[Alug] Hard Drive performance

Wayne Stallwood wayne.stallwood at btinternet.com
Wed Sep 18 21:55:02 BST 2002

On Wednesday 18 September 2002 09:55, James - listmail wrote:
> The old timers may remember the war that IBM fought to keep their PC
> hardware and firmware (BIOS) proprietary - forcing competitors making clone
> machines to do "clean room" BIOs coding and design their own hardware, too.
> Gaining a cost and time to market advantage for IBM for quite a while. It
> guaranteed a lot of flaky hardware designs, too. ( Remember the Amstrad 286
> HD fiasco? )

That's not exactly how I remember it :o)

IBM were quite liberal (for IBM) with information regarding the internals of 
the PC, Anybody could get BIOS Source code,Bus specs etc. The only reason 
Compaq got someone to do a clean room re-implementation of it was that they 
had to, in order to evade any copyright issues regarding the original Bios 
code...Compaq actually had to track down engineers who had never seen the 
freely available IBM BOIS code just to make sure that none of them accidently 
"copied" part of it.

Releasing the Bios was the single biggest leap in the widespread adoption of 
the PC, it enabled 3rd party developers (software and hardware) to fast-track 
the development of their own PC compatable products (in some cases even 
before the hardware was even available)

The rest of the hardware in the original PC was entirely off the shelf, the 
Bios was the only piece of custom hardware (and even then only because of the  
firmware it contained)

The reason for the shoddy hardware designs was because the early clone makers 
had a big problem....they couldn't match IBM's buying power (IBM were bloody 
massive back then) so their raw component costs were higher, IBM had already 
figured this and that's why they were never bothered about the clone 

What they didn't count on was that someone would figure out how to reduce the 
component count by having a smaller number of non "off the shelf" IC's custom 
produced (again I think Compaq did this first) hence the chipset was born.

This hurt IBM, but not as much as when internal politics (with the Mainframe 
department) caused them to drag their feet on the i386, that meant that 
Microsoft stopped loving them and Compaq were actually first to market with a 
386 based machine.

Anyway back to the shoddy hardware, with so many people developing custom 
chipsets, mistakes were often made (and still are, thanks Via) The Amstrad 
was dodgy because it was so severely cut down to a price (remember the 
PC1512/1640 with the PC's power supply in the monitor, how very clever...I 
remember seeing people with brand new colour cards and monitors, and the 
Amstrad monitor under the desk powering the PC)

Diversity is both the PC's greatest gift and it's Achilles heal

I'm surprised that you've had so much trouble with Compaq's and DMA, in my 
experience Compaq have offered some of the most Linux compatable big name 
machines I have seen.



More information about the main mailing list