IBM PS/2 The MicroChannel Path to Failure

Anybody out there remember microchannel and the PS/2?

IBM brought out the PS/2 to CRUSH the competition. LITERALLY crush them - some of the computers weighed as much as a boat anchor!After IBM so brilliantly developed the PC with its open architecture, they discovered that there was actually a big market for the gadget and eventually decided they needed a much better and more proprietary personal computer both to address shortcomings of the original PC’s bus and to try and regain control of the market.

This resulted in the PS/2 which packed a number of useful innovations (such as plug-‘n-play expansion cards) and more reliable components into some really massive boxes – I still have a Model 80 in one of my garages and the tubular steel handle alone is a massive statement of rugged reliability – unfortunately that computer is the only one I ever lost to a power surge through the phone lines, but inside those PS/2s, especially the high-end models were like little jewels.

What IBM failed to notice was that PCs were becoming so cheap that they were nearly disposable for business customers even way back then and the PS/2 was developed to fill a crying need for dependability and sophistication which simply didn’t exist.

I well remember the PS/2 because it was the first really new computer line which I covered in the press from the very beginning.

I picked up a Model 60 (Intel 80286) the week they were released and the IBM store I got it from was so impressed by all the reviews I wrote that they arranged for me to trade it in and get what was probably the very first Model 80 (Intel 80386DX) put in the hands of a regular customer. The Model 80 was released after the rest of the line probably due to a shortage of that powerful new 386 chip.

I liked the PS/2 line, they were elegant and rugged, if a bit over priced and I said so in my reviews which were mostly technical descriptions of all the innovations.

The PS/2 introduced VGA graphics, standardized the 1.44M 3.5-inch floppy drive, as well as the keyboard and mouse ports we still use today.

More important for IT departments, it introduced true plug-and-play BIOS management.

I believe I ended up writing reviews of the new PS/2 line for 10 publications in all, putting to lie the belief that science/technology writers weren’t creative.

YOU try writing 10 different reviews of the same computers for 10 publications with different audiences, and, at the same time, reporting all the same information in an unbiased way in each review.

THAT’s creative writing!

It’s so much easier when you can make things up or change the facts, but it is a lot harder to keep all the facts straight and still make each review different enough that the editors didn’t complain.

Part of it was easy – I was writing for three main markets those days, government, business, and home users (geeks). Although each wanted the facts, which set of facts were most important to each audience was different.

So, I still have that Model 80 sitting around, a classic boat anchor, except that I no longer have any boat large enough to use it even as a storm anchor.

Here is a link to one of those reviews written when I was on the staff of Newsbytes News Network, the first and only fully-independent international high-technology wire service.

Here is a photo from a library archive:

Here were the original specs:

Manufacturer:International Business Machines

Year Introduced:1987

Cost (new):$10,895

Processor:Intel 80386 Speed:16 Mhz


RAM:1 MB - 16 MB

ROM:128 KB

Storage Media3.5" Floppy Drive70 MB Hard Disk

Expansion Slots:Eight Internal Operating System:IBM PC-DOS 3.3 System Bus:32-bit

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