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Lowe, father of IBM personal computer, dies at 72

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TAMMY WEBBER | October 31, 2013 02:28 PM EST | AP

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CHICAGO (AP) — William C. Lowe had a bold idea: IBM should develop a personal computer that could be mass marketed, expanding the company's reach beyond businesses and into people's homes.

That was in 1980. One year later, the IBM 5150 personal computer was selling out at stores for $1,565, not including a monitor.

Lowe, who was credited with fostering collaboration within the computer industry, died on Oct. 19 in Illinois of a heart attack, his daughter Michelle Marshall said. He was 72.

Marshall said she didn't realize the magnitude of what her father helped accomplish until she was an adult.

"I'm so incredibly proud of him ... he's touched everything," Marshall said Wednesday. "If he hadn't taken a risk and had the chutzpah he did to make it happen, it could have taken so many more years before everyone had a computer on their desktop."

Other companies were making PCs as early as the 1970s, but IBM was behind the curve. Lowe was a lab director when he convinced his bosses that he could assemble a team to build a personal computer in a year.

Lowe and his team were able to develop the IBM PC so quickly by adopting open architecture — using parts and software from outside vendors, including Microsoft, according to IBM's website.

Despite his accomplishments, Marshall said, her father didn't really learn how to use a PC until he left IBM and was working at Xerox.

"He was a slow adapter, but he understood the implication," she said.

A sports nut, her dad approached everything as a game. "He would tackle it; he was relentless," she said.

She said her father grew up poor in Pennsylvania and was the first person in his family to go to college.

Lowe joined IBM in 1962, when he finished college with a physics degree.

He went on to serve as an IBM vice president and president of its entry systems division, which oversaw the development and manufacturing of IBM's personal computers and other businesses. He left the company in 1988 to work for Xerox, and later became president of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.

Messages left for IBM spokespeople weren't returned.

Lowe also is survived by wife, Cristina Lowe, four other children — Julie Kremer, James Lowe, Gabriela Lowe and William Daniel Lowe — and 10 grandchildren.