Typical PCs Each Year


In 1992, CDs overtook audio cassettes in sales of recorded music for the first time, Silence of the Lambs hit the cinemas, and Isaac Asimov died. IBM launched the first Thinkpad which had a 10.4" colour TFT display and a Trackpoint, and the first 7200 rpm hard disk was manufactured by Seagate.

On the music scene, Michael Jackson released "Black or White", Guns 'n Roses got a hit with "November Rain" and some of us would "Jump Around" or think "I'm Too Sexy".


In 1992, the 80286 CPU was in major decline. Its successors, the 80386 had been out for 7 years and the 80486 for 3 years. This was the year that PCs really started to become popular for gamers. Before 1992 no DOS game really needed something as powerful as an 80386 to play.

Intel introduced the clock-doubled 486DX2 chip on 2nd March.


The motherboard chipset market began to get hotter around this time - Intel's 420EX "Aries", 420TX "Saturn 1", and 420ZX "Saturn II" chipsets competed with OPTI 82C495, UMC UM8498F and SiS 85C471 on 486 motherboards. VLSI had really dropped out of the chipset market at this point, though still provided their Topcat chipset on 386 motherboards.

Local Bus was being implemented by a number of motherboard manufacturers, but VESA had not yet introduced a standard for them all to follow - this would come later on in 1992. Local Bus was a first attempt to get ancillary cards off the very slow ISA bus standard. Graphics cards were prominent on this bus, as were disk controller cards. In most cases these cards could run at the same speed the CPU ran at [though beyond 50 MHz things weren't reliable], which was certainly much faster than the 8 to 10 MHz of the ISA bus.


In late 1992, DIPP RAM and SIPP RAM were giving way to the new 30-pin SIMMs. The old "pin"-style memory wasn't favourable due to the difficulty in installation and removal, often resulting in bent pins. The new SIMM package offered an edge connection that tilted into place before locking. Some 286 motherboards supported both the older and newer types of memory to give prospective purchasers an upgrade path for their existing components.

Graphics Cards

Diamond launched their latest SpeedStar VGA graphics card, the SpeedStar 24X this year, which had up to 1 MB of video memory onboard and sported the Tseng Labs ET4000AX chipset.

2D Graphics "Accelerators" were starting to become a necessity in order to run Windows in resolutions above 800 x 600 or in higher colour depths, and prominent video card manufacturers including ATi, Orchid and Diamond were designing their own accelerator chips or leveraging those from third parties such as S3 and Texas Instruments.

Number Nine launched their GXiTC SVGA card that brought Windows 3.1 resolutions up to 1280 x 1024. Meanwhile Trident were still churning out their TVGA-8900C and 8900D cards by the thousands to OEMs.

Other manufacturers still holding out were Video 7, Genoa and Hercules. Orchid remained a popular choice in the professional and CAD markets.


On the PC audio side, Aztech launched their "Sound Galaxy" range of sound cards to compete with the already-popular Creative Sound Blaster.

Creative had already released the Sound Blaster Pro a year before, and 1992 would see the launch of the Sound Blaster 16 at the high end of the consumer PC audio market.

Also still in the fight were MediaVision with their Pro Audio Spectrum series, and Gravis entered the fray with the launch of the Advanced Gravis Ultrasound, or GUS, which was the first the PC market saw of sample-based synthesis (referred to as "wavetable") since the Roland MT-32 and compatibles.

At the 'really' high end we saw Roland MT-32 support begin to drop off in games as General MIDI began to be the new defacto high-end option, though some games developers would still continue to support MT-32 up to around 1996.

Operating Systems

Microsoft released Windows 3.1, and it sold more than 1 million copies in the first 2 months.


"After all the fanfare that Windows and OS/2 have gotten, you might think that character-mode DOS Application development has drawn its last breath. Think again: Application development for DOS is thriving because DOS apps still outsell Windows apps three to one, according to the Software Publishers' Association. But DOS apps are getting more Windows-like in functionality.

Character-based applications, also known as text-based apps, are often faster than their Windows- or OS/2-based counterparts because they aren't constrained by the graphical overhead. This speed lends itself to programs that use the CPU for operations unrelated to the screen output, such as file compression and number-crunching, spell-checking, and indexing. In addition, DOS apps often require less RAM and storage memory than their Windows counterparts.

Symantec, which recently upgraded
The Norton Desktop for Windows (the latest is Version 2.0, see First Looks), also released The Norton Desktop for DOS (NDD). NDD has a Windows-like interface and uses the same menus and keystrokes as the Windows version. NDD's file manager provides drag-and-drop capabilities similar to the WIndows version, but it requires only 512K of RAM to operate. Symantec, which has Windows, Macintosh, and DOS products, plans to continue developing applications for DOS.

Borland, a company that is very much committed to WIndows and OS/2 development, has recently shipped DOS-based versions of dBase, which it acquired in its Ashton-Tate take-over last summer, and Quattro Pro
. While a Windows version is still in the wings, Quattro Pro 4.0 can be run on an XT-class PC with 512K of RAM. With 640K you can run it in WYSIWYG mode, which makes it look and feel a lot like a Windows app.

Lotus has both a short- and long-term strategy for its 1-2-3 for DOS. In the 2.x series, the development house recently announced an upgrade to Version 2.4, and the 3.x series will get an upgrade this summer. Lotus plans major revisions to both lines in 1993. According to Larry Roshfeld, Lotus's product manager for DOS spreadsheets, "The growth rate for DOS applications is not as large as the rate for Windows, but the size of the market is enormous."

Since DOS is the lowest common denominator -- with 82 million users -- most software houses have a DOS strategy, and no one wants to ignore the huge installed base. For example, while WordStar has introduced a Windows version of its word processor, it recently shipped Release 7.0 of the DOS version. And don't be surprised to see new DOS versions of
Microsoft Word and WordPerfect - because folks, DOS ain't dead. "     PC Magazine, June 1992


Also, not so much an operating system in its own right, but a multitasking tool, Quarterdeck launched DESQview/X this year. The "X" was because it's an X Windows server built on top of Quarterdeck's text-based DESQview multitasking system. X Windows was a graphical windowing system that was widely used on Unix workstations. DESQview/X could operate on a network to serve up DOS programs to X Windows workstations running Unix.

The first DESQview revolutionised DOS, as now any program could act as a TSR without it actually being programmed to be so - you could run multiple apps at once and switch between them. DESQview made multitasking a reality.

Quarterdeck's DESQview/X Application Manager (1992)


Some of the more prominent game titles released this year were Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Wolfenstein 3D, and Alone in the Dark.

If you had an 80286-16 you could reasonably play the following titles:




Cheapest/Clearance PCs

80286-16 1 MB RAM, 1.2 MB & 1.44 MB floppy disk drives, 40 MB HDD, 14" monitor $1,099

Premium PCs

80486-33 1 MB RAM, 1.2 MB & 1.44 MB floppy disk drives, 40 MB HDD, 14" monitor, mouse $1,935