IBM Personal System/2
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IBM Personal System/2 Model 55 SX
|Developer||International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)|
|Release date||April 1987|
|Predecessor||IBM Personal Computer/AT|
The Personal System/2 or PS/2 was IBM's third generation of personal computers released in 1987. The PS/2 line was created by IBM in an attempt to recapture control of the PC market by introducing an advanced yet proprietary architecture. IBM's considerable market presence plus the reliability of the PS/2 ensured that the systems would sell in relatively large numbers, especially to large businesses. However the other major manufacturers balked at IBM's licensing terms to develop and sell compatible hardware, particularly as the demanded royalties were on a per machine basis. Also the evolving Wintel architecture was seeing a period of dramatic reductions in price, and so these developments prevented the PS/2 from returning control of the PC market to IBM.
Due to the higher costs of the architecture, customers preferred competing PCs that extended the existing PC architecture instead of abandoning it for something new. However, many of the PS/2's innovations, such as the 16550 UART (serial port), 1440 KB 3.5-inch floppy disk format, 72-pin SIMMs, the PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, and the VGA video standard, went on to become standards in the broader PC market.
The OS/2 operating system was announced at the same time as the PS/2 line and was intended to be the primary operating system for models with Intel 286 or later processors. However, at the time of the first shipments, only PC DOS was available. OS/2 1.0 (text-mode only) and Microsoft's Windows 2.0 became available several months later. IBM also released AIX PS/2, a UNIX operating system for PS/2 models with Intel 386 or later processors.
- The company would use proprietary, hard-to-copy versions of the Intel 80286 and 80386 processors.
- The company would release a version of its VM mainframe operating system for them.
- The company would design the new computers to make third-party communications products more difficult to design.
IBM's PS/2 was designed to remain software compatible with their PC/AT/XT line of computers upon which the large PC clone market was built, but the hardware was quite different. PS/2 had two BIOSes; one was named ABIOS (Advanced BIOS) which provided a new protected mode interface and was used by OS/2, and the other was named CBIOS (Compatible BIOS) which was included in order for the PS/2 to be software compatible with the PC/AT/XT. CBIOS was so compatible that it even included Cassette BASIC. While IBM did not publish the BIOS source code, it did promise to publish BIOS entry points.
Micro Channel Architecture
With the IBM PS/2 line, Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) was also introduced. MCA was conceptually similar to the channel architecture of the IBM 360 mainframes. MCA was technically superior to ISA and allowed for higher speed communications within the system. MCA featured many advances not seen in other standards until several years later. Transfer speeds were on par with the much later PCI standard. MCA allowed one-to-one, card to card, and multi-card to processor simultaneous transaction management which is a feature of the PCI-X bus format.
Bus mastering capability, bus arbitration, and a primitive form of plug-and-play BIOS management of hardware were all benefits of MCA. (One book from the year 2000 writes: "MCA used an early (and user-hostile) version of what we know now as “Plug-N′-Play”, requiring a special setup disk for each machine and each card." MCA never gained wide acceptance outside of the PS/2 line due to IBM's anti-clone practices and incompatibilities with ISA. IBM offered to sell an MCA license to anyone who could afford the royalty. However, royalties were required for every MCA-compatible machine sold and a payment for every IBM-compatible machine the particular maker had made in the past.
The PS/2 IBM Model M keyboard used the same 101-key layout of the previous IBM PC/AT Extended keyboard, itself derived from the original IBM PC keyboard. European variants had 102 keys with the addition of an extra key to the right of the left Shift key. The Model M, using a buckling spring mechanism, is still being manufactured by Unicomp.
PS/2 systems introduced a new specification for the keyboard and mouse interfaces, which are still in use today and are thus called "PS/2" interfaces. The PS/2 keyboard interface was electronically identical to the long-established AT interface, but the cable connector was changed from the 5-pin DIN connector to the smaller 6-pin mini-DIN interface. The same connector and a similar synchronous serial interface was used for the PS/2 mouse port.
Additionally, the PS/2 introduced a new software data area known as the Extended BIOS Data Area (EBDA). Its primary use was to add a new buffer area for the dedicated mouse port. This also required making a change to the "traditional" BIOS Data Area (BDA) which was then required to point to the base address of the EBDA.
Most of the initial range of PS/2 models were equipped with a new frame buffer known as the Video Graphics Array, or VGA for short. This effectively replaced the previous EGA standard. VGA increased graphics memory to 256 KB and provided for resolutions of 640×480 with 16 colors, and 320×200 with 256 colors. VGA also provided a palette of 262,144 colors (as opposed to the EGA palette of 64 colors). The IBM 8514 and later XGA computer display standards were also introduced on the PS/2 line.
Although the design of these adapters did not become an industry standard as VGA did, their 1024×768 pixel resolution was subsequently widely adopted as a standard by other manufacturers, and "XGA" became a synonym for this screen resolution. The PS/2 Model 25 and Model 30, however, did not include VGA. On these budget models, IBM opted to use MCGA, which was a stepping stone between CGA and VGA, but unfortunately lacked EGA compatibility.
VGA video connector
All of the new PS/2 graphics systems (whether MCGA, VGA, 8514, or later XGA) used a 15-pin D-sub connector for video out. This used analog RGB signals, rather than fixed sixteen or sixty-four color lines as on previous CGA and EGA monitors, allowing arbitrary increases in the color depth (or levels of grey) compared to its predecessors. It also allowed for analog grayscale displays to be connected; unlike earlier systems (like MDA and Hercules) this was transparent to software, allowing all programs supporting the new standards to run unmodified whichever type of display was attached. (On the other hand, whether the display was color or monochrome was undetectable to software, so selection between application displays optimized for color or monochrome, in applications that supported both, required user intervention.) These greyscale displays were relatively inexpensive during the first few years the PS/2 was available, and they were very commonly purchased with lower-end models.
The VGA connector became the de facto standard for connecting monitors and projectors on both PC and non-PC hardware over the course of the early 1990s, replacing a variety of earlier connectors.
Although 3.5" floppy disks were becoming common in the industry by 1987, the PS/2s were the first desktop IBM models to use them as standard, relegating the 5.25" format to an expensive, optional external accessory drive. While the disk format itself was standard, IBM chose to use a non-standard form for the disk drives, resulting in very high repair costs as a standard drive could not be retrofitted to a PS/2. The IBM part was functionally identical to a standard 3.5" floppy drive. In the initial line-up, IBM used 720 KB double density (DD) capacity drives on the 8086-based models and 1.44 MB high density (HD) on the 80286-based and higher models. By the end of the PS/2 line they had moved to a somewhat standardized capacity of 2.88 MB.
The PS/2 floppy drives were famous for not having a capacity detector. 1.44 MB floppies had a hole so that drives could identify them from 720 KB floppies, preventing users from formatting the smaller capacity disks to the higher capacity (doing so would work, but with a higher tendency of data loss). Clone manufacturers implemented the hole detection, but IBM did not. As a result of this a 720 KB floppy could be formatted to 1.44 MB in a PS/2, but the resulting floppy would only be readable by a PS/2 machine.
The PS/2 pre-dated the development of the CD-ROM. Due to the PS/2 standardizing on 3.5" drives there were typically no internal bays or interconnect methods for an internal CD-ROM drive and it had to be added as an external device, using the expensive SCSI interface.
The PS/2 used several different types of internal hard drives. Some models used ATA/IDE while others used a special custom-interface drive commonly referred to as an ESDI drive, but which incorporated power and data into a single connector, as shown in the photo to the right. Typically the PS/2 only permitted use of one hard drive inside the computer case. Additional storage was attached externally, using the SCSI interface.
The PS/2 introduced the 72-pin SIMM which became the de facto standard for RAM modules by the mid-90s in mid-to-late 486 and early Pentium desktop systems. 72-pin SIMMs were 32/36 bits wide and replaced the old 30-pin SIMM (8/9-bit) standard. The older SIMMs were much less convenient because they had to be installed in sets of two or four to match the width of the CPU's 16-bit (Intel 80286 and 80386SX) or 32-bit (80386 and 80486) bus. 72-pin SIMMs were also made with greater capacities.
At launch, the PS/2 family comprised the Model 30, 50, 60 and 80; the Model 25 was launched a few months later.
The PS/2 Models 25 and 30 (IBM 8525 and 8530 respectively) were similar to the IBM PC. They incorporated the ISA bus and the Intel 8086 CPU in a different form factor. These machines also differed from other PS/2 models in having 720k floppy disk drives, an ST506-compatible hard drive controller and MCGA graphics. The hard drives were available as an optional part; however, many of these entry-level machines were sold without hard drives due to the high cost.
The Model 25 featured an integrated monochrome or color monitor to compete with the Apple Macintosh as an integrated system for educational environments. An external "paper white" monochrome screen was also available as a cost-saving model instead of the standard VGA display; this was often paired with the Model 30.
The higher-numbered models were equipped with the Micro Channel bus and mostly ESDI or SCSI hard drives (models 60-041 and 80-041 had MFM hard drives). PS/2 Models 50 (IBM 8550) and 60 (IBM 8560) used the Intel 286 processor, the PS/2 Models 70 (IBM 8570) and 80 used the 386DX, while the medium-performance PS/2 Model 55SX (IBM 8555-081) used the 16/32-bit 386SX processor. Later Model 70 and 80 variants (B-xx) also used 25 MHz Intel 486 processors, in a complex called the Power Platform.
The PS/2 Models 90 (IBM 8590/9590) and 95 (IBM 8595/9595/9595A) used Processor Complex daughterboards holding the CPU, memory controller, MCA interface, and other system components. The available Processor Complex options ranged from the 20 MHz Intel 486 to the 90 MHz Pentium and were fully interchangeable. The IBM PC Server 500, which has a motherboard identical to the 9595A, also uses Processor Complexes.
Other later Micro Channel PS/2 models included the Model 65SX with a 16 MHz 386SX; various Model 53 (IBM 9553), 56 (IBM 8556) and 57 (IBM 8557) variants with 386SX, 386SLC or 486SLC2 processors; the Models 76 and 77 (IBM 9576/9577) with 486SX or 486DX2 processors respectively; and the 486-based Model 85 (IBM 9585).
The IBM PS/2E (IBM 9533) was the first Energy Star compliant personal computer. It had a 50 MHz IBM 486SLC processor, an ISA bus, four PC card slots, and an IDE hard drive interface. The environmentally friendly PC borrowed many components from the ThinkPad line and was composed of recycled plastics, designed to be easily recycled at the end of its life, and used very little power.
IBM also produced several portable and laptop PS/2s, including the Model L40 (ISA-bus 386SX), N33 (IBM's first notebook-format computer from year 1991, Model 8533, 386SX), N51 (386SX/SLC), P70 (386DX) and P75 (486DX2).
The IBM PC Server 720 (IBM 8642) was the largest MCA-based server made by IBM, although it was not, strictly speaking, a PS/2 model. It could be fitted with up to six Intel Pentium processors interconnected by the Corollary C-bus and up to eighteen SCSI hard disks. This model was equipped with seven combination MCA/PCI slots.
The IBM ThinkPad 700C, aside from being labeled "700C PS/2" on the case, featured MCA and a 486SLC CPU.
|Year||IBM Model Number||Name||Processor||Bus||HD Interface||Case||Notes|
|1987||8525-001||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Monochrome display||Single disk drive|
|1987||8525-004||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single disk drive|
|1987||8525-G01||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Monochrome display||Single disk drive, enhanced keyboard|
|1987||8525-G04||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single disk drive, enhanced keyboard|
|8525-101||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Monochrome display||Single disk drive|
|8525-104||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single disk drive|
|1988||8525-L01||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Monochrome display||Single disk drive, token-ring network adapter|
|1988||8525-L04||Model 25||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single disk drive, token-ring network adapter|
|1987||8525-C02||Model 25 Collegiate||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Monochrome display||Two disk drives|
|1987||8525-C05||Model 25 Collegiate||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Two disk drives|
|1987||8525-K02||Model 25 Collegiate||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Monochrome display||Two disk drives, enhanced keyboard|
|1987||8525-K05||Model 25 Collegiate||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Two disk drives, enhanced keyboard|
|1990||8525-006||Model 25 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive|
|1990||8525-036||Model 25 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||ST-506, 30MB drive||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive|
|1990||8525-G06||Model 25 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive, enhanced keyboard|
|1990||8525-G36||Model 25 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||ST-506, 30MB drive||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive, enhanced keyboard|
|1992||8525-K00||Model 25 SX||16 MHz Intel 386 SX||ISA 16 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive|
|1992||8525-K01||Model 25 SX||16 MHz Intel 386 SX||ISA 16 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive, Ethernet network adapter|
|1992||8525-L02||Model 25 SX||16 MHz Intel 386 SX||ISA 16 bit||Desktop with integrated Color display||Single HD disk drive, Token-ring network adapter|
|1989||8530-001||Model 30||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop||Single disk drive|
|1987||8530-002||Model 30||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop||Two disk drives|
|1987||8530-021||Model 30||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||WDI-325Q, 20MB, ESDI||Desktop||Single disk drives|
|1988||8530-E01||Model 30 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||Desktop||Single HD disk drive|
|1988||8530-E21||Model 30 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||ESDI, 20MB||Desktop||Single HD disk drive|
|1989||8530-E31||Model 30 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||ESDI, 30MB||Desktop||Single HD disk drive|
|1991||8530-E41||Model 30 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||ESDI, 45MB||Desktop||Single HD disk drive|
|1987||8530-R02||Model 30||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||Desktop, intelligent financial workstation||Two disk drives, 4700 host support|
|1987||8530-R21||Model 30||8 MHz Intel 8086||ISA 8 bit||ST-506, 20MB||Desktop, intelligent financial workstation||Single disk drives, 4700 host support|
|1988||8530-E0R||Model 30 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||Desktop, intelligent financial workstation||Single HD disk drive, 4700 host support|
|1988||8530-E2R||Model 30 286||10 MHz Intel 286||ISA 16 bit||ESDI, 20MB||Desktop, intelligent financial workstation||Single HD disk drive, 4700 host support|
|1987||8550-021||50||Intel 80286||MCA 16 bit||desktop|
|1987||8560||60||Intel 80286||MCA 16 bit||MFM or ESDI||tower|
|1987||8580||80||Intel 80386 DX||MCA 32 bit||MFM or ESDI||tower|
|1988||8550-031, 8550-061||50 Z||Intel 80286||MCA 16 bit||desktop|
|1988||8570||70||Intel 80386 DX||MCA 32 bit||desktop|
|1989||8555||55 SX||Intel 80386 SX||MCA 16 bit||ESDI||desktop|
|1989||8570||70||Intel 80386 DX, Intel 80486||MCA 32 bit||desktop|
|1989||8573-031||P70 386||Intel 80386 DX||MCA 32 bit||portable||2 MCA slots, one full length, one half length.|
|1990||8573||P75 486||Intel 80486||MCA 32 bit||SCSI||portable||4 MCA slots, two full length, two half length.|
|1990||8580||80||Intel 80386 DX||MCA 32 bit||SCSI||tower|
|1990||8556||56 SX||Intel 80386 SX||MCA 16 bit||desktop|
|1990||8565||65 SX||Intel 80386 SX||MCA 16 bit||SCSI||tower|
|1990||8590||90 XP 486||Intel 80486||MCA 32 bit||SCSI||desktop|
|1990||8595||95 XP 486||Intel 80486||MCA 32 bit||SCSI||tower|
|1991||8540||40 SX||Intel 80386 SX||ISA 16 bit||desktop|
|1991||8557||57 SX||Intel 80386 SX||MCA 16 bit||SCSI||desktop|
|1991||8570||70||Intel 80386 DX, Intel 80486||MCA 32 bit||desktop|
The PS/2's controversial hardware design was tied to a marketing strategy that was similarly unsuccessful. During the 1980s, IBM's advertising of the original PC and its other product lines had frequently used the likeness of Charlie Chaplin. For the PS/2, however, IBM augmented this character with a notorious jingle that seemed more suitable for a low-end consumer product than a business-class computing platform:
- “How ya' gonna' do it?
It's as easy as I.B.M.”
- “How ya' gonna' do it?
The solution is I.B.M.”
Another campaign featured actors from the television show M*A*S*H playing the staff of a contemporary (i.e. late-1980s) business in roles reminiscent of their characters' roles from the series. Harry Morgan, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, and Loretta Swit were in from the beginning, whereas Alan Alda joined the campaign later.
The profound lack of success of these advertising campaigns led, in part, to IBM's termination of its relationships with its global advertising agencies; these accounts were reported by Wired magazine to have been worth over $500 million a year, and the largest such account review in the history of business.
Overall, the PS/2 line was largely unsuccessful with the consumer market, even though the PC based Models 30 and 25 were an attempt to address it. With what was widely seen as a technically competent but cynical attempt to gain undisputed control of the market, IBM unleashed an industry and consumer backlash. The firm suffered massive financial losses for the remainder of the decade, forfeited its previously unquestioned position as the industry leader, and eventually lost its status as the largest single manufacturer of personal computers, first to Compaq and then to Dell. After the failure of the PS/2 line to establish a new standard, IBM was forced to revert to building ISA PCs—following the industry it had once led—with the PS/1 line and later the Aptiva and PS/ValuePoint lines. Eventually, IBM sold its entire PC business to Lenovo.
Still, the PS/2 platform experienced success in the business sector where the reliability, ease of maintenance and strong support from IBM offset the rather daunting cost of the machines. Also, many people still lived with the motto "Nobody ever got fired for buying an IBM." The model 55SX and later 56SX were the leading sellers for almost their entire lifetimes. Many models of PS/2 systems saw a production life span that took them well into the late 1990s.
- Burton, Greg. IBM PC and PS/2 pocket reference. NDD (the old dealer channel), 1991.
- Byers, T.J. IBM PS/2: A Reference Guide. Intertext Publications, 1989. ISBN 0-07-009525-6.
- Dalton, Richard and Mueller, Scott. IBM PS/2 Handbook . Que Publications, 1989. ISBN 0-88022-334-0.
- Held, Gilbert. IBM PS/2: User's Reference Manual. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1989. ISBN 0-471-62150-1.
- Hoskins, Jim. IBM PS/2. John Wiley & Sons Inc., fifth revised edition, 1992. ISBN 0-471-55195-3.
- Leghart, Paul M. The IBM PS/2 in-depth report. Pachogue, NY: Computer Technology Research Corporation, 1988.
- Newcom, Kerry. A Closer Look at IBM PS/2 Microchannel Architecture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
- Norton, Peter. Inside the IBM PC and PS/2. Brady Publishing, fourth edition 1991. ISBN 0-13-465634-2.
- Outside the IBM PC and PS/2: Access to New Technology. Brady Publishing, 1992. ISBN 0-13-643586-6.
- Shanley, Tom. IBM PS/2 from the Inside Out. Addison-Wesley, 1991. ISBN 0-201-57056-4.
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