Michael Dell, while still a student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1984, founded the company as PC’s Limited with just $1000. From Michael Dell’s on-campus dorm room at Dobie Center, the startup aimed to sell IBM-compatible computers built from stock components. Michael Dell started trading in the belief that by selling personal computer systems directly to customers, PC’s Limited could better understand customers’ needs and provide the most effective computing solutions to meet those needs.
In 1985, the company produced the first computer of its own design (the “Turbo PC”), which contained an Intel 8088-compatible processor running at a speed of 8 MHz. It advertised the systems in national computer magazines for sale directly to consumers, and custom-assembled each ordered unit according to a selection of options. This offered buyers prices lower than those of retail brands, but with greater convenience than assembling the components themselves. Although not the first company to use this model, PC’s Limited became one of the first to succeed with it. Michael Dell dropped out of school to run the business full-time. The company grossed more than $6 million in its first year.
In 1987, PC’s Limited set up its first on-site-service programs in order to compensate for the lack of local retailers prepared to act as service centers. Also in 1987, the company set up its first operations in the United Kingdom; eleven more international operations followed within the next four years. In 1988, Dell’s market capitalization grew by $30 million to $80 million on its initial public offering day. The company changed its name to “Dell Computer Corporation” in 1988.
In 1990, Dell Computers tried selling its products indirectly through warehouse clubs and computer superstores, but met with little success, and the company re-focused on its more successful direct-to-consumer sales model. In 1992, Fortune magazine included Dell Computer Corporation in its list of the world’s 500 largest companies. In 1999, Dell overtook Compaq to become the largest seller of personal computers in the United States of America. To recognize the company’s expansion beyond computers, the stockholders approved changing the company name to “Dell Inc.” at the annual company meeting in 2003. In March 2004 Dell attempted to expand by tapping into the multimedia and home entertainment markets with the introduction of televisions, handhelds, and digital jukeboxes. Dell has also produced Dell-brand printers for home and small-office use. On December 22, 2004, the company announced that it would build a new assembly plant near Winston-Salem, North Carolina; the city and county provided Dell with $37.2 million in incentive packages; the state provided approximately $250 million in incentives and tax breaks.