Dell is celebrating 30 years since the company was founded as a PC system builder by Michael Dell. The period has seen the firm grow massively to become one of the largest IT providers in the world today.

The story of Dell is remarkable because it reads like the American Dream made real: a young student spots a business opportunity and goes on to found a global multi-billion dollar company.

Michael Dell was one of the early PC pioneers who realised that you could often build a better system by putting together off-the-shelf components rather than by buying a ready-made PC from a dealer or reseller.

Dell started doing this from his dormitory room while studying at the University of Texas in Austin, and was soon doing so well that he decided to drop out of college to pursue the business full time.

This early focus on customer requirements has served the company well, and is still a central part of the firm's ethos. In more recent years, it often insisted on supporting all the technology options that customers might choose, rather than trying to force them to go down a particular path.

Founded as PC's Limited on 3 May 1984, the firm was soon building its own PC systems, and gaining a reputation for producing quality kit based on the latest technology.

During the nineties, Dell rode the direct selling wave as consumers and small businesses flocked to buy Windows PCs at an affordable price point. In the UK in particular, PC vendors were popping up everywhere to meet the demand, and many of these were little more than two-man outfits operating out of a lock-up garage. Against this competition, Dell was seen as the safe option for many businesses.

Soon, Dell was also selling into the enterprise market, building and supplying servers as well as selling desktop and laptop systems.

However, since the turn of the millennium, Dell has, like many other PC vendors, found it necessary to diversify as the huge demand for new systems began to slow and then decline.

Consequently, the firm has expanded into printing, storage, networking and IT services, making a number of key acquisitions along the way such as Compellent, EqualLogic, Credant Technologies, Wyse, Force10 Networks and Perot Systems.