Tag Archives: Technology History

First PC versus current 2010 smartphone

This topic came up yesterday and I was intrigued by what some quick research showed.

My first PC was an IBM JX, circa 1985.  My new smartphone is a HTC Desire.  And now to the numbers:

Item PC JX HTC Desire smartphone
CPU speed 4.7 MHz 1000 MHz
ROM 96 KB 500,000 KB
RAM 0.5 MB 576 MB
“Disk” storage 1 MB 16,000 MB
Screen resolution 640 x 200 800 x 480
Screen colours 16 16. Well… 16 million.
Price (approx AUD) $2500 $650

Then there’s Ethernet, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, 3D graphics acceleration, ‘mouse’, touch screen, multi-tasking…okay I can stop there.

Notes:

  • “Disk” storage:  Non-volatile data storage (survives with power off) My JX used diskettes. No hard drive (!)  Maxed out at 2 x 360 Kb (3”) + 1 x 360 Kb (5”) drives. So about 1 MB total. Desire supports user-changeable microSD cards. I have 16 GB.
  • JX had a special 720 x 512 graphics mode, but only in 2 colours (!).
  • JX screen was physically bigger, of course.

This wasn’t my first computer, I deliberately said “first PC”.   I can’t quite recall, but I think the first one I used regularly was a Commodore 64, but I don’t think it was mine; maybe one of the brothers’ (?)   A bit later, I know I then paid for a Commodore Amiga.   Pre-dating both of these, I’m sure someone had a Sinclair ZX-81 that I used to briefly tinker with, maybe a neighbour.

Bye Bye first ever PC: the 1985 era IBM JX (4 and 512)

I think I got my first PC back in about 1985 or 86.  Probably paid $2000 to $3000 for it. It was IBM’s ill-fated PC JX. Really only ever available in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, I believe, it was an attempt to bring in a ‘cheaper’ PC for the masses. Probably about 1/2 the price of the ‘real’ IBM PC at the time.

A few web sites have information on the PC JX.

But the main things that I remember were:

  • 4 Mhz CPU speed (compared to today’s 2,000 or 3,000 Mhz,  each for 2 or more processors!)
  • 512 KB of memory (today  1 Million to 2 Million KB)
  • No hard drive
  • No networking
  • No mouse as it basically ran a command prompt IBM PC DOS

It had two 3″ floppies (diskettes) BUT they were bizarre. Instead of being the – then common – 720 KB (which the real PC had), these drives were modified to be only 360 KB. Apparently by skipping every second track of data or similar. So it couldn’t read or write diskettes from real PCs (!!).  Nor could they read/write JX ones. Ahhh….

Over time at least 2 solutions came out:

  1. Hardware: IBM sold a 5″ floppy unit in an expansion box. This could read/write standard IBM PC 5″ floppy disks
  2. Software: A hack! Someone found a way to tell the diskette drive in the JX to read/write every track, so it could be a proper 720 KB drive.

Anyway it’s been sitting in a cupboard for years. Today I got it out, dusted it off and – to my sheer joy – it booted into DOS the first time from the good old Diskette Drive A:

I carefully went though my collection of about 30 diskettes – on the JX – to make sure there were no ‘historically important’ documents etc on them. I actually found some, so copied them over to a spare 720 KB diskette…and on to a hard drive of my main Windows XP PC.

All done now. So it’s time to bid a sad bye bye to the old dear.  Even watching it boot brought back memories of the early days as it created a RAM disk of about 128 KB, just so things could go that bit quicker.

Anyway I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with it. It’s a bit like an old 35mm SLR film camera. Sadly once leading edge and a very useful tool, now just a historical relic.

UpdateJune 2010.  I actually did my ‘hide and see if you miss it’ technique, like I do with books. So after I wrote the above,  I put it (the JX) into the garage.   It literally sat there gathering dust. For years. So when it came time for my yearly Hard Rubbish removal, the council man took it away.