Home BWR Ghetto Tech Series PC General Ghetto Tech #2: The IBM PS/2 Model 55 SX
Ghetto Tech #2: The IBM PS/2 Model 55 SX PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Sunday, 22 June 2008 19:00



In the magical aura that surrounds the 1980s computing scene, it's easy to forget a line of PCs that IBM basically only released to try to re-corner the PC market. They did this by releasing a PC-Compatible computer line with a custom bus called Microchannel, attempting to render all the "Compatibles" obsolete in their tracks, being based completely on the older ISA bus that IBM themselves released on the original PC-AT in 1981. It also included custom drive controllers and new, small 6-pin keyboard and mouse interface ports. They labeled it the "Personal System/2", better known as "PS/2"

(Click to enlarge)

The PS/2 Line first showed up in 1987. The focus of this article is on the Model 55SX, released in 1989. Here is an excerpt from IBM's original announcement letter:

"The Model 55 SX enhances the Personal System/2 family of systems by offering 32-bit microprocessor compatibility at a price range previously occupied by 16-bit 80286 systems. The desktop system is highlighted by the Micro Channel(TM) Architecture with a 16 MHz 80386SX 32-bit microprocessor, high density memory technology and a wide range of integrated features. With the capability of supporting up to 16MB of high speed real memory, 30MB or 60MB of disk storage, advanced graphics and an optional 80387SX Math Co-Processor, this system provides significant performance improvements for 80286 users."

See, I didn't have a computer when this was the cool new toy to have. My parents brought the first computer into our home in August 1996, and it was a Pentium 133. So, how do I know about this mysterious IBM PS/2 line?

Brandon Wires, my good friend for many years, knew of this mysterious barn somewhere out in Lawrence county. He had a key to get into it, and permission to take what he wanted. Seems it was full of computer stuff. We went down there sometime in the warm months of 1998, and sure enough, it was FULL of computers. All the way full. This wasn't a small barn. I was in heaven (though I was still unsure why.)

We literally loaded his truck bed down with all that we could get, and this included several PS/2 line computers. Actually, almost exclusively. Before I was done, I had hauled home enough spare parts to assemble a complete PS/2 55SX workstation in my bedroom, albiet with a slightly different (older?) IBM PS/2 VGA monitor. I even had two monochrome VGA monitors! So, I toyed with my PS/2 for a long time, and it never did quit working, I just eventually got a faster computer. I hope I wasn't the only one still messing with a 386 in 1998.

What should be further disturbing is the fact that most of my earlier DOS programming originated from the PS/2 55SX in my room. Livin' In Buddha was written on it through at least version 1.2. BibleSMART 1 was coded on it as well.

I still don't know how I lived within the confines of 30MB hard drive space total. I ran Windows 3.11 For Workgroups, MS-DOS 6.2 on it. I had Lotus Ami Pro as a word processor, and I think I had the Microsoft Windows entertainment pack on it as well. Not to mention Borland C++, Turbo Pascal 4, and QuickBASIC.

So, after many years of ignoring it since then, It is now time to pay homage to the heavy little box that sat on my desk for over a year. I continued using the PS/2's keyboard (I had several) for a long time, until well into 2003 I think. I still have a pair of them. They have the most-satisfying key-click feedback that I've ever felt under my fingers. Makes me want to go down to the garage and grab one and hook it up again, as they still work on most modern desktops, and all if you use a PS/2 keyboard adapter.

That's your Ghetto Tech for June 23, 2008. Stay tuned!