Questions tagged [ibm-pc]

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

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104
votes
22answers
36k 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 ...
92
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 ...
69
votes
8answers
17k 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 ...
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 ...
59
votes
2answers
18k 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 ...
57
votes
3answers
13k 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 ...
56
votes
2answers
5k views

Why was the return key symbol ⏎ drawn differently from the motion of a CR-LF?

In the operating system (DOS) of IBM PCs, newlines were represented by a carriage return (CR) character, followed by a line feed (LF) character. The motion of a printer or teletype receiving such a ...
54
votes
6answers
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?
52
votes
3answers
9k 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 ...
49
votes
10answers
9k 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 ...
46
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 ...
44
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 ...
44
votes
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 ...
43
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 ...
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 ...
36
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'...
30
votes
3answers
8k views

How much did IBM save by limiting the PC to 4.77 MHz?

My understanding is the CPU clock speed on the Intel 8088 in the IBM PC was selected as 4.77 MHz to simplify the design of the system. This despite the 8088 coming in two versions - 5 MHz and 8 MHz. ...
30
votes
5answers
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 ...
30
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 ...
29
votes
3answers
10k views

Why do PCs boot in 720x400 resolution?

Using my 21" Trinitron OSD, I can see that the resolution at boot is 720x400. From memory, this weird resolution is extremely uncommon if ever to be seen as a choice on software that supports ...
28
votes
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 ...
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
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 ...
28
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, ...
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
11k 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
votes
6answers
15k 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 1 GiB. Windows ...
26
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
26
votes
3answers
3k views

What were the HW specifications for the actual PC speakers, before they were replaced by buzzers?

Back in the early 2000s, I remember that, what were at the time older, PC cases had actual loudspeaker instead of the buzzer, which was popular as the PC speaker on the PC cases of the time period. ...
25
votes
7answers
6k views

Purpose of turbo switch on systems unable to slow to 4.77 MHz?

I have a PC with an Intel P133 (133 MHz). The motherboard (PcPartner MB520NH) only allows for it to be slowed down to 75 MHz at the least via jumper settings, but no lower. Yet the PC's case has ...
24
votes
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 ...
24
votes
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
votes
5answers
6k 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 ...
23
votes
4answers
31k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
4k views

Why was NEC able to wrestle PC graphics standards away from IBM?

The dominant standards for PC graphics in the 1980s were the ones introduced by IBM. This included MDA and CGA with the original IBM PC, followed by EGA shortly after the PC/AT, and then VGA with the ...
22
votes
4answers
6k 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)...
22
votes
2answers
2k views

Which is the minimum set of interrupts/functions I should implement in a replacement BIOS for a home made IBM PC class computer?

I'm at the early stages of implementing a home-made IBM PC class computer (maybe AT class, I don't know yet). The CPU will be an actual 8088 chip, but everything else (except memory) will be ...
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 ...
21
votes
4answers
5k 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
3k views

Did playing sounds on the PC speaker keep the CPU busy?

The IBM PC and early successors came with an internal speaker that could play simple sounds. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PC_speaker However, because the method used to reproduce PCM ...
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 ...
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
votes
2answers
5k 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
votes
3answers
3k 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?
18
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. ...
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. ...
17
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 ...