New computer: IBM Personal System/2 Model 55 SX 

This computer was given to the family back about 10 years ago. For the last ten years or so, it has been sitting in our garage. After playing with an old 286 machine last weekend that was given to the family by a relative, I decided to dig out this computer.

Until I saw it a few hours ago, I had no idea it was an IBM PS/2. I just knew we had an old computer buried somewhere under the large magnitude of junk in the garage.

I knew at some point it was on my dad's workbench, but I didn't know where. I sorted around all the clutter to find nothing like a computer (only a bunch of junk he dragged home from work over the years). Then I decided to venture upstairs to the garage attic. I pulled the string to turn on the light, and the string ripped. So I go over to the other light on the far side of the garage and turn that one on.

I look around, and in the very corner, past my old Huffy and a bunch of old tires, I see something white sticking out. It had to be the computer, but there were a whole bunch of junked radios sitting in top of it (again my dad dragged these home from work). I eventually make it to the computer, and see the little silver IBM logo.

Then I get it inside and up to my room and examine it. It turned out to be an IBM PS/2 Model 55 SX. I decide to hook up a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to it, and power it up. I hear two beeps, and then this screen greets me:

Not knowing what to do, I start hitting keys on the keyboard. One of the first I try, F1 gets me into some kind of "IBM Personal Computer Basic:"

Anyone know if I can do anything with this computer? Install DOS or OS/2 on it possibly? Let it sit around in the garage for another ten years? Or just sit it in my room hoping it will somehow do something else?


I've done some more research into this computer and it appears to have a 16MHz Intel 80386 processor, and I believe somewhere between 2 and 8 MB RAM.

The error codes I get on bootup, 161 and 163, according to this post at states that the two error codes are related to a dead or faulty battery on the motherboard. And I've learned that when any error code appears, it shows the screen with the crossed out :OK" and the IBM manuals then defaults to the IBM Basic program when F1 is hit.

Andrew T. 
The good thing about old-school IBM products through the PS/2 era is that they're physically as durable as [i]any[/i] computer ever made. The bad thing is that they're proprietary to the [i]n[/i]th degree, so unless you have some spare PS/2 and microchannel-slot parts handy, don't expect to upgrade or change the configuration.

I'm familiar with that IBM Basic screen: My PC AT (currently semi-disassembled around the house) prompted me with it the last time I bothered turning it on. I didn't get any farther than you did.

If a PS/2 Model 30 I once saw was any indication, these computers use weird cigar-shaped batteries that are soldered in place, so replacing it would be an adventure in and of its own. Good luck!

Assuming that you <i>do</i> have a 386 and not a 286 in there, you may be able to boot an old copy of Debian (3.0 or earlier) or Slackware Linux (8.x or earlier) on the machine. Of course, running X would be entirely out of the question - you'd be stuck in text-mode, though the library of text-mode apps for Linux is massive when compared to that of Windows.

Graphically, the machine will probably be a nightmare with any 32-bit OS due to the small amount of RAM. Your best bet may actually be Windows for Workgroups, or Windows 3.1 with Winsock installed. Windows 3.1 ran pretty well on my 386/25MHz, but don't expect to be running a graphical browser at any decent speed. I found it much faster to run a browser like Lynx in a DOS prompt, and much faster yet to tunnel into a remote Lynx session (on an IRIX64 box, if you're curious) and browse the Web from there.


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