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posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 24 2023, @05:16AM   Printer-friendly
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."

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Wednesday May 24 2023, @12:57PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday May 24 2023, @12:57PM (#1307890)

    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.

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