IBM System 9000

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The System 9000 (S9000) is a family of microcomputers from IBM consisting of the System 9001, 9002, and 9003. The first member of the family, the System 9001 laboratory computer, was introduced in May 1982 as the IBM Instruments Computer System Model 9000.[1][2] It was renamed to the System 9001 in 1984 when the System 9000 family name and the System 9002 multi-user general-purpose business computer was introduced. The last member of the family, the System 9003 industrial computer, was introduced in 1985. All members of the System 9000 family did not find much commercial success and the entire family was discontinued on 2 December 1986. The System 9000 was based around the Motorola 68000 microprocessor and the Motorola VERSAbus system bus. All members had the IBM CSOS real-time operating system (OS) stored on read-only memory; and the System 9002 could also run the multi-user Microsoft Xenix OS, which was suitable for business use and supported up to four users.


There were three versions of the System 9000. The 9001 was the benchtop (lab) model, the 9002 was the desktop model[3] without laboratory-specific features,[4] and the 9003 was a manufacturing and process control version modified to be suitable for factory environments. The System 9002 and 9003 were based on the System 9001, which was based on around an 8 MHz Motorola 68000, and the Motorola VERSAbus system bus (the System 9000 was one of the few that used the VERSAbus). Input/output ports included three RS-232C serial ports, an IEEE-488 instrument port, and a bidirectional 8-bit parallel port. For laboratory data acquisition, analog-to-digital converters that could be attached to its I/O ports were available.[5] User input could be via a user-definable 10-key touch panel on the integrated CRT display, a 57-key user-definable keypad, or a 83-key Model F keyboard. The touch panel and keypad were designed for controlling experiments.[1]

All System 9000 members had an IBM real-time operating system called CSOS (Computer System Operating System) on 128 KB of read-only memory (ROM).[6][7] This was a multi-tasking operating system that could be extended by loading components from disk. IBM also offered Microsoft Xenix on the System 9002,[4] but this required at least 640 KB of main memory and a VERSAbus card containing a memory management unit. The machines shipped with 128 KB of main memory as standard, and up to 5 MB could be added to the system using memory boards that plugged into the VERSAbus. Each board could contain up to 1 MB, which were installed in 256 KB increments.[3]


The System 9000 was developed by IBM Instruments, Inc., an IBM subsidiary established in 1980 that focused on selling scientific and technical instruments as well as the computer equipment designed to control, log, or process these instruments. It was originally introduced as the IBM Instruments Computer System Model 9000 in May 1982.[8][9][10] Its long name led to it being referred to as the Computer System 9000, CS-9000, CS/9000,[11] or CS9000. Originally, the CS9000 was available for scientific instrument users, it was not offered to customers who wanted to use it for other purposes. The CS9000 was unsuccessful in this niche; the cheaper IBM Personal Computer was adequate for many instrumentation tasks, and IBM's larger general-purpose computers were used for more demanding tasks.[10]

IBM repositioned the CS9000 in February 21, 1984[12] as a family of computers, renaming it to the System 9000, which consisted of the System 9001 and 9002. The 9001 was a renamed CS9000, which retained its focus on the instrumentation market, while the 9002 was a general-purpose business computer that ran the IBM CSOS or Microsoft Xenix operating systems and supported one to four users.[13][14] The 9002 was unsuccessful in the business market, due to the lack of business application software support from software developers other than IBM.[10] IBM finally introduced a new model, the System 9003, in April 1985 as a computer-aided manufacturing computer,[15] but it was also unsuccessful. As a result, manufacturing of the System 9000 family was stopped in January 1986,[10] and it remained in limited availability until it was discontinued on 2 December 1986.[16] Reasons cited for the failure of the System 9000 were its poor performance and high price, which led to the IBM PC being used where price was of concern, and to other 32-bit microcomputers being used where performance mattered.[10] IBM closed its Instrument division in January 1987, reassigning the approximately 150 employees that had worked for it to other positions.[17]


Noting the obscurity of its 1982 release, BYTE in January 1983 called the System 9000 "IBM's 'Secret' Computer" and stated that it was "in its quiet way, one of the most exciting new arrivals on today's microcomputer scene". The magazine speculated that with some changes it would be "a natural candidate for a business or general-purpose computer".[8] A later review by a member of Brandeis University's chemistry department criticized several aspects of the hardware and software, but praised the sophisticated BASIC and IBM's customer service. The reviewer concluded that "the CS-9000 is a very fast and powerful laboratory computer [that is] very affordable".[4]

IBM 9000[edit]

1983 ads by dealers referred to "The IBM 9000: Multi-User Micro,"[18] although the name was "IBM Computer System 9000" was also advertised.

IBM also, informally, referred to "IBM 9000."[19]


  1. ^ a b "The IBM CS-9000 Instrument Computer". Columbia Univ. Computing History.
  2. ^ The Enhanced IBM System 9000 Computer IBM ad in Chem. Eng. News, March 26, 1984, 62 (13), pp 17–19
  3. ^ a b BYTE Guide to the IBM PC, fall 1984, p.26
  4. ^ a b c Clune, Thomas R. (February 1984). "The IBM CS-9000 Lab Computer". BYTE. p. 278. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  5. ^ Derfler, Frank J., Jr. (20 March 1984). "PC's Powerful Cousin: The IBM CS9000". PC Magazine. Vol. 3 no. 5. pp. 170–174.
  6. ^ collection
  7. ^ oral history
  8. ^ a b Morgan, Chris (January 1982). "IBM's "Secret" Computer". BYTE. p. 108. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  9. ^ "IBM Announces Science Micro". P-Communications. PC Magazine. Vol. 1 no. 6. October 1982. p. 30.
  10. ^ a b c d e Wallace, Richard (20 January 1986). "IBM Stops 9000 Series Production". Electronic News.
  11. ^ Congress, Library of; Office For Subject Cataloging Policy, Library of Congress (1998). "Library of Congress Subject Headings".
  12. ^ International Business Machines Corporation (February 21, 1984). Announcement Letter 1984-022.
  13. ^ Henkel, Tom (5 March 1984). "IBM moves System 9000 into corporate sector". Computerworld. Vol. XVIII no. 10. pp. 79, 82.
  14. ^ Henkel, Tom (5 March 1984). "What IBM's move means to users". Micro Bits. Computerworld. Vol. XVIII no. 10. pp. 79, 81.
  15. ^ "IBM System 9003 for manufacturing out". Microcomputers. Computerworld. Vol. XIX no. 17. 29 April 1985. p. 48.
  16. ^ IBM Announcement Letter Number 186-165
  17. ^ IBM to Shut Instrument Unit, Technology section, New York Times, January 9, 1987
  18. ^ "A bright new world for dealers". The DEC professional. November 1983. p. 19.
  19. ^ "General Software Enhancements for IBM System 9000". 1984-08-21. The IBM 9000 C Compiler is derived from Kernighan and Ritchie (1978) and produces optimized, native 68000 code directly from C source code.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooper, James William (1984). The Laboratory Microcomputer: Programming in Pascal and MC68000 Assembly Language on the IBM System 9000. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471810360. (A book about the System 9000 and how to use it written by a researcher at IBM Research.)
  • The CS9000 Microcomputer, a SHARE paper on the CS9000 by Marty Sandfelder (IBM)
  • David J. States, "NUMBER CRUNCHING ON IBM'S NEW S9000. IBM joins with MIT's National Magnet Lab to develop spectrometers for imaging systems" in the BYTE Guide to the IBM PC, fall 1984, pp. 218-230 has a fairly extensive review of S9000 used with CSOS
  • Stinson, Steve (5 July 1982). "IBM Instruments introduces lab computer". Chemical & Engineering News. 60 (27): 12. doi:10.1021/cen-v060n027.p012.