1.0 Introduction

Q) 1.1 What does this FAQ cover?

This FAQ covers Frequently Asked Questions from all groups in the comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.* hierarchy. Software topics are only included if they are directly related to hardware or hardware interfacing.

Q) 1.2 Where can I find the latest copy of this FAQ?

If you haven't done so, new users on the net should read news.announce.newusers. In particular, the following posts are a good idea:

A Primer on How to Work With The Usenet Community
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Usenet
Hints on Writing Style for Usenet
Introduction to The *.answers Groups

This FAQ is currently posted to news.answers, comp.answers, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.cd-rom, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.chips, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.comm, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.misc, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.networking, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage, comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.systems, and comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.video. All posts to news.answers are archived and are available via anonymous FTP, uucp and e-mail from the following locations:

FTP is a way of copying file between networked computers. If you need help in using or getting started with FTP, send e-mail to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu with
send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/faq
as the body of the message.

location: rtfm.mit.edu []
directory: /pub/usenet/news.answers/pc-hardware-faq

filenames: part1 to part5

location: ftp.uu.net []
directory: /archive/usenet/news.answers/pc-hardware-faq

filenames: part1.Z to part5.Z [use uncompress]

location: nic.switch.ch []
directory: /info_service/Usenet/periodic-postings

filenames: [Check info_service/Usenet/00index]

location: uunet!/archive/usenet/news.answers/pc-hardware-faq/
filenames: part1.Z to part5.Z

Send email to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu containing these lines:
send usenet/news.answers/pc-hardware-faq/part1
send usenet/news.answers/pc-hardware-faq/part5

You can find a dozen or more sites in the US, Europe and Japan that store the FAQ and archives for this various newsgroups by using the Internet search programs, Archie or Wais.

Q) 1.3 Is it ok to (sell/buy/job-offer/advertise) things here?

No, none of the above fit within the charter of the comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.* hierarchy, therefore such posts are considered unacceptable. For buying/selling things, use groups with the words 'wanted' or 'forsale', and for job offers, use groups with the words 'jobs'. All of these can be found in the misc.* hierarchy. For commercial advertisements, use only the biz.* hierarchy as per the guidelines of USENET. (refer to the news.* groups for more information).

Q) 1.4 I have a binary that people are asking for, should I post it here?

Never post binaries to technical discussion groups. If you absolutely must distribute a binary, you are ENTIRELY sure that it is legal to do so and it is not currently available via ftp then, in order of preference:

1. Privately offer to mail it to the person (if only a few people are looking for it). Don't blindly mail it to anyone making a general request until you offer and they accept.
2. Place it on an anonymous ftp site and, once it is there, post a pointer to it. To find an anonymous ftp site, scan a few groups, they always pop up.
3. Post it to comp.binaries.ibm.pc (moderated), wait for it to be approved, and then post a pointer to it.

Q) 1.5 +Where should I post?


PC-Clone Hardware Newsgroup Pointer By: John M. Grohol
This Pointer will help you find the information you need and get your questions answered much quicker than if you were to simply crosspost to every hardware newsgroup in existence. It is provided as a public service. Post your article in the most appropriate newsgroup according to its topic. Please do not post your hardware questions to software newsgroups, and vice versa. "For Sale" articles are never appropriate to either the hardware or software newsgroups.

Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Question on Post to
All NFS-based networking comp.protocols.nfs
All SMB-based networking (LANman, LANserver, WNT, Samba, etc) comp.protocols.smb
PC Networking hardware/cards/cables comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.networking
Home-built personal computers alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt
Laptops & notebooks (over 3 lbs.) comp.sys.laptops
Palmtops (under 3 lbs.) comp.sys.palmtops
Servers comp.dcom.servers
Modems comp.dcom.modems
Printers comp.periphs.printers
SCSI devices comp.periphs.scsi
Other peripherals comp.periphs
PCMCIA devices alt.periphs.pcmcia
Acer users & support alt.sys.pc-clone.acer
Dell users & support alt.sys.pc-clone.dell
Gateway 2000 users & support alt.sys.pc-clone.gateway2000
Micron users & support alt.sys.pc-clone.micron
Zenith users & support comp.sys.zenith
Zeos users & support alt.sys.pc-clone.zeos
Technical topics on PC soundcards comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.tech
Advocacy for a particular soundcard comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.advocacy
Using soundcards with games comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.games
Music & sound using soundcards comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.music
Soundcards in general comp.sys.ibm.pc.soundcard.misc
Discussion of forsale items misc.forsale.computers.discussion
Mac-specific sale of items misc.forsale.computers.mac-specific.cards.misc
Sale of all computer memory misc.forsale.computers.memory
modems misc.forsale.computers.modems
monitors misc.forsale.computers.monitors
net-hardware misc.forsale.computers.net-hardware
printers misc.forsale.computers.printers
storage devices NEWS:misc.forsale.computers.storage
Sale of other computer items misc.forsale.computers.other.misc
PC-specific sale of items misc.forsale.computers.pc-specific.audio
Commercial sale of hardware biz.marketplace.computers.pc-clone
Monitors/video cards comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.video
Modems/fax cards/communication comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.comm
Hard/floppy/tape drives & media comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.storage
CD-ROM drives & interfaces comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.cd-rom
Computer vendors ; specific systems comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.systems
System chips/RAM chips/cache comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.chips
Other hardware questions comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.misc

This Pointer is freely distributable to any other mailing list, newsgroup, or network service provider as long as it remains fully intact. Copyright 1994-1996 John M. Grohol. All rights reserved.

Send comments/questions/suggestions regarding this Pointer to the author grohol@alpha.acast.nova.edu (John M. Grohol)(replying to this message should work). Do *not* include this entire Pointer in your reply, or it may not be read.

Q) 1.6 How come no one answers my questions?

If you don't give enough information when asking your question, then people will not be able to answer it. If you're not willing to take the time to look up the necessary information, then why should you expect people to take the time to answer your question? For instance, if you're asking a question about SCSI, it is very important to know what type of SCSI host adapter (controller) you have. Some other important things to mention are which device drivers/tsr's you are loading, what other similar devices you have in your system, and exactly what in your setup has changed since it last worked.

Q) 1.7 What are the going prices for...?

If you're looking for new equipment, pick up a copy of Computer Shopper. This is the "bible" for buying new equipment. Skim through it for the best prices and give these distributers a call. In most cases, the advertisements must be placed months in advance; the actual price may be even lower than the advertised price! Two other things to note are the warranty, return policy and location of the company (companies within the same state as you may be required to add extra sales taxes).

If you're looking for the expected price of used equipment, then scan the newsgroup misc.forsale.computers.pc-clone for similar items. This will give you the best idea as what to expect. Don't make assumptions that the price of used equipment will follow the market trends of new equipment. For instance, when new memory prices nearly doubled, the used prices were barely effected.

Q) 1.8 Who makes/Where can I find [some obscure piece of hardware]?

[From: rbean@execpc.com (Ron Bean)]

You can ask on the net, but you'll get a better response if you do some investigating on your own first. Try calling vendors who advertise similar or related hardware, they often have things that aren't in the ads. Vendors who specialize in parts rather than complete systems are a good bet. You can also ask local dealers to check their wholesale sources.

Q) 1.9 What is the history of the IBM PC?

Around 1978 and '79, the market served by IBM's Data Entry Systems division began to change. Instead of terminals and minicomputers or mainframes, customers began demanding autonomous, low cost, single-user computers with minimal compute power or connectivity, but compliance to standards like the ASCII alphabet and the BASIC programming language. The closest product in IBM's line was the 5110, a closed, BASIC-in-ROM machine with a tiny built-in character display. The 5110 was uncompetitive, and IBM started losing bids from key customers, mostly government agencies.

Data Entry commissioned a consulting firm (Boca Associates?) to design a stop-gap machine to fill what was perceived within IBM as a short-lived, specialized niche. It was intended that the stop-gap machine would only be offered for a couple of years until it would be replaced in "The Product Line" by an internal IBM design. Some IBM executives believed the single-user desktop system was a fad which would die out when the shortcomings of such systems became appreciated.

The motherboard design was based very closely on a single-board computer described in a 1978 (?) Intel application note. (Anybody got an original copy of this collector's item? Among other things, Intel argues that 640KB is more memory than single-user applications will ever need, because of the efficiency of segmented memory "management"!) The expansion slot "bus" is based on an Intel bus called Multibus 1, which Intel introduced in its microprocessor software development equipment in the mid '70s. The Monochrome and Color Graphics Display Adapters are based on application notes for the Motorola 6845 video controller chip, except that the strangely interlaced pixel addresses in the CGA appears to have been extremely short sighted. The "event driven" keyboard is an original design, but the concept is from the Xerox Alto and Star graphics workstations. The keyboard noise and "feel" are intended to emulate those of the IBM Selectric typewriter. The Cassette Interface design is original, but similar in concept to the one on the Radio Shack TRS-80.

Data Entry Division approached Digital Research Inc. to offer its popular CP/M-86 operating system on the machine, but DRI rebuffed them. IBM's second choice was BASIC-in-ROM vendor Microsoft, which had no OS product at the time but quickly purchased a crude disk operating system called 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products to offer it to IBM. Its command interpreter was an imitation of Unix' Bourne Shell, with the special characters changed to avoid infringing AT&T's rights.

Data Entry Division began bidding this system in various State procurements, without any plan to offer it to the public.

It became obvious that the Cassette Interface and optional 360KB Flexible Disk Drive were inadequate. The Cassette Interface was dropped, and an optional Fixed Disk Drive offered on a revised model known as the IBM Personal Computer XT. (A fixed, or "hard" disk had been offered on the PC by special order, with a Xebec controller, but few were sold.) The disk controller was designed around the Western Digital 1010 chip, and its design is taken directly from a WD application note.

The XT succeeded beyond all expectations. IBM offered the system to the public after it became clear that no other division was going to come up with anything timely. IBM published complete schematics and ROM listings, encouraging clones.

In 1984, IBM introduced an upwardly compatible model based on the Intel 80286. The expansion slot "bus" was extended to 16-bit data path width the same way Intel had extended Multibus: by adding data and address bits, a signal for boards to announce their capability to perform 16-bit transfers, and byte swapping on the motherboard to support the 8-bit boards.

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