PC cassette interface and ROM BASIC (was Re: OT, but info needed: RAM uprade)

From: Eric Smith <eric_at_brouhaha.com>
Date: Sun Dec 27 18:14:35 1998

"Jason Willgruber" <roblwill_at_usaor.net> wrote:
> The tape drive was actually a useful idea, which should have been continued
> all the way throughout the PS/2 line. It allowed whoever was using the
> computer to actually make use of the ROM BASIC. The floppies aren't
> available in ROM BASIC, and once a program is typed in, there's no way to
> save it.

The PC was introduced in 1981. IBM had no clue as to how popular it would
become, or who their customers would be. The cassette interface was there
to provide for a less expensive entry-level system. They soon discovered
that almost everyone that bought a PC bought a floppy disk controller and

> I think one of the not-so-smart things that IBM did was to
> remove the cassette interface

Leaving the cassette interface out of later models made perfect sense. It
was an extra cost that the vast majority of customers didn't need.

> and to keep the now-useless ROM-BASIC in there.

Are you sure it's useless?

If you use IBM's disk BASIC or BASICA, you're actually using ROM BASIC.
Try running BASICA on a clone sometime. It won't work. That's why
MS-DOS for other platforms usually included GWBASIC.

On the other hand, you can argue that it is useless, since most IBM
customers don't use BASICA. Or QBASIC for that matter. Anyone using
BASIC these days is likely to be using Visual BASIC.

So why didn't IBM remove the ROM BASIC? Simple. Because it wouldn't
save them any money. There's a certain minimum cost for a masked ROM,
and going to smaller ones (if you can even get them) doesn't lower your cost.

I don't know what IBM's license from Microsoft for ROM BASIC is like; they
may have paid a one-time flat license fee for it, like Apple did for

Received on Sun Dec 27 1998 - 18:14:35 GMT

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