A History of: The Turbo Button…

Does chasing the Crack-Dragon make life any better?

At the early dawn of computing there were three buttons that sat at the front of all PC’s, Power, Reset and Turbo.

The original IBM PC released in 1981 had a CPU clocked at 4.7hz, slow by today’s standards but for its day it was a beast and affordable. People very quickly learned to push the PC to its limits leading to the desire for more power – we always want more – this chasing of the Crack-Fox led to the creation of the myth of Turbo.

With more power – by 1986 the PC ran at 12mhz – came unexpected consequences, many games would run at frantic speeds – imagine Pacman on crack – Turbo was brilliant at speeding up CPU suckers, not so good at getting along though, with Turbo switched on CPU’s had a tendency to freeze. Compatibility was a serious problem. This was especially true for serious Apps such as word processors, with Turbo on they would crash at the least convenient time – before saving i usually found.

There was clearly an excitement, playing games at unnatural speeds, even if it was an illusion. An overplayed game could be reinvigorated playing it at many times its intended speed.

The second incarnation of the turbo button switched off parts of the CPU to ensure compatibility, ironically this made the the PC run slower. A new name at this point would have been a good idea but people just loved the Turbo button. Its like putting GT stripes on a car, it just looks quicker.

Thankfully the prehistoric need for the Turbo was quickly sorted. Turbo’s notoriety quickly outgrew it purpose, but like a jaded old rock star Turbo keeps on making come back after wrinkly come back. To this day it’s brought out again as a marketing ploy but its not the same.

The legend of Turbo is a story about us, why we want more, bigger, better, faster. Why we believe more can be delivered by the press of a magic Turbo button.

Pictures courtesy of  XBitLabs