Still no love for the IBM PC
Posted by Trixter on August 23, 2015
It’s been 2.5 years since I talked about how there’s no love for the IBM PC, and not much has changed. I’ve discovered one more youtube channel that covers 808x-era games (dfortae’s game reviews), but that’s it. There are still no podcasts that cover the first decade of the PC; even the Retro Computing Roundtable hardly mentions it.
What has changed in 2.5 years is my understanding of why that is. I think the 808x-based era (8088 or 8086 computers that are IBM PC compatible, 1981-1989) is mostly overlooked because both the system and its users are stuck between worlds. Let’s start with the IBM PC itself:
- Is it a home computer or a business computer? It was a business computer for the home, so try classifying that one. It definitely had business-class power and expandability (and price tag), but also had BASIC in ROM, cassette tape support, and could connect to home televisions.
- Is it an 8-bit or 16-bit computer? It came out squarely in the middle of the 8-bit era, and had an 8-bit bus and an 8-bit path to memory. But, the 8088 is internally a 16-bit CPU, with 16-bit registers and a 16-bit ALU, Most people categorize it as a 16-bit computer and part of the 16-bit era, but considering the Atari ST and Amiga are the poster children for the 16-bit era, it doesn’t feel like it should be in that category as it is significantly less capable than those systems.
- When was the system considering viable for gaming? There were games available for the system in the same year it was launched, but many people consider games with ugly CGA graphics or text-only adventures a party trick and not actual games. I disagree, but ask most online people what “DOS games” are and you’ll get a picture painted in a VGA palette.
The users/fans/retrohobbyists of the PC are also stuck between worlds:
Generation YMillennials grew up with the web, blogging, social media, YouTube… but the IBM PC was not their system, so they don’t cover it. Most old PC gaming channels on YouTube, for example, consider “MS-DOS Gaming” as starting in the era of 386+VGA+soundcard systems. These are good channels, don’t get me wrong (Pushing up Roses, Lazy Game Reviews, Ancient DOS games, DOS Nostalgia come to mind), but they only rarely cover the first decade of PC gaming. That’s 10 years of games not getting coverage — quite a gap.
- So that leaves us Generation X’ers to cover it, because we did grow up with the PC… but, there are two forces working against early PCs getting coverage. The first is that Gen X people also grew up with other systems. The second is that not every Gen X’er is comfortable doing a podcast or video channel. So out of the few that are, the attention is spread across all 1980s systems (including consoles), leaving a tragically small slice of people who are both capable and motivated to do so for the early PC.
Come on, I can’t be the only one. Won’t someone start a 1980s-era PC podcast or YouTube channel?
(We were having a chat with a friend from the OnBlast blog, and I too thought the original classic Mac would have this problem too, but a cursory search of the interwebz shows a plethora of websites dedicated to classic macs, and even a retro mac podcast coming up on its 376th episode. Yikes!)