from the what's-old-is-new-again dept.
All modern Intel and AMD PCs can trace their roots to a single system: the IBM Personal Computer. Originally released in August 1981, this computer became so popular and long-lived that competitors reverse-engineered its BIOS so that their computers could use the same software and peripherals, a practice that eventually resulted in a de facto standard whose descendants we still use today.
If you want to experience what using an old IBM PC was like, you could drop a few hundred dollars on a used one on eBay. Or you could roll the dice on this new oddball laptop on AliExpress. The "Book 8088" laptop PC combines modern components with an Intel 8088 processor and 640KB (yes, that's kilobytes) of memory.
Update, 5/20/2023: After this story was published, Ars was contacted by developer Sergey Kiselev, who maintains an open-source 8088 BIOS on GitHub. He alleged that the creators of the Book 8088 re-used his BIOS for the system while removing his name and language about the GPL v2 license that the BIOS is distributed under; we can't confirm the claim by comparing the code directly, but there are several distinct similarities in a screenshot Kiselev shared and one used in the Book 8088 retail listing.
"While my work is open source, and I don't mind people using it in their projects, I do care deeply about the principles of open source software development and licensing. And whoever manufacturers this machine, bluntly violates copyright law and licensing," wrote Kiselev to Ars detailing his claim. "Since you start your article with the discussion of how Compaq reverse engineered IBM's BIOS, I think it would be suitable to mention that the manufacturer pirated the BIOS, without crediting the work, and they violate GPL by not releasing the source code of their modified BIOS."
(Score: 2, Interesting) by namefags_are_jerks on Wednesday May 24, @05:45AM
Plenty of past FOSS-based projects left the attribution, GPL verbage, etc., in the hardcopy documentation with zero shown to the user (Apple's TimeCapsule comes to mind..) The GPLV2's term for "printing an announcement" doesn't require it appearing in like POST screens-- only in the source, and there's no obligation to hand that over except by a direct request by a product recipient.
(Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 24, @06:31AM (1 child)
Is it really a good idea for him to make such claims publicly? AFAIK if it's GPL V2 they can remove his name from it without violating copyright law and licensing:
Maybe the written offer is in the box which he doesn't have?
And maybe the written offer was valid for 3 years, it's just not valid in 2023 anymore. e.g. the link mentioned in the box no longer works... 😂
Seriously though, does the b) option really force modifiers of GPL v2 software to make their links valid for 3 years from the date the enduser obtains the hardware/binaries even if they are not directly from the modifier?
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 24, @06:37AM
(Score: 4, Insightful) by looorg on Wednesday May 24, @06:40AM (3 children)
That is not an experience I will miss in any way shape or form. It was a piece of shit back then and any reproduction will be one to.
That it's some chinese company that doesn't care about copyright is hardly a surprise. It's like the gazillions of NES, SNES and other clone machines that show up fully loaded etc. Usually some open source emulator projects, on a board, with an fpga and a fancy 3d printed case.
Question is why one would want one. It's not for the great and fantastic DOS experience. At least one of the commenters on ARS noted the probably reason -- hardware for old CNC machines etc. Apparently that is the companies other main product. That sounds a lot more plausible then nostalgia DOS fetishes.
(Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 24, @01:30PM (1 child)
Even as new hardware to run old CNC equipment it has issues, two main ones being no onboard 'real' RS-232 or Centronics/IEEE 1284 interfaces.
Then there's reliability - In my last job working for someone else, I ran a decades old CNC router driven by a decades old IBM box via RS-232, with several spare same model IBM boxes that we'd gotten for free (thanks, WEEE regs) kept in store in the off chance that If the thing ever fecking failed we'd a bunch of drop in replacements, and that brings up another point: cost.
Why buy one of these things when, if you ask around, you'll get perfectly usable Laptops (or old 'thin client' boxes) with full DOS/Win9x support *and* onboard Interfaces for little or no cost, and most of them, especially the older models are built like bloody tanks.
Even if it cost a third of it's current price and had the required interfaces onboard, would I have trusted one of these things to last two weeks in my old workshop running the CNC router, let alone two decades? What do you think? (hint: I wouldn't have trusted it to run the mini desktop CNC router we had.)
(Score: 2) by looorg on Thursday May 25, @10:20AM
I guess there is a fair amount of such old technology applications still around It's kind of weird tho that they don't have a RS232 (or serial port). They are not that expensive, they are still around. If this was as noted in the comment at Ars intended to be a CNC (or other hold hardware) replacement then it would be trivial and cheap to include on the device. I don't have good experiences with any RS232-to-USB contacts. So they can't be relegating it to that can they?
(Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday May 24, @06:56PM
Could be an interesting DOS game machine. Not that you couldn't just fire up DOSBox and get as good/better experience.
Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
(Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Wednesday May 24, @12:57PM
The journalism claims the original PC was released in August 1981 and like that PC back in 81, this laptop has 640K ram.
The original 5150 aka "plain PC" was released late summer 81, although the mobo only supported 256K max. I don't recall if you could plug in a card with more memory; that's a "probably". I never did much with genuine 5150s.
I think a closer analogy would be the classic 5170 aka the "XT" which shipped with 128K but the mobo could upgrade to 640K and that shipped in the spring of 83. I seem to recall I messed around with one genuine 5170 back in the day.
As usual with ChatGPT generated stories, there are no or minimal factual errors that can be trivially checked with a grep command, like the model 5150 release date, but the "big picture" is missed in that this is not a "5150 plain PC laptop" it is, or was, more of a "5170 XT laptop".
I can't tell from the remains of the aliexpress ad, but people trying to emulate a PC or XT need to keep in mind IBM never AFAIK shipped a 'turbo' mode PC, they were all 4.77 MHz. Tons of clones on the market ran faster, and of course the AT shipped about 18 months later and ran 6 or 8 mhz.
Both technological progress and depreciation/scrapping were faster back then. I have a phone that's a couple years old. The same couple of years after release, essentially all IBM PC/XT/AT were at hamfests for pennies on the dollar or rusting away in landfills, whereas my phone works fine until forced obsolescence or dead battery will get it. Computer progress is pretty boring for the last couple decades; at least compared to the excitement and fast pace of the 70s/80s/90s.
(Score: 2) by turgid on Wednesday May 24, @06:12PM
This is cool, an IBM PC with it's 8088 CPU replaced with an emulated 68000 [hackaday.com].
I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent [wikipedia.org].
(Score: 2) by jb on Thursday May 25, @04:50AM
When I first read that I thought it might make an really nifty portable terminal...
...but unfortunately it's missing the two most important things any terminal needs: an RS-232 port and a proper (full throw) keyboard.