What's so special about the IBM 5100? (John Titor/Stein's Gate question)

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What's so special about the IBM 5100? (John Titor/Stein's Gate question)

Postby EdmondDantes » 2018-8-11 @ 15:57

So recently I watched this anime called Stein's Gate, which incorporates the modern legend of John Titor into it.

For those who don't know (you know, like that mom of yours who is secretly reading over your shoulder) John Titor was this forum poster who claimed to be a time traveller. He apparently managed to convince a lot of people so I guess he told a damn good story.

One part of his story is he went back in time to get an IBM 5100. In the anime "Stein's Gate" he claims to need it specifically because the IBM 5100 can decode some sort of source code that no other computer can.

Okay, I'm gonna be dumb and nitpick an anime that already had a ton of logic issues and plot holes and probably wasn't meant to be thought deeply about, but....

I've been wondering how well this concept holds up, because... I mean, old computers would've used assembly code, right? Basically just one step removed from ones and zeroes? Like, what could the IBM 5100 do that you couldn't do with, say, an old monochrome laptop, or even a modern PC?

It just seems weird that there would be any type of code that could only be interpreted by a very specific machine. Even game consoles are still programmed with standard languages like C.

But if anyone is willing to indulge my curiosity, I'd love to hear if this particular concept at all holds up, or really learn anything at all about the IBM 5100.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: What's so special about the IBM 5100? (John Titor/Stein's Gate question)

Postby VileRancour » 2018-8-12 @ 01:41

EdmondDantes wrote:I've been wondering how well this concept holds up, because... I mean, old computers would've used assembly code, right? Basically just one step removed from ones and zeroes? Like, what could the IBM 5100 do that you couldn't do with, say, an old monochrome laptop, or even a modern PC?

It just seems weird that there would be any type of code that could only be interpreted by a very specific machine. Even game consoles are still programmed with standard languages like C.

Assembly language is specific to the processor that it's intended to run on, like the machine code. Your old laptop or modern PC could do anything that an IBM 5100 can do - they just can't do it using the same assembly/machine code as the 5100.

The 5100 series had a pretty off-beat processor, which wasn't really used elsewhere commercially. I guess that could make that part of the story sound vaguely plausible if you squint at it... but of course there's always documentation and emulation, etc. It's simply a relatively obscure architecture.
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Re: What's so special about the IBM 5100? (John Titor/Stein's Gate question)

Postby snorg » 2018-8-12 @ 05:36

EdmondDantes wrote:So recently I watched this anime called Stein's Gate, which incorporates the modern legend of John Titor into it.

For those who don't know (you know, like that mom of yours who is secretly reading over your shoulder) John Titor was this forum poster who claimed to be a time traveller. He apparently managed to convince a lot of people so I guess he told a damn good story.

One part of his story is he went back in time to get an IBM 5100. In the anime "Stein's Gate" he claims to need it specifically because the IBM 5100 can decode some sort of source code that no other computer can.

Okay, I'm gonna be dumb and nitpick an anime that already had a ton of logic issues and plot holes and probably wasn't meant to be thought deeply about, but....

I've been wondering how well this concept holds up, because... I mean, old computers would've used assembly code, right? Basically just one step removed from ones and zeroes? Like, what could the IBM 5100 do that you couldn't do with, say, an old monochrome laptop, or even a modern PC?

It just seems weird that there would be any type of code that could only be interpreted by a very specific machine. Even game consoles are still programmed with standard languages like C.

But if anyone is willing to indulge my curiosity, I'd love to hear if this particular concept at all holds up, or really learn anything at all about the IBM 5100.

Thanks in advance.


I remember reading the original John Titor thread on Usenet back in the late 90s...it was one of those things that reading it, you had the impression that this guy was either
really trolling the hell out of everyone, crazy, or both. But there were also elements of his tale that made you wonder.

In any case, this is why the 5100 was useful to him: https://www.strangerdimensions.com/2011 ... -ibm-5100/

FWIW, I think the whole John Titor thing was an elaborate prank by someone that was a retired IBM engineer...but it did make for a really good read when you're bored out of your skull on the graveyard shift.
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Re: What's so special about the IBM 5100? (John Titor/Stein's Gate question)

Postby EdmondDantes » 2018-8-12 @ 17:03

Wow, that was.... actually quite the read. Ancient computers were certainly wonderful little magic boxes.

I wound up reading some of that site's other articles, and it amuses me to no end that there was apparently a time travel experiment called "Project Pegasus." Hey, I'm a fan of The Journeyman Project too!
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