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Where would we be today if the original IBM BIOS was not reverse engineered?

Wolverine607

Member
Apr 4, 2010
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When the IBM BIOS was reverse engineered, it opened up IBM PC clones. Then the PC market took off and there was lots of competition with IBM compatible PCs.

Then after like the mid 1990s, it was PC vs MAC, and IBM compatible was a thing of the past.

Had the IBM PC BIOS not been reverse engineered and/or IBM successfully shut down clones like Apple did, where would we be today. I can only imagine.

Do you think it would be IBM dominating the PC market with much higher prices with their only competitor Apple? Or do you think someone else would have come up with something open? Or hard to say?
 

whm1974

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Jul 24, 2016
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We would still have multiple "personal computers" around. Atari and Commodore would still be in Business selling computers. PowerPC and Alpha CPUs would still be on the desktop.
 

bbhaag

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Jul 2, 2011
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It's an interesting concept to think about. Perhaps in an alternate reality people on Anandtech and around the web are complaining about OS/10 Warp and how locked down it is and how IBMs OS/10 is the proprietary devil that forces updates on its users.haha
It's fun to think about about how it could have been IBM vs. Mac instead of PC vs. Mac.
Your last questions about an alternative competitor and price is harder to conceptualize, at least for me anyway. There is just know way of knowing how that would have turned out.
 

whm1974

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Thinking more about this, I'm thinking that x86 systems wouldn't be as nearly as widespread as they are now. Other CPUs would in wider use.
 

ultimatebob

Lifer
Jul 1, 2001
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Without an open BIOS, I'd imagine that we could probably still have IBM selling the expensive office systems, while Apple and someone else like Commodore would still be competing in the consumer space.

Of course, someone would have had to come up with an open standard eventually. It it wasn't an IBM PC compatible, it probably would have been an Amiga compatible or Apple compatible system. Who knows, it might even have an open source OS like Linux running on it.
 

Wolverine607

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Apr 4, 2010
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All interesting thoughts. Does anyone know why is it that Apple was able to successfully shut down clones, but IBM was not. Or was it more a matter of IBM not caring enough to take legal action where as Apple cared much more.
 

ultimatebob

Lifer
Jul 1, 2001
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All interesting thoughts. Does anyone know why is it that Apple was able to successfully shut down clones, but IBM was not. Or was it more a matter of IBM not caring enough to take legal action where as Apple cared much more.
IBM didn't have control of the operating system for their PC's, Microsoft did. When Apple wanted to kill their clone market, they just refused to license MacOS to the manufacturers.
 

bononos

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Aug 21, 2011
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IBM didn't have control of the operating system for their PC's, Microsoft did. When Apple wanted to kill their clone market, they just refused to license MacOS to the manufacturers.
Why did IBM not ask MS for exclusive licensing? Was it calculated on IBM's part?
This article says MS wanted to be able to sell MS-DOS to others and so they didn't want a per-copy royalty contract with IBM.
 

bbhaag

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Jul 2, 2011
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Why did IBM not ask MS for exclusive licensing? Was it calculated on IBM's part?
This article says MS wanted to be able to sell MS-DOS to others and so they didn't want a per-copy royalty contract with IBM.
That was the legendary genius and business savvy that Bill Gates had. He convinced IBM to license his MS-DOS on a per copy basis but not exclusively. IBM, feeling there was opportunity enough for everyone to do well out of this and that it couldn’t hurt to have Microsoft’s own fate tied so closely to that of the IBM PC, agreed. This huge company, legendarily risk-averse and conservative, elected to place the fate of one of their biggest projects ever in the hands of a 24-year-old and the rest is history.

If you care to read more, another historical interpretation of the early pc can be found here.
 
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