Some might ask: "Why to build an IBM PC/XT compatible computer?" There are lot of IBM compatible systems around, and it's possible to get a Pentium based system for cheap or free. Well, here is why I did it:
Since my childhood I dreamed of building my own computer. And here by building a computer I mean designing and assembling it from electronic components, not from pre-assembled computer "blocks", like a motherboard and controller cards.
The N8VEM project got me one step closer to my dream. I experimented with building the original Z80 based N8VEM SBC and also SBC-188 (an 80C188 based system). But apparently I am too young to appreciate Z80 and CP/M, (although I was enjoying much playing games on a Yamaha MSX2 machine in the school, but I haven't done any serious programming, not counting some educational software written in Basic). And in both cases I didn't find a real use for the systems, that including running a useful software (games?!).
I also have some nostalgia for working and playing games on an XT compatible machines. (Back in mid-80s my father had an Olivetti M24 at his work - probably one of the first IBM PC/XT compatible computers in town.) While it's possible to use an emulator, I think it wouldn't be the same.
About a year ago (January 2010), while looking for electronic components for N8VEM project, it appeared to me that many chips used in IBM PC/XT design are readily available and cheap, and even some companies still make them. I also already had a couple of ICs for such system, like 8088-2 CPU and flash memory. So I decided to design and build my own IBM-compatible computer.
Designing and building a computer is a fun and rewarding learning experience. It touches almost every aspect of the computer technology from learning about electronic components and designing your own schematics to writing the BIOS code and running a real operating system and application software on it. It is also a great trip in the computing history - you're getting to understand why IBM-compatible computers were designed in certain way, why there are multiple quirks in system and BIOS implementation, and why despite all these quirks IBM-compatible systems are so successful. And finally the system you've built joins the huge gang of IBM compatible computers, and as such it can run endless number of programs and applications designed for these computers.