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Questions tagged [ibm-pc]

For questions about the early IBM PC, clones and compatible systems.

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104
votes
21answers
35k views

Was there ever any reason to wait 30 seconds to restart a c.1995 PC?

I owned a PC in the mid-to-late 90s, and while everyone said when you turn it off and back on again, count to 30. But it also had an instant reset button down below. Was there ever really any risk ...
91
votes
1answer
26k views

Why did MS-DOS applications built using Turbo Pascal fail to start with a division by zero error on faster systems?

On faster MS-DOS systems, it wasn't entirely uncommon for applications built using Borland's Turbo Pascal to fail to start, and (before exiting back to the command prompt) to report a division by zero ...
64
votes
8answers
16k views

Why did IBM make the PC BIOS source code public?

IBM released the IBM 5150 Technical Reference manual in August, 1981, and included in it the fully commented source code listing for the BIOS. I find this odd for two reasons: IBM must have realized ...
58
votes
3answers
17k views

What is the “two-drive trick” that can read Amiga disks on a PC?

Standard belief is that the floppy disk controllers used on PCs are incapable of reading Amiga floppy disks, due to the PC disk controller expecting a very specific low-level format of disks, whilst ...
50
votes
3answers
12k views

Who set the 640K limit?

We all know that "640K should be enough for everyone". But who actually set this limit? The quote is often attributed to Bill Gates, but it doesn't seem like a decision for an Operating System vendor ...
48
votes
2answers
8k views

On DOS computers, what would the PARK command do?

In 1994 or so, we had an old computer at my primary school. I remember finding out that it had a park command. From reading its documentation, it said that this command should be executed prior to ...
47
votes
5answers
16k views

What did the 'turbo' button actually do?

I remember the computer I played Commander Keen on as a child had a turbo button that I was forbidden to touch, what did this button actually do?
47
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10answers
8k views

Why was preemptive multitasking so slow in coming to consumer OS's?

Preemptive (rather than cooperative) multitasking was a highly-touted feature for PC's in 1996, with its inclusion in Windows 95 for the first time. It was also highly-touted for 2001 Macs when ...
43
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2answers
7k views

Did IBM encourage Bill Gates to retain the rights over PC-DOS?

As is well-known, Microsoft's negotiations with IBM to deliver PC-DOS 1.0 with the original IBM PC resulted in: IBM licensing the OS from Microsoft, as opposed to purchasing it outright. Microsoft ...
42
votes
9answers
12k views

Why did the IBM PC need a sound card?

The original IBM PC and later variants used an Intel 8253 or 8254 as a sound chip. Why did users add sound cards such as the Adlib or Sound Blaster. I remember voice output with programs like ...
42
votes
8answers
10k views

Why weren't bootable game disks ever common on the IBM PC?

While for other platforms of that era (primarily, Amiga), putting a game on a bootable disk was quite a normal practice, this approach never taken off on IBM PC. Why not? I do remember people having ...
42
votes
2answers
4k views

Locked-up DOS computer beeped on keypress. What mechanism caused that?

Long time ago I had an old IBM PS/2 that I had fished out of a dumpster. It ran IBM DOS 5.0 and was a solid little machine. Occasionally I would encounter the following scenario, and I recently ...
41
votes
2answers
9k views

Why were some early PC 3D cards unsuitable for 2D graphics?

Some of the early PC 3D graphics cards such as the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics cards had a passthrough port to enable them to switch to a secondary card to display 2D graphics. I am curious to know why these ...
35
votes
7answers
8k views

How did Apple fail to tap the business and scientific markets?

Currently reading an excellent book called Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer, which is just what it says on the tin; highly recommended to anyone who wants to ...
32
votes
18answers
11k views

What were the real competitors to the early IBM PC?

As I understand it, PC was not really competitive with Home computers until the 90’s. The PCs rise in popularity in the 80s must have been mainly in the business world. So during that time, what ...
31
votes
4answers
5k views

What was the IBM PC cost saving for using the 8088 vs 8086?

The decision to use the 8088, a version of the 8086 with the data bus restricted to 8 bits, in the original IBM PC, seems strange on the face of it, certainly hurt performance and intuitively shouldn'...
28
votes
3answers
6k views

Why separate cursor keys?

The original IBM PC keyboard didn't have separate cursor keys; the numeric keypad doubled as such. It wasn't long, however, until a new keyboard was introduced that did have separate cursor keys (so ...
28
votes
5answers
3k views

Does every retrocomputer and console with NTSC composite output have 'artifact color' ability?

Artifact color is heavily associated with the Apple ][, since that is the only method the machine had to produce a color display. I was looking at the fantastic demo for IBM PC + CGA, 8088MPH, and I ...
27
votes
10answers
15k views

How to get started writing C for the IBM PC in 1980-81

Suppose it's late 1980 to early 1981, you've got some software you want to write for the IBM PC which will be released later in 1981, want to get started ASAP, and believe C is the right language for ...
27
votes
2answers
10k views

Looking for PC graphics demo software from the early 90s called “Unreal”

Back in the early 90's I remember downloading a graphics demo called, I think, "Unreal". This was on DOS on a standard PC and probably downloaded from a BBS. Identifying information: It ran for ...
26
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6answers
15k views

Is it true that control+alt+delete only became a thing because IBM would not build Bill Gates a computer with a task manager button?

Is it true that ctrl+alt+del only became a thing because IBM would not build Bill Gates a computer with a button specifically for the task manager? Making it so that Microsoft had to develop a ...
26
votes
2answers
2k views

Why did connecting the IBM PC 3.5" FDD backwards cause the problems it did?

When the 3.5" FDD was introduced for the IBM PC and compatibles (or possibly earlier), someone made a decision to make the data cable between the controller and drive unkeyed. This, of course, meant ...
26
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4answers
3k views

What were the differences in floppy disk formats between Amiga and IBM/PC compatible computers?

The capacity in Amiga Old File System format (OFS, OS version 1.x) was 840KB, with the Fast File System ("FFS" (!)) introduced for OS 2.x onwards able to store 880KB. The PC format stored 720KB on the ...
26
votes
2answers
3k views

How did MS-DOS assign drive letters in the case of more than two floppy disk drives?

The IBM PC BIOS had provisions for up to four floppy disk drives, by virtue of returning the number of floppy disk drives in a two-bit field plus a none/some flag (allowing for reporting values of 0, ...
25
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6answers
10k views

Windows 98 with 2GB of RAM

I have assembled a retro-gaming PC out of an old Shuttle SN45G with a Windows 98/Windows XP dual boot. The motherboard can handle 2GB of RAM, but apparently Windows 98 can only handle 1Gb. Windows ...
24
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2answers
2k views

The almost-was Atari IBM PC

One of the more remarkable events in the history of personal computers was IBM contemplating basing their PC on Atari technology. That this was seriously considered, everyone agrees, but it's hard to ...
23
votes
8answers
4k views

What were the early PC applications requiring a hard disk?

I had to wait about 5 years before hard drives (HDs) became affordable enough to begin moving off of floppies. During this time, I remember my desire for an HD being based on convenience. All the ...
23
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10answers
4k views

Why was hardware diversification an asset for the IBM PC ecosystem?

The IBM PC was cloned very early on, and many third parties made hardware peripherals. This required users to run an OS, install drivers, manage IRQs and hardware bus addresses, etc. Why was this a ...
23
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5answers
5k views

What makes a floppy disk bootable?

A lot of web sites describe how to create a bootable floppy disk using an existing image (via dd). But what about the image makes it bootable? I'm interested in making my own bootable floppy images ...
21
votes
3answers
4k views

Does an ISA card have a fixed memory address?

A PCI card does not have a fixed memory address, the PCI card specifies how much memory it wants, and the OS will assign whatever address it wants for this memory, and will set this address in the PCI ...
20
votes
4answers
4k views

What were wait-states, and why was it only an issue for PCs?

PC compatibles in the 1980s were often advertised as having zero, one, two, or sometimes more "wait states". Zero wait states was the best. Basically, the wait-states I am asking about are due to the ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

How did an IBM 5150 with 16KB RAM work?

I keep reading that when it was first released, there was a variant of the IBM PC model 5150 that had only 16KB of RAM installed. From a hardware perspective, this would clearly work - the 5150 ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Did the IBM PC use the 8088's NMI line?

As I understand it, the Intel 8088 CPU used in the original IBM PC had two interrupt lines: INTR and NMI. INTR was fed from the Intel 8259 Programmable Interrupt Controller, which handled the IRQs ...
18
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2answers
4k views

First commercial DOS game?

What was the first commercial game sold for use on IBM/MS/PC DOS after the IBM August 12, 1981 release.
18
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3answers
5k views

Why was IBM BASIC so Huge?

The early versions of Microsoft BASIC required 4KB of ROM, and many versions existed in the 8KB and 16KB size. But Microsoft's IBM BASIC (known as "Cassette BASIC") for the original IBM PC (Model 5150)...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

How do CGA emulators for Hercules graphics work?

HGC cards on IBM PCs used to be able to run CGA software by using a CGA emulator. How exactly did those programs work? What were the limitations?
17
votes
4answers
22k views

How can I connect a DIN plug keyboard to USB?

I have a wonderful IBM Model M keyboard, which has the best key action of all keyboards I ever used. The problem is it has the big round 5-pin DIN connector used in AT PCs. I have some PS/2 to USB ...
16
votes
6answers
4k views

What PC “Clone” technology standards were introduced by clone manufacturers?

IBM famously created the PC standard with the introduction of the first IBM PC in 1981. IBM also extended the standard with the introduction of the PC/AT (1984) and the PS/2 line (1987). However, by ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

80286 real mode emulator for 8086

While trying to use a "modern" sound card (an Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro 16 II) in an XT compatible 8086 computer, I encountered the problem that the drivers and tools (like the mixer initialization tool ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

What was the first C compiler for the IBM PC?

When did a C compiler first become available for the IBM PC? I have fond memories of Turbo C, but that didn't become available until the mid to late eighties; it definitely wasn't the first one. ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

How did DoubleDOS work?

Back in the MS-DOS days, there was a program DoubleDOS that you could run that would split your machine in half and multitask two separate DOS programs. While it didn't particularly work well for ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Adding the third floppy drive?

I've seen a few computers with more than two floppy drives, most with two 3.5" and one 5.25". My question is how was this achieved? I've heard that it could be done with a second controller card, but ...
15
votes
5answers
4k views

What is the best choice for DOS for a 1990 80386 PC?

I plan to install Windows 3.0 and PC/GEOS on top of DOS. Plus I will install numerous games from the 1984-1992 timeframe. Some of the later games will require >640K RAM and make use of an EMM driver. ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

How did the IBM PC handle multiple physical devices serving memory at the same physical address?

I'm trying to figure out how the IBM 5150 PC handled the case where multiple physical devices (memory chips) were mapped to the same address within the 8088's physical address space. The closest I've ...
14
votes
5answers
3k views

What was the first multiprocessor x86 motherboard?

I know dual socket motherboards were around in the 90's before Intel released the Core series. And SMP hardware and operating systems have been around earlier than the PC platform of course. ...
13
votes
4answers
1k views

Were there VLB cards other than video cards and SuperIO controllers?

VESA local bus was an expansion bus used to overcome speed limitations imposed by ISA bus. In theory VLB could reach 1280 Mbit/s (with 40 MHz CPU) which was way more than ISA's 66.7 Mbit/s. The speed ...
13
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2answers
2k views

Which communication protocol is used in AdLib sound card?

By "AdLib sound card" I mean AdLib Music Synthesizer Card released in 1987. Wikipedia says that AdLib uses frequency modulation synthesis to produce sound, but does it use MIDI communication protocol ...
13
votes
1answer
5k views

What is the oldest commercial MS-DOS program that can run on modern versions of Windows without third-party software?

What is the oldest commercial MS-DOS program that can run on modern versions of Windows (such as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10) without third-party emulators?
13
votes
3answers
1k views

What are the electrical characteristics of a PC gameport?

I'm considering building some custom gizmos to connect to the gameport on my retro-hobby PC (SNES controller adapter, macro/turbo box, etc.) but I haven't been able to find much information on details ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

Why did tactile-feedback keyboards lose popularity?

IBM spoiled me for hardware quality. I've gone through many computers, including a TRS-80, Heathkit H-89, Commodore Vic-20 and C-64, and countless PC's but my first original IBM PC will always be my ...