All modern Intel and AMD PCs can trace their roots to one system: the IBM Personal Computer. Originally released in August 1981, this computer became so popular and lived so long that competitors reverse-engineered its BIOS so that their computers could use the same software and peripherals, a practice that eventually resulted in a de facto standard whose descendants we still use today. .
If you want to experience what it’s like to use an old IBM PC, you can drop a few hundred dollars on a used one on eBay. Or you can roll the dice on this new oddball laptop on AliExpress. The “Book 8088” laptop PC combines modern components with an Intel 8088 processor and 640KB (yes, that’s kilobytes) of memory. Some more modern amenities make it more pleasant to use than a 40-year-old desktop, such as a 640 × 200 16-color LCD screen, and built-in interfaces that allow USB accessories and CompactFlash. interface cards with old components (a 512MB CompactFlash card serves as the system’s hard drive).
Intel’s 8088 is a cut-down version of the original 8086 with an 8-bit data bus; on the Book 8088 and the IBM PC, it runs at a clock speed of 4.77 MHz. That slow speed and low memory limit meant it was best suited to MS-DOS, with its text-based interface and general lack of multitasking support. you CAN run very early versions of Windows on it, up to version 3.0 but, according to retro-tech YouTube, it seems to be a bad time.
There are a number of accessories aimed at expanding the capabilities of the Book 8088; there is an open socket for an Intel 8087 floating-point coprocessor, a Sound Blaster-compatible sound card accessory from Yamaha, and an external dongle with three slots for ISA expansion cards.
There are reasons to be skeptical of Book 8088, and a little digging turns up a little of whatever company makes these things. The images are attributed to Xinrui Technology, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer that mostly seems to make cheap PC accessories and AV equipment but whose (very old) site doesn’t mention the Book 8088. A visible boot screen of one of the pictures indicated. us to 8086cpu.com, which lists the Book 8088 and other retro PC projects, but there is no information not already provided in the AliExpress listing. The same company appears to be responsible for the marketed “Hand386” retro computer, a handheld system with the highly capable Intel 386 SX inside.
The AliExpress seller, DZT, mostly seems to sell small CNC machines and has 90 percent positive feedback, so you’ll probably get at least one. the othersitem in a box when you order one of these.
Whoever made these laptops didn’t make many of them; a basic $200 version without accessories is sold, as well as a version with an included 8087 coprocessor. As of this writing, there are still about 80 of those with a sound card preinstalled, available for $221. There are about 20 of the $241 version with a sound card and an external ISA expansion dongle.
Apparently, you don’t need to buy a laptop with an 8088 to experience what life was like in the MS-DOS days. Sites like PCjs Machines emulate the original IBM PC directly in a browser window, complete with period-appropriate software. Most people can fire up one of these emulators in half an hour and learn everything they need to about retrocomputing (usually, it’s slow). But for die-hards who demand a bare-metal hardware experience, this could be a neat way to get IBM PC functionality in a package that takes up less space.
Image list by Xinrui Technology