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More than four decades after Intel launched the 8088 processor, a Chinese PC maker has launched a brand new mini-laptop sporting the 4.77 MHz processor, along with support for an optional 8087 math co-processor.

This new “Book 8088 DOS system” is available from AliExpress for $201 and up. And while it won’t run most modern software, it looks like a retro computing dream, with support for MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.0 or earlier.

The starting price is for just the basic computer, which is a 240 x 150 x 30mm (9.4″ x 5.9″ x 1.2″) system with an Intel 8088 chip, IBM-CGA graphics card, 640KB of memory, and a 16-color, 640 x 200 pixel display.

It does have a few modern touches, including a 512MB CompactFlash card for storage and a USB port for peripherals. But this thing is very much designed for running decades-old software.

Optional accessories include an OPL3 sound card module with a Yamaha YYMF262-M sound chip (which is the same chip used in the Sound Blaster Pro 2.0), an ISA expansion card connector, or an 8087 co-processor. A system with all of those add-ons is still pretty affordable, at $275.

Overall the little PC seems like a fascinating little device for playing DOS games, running classic programs like early versions of Microsoft Word, or just getting a glimpse of computer history without the need for any sort of emulation software to trick modern hardware to run decades-old software.

Unfortunately there’s no information on the battery capacity or battery life, but the little computer works with a 12V/1.5A power supply.

Update: It’s a bit unclear from the AliExpress page who is actually producing this little computer. But the folks at Ars Technica spotted a reference to 8086cpu.com, which does indeed have a product page for the Book 8088, but no details that weren’t already shared in the retail listing for this mini laptop.

The same company also appears to have a DEV8088 board for folks that want to build their own PC using an 8088 processor, and also produces the Hand 386 handheld retro computer we wrote about earlier this week.

thanks jdr!

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  1. YouTube channel Action Retro recently tested the 386 offering he bought from the same source. It was an awkward, unreliable experience. Overall, the YouTuber didn’t like it and couldn’t recommend it. Buyer beware.

  2. I really want one of these with the peripherals. The OLD software I need to run is DOS based for talking to industrial machines (PLC’s) and this would be PERFECT!

    Please help me get one.. I live in Australia and it seems there is no mention of this machine on any available site… tried everywhere. ALIExpress do not have it listed (perhaps because of my “Australian address”). ANY help in obtaining this will be greatly appreciated.

    I live in Adelaide, South Australia.

    1. You may want to double check the software you actually want to run will run on it. The 8088 is more limited than you may think. The fact that the 8088 is 8-bit in particular is likely to be extremely limiting. It’s also extremely slow even for a DOS machine. (A 16MHz 286 is more than 4x faster due to better bus/etc stuff.) Double check that your use-cases wouldn’t be better served just by searching on eBay or something for a really old system. I found a bunch on eBay that were actually cheaper than this thing even. At least, you said you needed peripherals. If you don’t actually need ISA cards or whatever, you might even be able to use a VM/DOSBox/QEMU/etc (perhaps even on a SBC) for your use-cases.

      1. Thankyou for that. I am an “old school” electronics engineer and I know exactly what an 8088 does and doesn’t do. I am so old that I was around BEFORE the 8088 was invented! (I cut my teeth on Motorola 6809B). The software I need to use was designed to run on the 8088 so I know how it goes. ..just fine. The Co-processor is just an added bonus and this software will run without it.

        I have 8 bit ISA bus card that plugs into my IC tester also runs just fine on that level hardware – was designed for it. Unfortunately my old Commodore (PC) 8088 died so I need access to an ISA bus to use my tester. A new tester that has this level of functionality is too damn expensive and I have built a considerable library of components now.

        The ONLY complaint I would have here is that this little box doesn’t have a standard RS-232 port – an adapter to USB doesn’t work on old equipment as the protocols are not fully implemented in these as they are software not hardware driven.

        I intend to update the CPU anyway to the V20 (I have a few lying around) which is about a 20% “boost” on a stock 8088.

        This unit is small and comfortably portable unlike my Gas Plasma Compaq 286..

  3. That is really cool in having an open window through which one could install the 8087. Saves having to open up the entire machine to do so.

  4. An interesting concept perhaps, but I just don’t see the value or benefit of choosing an 8088 for this design. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Most of the stuff anyone would really want to run on a retro machine is going to really want a 16-bit processing (which means 286 minimum) and really most ideally you’d want a fast 486 or slow Pentium 1 to max out the potential of hardware targeting that era’s software (especially gaming — which I assume does matter given that it’s bragging a CGA videocard and a soundcard capable of SBPro functionality.) And the price tag is… extraordinary given that it is 2023 and not, in fact, 1981. A Raspberry Pi or similar SBC booting straight into RetroPie and, from there, DOSBox, would perform better (probably at least a fast 386 performance-level, but I haven’t tested) and run a much wider range of software. Not to mention it would have VGA (even SVGA) graphics, Sound Blaster 16 functionality with an emulated wavetable daughterboard, and 8+MB of RAM.

    And I don’t think Windows 3.x sounds very… reasonable. I had a 16MHz 286 back in the day and I can assure you that starting Windows was a real process with me having to actually step out of the room and find other things to do for a while… And that was a 16-bit processor with 1MiB of RAM, which Windows could actually use. Some of that may have involved things like swapping, which would be a lot faster on a modern flash media storage, but I think it’s still going to be unpleasant. I mostly used Windows 3.1 (don’t remember 3.0 well at all) but I think even with 3.0 you’re going to have to start it in “standard mode” (win /s) and wait a very long time for it to start.

    My best guess is that what happened here is a patent expired or something, thus allowing them to legally make a fake 8088 or something. But much better would have been to make a FPGA chip acting as a 486 at least (Pentium might be troublesome because of its extra extensions, but I know 486s were easy enough that Cyrix and etc could make their own sort of 486 chips with somewhat equal functionality.) Ironically this would even be cheaper… Even a SBC emulating a DOS system would be basically cheaper and definitely better. Less bragging rights though I guess.

  5. Uuuhhh… no serial port? Not even a parallel port? This mean you can’t use vintage hardware on this.

    1. If you spring for the ISA expansion, you could buy a card with a serial port — looks like there’s some on eBay for around $15. Not ideal if you’re going to be using serial port accessories on the go, but if you have some old peripherals that you aren’t going to lug around, it’s better than nothing.

  6. Both the x86 hardware and (specially) the bios in this are derived from the designs by Sergey Kiselev, with the copyright removed. Shame!

  7. So, question for anyone in the know. Has anyone here ever purchased from Aliexpress? Are they reliable/reputable? Do they accept payment options other than paypal?

    I’m going to have to do some research. For instance, I have a bootable cd with pcdos7 on it. It runs fantastic on my ryzen computer, along with word and an old dos solitaire shareware game. Even have a dos encryption program if privacy is needed. Then I can copy whatever to and from a usb drive. It actually works great.

    I hate the non-elevated keyboard on this, but for basic stuff like doing some writing and playing a game of solitaire or something, this could be a fun little toy. But I don’t know if pcdos7 or freedos would be too resource intensive for this. I echo Grant’s sentiments, a 486 or Pentium 1 would have been nice.

    Also, is it just me, or does it looks like those are old chips salvaged from old motherboards?

  8. “[E]arly versions of Microsoft Word. . . .”

    Hey, now–how about showing a little love to WordStar, WordPerfect, or Ami Pro?

  9. It reminds me of the IBM PC 110. It ran different operating systems; older Windows, DOS and OS/2. It would be interesting to see how it compares.

    I wonder how it would work with FreeDOS? it is an open source version of DOS that is developed and better than the original DOS.

  10. I agree with Grant Russell. Why not release it with a processor from the apex of the DOS era like a 486 or Pentium, along with graphics hardware. With such a processor all you would have to do to enjoy the life of the 8088 era would be to not running in turbo mode, yet you’d still have the flexibility to run software that was released at the height of the DOS era.

    1. Vintage 486 and Pentium machines are very easy to get on the 2nd hand market. In the past couple of years, I’ve picked up 1 486, 1 Pentium I, and 2 Pentium III laptops for less than $100 total. All of them are working and only needed a minor amount of restoration. By comparison, working XT/AT desktops are much harder to find and tend to be quite expensive, and XT/286/386-era laptops are even more so. A lot of early DOS software will not run well on anything faster than 4 or 8mhz, and even 386s in turbo (slow) mode fail to run many applications properly. Therefore there is more of a niche right now for a retro 8088 laptop than for a 486/Pentium.

      It’s also worth noting that the XT/AT DOS period is probably the single-most underappreciated era of retro computing. It rarely gets much of a mention compared to the more nostalgic 80s microcomputers and the popular 486/Pentium era of the 90s. However, it was the XT clone boom that established the PC as a dominant platform. In 1984 IBM & PC compatibles were just 22% of all computer sales, but by 1987 due that share rose to 66%, and by 1989 it was 82%. This was almost all due to the success of humble sub-$1000 CGA/EGA XT and AT clones, long before VGA or 486s were standard. So seeing this era of PC computing getting some love with a new retro machine is more than welcome. I personally would have preferred it to have both CGA and EGA support, as well as possibly Tandy/PC Jr graphics and sound. But I will take what I can get.

      1. Having lived thru that era as a programmer, I hold little nostalgia for it. Yes, you are correct that Microsoft owes its market share to the clone XT/AT beige boxes, but also to Apple’s greed.

    2. The reason most likely relates to the availability of the CPU itself. I don’t know where this company is getting a supply of 8088 CPUs. I’m not familiar with the availability of the 8088, but I think there have been some 8088 clone motherboards on the market for a while, so presumably someone is making these chips.

      Basically to your question, there are no supply sources for 486 or Pentium CPUs. It will require someone reverse engineering the CPU design, and pay an ASIC fabricator to do a production run. That will be expensive in low volume.

  11. I’d love to see this kind of thing turn into a trend. I’d totally buy something like this if it was a slightly more recent CPU, like a 486, or a Pentium 1.

  12. Makes a great starter computer for kids too, since it’ll make sure they appreciate how computers work.
    And it doesn’t connect to the internet, so you never have to worry about them going anywhere too crazy.