386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

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386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby 386_junkie » 2016-5-25 @ 22:40

Well,

After a lot of off and on over the course of the last 12 months, I can now say that the project is finally (more or less) complete. Behold… the modified (duo 386) Compaq Systempro.

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The Case

So where it all began… was with the case and finding one suitable. The Motherboard that was to be mounted has 7 EISA slots and 4 proprietary Compaq slots (all 32 bit), so a case was required that was large enough to support 11 expansion slots. These are not all too common and I found myself looking around towers from Highscreen and several other server type cases that could have possibly served as having enough space to mount the motherboard. Not all were entirely suitable / feasible… though I came across this Zenith desktop case that had clearly seen better days: -

ImageImageImageImage


It arrived without a PSU which helped keep shipping costs down, so after giving it a general clean I set about sizing it up with the Systempro motherboard… which turned out to be quite a good fit! There were of course some minor modifications to the case required including space for mounting the massive 370W PSU which was a task not too big for a junior hack saw: -

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After a clean, the case still looked like it was ready for the dump, so I gave it two coats of gloss. With the case coming together I started get familiar with and look at my mod options for the hardware inside.

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Hardware


The basic system I had in mind to build was to be using: -

EISA Motherboard
2 x 386 CPU boards @ 40MHz FSB
RAM board; 16Mb => 96Mb @ 70ns / 80ns
Graphics card = ATI Mach 32 EISA
1.44Mb Floppy & 400Mb HDD

ImageImage

I was having some compatibility problems with the EISA Adaptec SCSI adapter spending a lot of unproductive time trying to get it going, in the end… I chucked the SCSI idea temporarily, and with the motherboard having onboard IDE… I decided to go with that instead. This saves a lot of time as with every time there is a new device on your EISA bus, the system configuration needs to be run which can take a while. There is not enough room for the HDD and FDD to be loaded into the drive bays so I have found them temporary placement inside the case away from the CPU & system mem boards which are all kinda in the way of the drive bays, the system can’t run without the CPU’s & mem so we will just have to make do for the time being.

So to upgrade the FSB it was a simple case of de-soldering the original 66.66MHz crystal and solder in a new DIL socket so that crystals can be interchangeable depending on system run. In this case, I have inserted an 80MHz crystal to bring the FSB up to 40MHz.

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Next was to prepare the daughter cards, both the processor boards and the system memory board. I had initially tested the system with two 386 (40MHz) AMD’s… and went round the motherboard / daughter cards for any heat signatures, and addressed them with heat-sinks & fans where required.

ImageImageImageImage


All being well, I changed out the AMD’s for two SXL2-50’s, keeping the FSB at 40MHz. The system proved to be stable and had run for hours without problem going through several EISA hardware configurations, before going on to install the OS; NT 3.1. This is the only OS that can be used which will utilize both processors simultaneously.

ImageImageImageImage


Final touches

After putting everything together I was on the lookout for a Compaq case badge, and managed to find a modern looking chrome type to replace the Zenith badge which originally resided, I do prefer the original older badge design, but this is a little bit different and gets away with it’s different design somewhat. I also had to rummage around and find the best matching drive bay covers filling in the holes.

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Further over-clocking

Since taking all the pictures and more or less finished the system, curiosity got the better of me and I managed to satisfy myself by taking out the 80MHz Crystal and swapped it with a 100MHz crystal giving an FSB of 50MHz with the two SXL2-50’s remaining in the system. It was not slow by any means when booting up but the system did get hotter than before which lead me to go OTT with additional cooling using copper heat-sinks and fans where necessary. If I were to do this again, I would make sure to use a fan-card or have additional system fans inside to circulate and condition the air a bit better.


Testing suggestions?

I have run 3dbench a couple of times to bench each of the EISA graphics cards I have, the ATI coming out on top along with the Matrox scoring 18.5. Speedsys refuses to run and I suspect it is due to the (proprietary Compaq) system memory checks as it can’t get past this point when loading. Though I’m more inclined to do Windows NT 3.1 benchmarks instead and to see if there is any enhancements in performance between the various CPU pairs and each FSB.

When I have the time available, that will be the next phase of this project. Of course if anyone has any suggestions or are keen to test other capabilities I will look to incorporate in later testing’s.

For now, I’m just glad she’s now together! :D


EDIT 2016-5-28 @ 22:09: -

Next phase of project

The main reason for building this system wasn't only to build a duo core 386 but also for the system to serve as a platform for additional testing on other combined CPU pairs from 2 x 386DX40's all the way upto 2 x 586/133's using the various FSB's... 33, 40 and 50MHz. I have three 386 processor boards and two 486 processor boards;

ImageImage

... hopefully when I'm done, I still will have three 386 boards and two 486. In terms of further options and possible scope of this project, things can and will get quite expansive but I intend to document and record all my results. I'm especially curious to see how two sets of RapidCAD CPU's perform together under NT 3.1 and if they effect the frame rates any of both Doom and Quake... would be interesting to see!

Anyways, I have not yet found a set of these so this will be later... watch this space.

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Last edited by 386_junkie on 2016-5-28 @ 22:16, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby kixs » 2016-5-26 @ 03:46

This is impressive stuff :D

For many benchmark/test programs use the link in the 1st post here

I'd like to see:

- chkcache
- pcplayer bench
- doom
- pmips
- dr.hard
- comptest
- cct

---

On the other hand 3dbench score of 18.5 isn't that impressive. Are SXL supported my the BIOS - do they use internal cache?

---

Early Linux distros should also run "quite" good on this system. My first install was on 386DX-40 with 8MB memory and X-windows. Not sure anymore what I used as I installed it via floppies (~30). Later I used Slackware distro.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby Unknown_K » 2016-5-26 @ 07:13

Cool system, but you should have snagged the power supply if it worked (the hacked one looks pretty bad).

SCO Unix would probably be a good fit for it, or some version of Netware that supported a dual 386.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby matze79 » 2016-5-26 @ 07:28

No FPU's ? Sad.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby 386_junkie » 2016-5-26 @ 08:38

kixs wrote:This is impressive stuff :D

On the other hand 3dbench score of 18.5 isn't that impressive. Are SXL supported my the BIOS - do they use internal cache?

---

Early Linux distros should also run "quite" good on this system. My first install was on 386DX-40 with 8MB memory and X-windows. Not sure anymore what I used as I installed it via floppies (~30). Later I used Slackware distro.


Thanks.

Yea, I have only really just begun benching this thing, the problem being time to do so. Thinking about the 3dbench it was actually run with the AMD’s in the system… and was more to test the EISA graphics cards I have bought to make sure they worked. I will try some of the others you mentioned… though how many that will run comes down to compatibility, proprietary Compaq systems are not the easiest to get everything to work together nicely.

I’m quite limited with which OS I use, not all are written to support dual CPU’s. NT 3.1 is the only Windows OS that will, all others written afterward simply will not communicate to the secondary CPU making it redundant.

The system here uses 16Kb associative cache overseen by a 385 co-pro controller which the theory of is quite complex. Regards to the internal 8Kb L1 cache of both the SXL2-50’s is the tricky part as they are disabled by default. There is no direct support from the bios to enable / disable L1 cache so this is something I need to do via software.

Unknown_K wrote:Cool system, but you should have snagged the power supply if it worked (the hacked one looks pretty bad).

SCO Unix would probably be a good fit for it, or some version of Netware that supported a dual 386.


Thanks, unfortunately this is the only power supply that will work with this system. It has a proprietary 24-pin connection that comes only from Compaq. There are two Deskpro’s which have this type of connector, but unfortunately they don’t spit out the massive 370 Watts of power required. :D


matze79 wrote:No FPU's ? Sad.


Thanks, yea… it’s definitely too late to add that FPU now, that would mean blowing the budget for another $5!... two times!!! :exclamation:
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby mmx_91 » 2016-5-26 @ 09:17

Love it!! Quite an uncommon system to play with, and really powerful for its era :happy:. I also like the way you added some cooling to the cpus. Although they are not designed for requiring additional cooling, it's always good to give them some airflow, those things get really hot!

The only think I'm not really satisfied with is the power supply coming from the front of the chassis, maybe using a pico-psu (with the convenient AT-ATX converter) and hiding the trsnsformer inside the computer case? Just an idea that suddenly came to my mind :lol:
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby chinny22 » 2016-5-26 @ 12:57

ha! I actually like the Power supply sticking out, gives it an industrial look :)
White NT is probably more practicable, You could also play round with old copy of netware which will support the 2nd CPU. I keep toying with the idea of getting a novel server up for dos shares and while virtual is a obvious choice it also does horrible things with a 2nd CPU and I want my multiple snakes!
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby archsan » 2016-5-26 @ 13:27

386_junkie wrote:
matze79 wrote:No FPU's ? Sad.


Thanks, yea… it’s definitely too late to add that FPU now, that would mean blowing the budget for another $5!... two times!!! :exclamation:


:lol:
Cool project there, Dual 386!! :)
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby Anonymous Coward » 2016-5-26 @ 22:06

What kind of BIOS does this system have? Are you able to adjust the EISA slot divider?
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby 386_junkie » 2016-5-27 @ 12:55

mmx_91 wrote:Love it!! Quite an uncommon system to play with, and really powerful for its era :happy:. I also like the way you added some cooling to the cpus. Although they are not designed for requiring additional cooling, it's always good to give them some airflow, those things get really hot!

The only think I'm not really satisfied with is the power supply coming from the front of the chassis, maybe using a pico-psu (with the convenient AT-ATX converter) and hiding the trsnsformer inside the computer case? Just an idea that suddenly came to my mind :lol:


Thanks. Yes... all the Systempro's I've seen are later 486 variants. I had never seen before a 386 Systempro, let alone one that is overclocked and upgraded... it just seemed to me like the logical thing to do. With a 100MHz crystal oscillator running the FSB at 50MHz, additional cooling really is required and for a short term only. I'm always on the lookout for spares but I don't really wanna burn any of these parts out... they will not be easy to come by again.

I'm with Chinny on the PSU look, I actually quite like it... it is not massively protruding out... only by a managable inch or two. Having said the PSU connector is not AT or ATX... looking at the motherboard, it is a long 24-pin socket... only Compaq PSU's have this connection, no pico PSU or ATX adapters will fit... this is the nature of proprietary parts, nothing else will work with them!

chinny22 wrote:ha! I actually like the Power supply sticking out, gives it an industrial look :)
White NT is probably more practicable, You could also play round with old copy of netware which will support the 2nd CPU. I keep toying with the idea of getting a novel server up for dos shares and while virtual is a obvious choice it also does horrible things with a 2nd CPU and I want my multiple snakes!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RitHgCBNrNs


I'll definitely check out Netware thanks, at least for the multiple snakes! :lol:

... but if in the end i'm not retiring this in to the museum, I may assign it new life as a file server or something, the thing is a tank and weighs a tonne!


Anonymous Coward wrote:What kind of BIOS does this system have? Are you able to adjust the EISA slot divider?


Technically there is no bios in the conventional sense, instead there is a Dallas RTC (with socket) that has NVRAM. When building the system, the contents of the NVRAM are created using the system hardware configuration files (.CFG) from floppy disks along with any other EISA devices to be added to the system. Afterward, the NVRAM system config can be entered by pressing "f10". So to answer your Q, the bios is Compaq's own hardware management software stored in NVRAM.

I'm not sure there was an EISA divider in software, but this may be something I overlooked... I'll have another check later to see if there is. I know it is possible to upgrade the EISA bus clock in the hardware as there is a solid state oscillator onboard. I wasn't to sure about doing this... but could be a later option, to go from 8MHz to maybe 10, or 12?
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby matze79 » 2016-5-27 @ 14:03

Can you enable the Cache on Both CPU's ?

This just needs some bit of assembly.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby GL1zdA » 2016-5-27 @ 15:56

Good work. Nice to see a rare setup combined with software that was meant to be run on it.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby luckybob » 2016-5-27 @ 16:55

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It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby feipoa » 2016-5-27 @ 22:28

3dbench score of only 18.5? Are your cache and RAM timings optimised? What about ISA wait states? Perhaps you can edit the system hardware configuration files (.CFG) and reload the NVRAM?

How is it that your RTC's battery is still working?

I have a VLSI-based 386 motherboard outfitted with a Ti 486SXL and I get 23.2 fps in 3DBench. I suspect your L1 cache is not properly enabled. You can view my post here for some ideas, viewtopic.php?f=46&t=45756

I noticed you do do not have a heatsink/fan on the Ti 486-SXL. These chips get HOT!!! Even at 40 MHz, I would not want the system on for very long without a heatsink.

Curious, where did you source your 100 MHz OSC from? I'm wondering if I should outfit my AMI Mark V Baby Screamer with one.

You might be able to determine the pin-out of the PSU and and retrofit a more standard 400 W supply into that case.

Did this board have an option for dual 486 CPU cards? Do you have them?

Is there room under the PSU to mount a 3.5" floppy and put the HDD elsewhere in the system?
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby nforce4max » 2016-5-27 @ 22:33

Impressive build you got there can't wait to see more but really 386 smp is something you don't see everyday :o
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby 386_junkie » 2016-5-28 @ 20:49

GL1zdA wrote:Good work. Nice to see a rare setup combined with software that was meant to be run on it.


Thanks, yea it's been one of my favourite projects so far... I'm looking forward to the next phase of seeing what I can do with it! :D

It's good to see folk appreciate this kind of hardware once in a while.


nforce4max wrote:Impressive build you got there can't wait to see more but really 386 smp is something you don't see everyday :o


No, certainly you do not... and thank you. For me this has been a fantastic project... and I'm glad it has taken time. The next phases of the project (testing / experimentation) I'm looking forward to even more, I just hope everyone here enjoys learning about it as much as I do building / evolving it. :)
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby 386_junkie » 2016-5-28 @ 21:16

feipoa wrote:3dbench score of only 18.5? Are your cache and RAM timings optimised? What about ISA wait states? Perhaps you can edit the system hardware configuration files (.CFG) and reload the NVRAM?

Yea... 18.5 I'd realized was with the AMD's not the SXL2's. This system has no ISA, only EISA. The hardware config (bios) is pretty limited regards to timings... it's Compaq! :blah: Any modifications I think may just need to be done the good ole fashioned hardware way... apart from the SXL2 cache being software enabled.

feipoa wrote:I have a VLSI-based 386 motherboard outfitted with a Ti 486SXL and I get 23.2 fps in 3DBench. I suspect your L1 cache is not properly enabled. You can view my post here for some ideas, viewtopic.php?f=46&t=45756

Was AMD's score... was function testing all the new EISA graphics cards i'd bought and wasn't using the SXL2's at the time. Thanks for the link... getting both CPU cache enabled together is the current task :-/. Your help is appreciated.

feipoa wrote:How is it that your RTC's battery is still working?

Bought a bunch NOS.

feipoa wrote:I noticed you do do not have a heatsink/fan on the Ti 486-SXL. These chips get HOT!!! Even at 40 MHz, I would not want the system on for very long without a heatsink.

Yea, they were off mainly for taking pictures... i've re-jigged the HSF's around and changed the aluminium for copper with mini Raspberry-pi fans! :D

Image
feipoa wrote:Curious, where did you source your 100 MHz OSC from? I'm wondering if I should outfit my AMI Mark V Baby Screamer with one.

I got them earlier this year off ebay US. Close up pictures it says; "Pletronics".

ImageImage

feipoa wrote:You might be able to determine the pin-out of the PSU and and retrofit a more standard 400 W supply into that case.

Could be a later option, my only problem is time to do these things. It's taken this long just to get this far never mind further testing. We will get there though... that I promise.

feipoa wrote:Did this board have an option for dual 486 CPU cards? Do you have them?

Yes... I have edited the ending of the first post at the top of this thread. I didn't emphasise enough the extent of this project and where it is going... but below gives you an idea :D

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and...

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^... x 2

feipoa wrote:Is there room under the PSU to mount a 3.5" floppy and put the HDD elsewhere in the system?

With a hack saw... anything is possible! :lol:

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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby 386_junkie » 2016-5-28 @ 21:39

matze79 wrote:No FPU's ? Sad.

2 x 40MHz Cyrix... Better?
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matze79 wrote:Can you enable the Cache on Both CPU's ?

This just needs some bit of assembly.

Not both, no.

With your help... I'm sure we could. By assembly? You mean config.sys / autoexec.bat etc?
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Re: 386_Junkie’s duo core 386; The modified Systempro!

Postby dirkmirk » 2016-5-28 @ 23:16

So 18.5fps with a 386-dx40 in 3dbench hey? That's the best score ive seen with that cpu good work!

Like the other guys said id be interested in pcpbench/doom benchmarks and also if you can overclock the 386 to 50mhz, ill have to keep an eye out for eisa 386 motherboards nowm
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