratch. “I pretty much had to teach myself the workflow as I went. The front and back of just the computer itself took at least a month to put together, but every screw and sticker is precisely the right size and exactly where it should be, adding to the realism.”
NFTs exist on a blockchain, which is a distributed public ledger that records transactions. An NFT is created, or “minted,” from digital objects that represent either tangible or intangible items. These could include art, music, collectibles, videos, assets, and many other items. Depending on the NFT, buyers may also get exclusive ownership rights. The IBM PC NFT series is available through NeftyBlocks and Atomic Assets on the WAX Blockchain.
The IBM PC NFT Experience centers around digital trading cards that look much like traditional collectible trading cards but are released in NFT form. The limited-edition series features original artwork of the IBM 5150 PC and upgrades in exquisite detail.
There are four types of cards in the 5150 NFT series: PC, Common Upgrades, Rare Upgrades, and Elite Hacks. Their rarity ranges from around 1-of-100 for the most common design to a handful of extremely rare 1-of-1 designs. He said there are 1565 NFTs in the collection, the same number as the original $1,565 price of the IBM 5150.
“The cards are sold in packs, just like regular trading cards, waiting to be unboxed by their new owner,” Brendtro said. “The thrill is the same, as unboxing presents the cards inside the packs, and the owner sees their cards for the first time.”
“I wanted to make this project a learning experience as well, so each card is accompanied by a description of the item, why it was important, and a bit of fun history about it,” Brendtro said. As each new card type is unboxed, it will also appear on the project’s website. “NFTs are an exciting way to celebrate the foundations of personal computing and preserve this wonderful piece of history.”
In addition to the original IBM 5150 computer itself, a number of cards represent user-installed upgrades as they were available in 1981. “We have everything from 5.25-inch floppy drives to game controller adaptors, hard disks, memory expansion cards, joysticks, and more,” he said.
Brendtro said as part of the observation of the PC’s 40th birthday, a special one-of-a-kind birthday card was created. “This card is not available in the packs but only through auction. It’s going to be a rare collector’s item for sure!”
Brendtro said that he had much guidance from the NFT community during the creation. “Max and Duane at CSX Block Producer were a huge help, as were the teams at AtomicAssets, NeftyBlocks, and BountyBlock.”
As to the future, Brendtro is not sure what will happen after the Aug. 12 launch.
“The project is already taking on a life of its own through our free promo poster giveaways and the marketplace, so it’s hard to say what the future holds. I do know that once the collector cards are all sold, there’s an IBM emulator that will go online,” he said. “I want NFT holders to be able to boot up an authentic 1981 PC for the whole retro computing experience.”
“We may offer opportunities to ‘blend’ cards together, combining individual upgrade cards with a PC card. This would allow owners to create masterpieces of their own. Collectors could interactively create super-rare combinations to trade, or memorialize their first real-life IBM PC,” he said. Community members have even suggested partnering with R-Planet to add earning potential for NFT owners. “We’ll have to see where it all leads,” Brendtro said.
One thing is for certain, 40 years after its creation, the IBM PC is still finding itself useful in new and exciting ways.
Project Website: https://ibmpc.io