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How the IBM BIOS was cracked...

Shadow Lord

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I think most of us have heard the stories of how the clone makers finally got around IBM's copyrights but this is the first time I've seen a write up from a computer journal (PC Magazine) on it. This specifically talks about the Phoenix BIOS and how they would cover your legal fees if you got sued. Very reminiscent of Google and MS vs. Apple in the recent patent wars,
 

sergey

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It is called clean room design. Compaq did exactly the same. Many other BIOS providers did that too. Even Taiwanese guys had to do it. I am wondering what soviets did for EC 1840/1841/1842 and Iskra 1030/1031 (IBM copyright violation wouldn't be a problem there :))

Edit: Soviets surely did copy it from IBM (here is the BIOS listing for EC 1841). I see only minor differences, even the labels kept the same.
 
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luvit

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yeah. thanks.
i have a feeling HCF will have a lot of bogus details.. like they're definition of Halt and Catch Fire, and character Gordon Clark article "The Future of Open Architecture".. the Byte magazine cover is even bogus. lol..
maybe someone will prove me wrong.
 

SpidersWeb

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yeah. thanks.
i have a feeling HCF will have a lot of bogus details.. like they're definition of Halt and Catch Fire, and character Gordon Clark article "The Future of Open Architecture".. the Byte magazine cover is even bogus. lol..
maybe someone will prove me wrong.
You're right, but it is a fictitious story. I was just surprised by the BIOS thing because that did seem like a detail that should be spot on - but I guess a bunch of guys reading the tech ref wouldn't be good television lol
 

Shadow Lord

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It is called clean room design. Compaq did exactly the same. Many other BIOS providers did that too. Even Taiwanese guys had to do it. I am wondering what soviets did for EC 1840/1841/1842 and Iskra 1030/1031 (IBM copyright violation wouldn't be a problem there :))

Edit: Soviets surely did copy it from IBM (here is the BIOS listing for EC 1841). I see only minor differences, even the labels kept the same.

Yes, but I always wondered how the heck do you prove in court that your programmer(s) did not read the IBM tech ref? The bit about the memos as a paper trail was eye opening.
 

luvit

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You're right, but it is a fictitious story. I was just surprised by the BIOS thing because that did seem like a detail that should be spot on - but I guess a bunch of guys reading the tech ref wouldn't be good television lol
agreed.. my post was just a complaint because i spent most of an evening finding and looking through all of byte magazines cover art.. lol
 

inworlder

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yeah. thanks.
i have a feeling HCF will have a lot of bogus details.. like they're definition of Halt and Catch Fire, and character Gordon Clark article "The Future of Open Architecture".. the Byte magazine cover is even bogus. lol..
maybe someone will prove me wrong.

None of this is purely fictitious. There is a lot of creative license but everything is loosely based on very real events and ideas.

Firstly, the HCF (Halt Catch Fire) command was very real. It didn't actually do anything. It was a novelty for other developers to play with the command-line interface. There were lots of these kinds of commands in those days in command-lines much like the forerunner to the modern-day easter egg. Another favorite from the era was "EJECT PROGRAMMER" for example. These commands didn't actually do anything other than display some kind of amusing message on the screen usually in a never-ending loop that was very easy to "break" out of.

As for reverse engineering the IBM BIOS chip, this is clearly inspired by the founding of the company that came to become COMPAQ, widely regarded as the company that started the PC clone industry and defended its actions under the auspices of a philosophy of interoperable computing later dubbed as Open Architecture. It SEEMS totally bogus because all the key players have fictitious names instead of their real names and yet they very specifically mention IBM and TI.

Being only one episode in so far, I'm not sure how much creative license they will use and how much the dramatized version will deviate from real events but actually so far this is tracking rather well with the story of COMPAQ which has a VERY sorted and equally very dramatic history that would definitely make for good TV if done right.
 

Chuck(G)

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Commands? HCF was a very real machine opcode in both the Moto 6800 and 6809--it causes the CPU to cycle through its entire address range uninterruptibly. It was intended as a diagnostic tool.

A hard reset is needed to break the CPU out of it. It was also a subject of an old S/360 spoof article.

On the CDC 7600, PPU core was present in 2 interleaved banks. A one-word "jump to self" could cause the core to heat sufficiently to throw a parity error. To get around this, Seymour Cray ncorporated something that was called a "duty cycle integrator", which basically slows the PPU memory accesses when one location is being hit too hard. But sorry, no fires.
 

kyeakel

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I thought the hand dumping of the ROM contents was pretty bogus. Seems if your smart enough to decode the bios you should be able to dump it's contents to a file.

Kipp
 

krebizfan

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I thought the hand dumping of the ROM contents was pretty bogus. Seems if your smart enough to decode the bios you should be able to dump it's contents to a file.

Kipp

After dumping the BIOS to a file, the characters would still need to examine the BIOS. Adding 30 seconds of dialog to explain dumping to a file and an extraneous cut to indicate time passed would not improve the viewing any. Clean room reverse engineering also falls prey to needs of TV budgeting, a second batch of actors cost too much.
 
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