Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars


Posted by Trixter on February 8, 2006

Today was a very bad day.

I had a rough time at work, I obsessed over money while trying to hide it from my wife, I had to keep my cool around the kids when it came time to do homework and get them ready for bed… I was depressed, I blew my diet to the four winds with a bag of chips, I didn’t feel like working on the DVD project for some damn reason, and to top it all off: My 5150 died.

Yes, the IBM PC 5150 that I used to create 8088 Corruption died a horrible electric death; there’s a short or something on the board and I get no POST beeps, nothing. What makes it a particularly bad day for this to happen is that the 5150 is how I usually relax. Stop laughing! Seriously, I code 8088 assembler to relax, trying to come up with demo effects, or decompression routines, or PC speaker sound routines, etc. And boy did I need it tonight.

Since we moved into the house 5 years ago, I’ve been uncovering all sorts of little and medium-sized boxes that I had delivered to me back when ebay was a cheap place to get vintage parts (nowadays it’s a flea market populated by sheer idiots, but that’s a rant for some other day) but haven’t yet opened… video cards, sound cards, the occaisional analog joystick (CH Products: The only choice), etc. so I thought I’d go basement-diving to find something to cheer me up. Maybe a spare Adlib card or something. So I pushed aside some crap and found a somewhat large box delivered in 2001, right when we moved here. Got the swiss army knife, opened it up, and almost pissed my pants.

Inside was an IBM PC 5160 (the original PC/XT).

Not just any 5160 either — this thing is clean. It is the cleanest IBM PC I have ever owned; it looks like it is mint out of the box. Even the keyboard is clean. In the 8088 Corruption video you should be able to see a keyboard with a stretched-out cord and WordPerfect keycap stickers… this keyboard is mint with a perfect cord. But better than that, it’s been expanded to the point where it is very useful for someone who likes to code 8088 assembler and play old games: It has two floppies instead of one; it has a 25-pin parallel port which is great for transferring files over a special LPT cable at high speed and also hooking up parallel-port network adapters or Zip drives (yes, you can use a Zip drive on an XT) so backing my work up won’t be a problem; finally, a 9-pin serial port (most old PCs have 25-pin) which means I don’t have to dig for a 9-to-25-pin adapter and can hook up a mouse without hassles.

But did it work? I fired it up, it counted to 640K (another bonus), and after what seemed like eons, the floppy drives timed out and it booted from the internal hard drive with no errors… directly into Norton Commander… and into the root directory with the following contents:


And that, my friends, is when I started to cry. Those who know me well will know why.

Today was a very good day.

10 Responses to “Karma”

  1. sole said

    Oh my god!!! Best of the best, I’ve played those games for lots of hours! :’)
    I would have cried if I had found that as well (specially after that hard day!)
    What leads me to a good question: why those games were on every pc years ago? I mean, they even’t arrived to Spain where I was. They weren’t the only ones, weren’t them? :)
    Note: I’ve reading you for some time but it’s now when you touch my feelings. ouch! ;) C’mon, keep up with the good scene work. These posts are very enjoyable. Cheers from London.

  2. All this and a bag of chips!

  3. Brolin Empey said

    Now you need to find a suitable ISA ethernet card + packet driver for said card, get a copy of SSH2DOS onto the XT, and ssh into a *nix machine from the XT in order to post to your blog using e.g. Lynx, Links, or Elinks. :)

  4. Trixter said

    sole: Glad you can identify with what I was going through :-)

    Jason: And 4 slots are still free! — I’m going to see how badly I can trick it out: 8MB EMS, IDE controller (I found one, damn they’re rare), and a 286/8088 toggle board :-) oh yeah, and some sound cards :)

    Brolin: ISA ethernet is difficult to find but not impossible, however I have a Xircom parallel-port adapter I’ve been dying to try. As for SSH, you’ve got to be kidding — the encryption/decryption would lead to noticable lag. Remember, we’re talking about a machine that is (I’m not making this up) at least 100 times slower than your Thunderbird.

    But no matter what code I write on that machine, it will work on the original 5150. The EMS is purely to speed up my dev environment, for example (although think of the video I could produce with that!!)

  5. Brolin Empey said

    You could use unencrypted Telnet then. ;)

  6. Trixter said

    Actually I was thinking of running a web server when I’m not using it: http://8088.eznos.org/

  7. Kevin Martin said

    trix, you’re a dork and I love that about you. your entry made me laugh out loud.


  8. […] that I’ve been very lucky when it comes to technology and surprises. Previously I mentioned the surprise IBM 5153 I found in storage, but today I was able to count many […]

  9. Some Random Guest said

    Is it normal that a XT is set up like a 5150 PC?

    I got one (I’m actually borrowing it) with 256KB RAM, MDA and two full height floppy drives (à 360KB, while no hard drive).

    It’s a Europeian system (220 V/50 Hz) with Norwegian keyboard + “KEYBNO” driver, and there is a stamp on the inside of the chassis telling “25 MAR 85”

  10. Trixter said

    While the XT was originally introduced as a 10MB hard drive system, I wouldn’t be surprised if some resellers sold it as a more basic system for customers who didn’t need a hard drive. The XT had an updated motherboard (all ROM areas are scanned, 8 slots instead of 5, etc.) so it is definitely the motherboard you want to run.

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