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What is a genuine PC?

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First post, by Kerr Avon

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Further to a discussion at work today, most PCs are actually 'PC compatibles' (as they used to be called), as a genuine PC is made by IBM, who invented (or at least came to be most associated with) the format. Is that literally correct? Are 'real' PCs still being made?If not, what were the last models, and what games would run on the last real PCs? Without up-grading to non 'real-PC' hardware, I mean.

And, on a slightly related note, given the political and economical conditions that have been causing hardware shortages of late, especially silicon chips, why don't western countries build more factories to create these chips? The majority of the CPU/GPU/hard drive parts, etc, are apparently made in Asian countries, but given the periods of shortages with these components, couldn't the Western companies make them too? The added competition would also help bring the prices down for consumers.

I mean, the Playstation 5 is two years old now, and still difficult to find in brick and mortar shops. And since everything seems to include computer components now, the shortage problems could become much worse over time.

And why has 'scalping' (the not very moral practice of buying some, or many, of something desirable that's new and fairly rare, and then selling them at a vastly inflated profit to people who now can't find any from the legitimate sellers) become such big business now? It's always existed, of course, but since Covid it's really shot up in prominence and degree.

And in the very unlikely even that I'm still alive when total immersion video games become a reality (when the game somehow feeds all of your senses, so you genuinely are 'in' the game (as far as your senses are concerned) and you feel like your legs are walking, your tongue's taste buds feel like they are tasting food, etc, then I really don't want to be stuck in the position of not getting one of these gaming set ups because of a chip shortage or because scalpers have bought so many and are selling them for four times the cost.

Reply 1 of 28, by Errius

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Labour costs much higher in the West. Westerners aren't willing to work 16 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week. Nor are they willing to put kids in factories. (Things like this were outlawed in the 19th century.) If e.g. iPhones were made in America they would be much much more expensive.

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Reply 2 of 28, by RandomStranger

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If you take it literally: https://wikiless.org/wiki/IBM_PC_Series?lang=en

But "PC" became synonymous with home computer and a lot of people after the PC AT period calls computers Wintel PC rather than IBM PC compatibles. Even late IBM computers from the PC series product line.

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Reply 3 of 28, by ThinkpadIL

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Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

Further to a discussion at work today, most PCs are actually 'PC compatibles' (as they used to be called), as a genuine PC is made by IBM, who invented (or at least came to be most associated with) the format. Is that literally correct? Are 'real' PCs still being made?If not, what were the last models, and what games would run on the last real PCs? Without up-grading to non 'real-PC' hardware, I mean.

Even the first and the most "genuine" IBM PC model 5150 allowed use of additional modules produced by other manufacturers (open architecture thing) making its genuineness very questionable. So genuine IBM PC almost never had a practical use, since in almost any computer at some point of its life at least one genuine part was changed to non genuine one or a new non genuine part was added.

If talking about the last IBM PC machine that was produced by IBM, IBM PC 300PL is considered to be the last IBM PC series model. Discontinued - Oct 2000.

Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

And, on a slightly related note, given the political and economical conditions that have been causing hardware shortages of late, especially silicon chips, why don't western countries build more factories to create these chips? The majority of the CPU/GPU/hard drive parts, etc, are apparently made in Asian countries, but given the periods of shortages with these components, couldn't the Western companies make them too? The added competition would also help bring the prices down for consumers.

I mean, the Playstation 5 is two years old now, and still difficult to find in brick and mortar shops. And since everything seems to include computer components now, the shortage problems could become much worse over time.

When robotics will reach the level when for production of electronics components in a factory will be needed only 10-50 employees and it will be also economically profitable , then their production surely will return back home to USA and Europe. You only need to wait some 30-50 years till it really happens.

Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

And why has 'scalping' (the not very moral practice of buying some, or many, of something desirable that's new and fairly rare, and then selling them at a vastly inflated profit to people who now can't find any from the legitimate sellers) become such big business now? It's always existed, of course, but since Covid it's really shot up in prominence and degree.

In the situation of a short supply and a growing demand prices will grow even without "scalpers". Scalpers only "help" to achieve market prices faster than it would happen naturally.

Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

And in the very unlikely even that I'm still alive when total immersion video games become a reality (when the game somehow feeds all of your senses, so you genuinely are 'in' the game (as far as your senses are concerned) and you feel like your legs are walking, your tongue's taste buds feel like they are tasting food, etc, then I really don't want to be stuck in the position of not getting one of these gaming set ups because of a chip shortage or because scalpers have bought so many and are selling them for four times the cost.

When you want something that you can't afford because of your level of income there are only two solutions - or increase your income, or stop buying it and start buying something that you can afford. Believe me, even the richest people on the Earth have the same problem sometimes. You have a house, a car, a yacht, an airplane, but you don't have enough money to buy an island.

Reply 4 of 28, by Cosmic

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Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

And, on a slightly related note, given the political and economical conditions that have been causing hardware shortages of late, especially silicon chips, why don't western countries build more factories to create these chips? The majority of the CPU/GPU/hard drive parts, etc, are apparently made in Asian countries, but given the periods of shortages with these components, couldn't the Western companies make them too? The added competition would also help bring the prices down for consumers.

In May 2022, Intel announced it will: "invest more than $20 billion to build two new factories and to establish a new epicenter for advanced chipmaking in the Midwest."

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/newsr … tment-ohio.html

My understanding is that it's rather complicated and expensive to setup new chip fabs. Huge initial investment, long lead time, plus they need to be staffed. I think I've also read that some fabs overseas won't spin up more capacity because they estimate demand will fall before they can recoup on their investment, thus it's better to just sit at max capacity on their existing fab.

Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

And in the very unlikely even that I'm still alive when total immersion video games become a reality (when the game somehow feeds all of your senses, so you genuinely are 'in' the game (as far as your senses are concerned) and you feel like your legs are walking, your tongue's taste buds feel like they are tasting food, etc, then I really don't want to be stuck in the position of not getting one of these gaming set ups because of a chip shortage or because scalpers have bought so many and are selling them for four times the cost.

Some of these features already exist today and are pretty readily available. A decent headset with outside-in tracking (Index, Vive Pro) and three body trackers will cover your vision, hearing, and movement. A large enough space and you can mostly freely walk around, sit, play games, dance, party, whatever you want. For some extra money you can be wireless on the Vive. There are haptic suits that can simulate touch on the body, but IMO it's gimmicky and way too expensive. I don't expect to see advancements on artificial taste and smell anytime soon, but the majority of the VR experience is already covered and works well enough to totally lose yourself in VR. At the peak of my VR experience I was genuinely leading two separate but overlapping lives, one offline and one in VR, complete with all the pros and cons.

Reply 5 of 28, by ThinkpadIL

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Cosmic wrote on 2022-09-06, 16:24:

At the peak of my VR experience I was genuinely leading two separate but overlapping lives, one offline and one in VR, complete with all the pros and cons.

That actually is very interesting. As a non-gamer I'll be glad to hear more about VR experience from one who had one.

Reply 6 of 28, by leonardo

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I guess the definition that still more or less stands today is a modular personal computer constructed from off-the-shelf parts that is 100% compatible with an x86-based IBM PC.

It's the use of off-the-shelf parts that allowed the reverse-engineering and cloning of the early IBMs so easily, and effectively allowed all the clone-makers to piggy-back on IBM's brand and software selection. Had it not been for this, IBMs would have been just like your Amigas and Ataris and Amstrads and Apples etc. etc.

The wave of clones eventually managed to wipe out all but Apple, and even with Apple it came close.

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Reply 7 of 28, by bakemono

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Kerr Avon wrote on 2022-09-06, 13:17:

Further to a discussion at work today, most PCs are actually 'PC compatibles' (as they used to be called), as a genuine PC is made by IBM, who invented (or at least came to be most associated with) the format. Is that literally correct? Are 'real' PCs still being made?If not, what were the last models, and what games would run on the last real PCs? Without up-grading to non 'real-PC' hardware, I mean.

A PC is a personal computer. An IBM PC could be either just a PC made by IBM or specifically the PC-5150 I guess. Software used to declare on the package that it would run on an "IBM PC or 100% compatible" or perhaps an "IBM PC-AT or 100% compatible". Modern PCs that still have BIOS are AT compatible AFAIK.

And, on a slightly related note, given the political and economical conditions that have been causing hardware shortages of late, especially silicon chips, why don't western countries build more factories to create these chips? The majority of the CPU/GPU/hard drive parts, etc, are apparently made in Asian countries, but given the periods of shortages with these components, couldn't the Western companies make them too? The added competition would also help bring the prices down for consumers.

Why doesn't the west produce more stuff? The answer is finance capitalism. https://michael-hudson.com/2021/07/finance-ca … e-and-takeover/

And why has 'scalping' (the not very moral practice of buying some, or many, of something desirable that's new and fairly rare, and then selling them at a vastly inflated profit to people who now can't find any from the legitimate sellers) become such big business now? It's always existed, of course, but since Covid it's really shot up in prominence and degree.

Scalping is just arbitrage without a PR budget. More numerous and severe shortages means more opportunities to profit from this activity.

And in the very unlikely even that I'm still alive when total immersion video games become a reality (when the game somehow feeds all of your senses, so you genuinely are 'in' the game (as far as your senses are concerned) and you feel like your legs are walking, your tongue's taste buds feel like they are tasting food, etc, then I really don't want to be stuck in the position of not getting one of these gaming set ups because of a chip shortage or because scalpers have bought so many and are selling them for four times the cost.

🤣, talk about first world problems...

yet another retro game on itch: https://90soft90.itch.io/super-wild-war-22

Reply 8 of 28, by Jo22

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"What is a genuine PC?"

Oh, that's tricky to answer, I'm afraid.
Obviously, it traditionally refers to x86 type of PCs.

Originally, it meant being IBM PC 5150 compatible (at least).
Maybe including the PC/XT, Model 5160, even.

For a short time, early 80s, there also was the term "MS-DOS compatibles", referring to PCs that were not (not fully) IBM compatible,
but could run a proprietary version of MS-DOS.

In the late 80s, early 90s, the term "AT compatible" also was a thing. I read about the term in PC magazines, a few times.
The AT had new BIOS functions and hardware not found in the PC architecture (DMA and IRQ controllers wired in cascade, for example) .

And then, there was the IBM PS/2 line with its new Microchannel architecture, PS/2 mouse/keyboard interfaces and 8514/A or XGA graphics.
The PS/2 line differed greatly from AT, as far as the BUS and BIOS goes.
The PS/2 architecture had certain specific things not incorporated into the AT platforms, like BIOS functions, a new A20 gate etc.
So the PS/2 platform was a dead end, so to say. It wasn't fully AT compatible, also.

Edit: I forgot to mention: In my country, I believe the term "IBM kompatibel" ("IBM compatible") was more popular than "PC compatible". What ever that meant. 😉

Edit: Oh, something else. The ability to run "MS Flight Simulator" flawlessly was seen as a semi-official testament for PC compatibility.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 9 of 28, by Jo22

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leonardo wrote on 2022-09-06, 17:05:

The wave of clones eventually managed to wipe out all but Apple, and even with Apple it came close.

Hi! To be fair, the Apple II was heavily cloned, as well. 😀
Maybe even more so than the IBM PC.
The PC-Bus slots were inspired by the Apple II slots, too. They use the same edge connectors.

And System (Mac's OS) was one of the most emulated OSes in the late 80s/early 90s:
Emulators for about every Motorola 68000 machine existed.
The fastest Macintosh at the time was an Amiga running System, I heard.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 10 of 28, by gaffa2002

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Maybe the focus of technology should be on allowing everyone to have a good real life instead?

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Reply 11 of 28, by DosFreak

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nah "real" life is scary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo9buo9Mtos

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Reply 12 of 28, by bloodem

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My ex boss (and dear friend) used to say that “everyone makes IBM compatible PCs… except IBM” 🤣 (our company was actually a certified IBM service center… and don’t even get me started).

2 x PGA132 / 5 x Socket 3 / 9 x Socket 7 / 12 x SS7 / 1 x Socket 8 / 14 x Slot 1 / 5 x Slot A
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Backup rig: Core i7 7700k

Reply 13 of 28, by jakethompson1

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bakemono wrote on 2022-09-06, 17:28:

A PC is a personal computer. An IBM PC could be either just a PC made by IBM or specifically the PC-5150 I guess. Software used to declare on the package that it would run on an "IBM PC or 100% compatible" or perhaps an "IBM PC-AT or 100% compatible". Modern PCs that still have BIOS are AT compatible AFAIK.

Intel is trying to kill off the UEFI Compatibility Support Module. I don't know if systems without it have hit shelves yet (probably?). Once that is gone it is no longer IBM-compatible as it won't load and pass control to a normal boot sector anymore. Some time I need to read up on how UEFI booting works... I assume the system is already in protected mode before control is passed to the OS. An ugly thing about UEFI is that several Microsoft standards like FAT file systems and PE binaries are now a fundamental and irreversible part of the PC architecture when they were just OS level software before.

In addition, Intel has for some time disavowed support for A20 masking I believe.

Reply 14 of 28, by zyzzle

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leonardo wrote on 2022-09-06, 17:05:

I guess the definition that still more or less stands today is a modular personal computer constructed from off-the-shelf parts that is 100% compatible with an x86-based IBM PC.

If that's the case, then any modern PC of, say, the last 20 years doesn't qualify since they're not 100% compatible with the original PC standards of the '80s. This is solely because of video issues, cutting corners with BIOS / firmware code, elimination of ports, and poor-to-nonexistent DOS compatibility due to these reasons. Needless castration of low-resolution video modes (sub 640x480 and / or 8-bit). Today's PCs *could* still be 100% compatible with IBMs 5150, but the cheap, greedy vendors save a few cents by not including a real BIOS or not supporting LPT ports, or not having video BIOS code which contains 16-bit code.

Reply 15 of 28, by Azarien

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On the other hand, if by "genuine PC" we mean "made by IBM", then all the ThinkPads would count as "genuine (laptop) PC". But the ThinkPad brand was sold to Lenovo, so now the genuine PCs are made by Lenovo... 😀

jakethompson1 wrote on 2022-09-06, 21:17:

An ugly thing about UEFI is that several Microsoft standards like FAT file systems and PE binaries are now a fundamental and irreversible part of the PC architecture when they were just OS level software before.

Nothing is irreversible: if they can kill the CSM then they can kill UEFI with its FAT and PE standards if the time and need for something else comes.

I don't know much about how UEFI works, but I actually like the fact that boot loaders exist on a dedicated partition with known filesystem, rather than this hacky chain of boot sectors and no standard way of multi-booting.

Reply 16 of 28, by kdr

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leonardo wrote on 2022-09-06, 17:05:

It's the use of off-the-shelf parts that allowed the reverse-engineering and cloning of the early IBMs so easily, and effectively allowed all the clone-makers to piggy-back on IBM's brand and software selection.

There wasn't any reverse engineering required, IBM literally published the full schematics in their "Technical Reference Manual" for both the PC and the XT. They also published the full BIOS assembly source in the manuals so there was no doubt as to exactly what each BIOS call would do. The PC basically shipped with a giant "CLONE ME!" sticker attached... (Thanks to the USA Dept. of Justice)

But you're spot on that IBM's use of those off-the-shelf chips is what made the PC so easily cloned. The guys in Boca Raton simply didn't have the luxury of time on their side; it would've taken far too long to design a custom LSI/VLSI chipset. So they went for the classic design we know and love: Intel's 8-bit 82xx peripherals glued together with a sea of discrete 74LS logic.

The XT clones are so good that it's possible to do board-level repair work by simply following the official IBM schematics. 😀

Reply 17 of 28, by leonardo

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zyzzle wrote on 2022-09-06, 23:36:
leonardo wrote on 2022-09-06, 17:05:

I guess the definition that still more or less stands today is a modular personal computer constructed from off-the-shelf parts that is 100% compatible with an x86-based IBM PC.

If that's the case, then any modern PC of, say, the last 20 years doesn't qualify since they're not 100% compatible with the original PC standards of the '80s. This is solely because of video issues, cutting corners with BIOS / firmware code, elimination of ports, and poor-to-nonexistent DOS compatibility due to these reasons. Needless castration of low-resolution video modes (sub 640x480 and / or 8-bit). Today's PCs *could* still be 100% compatible with IBMs 5150, but the cheap, greedy vendors save a few cents by not including a real BIOS or not supporting LPT ports, or not having video BIOS code which contains 16-bit code.

I think the '100% IBM compatible' label stopped being that and started to mean "close enough in most ways and 100% in the ways that matter" at some point already in the late 80's and early 90's.

These days it just boils down to "utilizes x86 instructions and will run Windows". Intel-based Macs were/are PCs!

kdr wrote on 2022-09-07, 08:12:
leonardo wrote on 2022-09-06, 17:05:

It's the use of off-the-shelf parts that allowed the reverse-engineering and cloning of the early IBMs so easily, and effectively allowed all the clone-makers to piggy-back on IBM's brand and software selection.

There wasn't any reverse engineering required, IBM literally published the full schematics in their "Technical Reference Manual" for both the PC and the XT. They also published the full BIOS assembly source in the manuals so there was no doubt as to exactly what each BIOS call would do. The PC basically shipped with a giant "CLONE ME!" sticker attached... (Thanks to the USA Dept. of Justice)

I did not know this! The source I recall reading on the matter (wish I remember what it was) led me to believe that the creation of a clone army was unintentional on IBMs part and more or less resulted from them "rushing it" - ie. the use of off-the-shelf parts was more of a timesaver than a deliberate decision.

What you write casts that whole viewpoint into doubt. If what you write is true, what I've read must have been some poorly sourced clickbait garbage...

Although I suppose if IBM meant to foster a standard, they probably still didn't intend to make Microsoft such a huge part of it - what with OS/2 and all that stuff. My understanding is that the licensing deal Microsoft made with IBM and the subsequent explosion of clones into the market is what gave rise to the "one operating system to rule them all"... but that's another topic in itself!

[Install Win95 like you were born in 1985!] on systems like this or this.

Reply 18 of 28, by kdr

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leonardo wrote on 2022-09-07, 09:45:

I did not know this! The source I recall reading on the matter (wish I remember what it was) led me to believe that the creation of a clone army was unintentional on IBMs part and more or less resulted from them "rushing it" - ie. the use of off-the-shelf parts was more of a timesaver than a deliberate decision.

You'll probably enjoy reading Jimmy Maher's excellent four-part series on the history of the IBM PC:
https://www.filfre.net/2012/05/the-ibm-pc-part-1/

Reply 19 of 28, by Jo22

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kdr wrote on 2022-09-07, 08:12:

There wasn't any reverse engineering required, IBM literally published the full schematics in their "Technical Reference Manual" for both the PC and the XT. They also published the full BIOS assembly source in the manuals so there was no doubt as to exactly what each BIOS call would do. The PC basically shipped with a giant "CLONE ME!" sticker attached... (Thanks to the USA Dept. of Justice)

Back in the 1970s, this was just normal and good practice.
Manuals and especial the technical manuals or socalled service manuals did include the complete schematic of a device, including a parts list, a photocopy of the printed circuit boards and so on.
If an EPROM was installed, a hex dump of the content was included.

However, this practice didn't remove the copyright or the trademarks the company/manufacturer did hold.
These information were meant for repair jobs, modifications, for diagnostic reasons. Not for duplication.

So for legal BIOS, a clean-room reverse engineering was still needed.
Except for countries which had no copyright protection (in the 70s, 80s: China, UdSSR).

Ironically, China, Hongkong or Taiwan was the source for the first non-IBM clone BIOSes.
Back in the 80s, there was a big boom of all sorts of software/hardware piracy. Some pirates even improved existing software, because they had higher standards. :D
There were underground copy shops with disk stations that cracked and copied commercial software etc. Once read about this in a magazine.

Anyway, the hardware compatibility had one big advantage.
PC users in the west replaced those far east BIOSes by more inferior, but very compatible IBM™ ROMs.
Or rather, backup copies of them, which they made from originals lend by a friend. :D

Ah yes, the era of backup copies. Or "working copies" (originally meant for HDD less PCs).
Back then, when about every PC user borrowed the latest MS-DOS and Norton Commander from a friend for home use.. ;)

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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