Recently I had a need to install IBM’s OS/2 on real hardware rather than in a VM, and for various reasons I wanted “genuine” IBM OS/2 and not eComStation. One of IBM’s older ThinkPads was a logical choice. A T42p would have been nice, but mine is currently out of action, awaiting EEPROM hacking. The next choice was a T30 and then a T23. The T30 and T23 ThinkPads are notable for being among the last machines on which OS/2 was officially supported by IBM.
The operating system was the refreshed MCP2 (Merlin Convenience Pack 2) from early 2002. Installing the OS itself was relatively easy, but there were some interesting challenges along the way.
It appears that the refreshed MCP2 is a must, since previous versions reportedly fail on Pentium 4 systems with more than 512MB RAM. But I didn’t try those.
The T30 was first in line because it’s slightly newer and faster. It’s built around the Intel 845MP chipset and Pentium 4-M; mine is a mid-range 2.0 GHz model. The T30 is notable for supporting up to 2GB RAM (never mind that IBM only claims up to 1GB support); even Core Duo laptops several years later still only supported 2GB. It uses PC2100S DDR memory.
Installation of OS/2 on the T30 went well enough, the only oddity being that when the OS (twice) said it’d reboot in a few seconds, it never did; a Ctrl+Alt+Del fixed that.
The networking component installation for some reason didn’t automatically choose the T30’s Ethernet controller (Intel PRO/100 variant), but the PRO/100 driver supplied with the OS did work—with one major caveat; see below.
As usual, I removed the default NetBIOS protocol driver and chose NetBIOS over TCP/IP instead, a necessity on any modern network.
The T30 graphics chip (ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 with 16MB RAM) isn’t supported by MCP2 because MCP2 was released before the T30. However, either the GENGRADD or the SDD/se graphics driver can use the VESA BIOS and provide support until a better driver is installed.
The PCMCIA controller in the T30 is likewise not supported by MCP2 out of the box. The T23 driver provided with MCP2 (IBMPC2SS.SYS) does not work on the T30.
Once the system was installed, I was pleased to find that networking was functional and I could update the graphics driver. The obvious choices are either the T30-specific SDD/se driver from Lenovo, or the final version of SNAP Graphics for OS/2. For driving the built-in LCD there is very little difference between the two.
What I was not at all pleased about was the fact that suspend/resume was unusable. The system would suspend, but on resume it would refresh the screen and then hang. A bit of quick research pinpointed the Intel NIC driver as the culprit. Sure enough, downloading and installing a slightly newer driver (April 2002 vs. the Jan 2002 release of MCP2 refresh) did the trick and the T30 can now suspend and resume.
But then I was dissatisfied with the XGA (1024×768) screen of my T30. The SXGA+ (1400×1050) panel of the T23 was calling. I decided to repeat the exercise on the T23.
The T23, built around the Pentium III and the Intel 830MP chipset, is slightly older and slower, but mine is the top of the line 1.2 GHz model, in practice not much slower than the 2.0 GHz Pentium 4-M. The T23 can only use 1GB RAM, but that’s hardly an issue with OS/2. The T23 uses PC133 SDRAM.
The T23 is the newest system explicitly listed in the MCP2 installer; the upshot is that PCMCIA support works out of the box. The LAN chip (Intel PRO/100 variant) is essentially the same as on the T30, with the same suspend/resume problem and the same solution. Once again, the installation was otherwise uneventful apart from the need for manual reboots (was I just not patient enough?).
The graphics chip in the T23 is a S3 SuperSavage/IXC (16MB RAM) and it is supported by MCP2 via SDD/se… but the SDD/se package in MCP2 does not support the 1400×1050 resolution. Scaling with the S3 chip is awful (to put it mildly) so using the native resolution is really a must.
First I tried the T23 display driver from Lenovo, but gave up when it turned out that the package wanted to create floppies! Then I had the clever idea of using the T30 display driver which is much easier to install… but it’s an ATI OEM-licensed variant which doesn’t support the T23’s S3 chip at all. So much for trying to be clever. Installing the final SNAP Graphics OS/2 driver did the trick and the T23’s SXGA+ display works quite nicely, and laptop a lost 15 years old has a display with resolution higher than many contemporary low-end portables.
With a few tweaks, the T23 works well and supports suspend/resume. It’s no speed demon, but perfectly adequate for what I needed it for. The T30 works almost as well, with the one exception being PCMCIA (which would require drivers available to Software Choice subscribers). Were it not for the lower resolution display, I’d still prefer the T30, but editing is just so much more pleasant with almost twice as many pixels.