IBM 5550

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IBM 5550
Also known as Multistation 5550
Manufacturer IBM
Type Personal computer
Release date Japan March 1983; 34 years ago (1983-03)[1]
Introductory price US$4,200-10000 with screen, printer, and keyboard.
Operating system Japanese DOS or OS/2
CPU Intel 8086 @ 8 MHz
Memory 256 kB RAM (expandable to 512 kB)
Display 15-inch CRT display (24 lines × 80 characters)
Graphics 1024×768 graphics monochrome or 360×512 in four colors
Successor IBM Personal System/55
IBM 5540, 5550, 5560 – Japanese-language advert in ASCII, July 1986 issue

IBM 5550 is a personal computer series that IBM marketed in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China in the 1980s and 1990s, for business use customers. In Japan, it was introduced in 1983 and promoted as "Multistation 5550" because it had three roles in one machine: a PC, a word processing machine which was traditionally marketed as a machine different from a PC in Japan, and an IBM-host attached terminal.


The IBM PC that had been marketed by IBM since 1981, using Intel 8088, was not powerful enough to process the far eastern languages of Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Nor was the resolution of IBM PC's display high enough to show the complex characters of these languages.

The IBM 5550 was first introduced in Japan in March 1983,[1] using Intel 8086 microprocessor and was called "Multistation 5550" because it had three roles in one machine: a PC, a word processing machine which was traditionally marketed in Japan as a machine different from a PC, and an online terminal.

After the Japanese 5550 models, Korean, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese models were also introduced. IBM 5550 initially used its own architecture, but, later since 1987, was changed to use IBM Personal System/2's Micro Channel Architecture, being renamed as Personal System/55.

In Japan, Kiyoshi Atsumi, a film actor, was used to promote the 5550. IBM later introduced IBM JX for home users in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and DOS/V for both business and home users in Japan.


IBM 5550's features are:

  • Intel 8086 microprocessor
  • 15-inch CRT display of 24 lines of 80 characters each, each character 24×24 or 16x16 dots
  • Up to three 5¼ inch double-density (720 KB) floppy disk drives
  • Japanese DOS or OS/2
  • Application programs, such as Japanese Bunsho Program for word processing, 3270 emulation or 5250 emulation for IBM host communication, etc.


  • 5551-A/B/C/D/E/G/H/J/K/M/P (Basic models, placed beside the display. Later became a smaller size like 5540)
  • 5541-B/E/J/K/M/P (Smaller size models, on which the display can be placed. Later made even smaller)
  • 5561-G/H/J/K/M/P (Larger size models)
  • 5530-G/H (Stand-alone models, without the communications adapter. Used 3½ inch floppy disk)
  • 5535-M (Laptop, using 3½ inch floppy disk)


In Japan, Multistation 5550 competed against:


BYTE in 1983 speculated that "we may soon see a similar machine here in America". Describing the 5550 as "a true workstation", the magazine envisioned the computer as filling the "considerable gulf above the PC", and a rival to the IBM System/36 minicomputer. It praised the 5550's "unprecedented" combination of kanji support with high-end word-processing capability, and reported that in Japan an ecosystem of vendors providing products for the computer was forming. The magazine concluded that "if the American PC is any precedent, the market should soon be filled with 5550 software".[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chronology of IBM Personal Computers (1983-1986), Ken Polsson Archived March 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., 1983, March 15, IBM Japan announces the IBM 5550 Multistation in Japan. It features an 8 MHz Intel 8086 microprocessor, 256 kB RAM (expandable to 512 kB), up to three 640 kB capacity floppy drives, display with 1024x768 graphics monochrome or 360x512 in four colors, for US$4200-10000 with screen, printer, and keyboard. [902.144] [1314.D4
  2. ^ Willis, Richard (November 1983). "Big Blue Goes Japanese". BYTE. p. 164. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 

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