Questions tagged [ibm-pc]

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

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9
votes
3answers
696 views

When does an IBM-compatible PC keyboard controller dequeue scancodes?

There is a not-unheard-of technique in DOS software to detect certain keypresses (like Ctrl+Break) by intercepting the keyboard interrupt (IRQ 1) and reading the scancode directly from the keyboard ...
1
vote
0answers
32 views

Config information on ancient 16-bit Multi I/O card

I need to build a retro machine so that I can access an HDD that required manual input of BIOS parameters. (Yes, I have that information.) The only ID I can find is ES1O/4A 280695 which yields nothing ...
12
votes
12answers
2k views

Which pointing devices were used by early laptop computers?

I've started reading this article on the history of the ThinkPad. In it, the TrackPoint (pointing stick/"nipple" mouse) is heralded as an important innovation in the design of portable computers at ...
7
votes
1answer
546 views

What was the intended use for the character symbols for control codes in codepage 437?

Is there a well documented or well understood explanation for what was the intended purpose for the more haphazard glyph choices in the control code range of the original IBM PC character set? Maybe a ...
24
votes
3answers
5k views

Why does DOS ask for the current date and time upon booting?

In most versions of DOS, when they are started from a medium that lacks an AUTOEXEC.BAT file, the very first thing COMMAND.COM does is ask the user to confirm the current date and time: Starting PC ...
95
votes
1answer
27k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
920 views

How can I read COM port addresses from BIOS in QuickBasic 4.5?

I have been using the following code to get comm port addresses from BIOS in QuickBasic 4.5: PRINT "Hex addresses for ports 0 to 3 from BIOS." DEF SEG = 0 FOR x = 0 TO 3 z = &H400 + ...
14
votes
1answer
6k 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?
43
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
520 views

Why did CGA RGBI output leave DAC to the monitor?

CGA on the original IBM PC produced sixteen colors, one bit each for red, green, blue and overall intensity modifier. The preferred output device was the later-arriving 5153 color monitor, which ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

What manages Upper Memory Blocks (UMBs) in MS-DOS?

I had always assumed that EMM386.EXE was responsible for managing the Upper Memory Blocks - UMBs - the memory space between 640KiB and 1MiB in real mode x86. For example, on MS-DOS 6.22, help emm386....
2
votes
2answers
304 views

What was the DRAM refresh interval on early microcomputers?

Dynamic RAM is denser than static RAM, but needs to be refreshed every few milliseconds to avoid losing data. How many milliseconds, exactly? If the answer has changed over time, then I'm interested ...
17
votes
5answers
5k views

What is most appropriate 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. ...
25
votes
5answers
10k views

Twist in floppy disk cable - hack or intended design?

There are many documents (e.g. this) describing the twist on two-drive floppy disk cable on IBM PC compatibles. While this is not the most proud example of clean hardware design, how much of this was ...
25
votes
5answers
3k views

What really is a sound card driver in MS-DOS?

To my knowledge, neither MS-DOS nor BIOS offers any kind of API for sound cards. Therefore the concept of a "driver" is absent, as we know it today. Apart from accessories and sample files ...
27
votes
17answers
6k views

How much did the first hard drives for PCs cost?

I would like to know how much early PC hard drives cost but have only been aable to find adjacent or unsourced data. According to the Centre for Computing History: The "IBM 5161 Expansion ...
3
votes
0answers
130 views

Is there any way to obtain the abandonware 1994 original release of Klik & Play in non-English, non-“For Schools” versions?

In the mid-1990s, I purchased a Swedish boxed copy of v1.0 (I believe) of Klik & Play in a computer store. Since that, the floppies have died and I stupidly even threw away the entire big box and ...
4
votes
1answer
333 views

What does it mean when “The Good Old Days” have several seemingly identical downloads for the same game?

This happens for numerous games. If I search, for example, for "Spear of Destiny", I get this: https://archive.org/details/TGODFloppyCollection?and%5B%5D=spear+of+destiny&sin= Four ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

When did the tower form factor appear and when did it become popular?

Essentially, my question is there in the title. Tower cases are commonplace these days, and probably are the "default" form factor for personal computers (or at least were, before they were surpassed ...
8
votes
1answer
447 views

Was sector size under software control on the original IBM PC floppy drive controller?

The original IBM PC used a 5.25" floppy disk format of two sides, 40 tracks, 9 sectors per track, 512 bytes per sector, for 360K per disk. As I understand it, a significant amount of disk space ...
8
votes
1answer
470 views

AT system without −5 V

I have recently built a 80386 system. Lacking any AT PSU I connected a PicoPSU using an ATX→AT power adapter. Only card connected was a gpu (Trident TVGA 9000i). System performed BIOS checkup sequence ...
9
votes
2answers
552 views

What year was my old, long-lost IBM PC born? And which form factor/model was it?

I've spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort over the years just trying to figure out what exact IBM product I grew up with. At last, I've finally established for 100% certain that it was a: IBM ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Why did the 8087 need a special socket?

The IBM PC included a coprocessor socket for the 8087 floating-point unit. Logical enough; some customers wanted to use the 8087 to make numeric calculations run faster. But why was the 8087 designed ...
3
votes
1answer
181 views

PC Task performance

What sort of performance I can expect from PC Task 4.4 on Amiga 500 + 030 50MHz MMU, 64MB RAM? Would it be possible to run Windows 3.11 / 95 and have any real use from it?
8
votes
2answers
524 views

Origin of Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination to reset

The Ctrl + Alt + Del key combination to reset is known to me to work on older PC/MS-DOS PCs, some versions of Atari TOS, on runlevel 3 / multiuser.tager Linuxes (it can be disabled). The older of ...
31
votes
5answers
3k views

Did IBM originally plan to use the 68000 in the PC?

One of the big turning points in the history of the industry was IBM choosing the Intel 8088 over the Motorola 68000. Given that most people outside IBM considered the 68000 preferable, there has been ...
34
votes
4answers
6k 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'...
3
votes
1answer
364 views

What were the most common applications of the 8087?

The original IBM PC had a slot for the 8087 floating-point coprocessor. This was a somewhat esoteric feature at the time – previous microcomputers had done all their floating-point in software – but ...
3
votes
2answers
301 views

How did databases use the 8087?

A discussion on programs that used the 8087 mentions several categories I expected, and one I did not: Database programs (dBase IV, FoxBase, Paradox, Revelation) The more I think about it, the more ...
2
votes
1answer
206 views

Where can I donate Old Mags and Media in bulk in UK?

I am taking advantage of lockdown(s) and scanning/imaging all old media to archive.org, but would like to donate the boxes when finished. A bit like Donating old Computer Shopper Magazines The Centre ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Was natural convection ever a consideration in orienting expansion cards?

Many computers have followed the design pattern of a backplane with expansion cards, including arguably the three most influential microcomputers ever built: the Altair 8800, the Apple II and the IBM ...
10
votes
1answer
269 views

Did the Harris 80C286 differ from Intel's 80286 in its behaviour?

The Harris company, well known for being an early second source making x86 chips under license, eventually produced a fully static CMOS 80C286 of their own design (later known as the Intersil 80C286 ...
9
votes
2answers
901 views

Looking for a specific BASIC music program from the 80s

When I was a kid, we had a PC-XT with a lot of GW-Basic programs on it. I am trying to track down one in particular -- it was a music player of sorts. A menu (all monochrome text as I recall) and you ...
6
votes
2answers
199 views

Are there any known 8086 systems that would dynamically switch between XTAL and EFI clocks on 8284 clock generator?

In an typical 1980s 8086 system the 8284 clock chip is typically used to generate the clock for the CPU. The 8284 has two clock sources XTAL and EFI. XTAL provides a steady clock source from a ...
4
votes
2answers
197 views

Detecting the number of disk drives installed

When the BIOS gives control to the MBR (or the bootloader, for non-partitioned media), it passes the drive number from which the bootloader was loaded in the DL register. This number is most of the ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Why does changing a DOS/Windows EXE cause it to not run? [closed]

If I hex-edit an EXE for DOS or Windows, by adding or removing some text for example, it will no longer run. If I just change a single char around to a different one, it may run. Is this some anti-...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Default (as opposed to physical) read/write heads - what are they?

The Seagate U Series hard disk Product manual states that the drive has 16 "Default read/write heads" while it has 4/3/2/1 "Physical read/write heads" (depending on actual model). ...
1
vote
2answers
301 views

Performing 16-bit port I/O on the RTC

Why can’t the RTC (0x70, 0x71) read and write 16 bits at a time? For example: mov ax, 0xa8f out 0x70, ax I have found in a 286 BIOS that did this (BIOS ID string: S286-6181-...
6
votes
3answers
446 views

Who produced all-in-one / wedge style IBM compatibles?

The RetroManCave YouTube channel recently made me aware of the Sinclair PC-200 / Amstrad PC-20 and I already knew about the Tandy 1000EX / 1000HX but were there any other IBM-compatibles (or mostly ...
1
vote
2answers
230 views

Does the Sound Blaster Live! Value had hardware support for Adlib/OPL3?

As I m buying a computer without an onboard sound card, I m thinking about using my old Creative Sound card from 21 years ago and buying a pcie riser adapter instead of a modern sound card (I m ...
15
votes
7answers
6k views

Why did the IBM PC have an internal power supply?

Microcomputers run off low voltage DC, but usually came with a power supply to produce a suitable DC current from the mains AC voltage. It was usual among early home computers to supply an external ...
2
votes
1answer
195 views

Thinkpad 350 keyboard

Am wondering how to use the keyboard from a Thinkpad 350. There are three cables, with 6, 10, and 18 pins (but the big connector on the motherboard seems to have only 17). I assume this is a grid of ...
7
votes
3answers
518 views

Does anyone remember an early 90s side-scroller with a player-controlled ED-209-like robot?

I remember playing a side-scroller at a Babbage's at the mall (on probably a sweet Compaq; I don't think it was on a C64, an Amiga, an Apple, or anything more exotic), probably around 1993, where the ...
65
votes
3answers
13k views

What character is the MS-DOS cursor?

The cursor used on my 486 (and Pentium 3) in MS-DOS 6/7 has a thick underlined character. I cannot find that in code page 437. The underscore character is the closest to it, but is thinner. Where ...
8
votes
1answer
289 views

Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Flight Simulator as unofficial compatibility benchmark?

Do I remember correctly about an unofficial but popular test of "PC compatibility" in the early 1980s? Basically if a machine could run vanilla versions of both Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft ...
10
votes
2answers
11k views

Windows 98 / XP Dual boot

I have acquired an old Shuttle X PC (Windows XP, Mini-DTX form factor HTPC) that works fine. As I can't do much with this form factor (I can't fit a modern motherboard in the case) and that the ...
20
votes
3answers
2k views

How was the 80186 incompatible with the IBM PC?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80186 The 80186 would have been a natural successor to the 8086 in personal computers. However, because its integrated hardware was incompatible with ...
3
votes
1answer
216 views

Best way to swap IBM PC case badge?

A while back, I purchased an original IBM PC (5150). The seller had an improper top case or badge on it, as the badge actually said it was an XT (5160) instead. After confirming that it is indeed a ...
11
votes
2answers
824 views

How can I read a 5¼″ drive on 1996–2007 equipment?

In my organization's archive I just found some 5¼″ floppies, presumably IBM PC 320/360k. They contain information that we have on paper, but I'd really like to have on electronic media, not least so ...
6
votes
1answer
389 views

Was it ever possible to access the full EGA color space in 200-line modes?

It's long been an established fact that the EGA only had four memory planes, which limited the number of colors on the screen to (24) 16. The best compatible monitors at the time had six TTL color ...