[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM’s Bizarro Alt-Reality PC

June 29th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

IBM Instruments Computer System advertisement - 1983The IBM Instruments Computer System

What a strange machine. The IBM Instruments Comptuer System was a completely modular 68000-based PC with its own custom OS (CSOS, according to Wikipedia, which stood for “Computer System Operating System” — ???). It also utilized Motorola’s rarely-seen Versabus bus architecture. The ICS was aimed at scientific and engineering use, and it launched in 1982 — the year following the launch of the IBM PC 5150.

Has anyone used or seen one of these? This is an oddity of oddities. Thank goodness the IBM PC didn’t end up like this.

[ From BYTE Magazine, February 1983, p.116-117]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first IBM brand computer you ever owned (even when collecting)?

6 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM’s Bizarro Alt-Reality PC”

  1. Ed Says:

    Never owned an IBM – unless you count a relatively recent Lenovo laptop. My first PC was a white box P75. My first computer a Compukit UK101 (superboard clone)

    This 9000 system is really odd and unexpected! Wikipedia suggests this part of IBM was an acquisition. BYTE review at
    and oral history at

  2. Dar Says:

    “Thank goodness the IBM PC didn’t end up like this.”

    Noooo! It would have been awesome! it would have been like something from “Blade Runner”.

    I wish there was a video of one of these.

  3. TNLongFellow Says:

    Actually, that is kind of cool. Programmable buttons on the monitor and the system and up to 5MG in 256K increments is pretty impressive for system from 1982. I could see this sitting in a few labs since it came loaded with PASCAL.

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    Oh, I didn’t say it isn’t cool. It is very cool. It is just an overly complex and likely very expensive beast of a machine. It wouldn’t have set any standards like the IBM PC, that’s for sure.

  5. TNLongFellow Says:

    Come on now Benj, less that $6000.00 for all that back in the 1982 isn’t bad. But I do certainly have to agree that it probably was really hard to use way back in the day nor would it have set the standard. But back then, as if I need to tell you of all people, they made job specific machines like that, and if I were an engineer or scientist I could see using that type of machine. However, you are right that for 99.3% of people that machine would not fly at all. Still looks super cool and I would love to have one on my desk!

  6. fernando Says:

    My one and only piece of IBM hardware is an 8mb pendrive that they used to call IBM Memory Key

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