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Pivot, aka Evolution

Dell is readying a campaign to promote its new image—a radical turn from hardware to software. But news coverage of Dell's early days (when it was called PC ’s Limited) is a good reminder that change is natural—for every company.

Pivot, aka Evolution

[Illustration by Chris Philpot]

Problems the young PC’s Limited tackled in the 1980s:

Slow processing

"When a computer is doing a time-consuming task, one is left wondering whether it has simply quit. [PC’s Limited’s] red lights allow one to sip coffee while waiting, secure that the computer is working."*
The New York Times, 1987

Storage space

"Not only has the 20-megabyte hard disk on my original IBM XT long since overflowed, but the 40-megabyte one on the PC's Limited 286 is also about to give me a 'disk full' error message."
The New York Times, 1987

IBM lust

"When IBM introduces its own version of [a new processor], PC's Limited simply will ship its customers a disc and the machine will be transformed into a copy of the IBM product."
San Francisco Examiner, 1986

Pricey technology

"[PC's Limited] takes the unusual approach of selling computers through the mail, which holds down costs. It's hard to find this kind of power for under $5,000."
The Dallas Morning News, 1986

*Quotes abbreviated for space

A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.