WTF?! While handheld PCs like the Steam Deck and the Asus ROG Ally feature impressive modern Linux and Windows support, and devices like the Hand 386 put Windows 95 into users' pockets, another device is going yet further back in time. The Book 8088 seeks to miniaturize the dawn of x86 computing.
A new handheld PC recently appeared on AliExpress featuring a combination of new and very old chips, including the legendary Intel 8088. The system seems similar to the already curious Hand 386, only more retro.
The Book 8088 runs at 4.77 MHz but can reach 8 MHz in turbo mode. The custom motherboard includes 640 KB of RAM compatible with an X-IDE CF card for storage. For graphics, its IBM-CGA displays 16 colors at 640 x 200 pixels. Although the unit's screen is an LCD, the device can connect to an IBM 5153 CRT monitor for a more authentic presentation. Furthermore, users can optionally include a Yamaha YMF262-M OPL3 sound card.
These hardware specs allow the Book 8088 to run MS-DOS and Windows 3.0, granting native handheld access to classic games like Commander Keen, PlanetX3, Ossuary, and more without requiring emulation. The identity of the handheld's manufacturer is unclear, but the developer of an open-source 8088 BIOS claims that the device uses his work without crediting him.
Intel originally released the 8088 CPU in 1981 as a slimmed-down version of the 8086. The 8088 gained fame as the processor in IBM's 5150 – IBM's first PC and the device that popularized the x86 standard that has dominated computers for over 40 years.
Projects like the open-source 8088 BIOS and a recent ChatGPT client show that development for the influential processor persists. The $240 Book 8088 could provide a compact, convenient testing ground for tinkering with old and new software.
The retro PC may have come from the same company that earlier unveiled the Hand 386, another portable PC built on Intel's 386 processor, meant to replicate and miniaturize a slightly later period of computing history. Running at a much more robust 40 MHz with 8 MB of memory, this device supports DOS, Windows 3.1, and Windows 95. In addition to the games playable on the Book 8088, the Hand 386 also runs the original release of Doom. However, no units remain available on AliExpress, and it is unknown when or if more stock is coming.
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