Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Oct 2018 22:57 UTC

So I learned something new today. Back in the early and mid-90s, IBM tried to build a PC-like platform and ecosystem around its PowerPC processor. They called it the PowerPC Reference Platform, or PReP, and with it, you could build what were effectively PC clones with PowerPC processors, ready to run a number of operating systems, including AIX, Windows NT, OS/2, and Apple's failed Taligent project. None of this is news to me.

What is news to me, however, is that aside from a number of desktop PReP machines, IBM also developed and sold a number of PReP laptops under the ThinkPad brand.

Sometime in 1994, IBM started working on a prototype mobile system named Woodfield and designated as type 6020. Very little is known about this system; it was never officially announced or sold. On June 19, 1995, IBM announced the ThinkPad 850 and 820 (announcement letters 195-178 and 195-179, respectively) with a planned availability date of July 24, 1995. The ThinkPad 820 designation was type 6040, code name Wiltwick; the 850 was type 6042, code name Woodfield Prime.

The ThinkPads 820/850 were to be available with no software or with preloaded Windows NT 3.51 or AIX 4.1.3. OS/2 was to come at some unspecified later date, and Solaris 2.5.1 support was announced in February 1996.

The ThinkPad 850 type 6042 came with 16 or 32 MB RAM, 540 or 810 MB hard disk, and 640×480 or 800×600 TFT display.

Definitely an interesting bit of computing history, and I'd love to get my hands on a working model - they pop up on eBay from time to time.

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BlueofRainbow Member since:

There was a "release" of OS/2 Warp PowerPC Edition capable of running on the PowerPC ThinkPads ( ).

When I noted a few of these rare beasts being offered on eBay, many many years ago, I had explored what could one do with them. OS/2 Warp PPC Edition was distributed on two CD-ROMS; the first being OS/2 and the second being sample applications.

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ilumin Member since:

got a copy or two somewhere on disk... must look
need a while

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Good article
by nagerst on Wed 10th Oct 2018 00:33 UTC
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It is indeed a very good article. Seems like it was written in 2013.

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I've used one
by OSner on Wed 10th Oct 2018 06:25 UTC
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I worked at IBM at the time (on OS/2 support and later moved to AIX/Tivoli support).
A colleague had one of these fabled PPC Thinkpads. I had the desktop model 6070 (Power Series 850) that I at some point ran OS/2, NT, AIX and Solaris for PPC on.

The machines were kind of slow, even for their time, to run AIX (as my PPC TP-using friend did) was OK-ish if you had max amoutn of memory and even then bootup times were horrible.

I seem to remember Windows NT being the fastest OS on the hardware.

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I had one
by AndrewZ on Wed 10th Oct 2018 14:15 UTC
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I had a PowerPC Thinkpad back in the day. It was great. It ran Windows NT for PowerPC. It ran Office. It had a great display. I think I ran Doom on it too. It was spiffy.

IBM's idea at the time was that these PREP PCs would run Windows, OS/2, AIX, and MacOS.

Three factors lead to the downfall of this strategy. Lack of software applications. EDO RAM which was a big performance boost for Intel. And delays in IBM delivering the hypervisor and OS's.

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CSB Moment
by mbpark on Wed 10th Oct 2018 19:52 UTC
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20 years ago I was helping develop software for banks. As part of that, I ported a chunk of the core processing software for community banks from M&I Eastpoint to run on Sybase ASE 11 for Windows NT 4.0 so we could develop against it. We managed to get enough of the software running so that you could run an entire demonstration bank on one Thinkpad under NT 4.0.

Our team took the demo laptop to them and we got a contract to migrate them from these PPC Thinkpads to Intel boxes out of it, as IBM had dropped them and they wanted to take one device to prospective customers.

We were able to convert their salesforce from running these PPC Thinkpads and get them down to one Thinkpad 770X with 320MB RAM to run an entire bank as a customer demo product.

I still wish I had one of these laptops though!

Reply Score: 4

Other PPC
by bert64 on Thu 11th Oct 2018 15:01 UTC
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I have some Motorola Powerstack boxes which are also capable of running AIX, NT, Solaris etc...

I have Solaris 2.5.1 for PowerPC running, but it's pretty useless as i can't find a compiler for it anywhere.

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by Kancept on Thu 11th Oct 2018 20:22 UTC
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I wonder if anyone who ever owned one tried to get BeOS installed on it. BeOS ran on PPCs (I used to build BeShare on my dual 603 before I got a BeBox). The hardware listed all should have been supported, even that Crystal sound chip.

BeOS on a 603 with 96MB of ram. You'd be watching Star Wars so many Star Wars trailers.

Reply Score: 2