back to article IBM's anti-MacBook Air goes up for sale on eBay

Want to own a piece of portable computing history? Actually, we use the word 'portable' advisedly - we're talking an IBM 5155 here, a 30lb (13.6kg) monster that, as the eBayer offering it up to the highest bidder admits, "is not a MacBook Air". IBM 5155 Portable Computer IBM's 5155: carry-out computing Up for sale from a …


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  1. Peter

    Oh Yes...

    I used to sell this (or at least try!).... I want it....

  2. Rich Silver badge

    A lesson from history

    "The whole shebang is powered - if that's the word - by a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 processor backed up with 256KB of memory...."

    ...and I bet it's STILL more productive than a multi-GHz Multi-GB Windows-"powered" (I use the term loosely) machine of today!

  3. Karl Lattimer

    does it have...

    an APL to BASIC converter like the 5100?

    << Mines the one above the C-204 time displacement device

  4. Trygve Henriksen

    Want it, NEED it!

    It belongs in my collection, together with the Osborne 1, KayPro 10, Commodore SX-64, and Epson HX-20.


    I already have a mortgage on my apartment(two actually), so can't afford the shipping cost...

    Any vultures out there who's headed for Norway and could take it as carry-on for me?

  5. Inspector_Morse

    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

    I had a very similar Phillips machine. I think it had a massive 128Mb RAM, but no c:\ drive. Hooked up to a daisywheel printer it got me going as a self-employed consultant back in 1991 using CalcStar and WordStar.

    It's portability probably caused the dropped shoulder I still have today!

  6. An Unwashed Mass
    Thumb Up

    Great kit

    We had one of these babies lying around in the PC shop I used to work at... Because of the weight it was dubbed The Herniator

    I very nearly sold it to an obnoxious customer that wanted 'a simple portable computer; doesn't have to be powerful'

    Well, it fulfilled the second criterion at least...

  7. simon

    another piece of kit ...

    .. with no vista driver support... when will M$ sort themselves out :)

  8. John

    Love Hertz

    4.77MHz Intel 8088 ?

    What a luxury that would have been at the time. It's a mistake commonly made by youths of today, but back in the eighties desktop CPUs ran in the Kilohertz range. This box'll have a 4.77 KHz processor.

    Upwards of four Megahertz wasn't reached until the early nineties.

  9. Tom Hawkins

    So where's the...

    ...Macbook Air feature comparison chart, as per the Commodore SX-64 feature a few days back? I think this should be compulsory for all items on elderly portable computers...

  10. Arnold Lieberman
    Thumb Down


    "Upwards of four Megahertz wasn't reached until the early nineties."

    No John, no.

    First Google hit, to prove it:

    Although I suspect Inspector_Morse may have had 128k RAM, not 128Mb.

  11. Kevin Campbell


    incorrectimundo, sir. The 8088 was most certainly 4.77MHz

    Direct from the horse's mouth (tenth entry from the top).

    If you read that list you'll find that you have to go all the way back to the 8008 processor to drop below 1MHz speed.

  12. Trygve Henriksen

    @ John

    Did you sniff the magic blue smoke pouring out of an waaaay overclocked P4?

    he first IBM PCs ran at 4.77MHz because that was a cheap Xtal.

    The C64 ran at 1 or 2MHz(depending on modus), the Sinclair ZX Spectrum at an blistering 3.5MHz(or was it 4MHz)

    The slowest computer I have from that time is probably the Epson HX-20 which had TWO 6301 8bit CPUs clocked at .9MHz

    Or was that an attempt at a joke?

  13. Dave

    4.77 Mhz

    No, the clock frequency of it really is 4.77 MHz. I know. I have one, err, two of them (Hush! Don't tell anyone I said that!). At least I didn't pay full price for them (I got them at a "fire" sale.). The motherboard was the same as used in the IBM PC/XT. They didn't come (at least, not factory stock) with an APL interpreter, although I seem to remember that there was an APL program option, which came with a set of keyboard stick-ons, and required the numeric co-processor (8087). The early models only had a single floppy drive, but that was quickly changed to a dual floppy drive model. There never was a hard disk option, although many people wedged a suitable hard disk into one (And, with hard disks of that era, you'd better make sure you had "parked" the heads, before you tried to lug that monster around.). Many also connected an expansion unit, although that wasn't officially supported. Also, the 640K on the motherboard trick wasn't officially supported, but quite a few people did perform the hack to allow it (If I remember correctly, it either required connecting a jumper on the motherboard or changing out one of the address decoding chips.).

    For extra points, how many of y'all remember the NEC V-20 processor chip replacement/upgrade?

    Why do I suddenly feel so old? :-( Well, at least I didn't mention core memory, or vacuum tube computers. :-(


  14. Steen Hive

    8088 - A title is required, apparently

    4.77MHz of rubbish. Damn you IBM for not using the vastly superior Motorola 68K thereby consigning software to years of farting around with segment registers.

    Where would we be now, I wonder?

  15. Charles


    Yeah, I remember selling these IBM units, back in the day. IIRC the IBM Portable came out a little after the Compaq Portable shipped. I had some customers who were IBM-only shops, they lusted for the Compaq but couldn't get authorization to buy one. So when this IBM shipped, we sold a few.. but only a rare few.

    One of the problems with this unit was the floppies, most dealerships wanted to do the normal "buildup" process, so they'd buy the base units with 1 floppy drive, expecting to add a generic second drive. But those persnickety IBM-only customers often objected when we'd ship them a built-up machine with an added second floppy disk drive, but without the IBM logo on the 2nd drive bezel.

    These Compaq and IBM portables were never designed to have hard drives installed, they were dual-floppy units at best. But a lot of the massive size of the machines was for card slots, which nobody really used. Then some smart guy had an idea for a "Hard Card," a hard drive and controller on one card, just pop it in and you've got an IBM XT equivalent. Oh man I sold tons of those Hard Cards. Anyway, I suspect this IBM portable might have this type of add-in, as there really isn't any other way that I know of to put a hard drive in this CPU.

  16. Chris Dixon


    I think you're horribly confused. Even the 8 bits of the day ran in the MHz range

    The C64's 6510 CPU being clocked at around 1MHz and I seem to remember the ZX Spectrum+ Z80 chip running around 8MHz?

    Geek card firmly on display :)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    That wasn't a Philips P2000C by any chance? CP/M machine?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of... old Columbia Data Products VP. Wonder if it weighs as much.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I have one of those and a 5100 too

    This was my college computer. Mine has dual floppies, the 8087 coprocessor and 512M memory! It was a nice box for word-processing with WordPerfect and was great to do my intro-programming on with Turbo-Pascal. While the hard-drive cards were popular, it was possible to mount a half-height hard-drive if you could find a short ISA controller.

    It had a better graphics card than the XT as the mono-display could do 4-level grayscale!

    I could log into the campus network using my exciting 300baud modem and do work on the VAX or the Cyber!

    The 5100 was the first attempt at a "personal-conputer" by IBM. It had an IBM designed processor running at 1G and had that nifty APL/Basic switch. It was the computer I first ran a computer-game on - lunar-lander - ca 1976.

  20. CBarn


    I fondly remember the NEC V-20, I had to replace the motherboard in my 5155 (cracked, so much for portability!) and I gave it the V-20 when I did so. 10Mhz - DOUBLE the speed of the original system!

    I also had a hard drive ON this system (note I didn't say "IN") - couldn't fit it in the case, so I had it sitting outside on top of the box (even then, duct tape was a fine tool for system mods). At one point I'd switched out one of the 5.25" floppy's for a 3.5", and I had a fine hand-made cable to link the serial port with my roommate's Mac so we could trade files (made up the Mac end with an artists eraser and a bunch of sewing needles because we figure out where to buy the connector cheaply).

  21. Anonymous Coward

    4.77MHz 8088

    Love Hertz -

    I think you'll find that Intel produced the 8088 process in the following clock speeds.

    1978: 8086-8088 Microprocessor

    A pivotal sale to IBM's new personal computer division made the 8088 the brains of IBM's new hit

    product--the IBM* PC. The 8088's success propelled Intel into the ranks of the Fortune* 500, and

    Fortune magazine named the company one of the "Business Triumphs of the Seventies."

    Number of Transistors: 29,000

    Speed: 5MHz, 8MHz, 10MHz

    excerpt taken from

  22. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton


    Alas has suffered from the digg effect as it has become an invalid item link !

  23. Diogenies
    Thumb Up

    Remember using it as a 3270 emulator

    Many fond memories of the $200 taxi ride home from Sydney to the Blue Mountains as we were not allowed to take the damned thing on the train.

    Ah the fond memories trying to dial in to the mainframe, squinting at the screen, trying to debug production JCL & PL/1 code gone bad at 2am.

    It WAS a huge improvment on jumping in the car & driving 2 hours to work (& once there just stayed as there was no point going home again as you would have had to have left before you got there).

  24. Chris Girocco


    Let's all drink to a guy that figured out they should put the screen on the top of the lid, not squeezed in next to the hinge (see photo)

  25. Mark Eggett

    Good old fleabay...

    Removed because it mentioned the word Mac... While I agree with their policy in principle, it was hardly trying to pass it's self off as a Mac... Anyone interested, it's been relisted here

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