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PC-9800 series

From NEC Retro

(Redirected from PC-98)
PC9800 set.jpg

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The PC-9800 series (PC-9800シリーズ) is a range of 16 and 32-bit Japanese home computers manufactured between October 1982 and 1995 by NEC.

Following the release of first PC-9801 computer, the PC-9800 series became would become a dominant force in the Japanese computing market, owed in part to NEC's history with the PC-8000 series and PC-8800 series, the ability to quickly display Japanese kanji symbols at then-high screen resolutions, and an early decision to adopt MS-DOS as an official operating system. More than 18 million PC-9800 series computers had been sold in Japan by 1999[1].

History

The original PC-9801 was designed as a 16-bit business machine, building lessons learned with the N5200, first released in 1981. Many components were shared with the N5200, but it was the µPD7220 graphics display controller which was its main selling point; a NEC-produced chip that could quickly decode and render kanji text at a high-enough resolution to read. At the time, most computers either lacked support for the thousands of kanji characters, be it memory limitations, or the processing speeds required to render them on-screen; NEC tapped into this market early, and before its rivals had caught up, had become the dominant force in business computing.

Unlike the PC-8800 series, where only two major hardware revisions were introduced throughout the 1980s (the original PC-8801 and 1985's PC-8801 mkII SR), the PC-9800 series featured ever-evolving computers in a number of form factors. Significant updates were released annually, with notable increases in processor capabilities, memory and available graphics modes throughout the decade. This constant change caused problems for developers, especially in the early days when compatible disk formats would change between machines, and so the PC-9800 series software market is more fractured than its contemporaries.

Unlike the IBM PC which rapidly gained traction in the West, the PC-9800 series involved bespoke equipment all manufactured by NEC. An absense of "PC-9800 compatibles" meant NEC could control pricing; only in the early 1990s after pressure from IBM compatibles running DOS/V (which could now handle kanji characters in software) was the company forced to open up to compete, though ultimately gave way to the cheaper and more versitile nature of what had been set in motion by IBM and Microsoft. A successor, the PC-9821 series bridged the gap even further and maintained PC-9800 series support.

When the series was forced to work with Microsoft to create a PC-9800/PC-9821 compatible version of Windows 95 (then 98, then 2000), the concept of NEC maintaining a different set of bespoke computing standards became redundant, and like its peers in the computing industry, began to produce PC compatibles instead.

In 1997 the firm released the PC compatible PC-98NX which in turn had revisions and successors; these are not covered by NEC Retro, as while compatibility layers were created for traditional PC-9800 software, they effectively stand as IBM PCs with NEC branding, as opposed to bespoke NEC hardware.

NEC tailored its flagship computing series to different markets, creating slim-size models with the PC-9801 U and its successors, higher-end workstations for CAD (starting with the PC-98XA), laptops (PC-98LT), notebooks (PC-9801 N) and servers.

List of computers

The PC-9800 series adopted an arguably complex naming scheme for its hardware. "U" denotes built-in 3½-inch floppy disk drives, "X" usually suggests a 80286 processor (unless the machine was built after 1992), and numbers typically hint towards the capacity of the built-in hard drive (4 and 5 often suggest 20MB and 40MB respectively, though NEC were very inconsistent over the years). "W" means the computer shipped with a PC-98 version of Microsoft Windows, but the situation is not always clear cut - "A" models for example tend to be more powerful than "S" models, and there are multiple definitions for "F".

On top of this, longer product names were not printed on the casing. While there are technically five different PC-9801 VM models, identifying them from a distance is not always easy, particularly if the machine had been modified from its default state (and modifications were common - no PC-98 computer shipped with both a 5¼-inch and 3½-inch floppy drive - consumers had to choose between one or the other, though not all PC-98 software was distributed on both disk formats).

Name Date Price Processors RAM Built-in media drives Video Sound
Main CPU Clock 2nd CPU Clock HDD 5¼-inch FDD 3½-inch FDD CD-ROM
PC-9801 1982-10 ¥298,000 8086 5MHz 128KB No No No No 640x400, 8 colours Beeper
PC-9801 F1 1983-10 ¥328,000 8086-2 5/8MHz 128KB No 1x 2DD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 F2 1983-10 ¥398,000 8086-2 5/8MHz 128KB No 2x 2DD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 E 1983-11 ¥215,000 8086-2 5/8MHz 128KB No No No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 F3 1984-10 ¥758,000 8086-2 5/8MHz 256KB 10MB 1x 2DD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 M2 1984-11 ¥415,000 8086-2 5/8MHz 256KB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 M3 1985-02 ¥838,000 8086-2 5/8MHz 256KB 20MB 1x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 U2 1985-06 ¥298,00 V30 8MHz 128KB No No 2x 2DD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 VF2 1985-07 ¥348,000 V30 8MHz 256KB No 2x 2DD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 VM0 1985-07 ¥295,000 V30 10MHz 384KB No No No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 VM2 1985-07 ¥415,000 V30 10MHz 384KB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 VM4 1985-10 ¥830,000 V30 10MHz 384KB 20MB 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 UV2 1986-06 ¥318,000 V30 10MHz 384KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 VM21 1986-11 ¥390,000 V30 10MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 VX0 1986-11 ¥353,000 80286 8MHz V30 10MHz 640KB No No No No xx xx
PC-9801 VX2 1986-11 ¥433,000 80286 8MHz V30 10MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 VX4 1986-11 ¥693,000 80286 8MHz V30 10MHz 640KB 20MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 VX4/WN 1986-11 ¥730,000 80286 8MHz V30 10MHz 640KB 20MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 VX01 1987-06 ¥353,000 80286 10MHz V30 10MHz 640KB No No No No xx xx
PC-9801 VX21 1987-06 ¥433,000 80286 10MHz V30 10MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 VX41 1987-06 ¥630,000 80286 10MHz V30 10MHz 640KB 20MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 UV21 1987-06 ¥318,000 V30 10MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 VX41/WN 1987-07 ¥658,000 80286 10MHz V30 10MHz 640KB 20MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 UX21 1987-10 ¥348,000 80286 10MHz V30 8MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 UX41 1987-10 ¥545,000 80286 10MHz V30 8MHz 640KB 20MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 UV11 1988-03 ¥265,000 V30 10MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 CV21 1988-03 ¥355,000 V30 10MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 RA2 1988-07 ¥498,000 i386DX 20MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RA5 1988-07 ¥736,000 i386DX 20MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RX2 1988-09 ¥398,000 80286 12MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RX4 1988-09 ¥566,000 80286 12MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 VM11 1988-11 ¥328,000 V30 10MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper?
PC-9801 ES2 1989-04 ¥448,000 i386SX 16MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx xx
PC-9801 ES5 1989-04 ¥638,000 i386SX 16MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx xx
PC-9801 EX2 1989-04 ¥348,000 80286 12MHz V30 8MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 EX4 1989-04 ¥488,000 80286 12MHz V30 8MHz 640KB 20MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 RX21 1989-10 ¥338,000 80286 12MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RX51 1989-10 ¥508,000 80286 12MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RS21 1989-11 ¥398,000 i386SX 16MHz V30 8MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RS51 1989-11 ¥398,000 i386SX 16MHz V30 8MHz 640KB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RA21 1989-11 ¥498,000 i386DX 20MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 RA51 1989-11 ¥668,000 i386DX 20MHz V30 8MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx xx
PC-9801 DX2 1990-11 ¥318,000 80286 12MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DX/U2 1990-11 ¥318,000 80286 12MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DX5 1990-11 ¥468,000 80286 12MHz 640KB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DX/U5 1990-11 ¥468,000 80286 12MHz 640KB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DS2 1991-01 ¥358,000 i386SX 16MHz 640KB No 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DS/U2 1991-01 ¥358,000 i386SX 16MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DS5 1991-01 ¥508,000 i386SX 16MHz 640KB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DS/U5 1991-01 ¥508,000 i386SX 16MHz 640KB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DA2 1991-01 ¥448,000 i386DX 20MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DA/U2 1991-01 ¥448,000 i386DX 20MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DA5 1991-01 ¥598,000 i386DX 20MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DA/U5 1991-01 ¥598,000 i386DX 20MHz 1.6MB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DA7 1991-02 ¥698,000 i386DX 20MHz 1.6MB 100MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 DA/U7 1991-02 ¥698,000 i386DX 20MHz 1.6MB 100MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 UF 1991-02 ¥218,000 V30HL 8/16MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 UR 1991-02 ¥218,000 V30HL 16MHz 640KB No No 1x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 UR/20 1991-02 ¥348,000 V30HL 16MHz 640KB 20MB No 1x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 CS2 1991-10 ¥398,000 i386SX 16MHz 640KB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 CS5 1991-10 ¥548,000 i386SX 16MHz 640KB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 CS5/W 1991-11 ¥675,000 i386SX 16MHz 3.6MB 80MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FA/U2 1992-01 ¥458,000 i486SX 16MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FA5 1992-01 ¥578,000 i486SX 16MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FA/U5 1992-01 ¥578,000 i486SX 16MHz 1.6MB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FA7 1992-01 ¥648,000 i486SX 16MHz 1.6MB 100MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FA/U7 1992-01 ¥648,000 i486SX 16MHz 1.6MB 100MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FA2 1992-02 ¥458,000 i486SX 16MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FX2 1992-05 ¥278,000 i386SX 12MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FX/U2 1992-05 ¥278,000 i386SX 12MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FX5 1992-05 ¥398,000 i386SX 12MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FX/U5 1992-05 ¥398,000 i386SX 12MHz 1.6MB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FS2 1992-05 ¥348,000 i386SX 20MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FS/U2 1992-05 ¥348,000 i386SX 20MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FS5 1992-05 ¥468,000 i386SX 20MHz 1.6MB 40MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FS/U5 1992-05 ¥468,000 i386SX 20MHz 1.6MB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FS7 1992-05 ¥538,000 i386SX 20MHz 1.6MB 100MB 2x 2HD No No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 FS/U7 1992-05 ¥538,000 i386SX 20MHz 1.6MB 100MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 US 1992-07 ¥248,000 i386SX 16MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 US40 1992-07 ¥358,000 i386SX 16MHz 1.6MB 40MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 US80 1992-07 ¥418,000 i386SX 16MHz 1.6MB 80MB No 2x 2HD No xx FM, SSG
PC-9801 BX/U2 1993-01 ¥218,000 i486SX2 20MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX/U6 1993-01 ¥288,000 i486SX2 20MHz 3.6MB 80MB No 1x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX/M2 1993-01 ¥232,000 i486SX2 20MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA/U2 1993-01 ¥328,000 i486DX2 40MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA/U6 1993-01 ¥388,000 i486DX2 40MHz 3.6MB 80MB No 1x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA/M2 1993-01 ¥342,000 i486DX2 40MHz 1.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX2/U2 1993-11 ¥178,000 i486SX 25MHz 1.8MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX2/U7 1993-11 ¥238,000 i486SX 25MHz 3.6MB 120MB No 1x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX2/M2 1993-11 ¥192,000 i486SX 25MHz 1.8MB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BS2/U2 1993-11 ¥238,000 i486SX 33MHz 3.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BS2/U7 1993-11 ¥278,000 i486SX 33MHz 3.6MB 120MB No 1x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BS2/M2 1993-11 ¥252,000 i486SX 33MHz 3.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA2/U2 1993-11 ¥338,000 i486DX2 66MHz 3.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA2/U7 1993-11 ¥378,000 i486DX2 66MHz 3.6MB 120MB No 1x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA2/M2 1993-11 ¥352,000 i486DX2 66MHz 3.6MB No 2x 2HD No No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX3/U2 1995-01 ¥98,000 i486SX 33MHz 1.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX3/U2/W 1995-01 ¥163,000 i486SX 33MHz 5.6MB 210MB No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA3/U2 1995-01 ¥138,000 i486DX2 66MHz 3.6MB No No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BA3/U2/W 1995-01 ¥198,000 i486DX2 66MHz 7.6MB 210MB No 2x 2HD No xx Beeper
PC-9801 BX4/U2 1995-07 ¥98,000 486DX2 66MHz 2.0MB xx No 2x 2HD No xx PCM
PC-9801 BX4/U2/C 1995-07 ¥113,000 486DX2 66MHz 2.0MB xx No 2x 2HD Yes xx PCM
PC-9801 BX4/U2-P 1995-09 ¥98,000 Pentium 63MHz 2.0MB xx No 2x 2HD No xx PCM
PC-9801 BX4/U2/C-P 1995-09 ¥113,000 Pentium 63MHz 2.0MB xx No 2x 2HD Yes xx PCM

Note: Floppy disk standards among NEC machines are both named and formatted slightly differently than Western counterparts:

  • Double Density (2DD): 640KB
  • High Density (2HD): 1.232MB

Typically a 2HD drive can read 2DD disks, but this was not guaranteed (the PC-9801 M being a prime example).

Promotional material

References

  1. Computing Japan. LINC Japan. 54-59: 18. 1999


PC-9800 series hardware
PC-9801 (1982) | PC-9801 F (E) (1983) | M (1984)

V30 Computers: U | VF | VM | UV | CV (1985-1988)
286 Computers: VX | UX | RX | DX | UR | UF | FX (1986-1992)
386 Computers: RA | RS | ES | DA | DS | CS | FS | US (1988-1992)
486+ Computers: FA | BX | BA | BX2 | BS2 | BA2 | BA3 | BX4 (1993-1995)

stuff
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