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IBM's Purple Book and Open Source 140

Bill Kendrick writes: "I noticed a ZDNet article titled "Why we should hail IBM's ode to open source--the Purple Book". It compares IBM's open release of the classic PC's hardware and BIOS specifications with today's OpenSource model and Linux." Shortly after IBM's open-spec PC, they reverted to the closed PS/2 with a patented bus in an attempt to monopolize the exploding market. Hopefully this particular bit of history won't replay itself.
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IBM's Purple Book and Open Source

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  • I've got a "purple" book, out in the garage with my box full of Lotus and Borland products. Unlike what the article's author says (twice even), it's not "plastic-covered" unless you count the shrink-wrap it came it. It's cloth-covered, just like all the old IBM manuals.

    I think what people are missing is how many companies sprang up that built things for the IBM PC. Sure there were companies that built clones, some violating IBM's license by using the purple book information. But more importantly, there were a thousand times more companies that used that information to built hardware and software. All the technical specs were laid out for your right there. If you wanted to make a BIOS call or even bypass BIOS and talk right to the hardware, the purple book had the ASM source.

  • The only reason that IBM supports Linux is so they make more money. Its obvious that IBM wants Linux to eat away at small servers running Windows 2000. Some of those customers will eventually need a bigger, more scalable server. If they are already running Linux, they can easily migrate to AIX without much staff retraining. It also isn't difficult to port enterprise Linux software to AIX.

    Enough of this "IBM is now a good company" crap.
  • I have a DOS Technical Reference, an IBM PC Hardware Technical Reference and an IBM AT Hardware technical Reference. These were the old style looseleaf format binder in a slipcover. I read the commented assembler listing of the BIOS. I learned quite a bit of assembler language from that reference.

    I should probably sell them on eBay.
  • Historical Nit-Pick (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dwm ( 151474 )
    Shortly after IBM's open-spec PC, they reverted to the closed PS/2 with a patented bus in an attempt to monopolize the exploding market.

    "Shortly?" The PS/2 was launched in 1987, I believe -- six years after the IBM PC. That's about a bazillion computer-industry years.

  • It's (the OS is) basic infrastructure, and basic infrastructure must be shared technology.

    This is really the answer to the question, "Why does Micro$oft dominate the Desktop Application Market?"

    This will soon be the case for the Server Application market as well, at least on MS based OSes. Because only Micro$oft has the compete guide to building applications for Micro$oft OSes.

    On a competely unrelated note: What is the relationship of the "purple book" and the creation of the "purple dinosour"? Any guesses?
    • What is the relationship of the "purple book" and the creation of the "purple dinosour"? Any guesses?

      Mine would be "absolutely none". They're nowhere near even the same hue of purple.
  • by kitmarlowe ( 136925 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:01PM (#2115548)
    These guys have taken the ball and run with it, as far as Linux is concerned, but let's not deify the group that brought us Microchannel architecture in a move to regain absolute control of the market. Working with IBM in Linux development is good and important, but don't lose sight of their history as a megacorp bound on dominating everything in sight. The only reason they aren't still doing it, is a bigger, meaner and more evil company came along.

    • The only reason they aren't still doing it, is a bigger, meaner and more evil company came along.

      Yeah, and when that company was little IBM said "sure Bill, you can keep the rights to the OS you're making for our new 'personal computer' thing - after all there's no money in software anyway."

      It's kind of sadly ironic that now IBM (and a lot of megacorps) are supporting Linux over Microsoft, in an attempt to become other than bit players in the computer industry...

      Of course, if IBM wants to tell themselves they're the original Open company and that gets them excited about producing good Open Source Software and solutions; that's fine with me...

    • I think it is important to note that when IBM introduced MCA (microchannel architecture) they were big dogs home PC market, and the IBM brand of PC was still the standard of compatibility.

      Fast forward about fifteen years and you will see that IBM has no PC market (except some peripherals). Today's IBM is both a services [] company and a server [] company. Linux aligns with this new paradigm very nicely. I'm glad that IBM has learned from their past, and I'm glad that Linux is a part of their business plan.

    • Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it

      I think IBM knows MCA was a mistake and hindsight is always 20/20. While I agree that we have to temper our enthusiasm for IBM's efforts with this history, I believe this is a very different organization that's learned a lot in the last 15 years.

      • ... I believe this is a very different organization that's learned a lot in the last 15 years.

        Not only that, but whether we like it or not from an ethical standpoint, the ultimate sign of success for any business is a near monopoly position.

        We can hate and bash M$ et al, but the fact is that they are where they are today due to consistent focus on their goal -- out sell or buy their competitors.
      • Simply put. Microchannel was great. The biggest problem was the stupid reference diskettes, and that was simply because flash memory wasn't there, yet.

        Microchannel machines simply worked longer and more reliably than ISA or even PCI machines.

        The problems was the stupid #$%& licensing terms. Gotta separate the technical side from the idiot marketing side.
        • Simply put. Microchannel was great. The biggest problem was the stupid reference diskettes, and that was simply because flash memory wasn't there, yet.

          No, the biggest problem was the lack of backward compatability with ISA cards. MCA forced a chicken-and-egg scenario: people wouldn't buy the machine because there weren't as many expansion cards for it, and third party providers weren't going to tool up to produce cards for a machine that wasn't selling well. Lose lose.

          Microchannel machines simply worked longer and more reliably than ISA or even PCI machines.

          The ones that weren't DOA, maybe. My experience is that one out of every five P(o)S2 machines that I pulled out of a box was fscked in some way. High on the hit parade were dead serial and parallel ports. Well, on the bright side, they did introduce VGA and 3 1/2" disk drives.

          I'm pretty sure there are more people who are nostalgic for the S-100 bus than for MCA.
        • There's a long list of products that were technically better than their competition, but weren't marketed/licensed worth a damn. OS/2 vs Windows, MCA vs ISA, SanFrancisco vs Web's Fear; the list goes on and on just with IBM's products, let alone the rest of the industry. (And the list of tech that never made it out of the blue walls would probably tripple that list.)
  • IBM and Linux (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bmajik ( 96670 )
    So please tell me you've figured out IBMs Linux story and aren't just mindlessly eating IBM cock for breakfast.

    In case you're still under a rock, IBM loves linux for the following reasons:

    1) Linux is free to IBM. IBM can tell you that they'll give you Linux for free. Linux is "free" to you. Linux costs nothing. You're getting something for nothing! Yee Haw!

    2) By and large, _Nobody_ has a clue as to how to make linux solve any real-world business problem. Those that do, do not need IBMs help.

    3) IBM has a "little known" organization called "Global Services" which makes up a _massive_ part of their revenue. IBM Global Services would be more than happy to contract a team of its Linux Experts to custom architect a Linux Solution for your E-Business!

    So, in summary: IBM gets linux, and all of your work for free. Then they sell it to anyone that will buy it for _massive_ (utterly _massive_) profits, via service contracts and custom work. Because lets be honest, when a company of PHBs (every company) wants an email/calendaring package, they need a little more handholding and infrastructure than stock sendmail and iCal. IBM GS to the rescue!

    • > So please tell me you've figured out IBMs Linux story

      IBM can get back their golden ring, the same way Microsoft got it from them (thru Open Source rather than open hardware). I'm sure IBM loves the irony.

      Furthermore, Open Source has a great service-oriented business model -- extremely compatible with IBM's business methods.

      As long as they're working with the community, adding enhancements and fixes, then this is just the sort of company we want on our side. And note: they are helping the community.

  • Has everyone forgotten the original givers? They are the reason we have the mouse. The interaction. The PC. Their research and ideas, abused by Case and later Gates, gave birth to CHI (Computer Human Interaction).

    This article fails to mention anything worthy of being noted. It's too bad PARC [] isn't as big as it used to be [].
    • Has everyone forgotten the original givers? They are the reason we have the mouse. The interaction. The PC. Their research and ideas, abused by Case and later Gates, gave birth to CHI (Computer Human Interaction).

      First of all, you got your 'steves' confused. Perhaps you meant Steve Jobs, and not Steve Case?

      Secondly the mouse was really invented by Douglas Engelbart [], *not* by Xerox PARC. Engelbart also came up with concepts for GUI and other Human/Computer Interface paradigms. And he was doing this in 1965 or so, well before PARC, or even Apple.
  • that IBM was in hot water for locking their customers in with proprietary hardware and software. I was as astounded as anyone when I first got the news of IBM going Open Source, but the cynic in me warns of a company that may yet return to the "embrace and extend" way of gaining power in a market.

    Since IBM's openess has been a relatively new thing, I simply appreciate the fact that they seem to the trying to embrace a new view of software and not get too assured that they won't return to old practices.

    Of course, for those who know what I'm talking about, the Sash WDK is kinda cool. :)

  • by Rooktoven ( 263454 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:08PM (#2117512) Homepage
    Hey, They _were_ an evil company. But they found religion. Maybe people (and corporations) can change... Besides, they threw a great party at NYC Linuxworld...

    • In other news, reports from previously undisclosed FBI documents reveal the stunning truth that the Unibomber used a number of components from early IBM motherboards in the construction of several lethal mail bombs...

      "It was easy, you see... all's I had to do was ring up those nice guys at IBM, and their friendly engineers immediately mailed me complete schematics for turning an 8088 motherboard into a high-speed shockwave simulation device. You wouldn't believe the money those sims saved me on pencils and paper!"

      In a related press conference, The Attorney General was quoted as saying, "No, really, they had the best intentions at heart..."

      (Disclaimer: it's a joke. laugh :) )
  • If I had to choose between a Microsoft Monopoly or and IBM Monopoly, I'd choose the IBM monopoly. They've learned their lesson, whereas MS still hasn't.


    May the Hair on your toes not fall out
    • If you believe IBM has learned some sort of lesson, then I've got some great free games that I've compiled myself just for you. All you have to do is log in as root and run them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In reading through Bill Gates' book The Road Ahead he mentioned the oft cited problem of IT in the old days: men in white lab coats being intimidating and that folks really wanted computing power for the people. In his recount of the deal of the century (the selling of MS's brad of DOS to IBM for their about to be released PC) he mentioned that he had to convince Big Blue to open the specs for the PC. Hence the reverse engineering done by TI/Compaq was made easier by none other than Bill himself since he was so into openness at the time. At least that was his recollection of how things transpired.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @01:45PM (#2129922) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully, this little bit of history will replay itself.

    IBM took an open standard (the ISA bus) and tried to take it closed (the MCA bus) so they'd put an impenetrable lock on the market. The industry responded by saying "to hell with you, IBM; we're all going to EISA (and later, PCI)." Who's playing the close-it-up game now? Microsoft, of course. The Internet currnently runs on open standards, but Microsoft's 'MCA bus' is the .NET framework. They're putting the squeeze on, in an attempt to lock it all up once and for all. Hopefully the market will respond to .NET in the same way it responded to MCA: evil empire loyalists may adopt it, but everyone else will go running to some other, non-empire-controlled, open standard(s). J2EE, Linux, it's all there and it all works.
    • >IBM took an open standard (the ISA bus) and tried to take it closed

      But, they'd already lost market share to the clone makers when they tried changing the bus standard. Everybody could see this was a ploy to get customers under a proprietary hardware lock again, and nobody was stupid enough to bite.

      On the other hand...

      The software market is still under Microsoft's domination. They can create a patent that's merely different, not necessarily novel, use it in their protocols and formats, and force it on their customers who have no choice but to use MS software, then require competitors seeking compatiblity to be licensed; thus killing the Open Source threat.

      Quite a different circumstance, given todays IP laws.

    • "we're all going to EISA"? Where did that come from? Use of the EISA was every bit as restricted as use of the MCA (that is, you had to pay the licensing fees to the owners) and got used in not a whole lot more computers. I believe that the fact that neither EISA nor MCA ever was very popular with PC users (IBM based a whole lot more on the MCA than the PS/2) was likely due to a combination of economic factors and technical factors.

      Most people, even heavy computer users, have never seen an EISA based computer. I've never seen an EISA peripheral card. I have seen EISA computers, but then I run some of my software on certain models of Dell servers. It certainly wasn't a major selling point for most Dell customers which is no doubt why more recent models in the same line have dropped EISA and use PCI. The MCA was released around 1986 or 1987, and the EISA came out about then. The ISA dominated from before then until VLB and PCI came out and a few years after, in fact. PCI didn't start being popular until 1995 or so, after a brief fight with VLB, and has become dominant only in the last three years or so.

      What really happened is that the PC buyers looked at machines based on MCA, EISA, and ISA, and decided that the benefits of the more powerful busses weren't worth the additional cost and stuck with ISA. I don't know if the perceived benefits were higher with VLB and PCI or if the costs were lower, but the situation was obviously different when they came on the scene. (I suspect that the costs were lower because Intel gave away the rights to use the PCI with the expectation that they would be in the best position to produce motherboards for PCI-based computers and so would make their money from hardware sales, but that's not based on any hard knowledge, just on my observation of what actually happened.)

      • Most people, even heavy computer users, have never seen an EISA based computer. I've never seen an EISA peripheral card.

        I loved my Austin WinTower 433E (and its Adaptec 1742 EISA SCSI adapter).

        That thing was built like a tank (still running 9 years later, only down for upgrades like disk, and for plant shutdown).

        We decomissioned it this year... I should have purchased the puppy on surplus after we declassified the disks... Oh well...
  • by Tim Macinta ( 1052 ) <> on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:20PM (#2130363) Homepage
    Shortly after IBM's open-spec PC, they reverted to the closed PS/2 with a patented bus in an attempt to monopolize the exploding market. Hopefully this particular bit of history won't replay itself.

    If I remember my history correctly, the original IBM PC was open-spec only because they didn't have enough time to come up with something proprietary. They wanted to monopolize the market from the start, but they were running behind and had to get something out so as not to lose the market entirely. So, I don't think we have to worry too much about this piece of history repeating itself because their push for openness isn't motivated by time pressures this time (at least I don't think it is).

    • by jxqvg ( 472961 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:36PM (#2127755)

      You're absolutely right. IBM made a mistake, and now they're back to being the fuzzy little happy company they used to be back when they were founded by a kind old man with a heart of gold and his loyal wife out in America's heartland.

      We're lucky that IBM has returned to its pure intentions by spreading Linus' Good News to the world, and doing so completely selflessly. As the prophet Stallman says,

      "Thou corporations. Blessed art thou who sharest thy code with those who think they are 'hackers'. Thou shalt be rewarded with respect from thy pimply faced children, and thou shalt inherit warm fuzzies, but not marketshare -- that would be capitalistic." (Stallman 378:42)

      In conclusion, I think we can all rest easy in the knowledge that we all have a multinational ally in our blessed Jihad against the anti-christ and his unbelievers at Microsoft. They are an evil, self-interested demon-corporation.

      IBMah Akbar!

      • You're absolutely right. IBM made a mistake, and now they're back to being the fuzzy little happy company they used to be back when they were founded by a kind old man with a heart of gold and his loyal wife out in America's heartland.

        To clarify my original post, I was not trying to imply that IBM has altruistic goals. I was merely stating that their original motivation for openness (a severe time constraint) is not applicable to the present situation, so they must have a different motivation now. I actually agree with you and seriously doubt that they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts - I would say that they serendipitously discovered that openness can actually be very good for business and that it also breeds good will.

    • IBM's Intent (Score:4, Informative)

      by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @01:13PM (#2154501) Homepage Journal
      It's true that the Boca Raton team cut costs by using off the shelf technology whenever they could. (Very un-IBM thinking at the time. Before the PC, all their technology was proprietary. They didn't even ASCII [] to encode their characters.) But that's a separate issue.

      Publishing the interface specification has nothing to do with creating an "open source" computer. The Purple Book provided enough information for third-party developers to build adapter cards compatible with the PC, but not enough information to clone the PC itself.

      IBM was simply imitating the highly sucessful Apple II, which Wozniak designed as a platform that his fellow hardware hackers could easily extend. IBM also imitated Apple in keeping the ROM BIOS source code closed, and making it legally difficult for anybody to reverse-engineer it. Neither company was interested in having competition build the basic platform.

      Unfortunately for IBM (and fortunate for consumers of commodity hardware), Phoenix, Compaq, and others were able to use "clean-room" techniques to reverse-engineer IBM's software without breaking existing law. Alas, the law has since been tightened [].

      • Re:IBM's Intent (Score:4, Informative)

        by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @02:09PM (#2125496)
        EBCDIC is still used on IBM mainframes, and for a good reason.

        Originally IBM made equipment to deal with punched cards. However setting up a tab machine [] was very time consuming. Early IBM business computers were basically automated plug boards, they still used cards as i/o, but the program was quickly and easily changed. It wasn't until the 70s that mass storage started to replace punch cards. Because of this, mainframes use EBCDIC which is an enhanced version of the original punch card code, almost totally backwards compatable.

        Punch cards never used ASCII, first they were in use since about 1880, long before ASCII was thought up, secondly, ASCII isn't suitable for a punch card code - if you tried to punch a card full of '7' characters, you'd end up with 400 holes on one card, which wouldn't have any structural strength. Punch cards had numbers encoded as a single hole, and everything else as one or two holes, giving a maximum of 160 holes possible on a single card. This gave a maximum of 64 different codes, so when the computer read in the card it could be very easily translated into a six bit code, a Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code or BCDIC. Extending this to 8 bits gave EBCDIC. Here [] is a good description of card formats and EBCDIC.

        • Actually, punch cards go back far before Hollerith's tabulator in the 1880s. The first use of punch cards I know of would be Jacquard's loom. Jacquard's loom used a series of punch cards to control the pattern being woven into the fabric. He built his loom in 1801.

          Interestingly, as I recall, Ned Ludd lead weavers in Nottingham, England in a fight against Jacquard's loom. This is where the term "luddite" comes from. They where primarily concerned about their jobs being supplanted by automation.

          The first computational use of punch cards of which I am aware was in the 1830's, with Babbage's Analytical Engine. It used two sets of cards, one set punched with commands and the other punched with the data. The design was capable of working on numbers of up to 50 digits and could print to paper, or steel plate for use in a printing plate. At the time, Babbage was a very controversial and aggravating individual. Through his own ill-handling of events, funding was cut before the machine was actually built. Prototype components, mostly made of brass, where melted down and sold for scrap to pay off his personal 20,000 pound debt that he had incurred from investing in the project(the British government had matched his investment with another 20,000 pounds, an extremely large sum at the time). The project was running long enough, however, for the differential engine to be built to a functional state(though not to the level Babbage had intended in it's design). It went on to provide an errata to naval tables in use at the time consisting of over 300 corrections. Within the past decade, the Smithsonian did some digging and actually managed to build a functioning Analytical Engine, which to my understanding, is presently under display. Worth mentioning is Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter. Ada Lovelace was quite close to Babbage, she was responsible for recording many of his thoughts. She is also widely regarded as the first programmer and was responsible for developing the language that controlled the analytical engine.

          • Indeed they do, but obviously Jacquard's cards did not share an encoding scheme with Hollerith's, and therefore they don't directly fit into the history of why EBCDIC uses the codes it does.
      • Re:IBM's Intent (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cicadia ( 231571 )

        IBM also imitated Apple in keeping the ROM BIOS source code closed, and making it legally difficult for anybody to reverse-engineer it.

        I thought that at one point you could get a large book, from IBM, with the complete, commented, assembly source for the PC BIOS. I understood that is was intended as a resource for programmers, not reverse-engineers, but that it formed the basis for some of the early (CompaQ?) clones...

        I could be making this all up, but I don't think so...

        • You are correct. It is sitting on my bookshelf at work. It has the assembly listings for the ROM BIOS and the schematics for the motherboard and I/O cards. The only thing missing are the listings for Microsoft's ROM BASIC.
          • I didn't know about that book, but it doesn't contradict anything I said. Published source is not the same as open source. I don't know how much source you can take out of a book without breaking the law, but taking the whole book and compiling it into your own object code is obviously a copyright violation. IBM would have had no trouble shutting down anybody who tried that.

            What the clone-makers did was use the clean room technique. You have two teams of developers, who work completely separately. Team A's job is to analyze the program you need to clone. (I was under the impression the the firmware team A people reverse-engineered the IBM BIOS, but perhaps I misremember). They document what the product does, but are very careful to avoid describing how.

            Team B knows as little about the source product as possible. Even if source code is available, they are not allowed to read it. The work only from Team A's documentation, and implement the functionality described therein. Team A tests the behavior of the two products, and documents any inconsistencies. This goes back and forth until the two behaviors match.

            Of course, this only works with copyrighted code. Simply reading code and telling somebody what it does is not copyright violation. (Disassembling object code in order to read its source might be a license violation, but that's controversial.) But it won't work with patented code, 'cause a patented technique can't be reproduced, even if discovered independently.

            I've often thought that it would make a lot of sense to force Microsoft to use the Clean Room technique to resolve issues about undocumented Windows behavior. It makes a lot more sense than breaking them up -- whichever company ended up with Windows would still have a monopoly. If Microsoft were forced to provide (at a reasonable cost) a clean room Team A for anybody who wanted to play at being Team B, there would be no issues of whether they were deliberately fiddling the product in order to make live hard for competitors.

  • To everyone saying IBM has learned their lesson, do you really think so? Do you think if IBM could go back and make it like before where almost everyone was an IBM shop with IBM proprietary stuff they wouldn't? Of course they would. IBM wants to make money. No lessons were learned. If they find out they won't make money on Linux and Open Source they'll drop it.
  • Um, er, what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by perdida ( 251676 ) <thethreatproject ... inus threevowels> on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:37PM (#2133783) Homepage Journal
    THE PURPLE BOOK "contained the hardware schematics for the IBM PC as well as the code listings for the ROM BIOS," Dave Bradley, one of the machine's 12 original designers, later explained to me. "It contained just about everything you'd want to know if you were going to build a device that would plug into the IBM PC."

    In the Purple Book, as Bradley said during the panel, "We told all the PC secrets."

    IBM wasn't the first personal computer maker to spill its guts. Apple published the source code for its Apple II. Atari and Commodore also offered similarly extensive documentations. But for Big Blue, a company that built a dynasty on proprietary products, the Purple Book represented a break with tradition as almost as radical as Martin Luther's breach with the Holy Mother Church.

    WHY DID IBM SO WILLINGLY bare the soul of its new machine? Bradley again: IBM wanted to "make it as simple as possible to design hardware and software that would work with the PC."

    "We wanted the software and hardware industry to participate."

    Participate they did. What's more, the Purple Book made the IBM PC easy to copy, and thus, in came the clones. The result: A de facto standard was born, and that standard made way for the widespread deployment and use of PCs. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The historical significance is the parallel that exists between the Purple Book of yesterday and the open-source movement of today. The comparison isn't a perfect one. The Purple Book did not constitute a license for use; IBM retained intellectual property rights.

    Whatever! The retaining of intellectual property rights is ther whole point. What they did is what everyone else who had attempted to put out a PC would have to do in that era. The subset of technicians working on these technologies was quite small- small enough that a collegial flow of information was necessary even to drum upo interest in one's hardware.

    So what IBM was doing was trying to raise itself to a playing field which Apple and Commodore had already delineated; to break into a technological community which was already occupied with other hardwares, it had to disseminate technical information.

    There is a parallel today; Geron [], the company which licensed the technology to extract stem cells from blastocyst-stage embryos, dissseminated the technology, advice and support to institutions of learning [], retains commercial rights to any salable products that come out of these laboratories - or even the precursors of those products.

    Then and now, such a technique is to take advantage of an academic desire for learning, or a desire to help the sick, and commercialize its output.

    There is really no choice for software developers in the Microsoft world, or for stem cell scientists outside the apron of federal approval, except to sell their first-born breakthroughs to loan sharks.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again; capitalist systems cannot sustain innovative energy or scientific responsibility.

    • I've said it before and I'll say it again; capitalist systems cannot sustain innovative energy or scientific responsibility.

      Bullshit. If that were true, how could our capitalist systems generate so many technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs?

      If it weren't for capitalism, the incentive would not be there for a LOT of people that make these innovations and breakthroughs.
    • I've said it before and I'll say it again; capitalist systems cannot sustain innovative energy or scientific responsibility.

      Just because you say it doesn't make it right.


    • You said "I've said it before and I'll say it again; capitalist systems cannot sustain innovative energy or scientific responsibility"

      Unfortunately, though, it is the best we've got. I've said it once and I'll say it again: there is no such thing as altruism. (Nods to all the Objectivists in the audience)

      Human Beings very rarely do things for the "academic desire for learning, or a desire to help the sick." They do things out of a desire to promote their perceived self-interests. Period. The "academic desire for learning" stems from desire for peer approval or fame. Same for "Desire to help the sick". At the same time, there is a lot of money to be made in both of those areas, as well as every area imaginable to humans. Having MegaBucks is usually good for promoting one's self interest...therefore a lot of people want MegaBucks.

      Even the religious martyr or the war hero who sacrifices his/her self in battle use the same calculus. They each reason that the alternative of death is more in their self-interest than the loss of freedom they feel.

      Capitalism is far from perfect...but then again, what is? How exactly does communism/fascism/totalitarianism/whatever foster "innovative energy or scientific responsibility?" Usually by removing freedom and making everyone miserable. I would rather have a few hundred thousand homeless than have three hundred million people living in squallor eating cold borsht and drinking unsanitary water because there is nothing else available.

      Remember, people are self-interested, it is the way we are wired. Call it "natural selection" or call it a "sin nature" or whatever you like. The evidence supports the hypothesis.

      If we want to change the behavior of the MegaCorps and get them to have rational environmental and I.P. policy, we need to make their behavior result in harm to their self-interest...i.e. the bottom line...

      ...but lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater, ok? Reform, not revolution. Now go have a nice total world domination.

  • One good thing about IBM adopting Linux is that they can't decide to turn around and close it later. And even if they did fork some open source project, the original would still be viable to continue on. Just look at ssh and OpenSSH applications.
  • Ever Onward, IBM! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Join in, everyone:



    There's a thrill in store for all
    for we're about to toast
    The corporation that we represent.
    We're here to cheer each pioneer
    and also proudly boast,
    Of that man of men
    our sterling president
    The name of T.J. Watson means
    a courage none can stem
    And we feel honored to be
    here to toast the IBM.


    Ever Onward! Ever Onward!
    That's the spirit that has brought
    us fame.
    We're big but bigger we will be,
    We can't fail for all can see,
    that to serve humanity
    Has been our aim.
    Our products now are known
    in every zone.
    Our reputation sparkles
    like a gem.
    We've fought our way through
    And new fields we're sure to conquer, too,
    For the Ever Onward IBM!

    Ever Onward! Ever Onward!
    We're bound for the top
    to never fall,
    Right here and now we thankfully
    Pledge sincerest loyalty
    To the corporation
    that's the best of all
    Our leaders we revere
    and while we're here,
    Let's show the world just what
    we think of them!
    So let us sing men - Sing men
    Once or twice, then sing again
    for the EVER ONWARD IBM!

    (Think I'm joking? See: tml)
  • I found lots of purple books, but none are the IBM-PC spec. So where is the link to the pdf? Come on karma whores, let's have'em.

    • I found lots of purple books, but none are the IBM-PC spec. So where is the link to the pdf? Come on karma whores, let's have'em.

      I've got one (purple binder) someplace. Send me a case of beer and I'll see what I can do.

  • I seem to remember a copyright infringement case with IBM going after Phoenix for doing the initial non-IBM BIOS back in the early days of the PC. If I remember the case correctly, the gist of their argument was that the only way Phoenix could have created a compatible BIOS was by copying the IBM original thus infringing on the IBM copyright.

    • IIRC, it was Compaq, not Phoenix.
    • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:47PM (#2154773)
      Actually as I remember it Rod Canion (Spelling) tried to get his employer at the time (Texas Instruments) to sign off on his grand scheme to steal some of the thunder away from IBM by reverse engineering the BIOS an creating this thing called a PC "Clone". TI summarily dissed the idea since they knew there was no $$ in a consumer PC (Just look how poorly their TI 99-4A did) so Rod set about to do it himself (With $$ borrowed from the TI CU) in his garage. He created this company with a really funny name (Compaq) and then found someone to reverse engineer an IBM PC machines BIOS. Once the person was finished creating a Spec for the BIOS he was paid and sent on his way. Compaq then just used the Spec they had to create a BIOS that was compatible with IBM's. And that, junior, is how babies are born!
  • Hopefully this bit of history will replay itself.

    Hopefully, MS, in trying to monopolize the Internet, will loose. Everybody will "just say no", like they did to the PS/2 and Microchannel.

  • "Hopefully this particular bit of history won't replay itself."

    The trouble is, it *does* and *will continue* to replay itself, at least as long as serious money stands to be made from it. We've seen some major players in the industry (cough, cough, any RAM people wanna raise their hands) try to pull slick ones in this area, and it's undoubtedly not the last we'll hear of such activity.

    In today's hardware market, you have three options (1) be the leader, (2) follow the leader, and (3) sue the leader. Now, of couse we'd all prefer corporations with sway to choose either options 1 or 2, and to cooperate nicely if option 2 is chosen. This doesn't seem to work very well in practice, however. We seem to see periods of happy cooperation, marked with spikes in litigious urges being manifested in ugly ways.

    It seems, though, that we're headed to a point where hardware matters less and less, and software matters much more (many would say that we've been at that point for a *long* time). Which is why supporting free software is of critical importance to me individually, as well as most people I work with (and most of /. as well).

    Frankly, I'm more worried about waging my wars on the battlegrounds of senseless IP lawsuits and dangerous software patent legislation (message to Europe: please don't go there).

    All replies, flames, and corrections VERY welcome :).
  • Don't fear... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I know quite a number of them folks at IBM personally (being a former IBMer and an old Linux fart), and I can tell you that as long as they are in their positions (now that is a weak point I admit) IBM is not going to monopolize Linux.
  • by linuxpng ( 314861 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:36PM (#2145461)
    and licensing their technology. IBM has more patents every year than any other company. If I am not mistaken, the PS2 architecture was ahead of it's time by having devices speak directly to the processor and memory speeding things up. I also believe IBM opened the PC spec up to put down the monopoly abuse cries from their trials. If memory serves, IBM put alot of companies in business.
    • From

      MicroChannel Architecture (MCA) was developed by IBM as full featured system bus for use on theirs servers and personal computers. Besides being using in PS/2, RS/6000 and AS/400, NCR and Apricot also made MCA clones. There is also MCA-based Tandy Model 5000. However, MCA failed to become significant industry standard (partly due to IBM keeping the technology proprietary) and other vendors went with EISA and later with PCI.

      MCA supports clean plug-and-play capability, has very advanced bus mastering capability (to some regard better than PCI), supports up to 65280 device addresses. Supported transfer speed is up to 160 MBytes/sec on 32-bit MCA.

    • If memory serves, IBM put alot of companies in business.

      As did Standard Oil, US Steel, and Microsoft. That doesn't mean they did so ethically.
  • Cool.. soon I'll have a rainbow of technical manuals for my shelf.. Apple II's Red and Blue books, now the Purple book. O'Reilly helps matters with their colors, but ...
  • The first thing that people said when they read the BIOS was "damn, this is slow, I'll write directly to video buffer at this address here". The first PC was barely out of the factory before somebody wrote around the BIOS and ensured his code would be stuck to the hardware forever.

    In many ways it was the failure of the BIOS that made the PC architecture a standard; if the damn thing had worked the way IBM said it would, all programs would use BIOS to interface with the hardware, which would be just about anything. I think IBM even thought, for about five minutes, that they could license the BIOS to Apple or anyone else that wanted to use this ingenious hardware abstraction.

    The main effect of publishing the BIOS was that everyone picked out the addresses of the video buffer, serial port, and other devices, embedded them in their programs, and made the hardware architecture a standard.
  • i miss my purple book. i sold it for $550 (along with my original PC) ahh, the days when 256k was enought ram. time to take my purple pill.
  • by PRR ( 261928 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:44PM (#2154453)
    Yes, I realize IBM has said that they won't do their own distro... but I still think they should.

    One of the biggest reasons for the success of the PC was not just the openess, but because the IBM brand name was something that provided a bit more confidence for "the corporate suits" to adopt... an image which Apple and Radio Shack didn't quite have then... and most distros don't quite have right now.

    IBM should probably buy an existing distro like Redhat in addition to the multi-distro support they're already doing. Thanks to the GPL, all of their developments for their own distro will still be available to other distros who will in turn refine IBM's developments, and so on.

    • I work at IBM e-business, and while there's a huge push for us to incorporate Linux into our e-business solutions, I don't see an IBM distro coming out any time soon. On the surface, my first impression is that this is due to financial reasons.

      Some may suggest redeploying the OS/2 developers to a Linux group. I'm not in a position to know, but I tend to think that the company feels that Linux is doing fine by itself, is happy with the relatively few (open source) contributions they are making, and are more than happy to sell consulting services and their own closed source applications for the platform.

      I don't think there are so many problems with Linux that someone needs to start over with it. I think the company will be happy to continue porting Linux to all its hardware platforms as well as porting all its server software to Linux.

      I hope that Lotus surprises the Linux world by releasing Smartsuite for Linux, and soon!
    • It kills me to hear this, but the main reason my IS director won't put linux on our network is because he has no one to call if something goes wrong with it like he does with Windows. _I_ realize Red Hat, SuSE, etc all make their money on support, but they aren't IBM. If IBM said "hey, this is our distro and we'll support it" I guarantee people like my IS director would at least give it another thought and not dismiss it as a beard-birkenstock-and-cheetos operating system (that's his view of Linux). C'mon IBM. Help a brutha out.


    • Or something like that. Any day now you can expect Steve Mills from IBM to just come out and say that AIX5L is the end of the road and that after that they'll bolt their kernel (largely MACH) onto Linux and throw in all the great stuff AIX is much better than Linux at such as JFS, span PV, SMP, commercial support. Or even replace the whole kernel and open source that. Even IBM is starting to realize that developing and maintaining something as complex as AIX on their own doesn't make an awful lot of economic sense. Not when the margin on Unix server hardware is 30% and the margin on Software is nearly zero. Most of the apps that IBM and IGS has already identified as strategic run on Linux, Linux already runs on PC, (some) PPC, OS/400 LPARs, and mainframes, natively, instances under VM and VM LPARs as well. They don't develop a PC based OS anymore and the OS's for AS/400s and mainframes are inseperable from the hardware anyway. It's only in the commodity *nix space where the margins are low AND the development costs are high. So fling AIX the hell out the door and move on. They're already more than halfway there with AIX5L.
  • by cworley ( 96911 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:44PM (#2154533)

    Did ZDNet lay off it's editors?

    The author needs a history lesson. I won't even bother to correct his "Bill Gates wrote DOS" misinformation.

    But, the part that really needs clarifying is: the "Purple Book" ignited the PC revolution. While it is true that Microsoft owes it's monopoly to an open hardware platform, the "Purple Book" was not the key.

    IBM owned the motherboard and system by holding the IP to the bios. People could build on top of the PC platform with the "Purple Book", but only IBM could build the systems -- Until Compaq (and soon after, others) reverse engineered the bios.

    Then anyone could build motherboards and systems, and the PC revolution was ignited; hardware became more functional and faster at a furious pace.

    If IBM still controlled the platform, then 8088's would still be hot technology.

    And here is where the real lesson for Open Source starts.

    If today's IP laws favoring those with popular software were in place in the 80's, then Compaq would never have been legally able to reverse engineer the IBM PC bios, and IBM would still be in control of their platform.

    Open source indeed has the potential to put all software application's competition on a level playing field (where no one vendor can leverage the operating system to favor their applications and break other's applications).

    But, in order to get people to switch from Microsoft to Open Source, we need some degree of compatibility. Customers are slow to change old habits. They fear training. They fear that old data won't make the transition exactly correctly. They trust that Microsoft won't shoot itself in the foot as often as they kill their competition... usually Microsoft applications work with their OS, as long as you keep upgrading on their schedule. If you want to gauge how quickly the US market will switch to an Open Source OS, just look athow quickly the US has embraced the metric system: it may be a world standard,it may be superior, it may be compatible, but the thought of change scares people.

    Compatibility with Microsoft requires reverse engineering of their API's, file formats, and protocols.

    Competitors are used to chasing Microsoft's tail: every release and patch has changes that make compatible software obsolete, and competitors have to scurry to be compatible again. But, this game just took a turn forthe worse: with today's IP laws, Microsoft can patent a portion of their protocols, API's, or file formats, and make compatible competition illegal. They don't need to patent something novel, just different: Microsoft customers are forced to follow like lemmings.

    From the recent ".net" news, it looks like that's exactly what Microsoft intends to do with Samba. Samba is usually a foot-in-the-door for the Linux OS in corporate america. It's easy to show management the savings on a Linux based file server running Samba.

    Now, Microsoft is going to require a license for the encryption algorithm for their password verification and modification.

    That will kill Samba.

    No Open Source project can afford a license. Usually when pressed fora license, the Open Source project ends compatibility immediately. For Unisys's LZH patent on GIFs, we just switched to other image compression algorithms. We've still yet to see how far Dolby will go to stop distribution of Open Source AC3 decoders. The mere letter from the lawyer is usually enough to stop anOpen Source project.

    Worse: even if Microsoft were to grant a license, it would probably require that the licensed algorithm's source not be distributed.

    Even worse: this license covers encryption. Most data is copyrighted by default, even if you don't include the circle-"C", therefor: it falls under the DMCA's prohibition on unlicensed decryption; it will be a criminal offense to even discuss compatible software.

    What if Microsoft were to preemptively change the html or ftp protocols likewise? Microsoft customers are forced to follow; the standard rules of competition won't apply. Microsoft can end up owning every port and protocol on the net as their proprietary IP.

    Microsoft will use our maligned IP laws to kill any Open Source project that attempts to be compatible. The Antitrust laws have failed; Microsoftis on a shooting spree. Samba will be first. Wine and compatible word processors and office suites will be next. But, they won't stop until every client and server is a Windows machine running MS applications.

    If you don't think Ballmer is that ruthlessly competitive, then you haven't been watching him.

    • Some links for further information...

      ZDNet's article "Will open source get snagged in .Net? [] " [] talks of Microsoft's method of using licensing to undermine both Samba and Open Source competition to ".net".

      PBS/Cringley's "Triumph of the Nerds" [] (search for "compaq" in the transcript) talks of the hardware revolution started by Compaq's reverse engineering IBM's PC bios. The "Purple Book" may have taught folks how to build on top of IBM's platform, but IBM controlled the platform through their control of the bios. They were the only ones who could make systems. Intel's proprietary control of the processor and Microsoft's proprietary control of the OS were necessary to get the box out on time. Little did IBM realize the flaw in this strategy, and that they'd cough-up their golden ring to these partners.

      And, of course, mentioning Uncle Fester (Ballmer) is incomplete without his recent ape-dance [] (I apologize in advance for TheRegister's router problems -- try here too []). Play it in slow motion and watch the look on his face; it would be less scary if it were dripping blood.

    • The author needs a history lesson.

      Oh? So your history is all correct, then?

      Until Compaq (and soon after, others) reverse engineered the bios.

      It was Pheonix who first cloned the IBM Bios. Pheonix and IBM went to court over it. Guess who won.
    • "Now, Microsoft is going to require a license for the encryption algorithm for their password verification and modification. "


      Did you read the article? You provided a link, but did you actually read the article?

      • The trolls from Redmond are getting thick around here:

        >Did you read the article?

        It only covers password modification (not verification), but that's very important. Try implementing a file server where the users can't change their password without an NT SMB server anyway, and you've lost the cost benefit of a Linux/Samba Windows file server.

        From the article:

        " One patent is believed to underlie Windows' file transfer protocol, which will probably be used in .Net. The patent covers only the encryption procedures for how a user password is changed, but as part of the transfer protocol, it is a potential dependency for all developers who have to mimic the Windows file system and seek to interoperate with it. For example, successful interoperation with Samba might make the Samba project subject to Microsoft demands for patent licenses and royalties."

        So, what did I miss?

        • Well I agree the trolls are thick, but they aren't coming from Redmond.

          You made a specific claim that Microsoft is going to require a license for this verification scheme.

          The article simply talks about generalities. That there is a patent, that Microsoft could do this, etc. All of these are what-if, basically typical sensationalist journalism, or what you might call FUD.

          I just find it's interesting how you take a statement of what might or could happen, and extend it into a claim that it is happening now. That's truly FUD.

          Next time you troll /. do it with something that isn't so verifiable. Maybe if you didn't provide the link, that would help.

          • Cringely [] and Petrely []are reporting similarly.

            Do you really think we should not consider this until Microsoft makes the official announcement?

            • Cringely is a rumor mongeror, and Petreley is the FUDmeister of all time. Neither is a particularly noteworthy source of inspiration.

              Do I think you shouldn't consider it? No.

              Do I think you should go around trolling and claiming it has already happened? No

              It's the latter you guilty of, and why it's called FUD and not introspection.

              • So, you don't have a problem with my saying that Compaq started the open
                hardware PC revolution by reverse engineering the bios.

                Nor do you have a problem with my saying that the current IP laws would
                make that illegal today.

                Nor do you have a problem with my saying that this is an important difference
                between the open hardware historical perspective and the impending
                Open Source revolution that the Open Source movement must be aware of.

                Nor do you have a problem with my argument that compatibility is crucial
                to winning the hearts and minds of Windows users.

                Nor do you have a problem with my saying that current IP laws can be
                used to stop Open Source *nix/Windows compatibility projects.

                You don't even have a problem with my saying that Ballmer is ruthlessly

                Your only reason for calling my entire writing FUD and me a troll rests
                on the statement (I'm guessing it may be the only one you read):

                "Now, Microsoft is going to require a license for the encryption
                algorithm for their password verification and modification.

                Which was predicated with statements (that you missed) like: "with
                today's IP laws, Microsoft can patent a portion of their protocols, API's,
                or file formats, and make compatible competition illegal...
                " and "From
                the recent ".net" news, it looks like that's exactly what Microsoft intends
                to do...

                That's not tentative enough? Was it really worth degrading the
                whole writing? Was it worth bitching and ranting about?

                You call my writing bad, and cut down two prominent IT authors to help
                prove your case.

                You're either one of the trolls sent in from Redmond (Why do I always
                get them?), or you're suffering from "writer-envy"!

                If you were an advocate of Open Source, your criticism would be, at
                worst: "it's a good argument but nobody can prove Microsoft is pursuing
                this course (outside of Redmond)" rather than labeling the entire writing

                Better yet: you should be trying to figure out ways to fight what may
                become a serious problem for Open Source. If Ballmer were to do this
                to Samba, most every IT manager would say "switch the Linux file server
                to XP now!"? Are the Open Source projects you work on ready for a
                response? The NetBSD folks got rid of their AC3 link the moment they
                got a letter from Dolby's lawyers -- even though Dolby might not have a
                legal leg to stand on.

                This tactic can be used to stop Open Source compatibility; that's a
                serious threat that should have us (if you are an "us" and not a Redmond
                "them") circling the wagons. Wouldn't it be better to start preparing
                a response now rather than bickering about the non-tentative nature of
                a statement taken out of context? Should we just wait and provide our
                standard knee-jerk reaction when it happens? Should we just bend-over
                now and say: "Ballmer is right -- we are un-American, we can't handle licensing
                at all -- we're just a bunch of hackers that deserved to die"? Do
                you really have a point or are you just mad because you lack any talent
                for writing?

                • Yep, pretty much. That's the line that caught my attention in your work of Science Fiction.

                  • I've browsed your work -- you do have problems communicating! And you're a died-in-the-wool WinDoh's lemming too! Take heart: these things will pass as you mature.

                    • Well thank you. I wasn't at all interested in anything that you wrote, but I'm glad to see some interest in my creations.

                      I'm not familiar with this term WinDoh's lemming. Is that any relation to Winnie the Pooh?

                      Does the posting of FUD disappear with age? I think it's remarkable how you've tried to change the topic of this away from your paranoid FUD attack into a personal attack upon myself.
                    • You started the pissing contest... I just don't let up on WinDoh's lemmings. I find your tantrums entertaining!

                      One problem with the conversation is, I've addressed your concerns, yet you continue to baselessly rant. At that point, I can't address anything but your character. If you say something intelligent, I'll gladly address that (but I'm not holding my breath)!

                      While you may find you resemble WTP, that was not my intent. Let me interpret:

                      "WinDoh's" refers to products made by Microsoft used by people with the "Homer Simpson" mentality.

                      "Lemming's" are creatures that, without question, follow their god (Ballmer) where ever he forces them to go.

                      If you don't see the fit, you lack introspection.

                      For example, the only verbiage on your "Opinions" page:


                      is: "I have no opinion at this time."... Doh! You don't need opinions of your own, Ballmer can tell you what they are!

                      Maybe, if Ballmer is successful in owning every port and protocol on the net, you won't have to play NetTrek with Unix folks (who made NetTrek ~15 years ago), thereby cutting out the competition! Trying to make people think Ballmer isn't ruthlessly competitive may just get you your reward!

                      And, finally, as for FUD, you need to read more than one sentence before passing judgment. The sentence you chose, out of context, could be mistaken as not tentative enough... and I have addressed that concern (showing you some other sentences you missed). You have seemingly agreed with the rest of the argument (if not, lets hear why you think the work ranks as "Science Fiction"), yet seem highly agitated.

                      So, all I can conclude is that I wrote something that said something bad about your God Ballmer, and that made you rant; not because it's untrue, you just don't want to know about it.

                      Your turn....

    • If you don't think Ballmer is that ruthlessly competitive, then you haven't been watching him.

      He's ruthlessly bouncy, too - kind of like a ruthless, evil, bald Tigger :)

      Unfortunately, his comical appearance in that video makes it very difficult for me to take him as seriously as I should...

  • by n8ur ( 230546 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:47PM (#2154754) Homepage
    Yes, it was cool of IBM to publish the details, including the BIOS source code, of the PC. However (as the article notes) IBM kept the copyright and this caused lots of problems. None of today's BIOSes, except IBM's and a few licensees, derive from that source code.

    IBM vigorously pursued any clone maker that didn't very carefully reverse-engineer their BIOS using clean room techniques. At least until very late in the game, you couldn't buy a BIOS license from IBM; if they called you on the carpet, the only course open was to revise your BIOS until IBM was happy with it.

    In addition to threats of litigation against US clone makers, they also enlisted the US Customs service to impound shipments of PCs entering the US that IBM claimed had infringing BIOSes. In fact, IBM gave software to Customs to allow them to test for infringement -- if the IBM software said the BIOS was "too similar", the PCs were assumed guilty until the importer could prove their innocence. Several offshore clone companies died this way.

    Phoenix and other BIOS companies that developed clean room BIOSes were the direct result of this, as was a very profitable business by National Software Testing Labs and others to do BIOS infringement evaluations. Lots and lots of money was spent to come up BIOS code that was both compatible and non-infringing. Writing assembly language interrupt routines that acted precisely like IBM's, but looked sufficiently different to avoid infringement claims was about the least pleasant programming task imaginable.

    The Purple Book may have made clones possible, but IBM's copyright enforcement added lots of unnecessary cost to the clone market, without even adding much to IBM's bottom line (the money went to the reverse engineering industry, not to IBM).

  • I personally owe a big Thank-You to IBM for publishing the BIOS standard and the assoicated "Blue Book" (PC Hardware Technical Reference). Those two books enabled me to understand PC hardware and the underlying reasons (the BIOS) why stuff actually did what it did. The knowedge gained by reading those texts enabled me to have a successful career reparing PC's down to COMPONENT level (ancient by today's standards - but then a Floppy drive cost $450.00, you HAD to repair them, not just throw em away). Of course, in later years and lives, I graduated on to software and programming, but the Assembly language knowledge in the Purple book still is a foundation for most of the systems and low-level programming that I do today. Now that IBM is embracing Linux and its community, more the better!! Thanks, IBM!
  • Who cared? Besides companies like Amiga and Apple, and they just looked like consumer toys to a big iron company like IBM. The PC was built for spreadsheets. Wasn't anything particularly romantic about computers back then like there is today. IBM just open sourced stuff probably because they didn't see much benefit in not doing it. I mean, this is the same company where the infamous quote "I see a market for maybe 5 computers worldwide" came out of.

    Still, they've done a lot for open source. So who cares what their motives are and how slow they came to it, the fact that they're spending big money is what's important.

  • Microchannel bus (Score:3, Insightful)

    by M-G ( 44998 ) on Friday August 17, 2001 @12:23PM (#2155221)
    Actually, MCA wasn't all that horrific as far as the concept went. Don't forget that the PC was IBM's first "open" system, and that was only for expediency to get it to market in a year. IBM was still very much a big iron company, and thought that way. You could always be sure that IBM components would play well together, and MCA continued this concept into the PC world.

    However, the fact that patenting MCA didn't improve IBM's share of the PC market should be a lesson in the advantages of truly open technologies over proprietary ones.

    (And yes, my first Linux install was Slackware on a MCA PS/2)
    • Boy, I'm glad I'm not the only person who had a MCA PS/2 laying around. Still have it, running Slackware 7.1

      And in the server market, those RS6000's with the old MCA bus (try an F40) will to this day blow out some very nice Pentium machines.
      • I have a PS/2 85 w/ the MCA bus running Slackware 7 also. It's not a bad machine, it seems pretty responsive compared to other 486's that I've installed Linux on.

        MCA isn't all bad I guess, finding description disks is annoying, but most of them can be had on the net. Just not being able get all the hardware I want now is the downside.

        You can't go wrong with a computer that support serial consoles though! (why oh why don't standard PC's do this????)
  • IBM was just following in the footsteps of the Apple ][ computers which provided complete schematics for the computer in the manuals. The Apple ][ pioneered multiple expansion cards and an easily openable case, and here IBM realising what a good idea it was also folowed suit. Too bad Apple sometimes forgot those concepts.
  • What is with all the stupid bolding and larger print? Made it kind of hard to read... which is saying a lot for simple black text on a white background.
  • Uh yeah right.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by TheVoice900 ( 467327 )
    And therein lies the delicious irony. The marquee name on this panel was Bill Gates, who probably programmed MS-DOS with his own personal copy of the Purple Book at his side.
    If I recall correctly... didn't Bill Gates just rip off the QDOS source and rebrand it as MSDOS ?

    Just like it says here... []
    • That's how I thought it went... He bought/ripped/whatever Quick and Dirty Operating System and turned it into MS-DOS. I don't think he did much programming.

      Which came first: or
    • Q-Dos was written by Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products, and he has admitted that it includes a lot of 'borrowing' from CP/M, which was written by Gary Kildall of Digital Research.
      Supposedly as late as DOS 7.0 there was still code the the kernel that was an exact (and illegal) copy o parts of the CP/M bios.

      The funny thing about DOS is that when Bill Gates made the deal with IBM to provide an operating system for the PC, he didn't really have one. He knew SCP had written an operating system, but he didn't own it yet. Instead, he ripped them both off. Says a lot for the company's later history.

  • the closed PS/2 with a patented bus

    This is a common misperception and there's an interesting story behind it.

    In 1988 I met one of the MicroChannel bus architects. At that point, the PS/2 was not selling and peripheral makers were avoiding it in droves. He told a group of us the actual story of the licensing.

    The MicroChannel bus (which was based on one of the System/370 busses) was released to the public domain in order to get a lot of peripheral support. The actual implementation and chipsets were IBM proprietary and were available for a very steep license. The computer press didn't understand the difference and reported that the bus was proprietary and only availble for a very high license fee. IBM marketing (who had opposed making the bus itself public) saw the chance to make some quick money and punish the cloners. They reinforced the bad information that the industry papers were reporting and never managed to get them corrections so the story took on its own life and almost nobody ever realized the truth.

    The man I spoke to was also one of the architects of the PC/AT extensions to the original PC bus (which later became ISA) and felt that MCA was a much better design. He felt that IBM marketing had hurt both the future of the PC industry by blocking a generation change and the future of IBM by keeping their bus families incompatible with each other.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor