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For the 1998 computer guideline by Microsoft and Intel, see PC System Design Guide.

The PC-9801 is a Japanese 16-bit microcomputer manufactured by NEC from 1982, the first in the PC-98 series of 16-bit and 32-bit personal computers. The platform established NEC's dominance in the Japanese personal computer market, and by 1999, more than 18 million PC-98 units had been sold.[1]


It first appeared in 1982,[2] and employed an 8086 CPU. It ran at a clock speed of 5 MHz, with two µPD7220 display controllers (one for text, the other for video graphics), and shipped with 128 KB of RAM, expandable to 640 KB. Its 8-color display had a maximum resolution of 640×400 pixels. Its successor, the PC-9801E, which appeared in 1983, employed an 8086-2 CPU, which could selectively run at a speed of either 5 or 8 MHz. The NEC PC-9801VM used NEC V30 CPU.

When the PC-98 was launched in 1982, it was initially priced at 298,000 yen (about 1,200 USD in 1982 dollars).

In the 1980s and early 1990s, NEC dominated the Japan domestic PC market with more than 60% of the PCs sold as PC-9801 or PC8801. In 1990, IBM Japan introduced the DOS/V operating system which enabled displaying Japanese text on standard IBM PC/AT VGA adapters. After that, the decline of the PC-98 began. The PC-9801's last successor was the Celeron-based PC-9821Ra43 (with a clockspeed of 433 MHz, using a 440FX chipset-based motherboard design from 1998), which appeared in 2000.

While NEC did not market these specific machines in the West, it did sell the NEC APC III, which has similar hardware as early PC-98 models.[3]


The PC-98 is different from the IBM PC in many ways; for instance, it uses its own 16 bit C-Bus instead of the ISA bus; BIOS, I/O port addressing, memory management, and graphics output are also different. However, localized MS-DOS or Windows will still run on PC-9801s.


Seiko Epson manufactured PC-9801 clones, as well as compatible peripherals.


Software for the PC-98 generally ran from program and data disks (Disk 0 & 1 or A & B), and NEC did not have a strong GUI to go up against Microsoft's Windows 95 when it took Japan's PC market by storm. NEC's decision to work with Microsoft to offer a PC-98 compatible version of Windows 95 could be seen as the first step towards the PC-98's downfall, as consumers were no longer required to have an NEC-built system to run software designed for Windows.

The PC9801 had thousands of game titles designed for it, many of which made creative use of the system's limitations (it was originally designed as a business machine) to great commercial success. Despite having hardware specifications far inferior to the Fujitsu FM Towns and Sharp X68000 personal computers, the massive install base and steady flow of game titles (in particular "dōjin" style dating sims and RPGs, as well as early games of the Touhou Project franchise) kept it as the favored platform for PC game developers in Japan until the rise of the DOS/V clones.

NEC kept much of its hardware and platform proprietary or under license, so while it had a virtual monopoly in the Japanese market, later IBM PC clones with DOS/V and Windows from companies such as Hitachi and Panasonic that did not require such license fees (like Epson's 98 clones) flooded the market and displaced NEC. The proprietary technology that was NEC's strength turned into its weakness as its competitors could use off-the-shelf technology to build cheaper IBM PC clones at a time when NEC was charging much steeper prices for its PC-98s.


Partial list of PC-98 models sold in the Japanese market (no 1992-2000 models, no notebook models, etc.).

Model CPU Year Features Other
PC-9801 8086 5 MHz 1982 RAM 128 KB, 6 slot C-bus 640×400 8 colors, 2 externals floppy drive 8" (optional)
PC-9801E 8086-2 5/8 MHz 1983 2 externals floppy drive 8" (optional)
PC-9801F 8086-2 5/8 MHz 1983 F1 and F2 with 128KB of RAM,
F3 256 KB of RAM and hard-disk 10 Mb
Internal floppy drive, 5" 2DD (640KB/720KB)
PC-9801M 8086-2 5/8 MHz 1984 M1: 2 internal floppy drive, 5" 2HD (1MB/1.2MB); M2: 1 internal floppy and HD 20Mb
PC-9801VF NEC V30 8 MHz 1985 RAM 256 KB double 5" floppy-disk 2DD
resolution 640×400 with 8 colors (16 colors optional) chosen from among the 4096 available
PC-9801VM NEC V30 10 MHz 1985 RAM 384 KB double 5" floppy-disk 2HD/2DD
resolution 640×400 with 8 colors (16 colors optional) chosen from among the 4096 available
PC-9801VX Intel 80286 10 MHz 1986 RAM 1 MByte resolution 640×400 with 16 colors chosen from among 4096
PC-9801U NEC V30 8 MHz 1985 2 floppy-disk 3.5" 2DD
PC-9801UV NEC V30 10/8 MHz 1984 2 floppy-disk 3.5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801UX 80286 10 MHz 1987 2 floppy-disk 3.5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801RA 80386DX 16-20 MHz 1988 2 floppy-disk 5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801RS 80386SX 16-20 MHz 1989 2 floppy-disk 5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801RX 80286 16-20 MHz 1989 2 floppy-disk 5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801ES 80386SX 16-20 MHz 1989 ES2 no HD, ES5 HD 40MB 2 floppy-disk 3.5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801EX 80286 16-20 MHz 1989 2 floppy-disk 3.5" 2HD/2DD
PC-9801DA,DA/U 80386DX/20 MHz 1990 /U means 3.5" floppy
No /U means 5" floppy
PC-9801DS,DS/U 80386SX/16 MHz 1990 /U means 3.5" floppy
No /U means 5" floppy
PC-9801DX,DX/U 80286 1991 /U means 3.5" floppy
No /U means 5" floppy
PC-9801FA,FA/U 80486SX/16 MHz 1992 F means "File slot", memory proprietary expansion slot
PC-9801FS,FS/U 80386DX/16 MHz 1992
PC-9801FX,FX/U 80386SX/16 MHz 1992
PC-9821 Intel 80386SX 1992 RAM 4 MByte, drive CD-ROM hard disk 40 MByte,
resolution 640×480 with 256 colors and SCSI interface
PC-9821Ra43 Celeron 443 MHz 2000 Last computer of series

See also


External links

  • Intro to NEC PC-9800 World
Preceded by
NEC PC-8801
NEC Personal Computers Succeeded by
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