thinking of the "ultimate" retro x86 PCs - what bits to seek/keep ?

Liam Proven lproven at
Fri Jun 10 08:45:52 CDT 2016

On 8 June 2016 at 15:50, Fred Cisin <cisin at> wrote:
> Easy enough to have missed their short-term domination of the market if you
> happened to have been on holiday.

I was still at university when the 80386, the PS/2 range and MS-DOS
3.3 were released.

I was the only person I knew in my year with their own computer -- a
48K ZX Spectrum, with Interface 1 and a microdrive, an Alphacom 32
printer (a narrow-strip thermal printer; it took till rolls) and an
old portable B&W TV as its display.

In my last year, I upgraded to a Spectrum 128, a DISCiPLE disk
interface plus a single DSDD 80t 5.25" floppy drive (780K per disk
with MGT's GDOS) and a 9-pin dot-matrix printer (a Panasonic KX-P

I also used the university's VAXcluster (2 x VAX 11/780).

In a corner of a side room in the computer centre, there was a single
IBM PC, with MDA, greenscreen, a single 5.25" floppy and a hard disk.
(So I presume a PC-XT but I don't know.)

Nobody much ever used it. It was the slowest computer in the place,
unless the VAXen were very heavily loaded, and even then, it couldn't
print and wasn't attached to the VAX as a terminal so there was no way
to get anything on or off it.

I discovered it had the Infocom Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy game
on it, and learned enough DOS to play that.


A couple of years later, that got me a job in tech support. Yes, really.

So, I missed the news because:
[a] I wasn't in work yet
[b] I used "real computers" at Uni, not PCs
[c] ordinary Brits couldn't afford PCs; I had a Spectrum, bought
piecemeal, that cost around $500 or so for the whole system.

By the time I started work and so started using PCs, DOS 3.3 was
current and PS/2s were proliferating.

I apologise for my ignorance.

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