When Having 8-bit Colour Was Good

Monitors-1Since around the year 2000, LCD (liquid-crystal display) and later LED (light-emitting display) monitors gradually became the de facto standard replacing the earlier CRT (cathode ray tube) technology available. Over the years the size and resolutions of the monitors have increased significantly. These days when selecting one to buy it’s really just about choosing the desired screen size and whether it’s capable of 1080p or 4K resolution. No consideration for colour depth is required for instance.

Of course, during the 1980s and 1990s this wasn’t the case. A series of acronyms were used to give an indication of the monitor’s capabilities, and were frequently stated. Some of these acronyms were EGA and VGA. Over a number of years now low-end or built-in video adapters in motherboards, have no problem with displaying millions of colours on a 1920 x 1080 resolution screen. However, in the past it was more pertinent to ensure that the video adapter was capable enough to handle the monitor’s capabilities or vice versa.

In this post, I’ll be covering from the CGA and MDA standards of the early 1980s through to XGA in the 1990s used by IBM and compatible PCs. Before closing out, they’ll be mention of some of the other standards that became available. PCem is used for many of the screenshots due to the lack of physical hardware.

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IBM ThinkPad 380 Series on SpeedSys

ibm_logoIBM released the ThinkPad 380 series back in 1997 as a mid-range laptop to use essentially as a desktop replacement. These were part of the long running 300 series dating back to the early 1990s when IBM released a 386 laptop known as the ThinkPad 300. While initially housing the original Pentium processors, the 380 series had typically used a Pentium MMX or later a Pentium II. From what I can tell, these normally were preloaded with Windows 95, though drivers are available for Windows 3.1, NT, and OS/2 as well.

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Comparing my 486s with SpeedSys

Today I pulled out my two 486 desktops to work on some loose ends that I’ve put off for a while.

The first one with IPC branding I bought earlier in the year from a bloke in Perth, though was missing a serial/parallel port cable for connectivity. I purchased a new one cheaply off eBay a while ago but finally got around to installing it. Now I can use a serial mouse.


The specs are fairly modest for a 486. It runs a PcChips M918i motherboard (also sometimes known as a Amptron DX-9300) with fake cache chips that were relatively prevalent in the early 1990s. Not ideal, but these days I’m thankful for having a working 486. Still I consider having PCI slots and using a replaceable coin battery instead of a soldered barrel of acid positives with this board.

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