My ongoing 386 build (aka The Disasterpiece, aka Phoenix) - it's alive!

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby LunarG » 2019-2-03 @ 16:09

Nice Frankenputer. Or, nice start anyway. I totally love the slightly janky looking front panel, especially the labels. As somebody else already pointed out: if it works, it's not stupid. I love when people come up with creative solutions to problems. Building a period correct system, and building a system that works with what you can easily/cheaply get your hands on are very different things, but both have their virtues.
I really hope this board works, cause I want to see what happens in the next episode.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-03 @ 23:40

Totally pointless update: I was getting sick of looking at the mangled BIOS sticker, so I printed a new one and replaced it. Cameo from my terrible battery connector.

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This close-up gives you an opportunity to see some of the corrosion. It's not TOO bad, but there is some definite telltale blue gunk scattered around. Little bits on the IC legs, quite dull solder joints on part of the IC socket, some on the keyboard connector, on vias in the vicinity, etc. None of it particularly bad like I said, but I certainly would prefer no corrosion...

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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby retardware » 2019-2-04 @ 00:36

SirNickity wrote:
novasilisko wrote:I doubt this is an industrial board. It looks like a normal PC mobo to me. Yes, the 90s saw a great spread of machines. It was a different time.

The 9324 datestamp in the middle of the image gives proof that this is a low-end 1993/94 mobo.
If you want to see an industrial AT/ISA mobo, for example see this http://www.vogonsdrivers.com/getfile.ph ... state=28,0 .

Actually it was the transition period between (Baby-)AT and ATX.
As there was still lot of stock of AT hardware and production technology, the low end market of that time was represented by cheap and small Am386 AT boards, the midlevel (business) market was 486 region, and the highend (power user) market was the domain of the then brand-new Pentium.

Of the latter the mobos were commonly PCI, which led to ISA dying out the coming ten years.
The transition from AT to ATX form factor was much faster.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-04 @ 02:44

retardware wrote:Actually it was the transition period between (Baby-)AT and ATX.
As there was still lot of stock of AT hardware and production technology, the low end market of that time was represented by cheap and small Am386 AT boards, the midlevel (business) market was 486 region, and the highend (power user) market was the domain of the then brand-new Pentium.

Of the latter the mobos were commonly PCI, which led to ISA dying out the coming ten years.
The transition from AT to ATX form factor was much faster.


Yeah, I'm convinced now as I've learned more. It was mainly the SMD position that made me wonder, but having that would make sense for OEM stuff too. Same PCB, some boards destined to get an SMD 386, others getting the socket
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby retardware » 2019-2-04 @ 15:26

novasilisko wrote:It was mainly the SMD position that made me wonder, but having that would make sense for OEM stuff too. Same PCB, some boards destined to get an SMD 386, others getting the socket

In that transition phase, the SMD versions of the processors often were not available in quantities at the beginning.
They were/had to be lower power because of the reduced heat dissipation of a plastic SMD.
So the board manufacturers designed two-way: for intermediary usage of the older ceramic/DIP version, and changed to the SMD version as it got available without having to redesign the board.

This can be often observed in boards. Especially of that era, where SMD became more and more common.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby jheronimus » 2019-2-04 @ 16:53

novasilisko wrote:None of it particularly bad like I said, but I certainly would prefer no corrosion...


Use some cotton swabs dipped into regular vinegar and you should be able to dissolve and remove the oxidisation from those contacts.

retardware wrote:Actually it was the transition period between (Baby-)AT and ATX.


93/94 is definitely not the transition period. Intel introduced the ATX standard in 95, and Socket 5 Pentiums were introduced in 1994 (no 386 or 486 motherboards were ever made in ATX, same goes for Socket 4). The first Intel-made ATX board (Advanced/ATX) came out closer to 1996 (although I'm not sure it was the first ATX board on the market). AT remained strong probably until the introduction of Pentium II and then some. So I'd say the transition era is 1997/1998.

What you're probably referring to are the proprietary OEM designs of early to mid 90s that were similar to ATX. They had PS/2, COM, LPT and USB ports onboard, they had integrated IDE/floppy controllers and sometimes even audio/video, but they were all custom made. These motherboards can be seen in systems from IBM, Compaq, HP, Dell, Packard Bell and other vendors, complete with their unique power supplies and layouts. The closest to a standard you could see at that point was LPX and even that was not completely uniform across different vendors.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby SirNickity » 2019-2-04 @ 19:44

novasilisko wrote:The multi-function card I bought was literally just named "Multifunction card" and was a great price =p ...Of course, shortly afterward, my friend found two of them in his own card stash. Oh well.


That is exactly how these things go. It's happened to me a few times that I buy something, then run into that same thing days, weeks, or a month or two later. I will often find a use for both, and it never hurts to have spares of stuff this old, so I look at it as "plentiful" rather than "redundant".


novasilisko wrote:You can still buy AT power supplies, but I'd say most people into this sort of thing will have an ATX supply lying around, so maybe there would be a market.


The StarTech one is d/c'd now, and unfortunately, the Athena Power one looks like trash. Do you know of another retail AT supply? (Serious question.) My builds are either personally refurbished AT supplies, or ATX with the adapter cable. I have my reservations that you'll be able to produce something more convenient and less expensive than the common ATX-to-AT adapter cable (with optional inline regulator). If you can, great! But, maybe don't get too invested in that idea until you run some numbers. $) It's hard to beat commodity parts - it's either driven 100% by cost (which you can almost never compete with), or features... which in this case, is either a simple adapter that already exists, or calls for some degree of customization that will differ for everyone.

I still want to see a DIY PSU optimized for AT use, but with support for ATX soft power switching. It's a bit of an engineering task though. I can design a lot of it myself, but when it comes to magnetics (and, well, worldwide regulatory compliance), I have to throw in the towel. I don't feel too bad about it, though. Particularly with compliance, there's a reason most hardware vendors buy OEM PSUs from somebody else.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-04 @ 20:03

SirNickity wrote:I have my reservations that you'll be able to produce something more convenient and less expensive than the common ATX-to-AT adapter cable (with optional inline regulator). If you can, great! But, maybe don't get too invested in that idea until you run some numbers. $) It's hard to beat commodity parts - it's either driven 100% by cost (which you can almost never compete with), or features... which in this case, is either a simple adapter that already exists, or calls for some degree of customization that will differ for everyone.


Oh yeah, I know. It's more of a "wouldn't it be cool if..." sort of thought more than anything :-P It's something I'd love to do if I could actually get the resources together to do it. The only real advantage of it over the simple cable is that it includes the -5V regulator. A much easier option, though requiring some more DIY work, is to do what I'm doing - take the off-the-shelf adapter, and splice in the regulator.

jheronimus wrote:Use some cotton swabs dipped into regular vinegar and you should be able to dissolve and remove the oxidisation from those contacts.


Yep, was doing some of that yesterday. There's still some nooks and crannies I need to get at, but it's definitely better than it was.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby SirNickity » 2019-2-04 @ 21:35

Oh, maybe I misunderstood. There's a version of the common ATX-to-AT adapter cable that has a -5V regulator spliced inline already. I thought that's what you were using, but I guess I missed where you added it yourself. I just have the plain (-5V pass-through) version.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-05 @ 00:50

SirNickity wrote:Oh, maybe I misunderstood. There's a version of the common ATX-to-AT adapter cable that has a -5V regulator spliced inline already. I thought that's what you were using, but I guess I missed where you added it yourself. I just have the plain (-5V pass-through) version.


._.

...Really? I looked around and didn't see one! Do you have a link?
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby quicknick » 2019-2-05 @ 01:39

There's always the possibility of adding a -5V regulator inside the power supply. I modded a few of my PSUs this way, and the fact that I kept the cable bundle and connectors from dead units over the years helped a bit (it's nice to have the proper colour wire and the crimped connector at the end).
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-05 @ 06:56

Gears are turning. The floppy/IDE/serial card came in today, I secured a VGA card on ebay, and my friend will be mailing out the RAM tomorrow. I can almost taste it.

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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby SirNickity » 2019-2-05 @ 20:51

novasilisko wrote:...Really? I looked around and didn't see one! Do you have a link?


There's one on Ebay now, although that guy also added a ceramic resistor on the 3.3V line to "balance" the PSU. I do seem to remember there being better options available when I bought mine. I think the seller I got them from had an option for -5V or no -5V, and I took the latter. I could also be mistaken.

At any rate, yay! I/O card! :-D There is something satisfying about choosing every component in your build. I was slightly disappointed back when NIC and sound cards first became optional, with suitable components already onboard. While a modern Mini ITX build is certainly clean, it's been fun going back and building AT PCs where every piece was hand-selected and potentially best of breed.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby canthearu » 2019-2-05 @ 23:59

I simply use the dumb ATX-AT cables when I put an AT motherboard in an ATX case.

I have a few ATX power supplies that pump out -5V, so I use those on computers that might need -5V
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby 386DX40 » 2019-2-06 @ 07:32

Thats a PC Chips M326. Solid board, I've had a few of them. 128kb cache, supports up to 32MB of memory, and also natively supports the 1kb of cache found in the Cyrix 486DLC CPUs via a BIOS setting. Simple and reliable board, and a good performer. Heres a speedsys from the last one I had set up with an Intel 386 DX 33MHz, 8MB of memory, and a Trident TVGA8900D ISA (good performer as well, one of the better Tridents).
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-06 @ 21:11

386DX40 wrote:a Trident TVGA8900D ISA (good performer as well, one of the better Tridents).


The card I've got on the way is a TridentTVGA9000B - I'm curious how different that is from the 8900D.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby Edman » 2019-2-06 @ 23:03

Pardon me for intruding but I would also like to know the difference, I have what looks like TVGA9000i-1.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-08 @ 03:40

Fingers crossed, the video card and RAM and floppy drive should arrive tomorrow, and I can finally get this hunk of junk running :lol:
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-08 @ 04:15

I completely forgot to mention. I also bought a dual-port serial card, new in box. It was completely unnecessary, although I didn't realize that until I realized all the multi-function cards had serial on them too. Still, I got to break some shrink-wrap from 1992 and breathe some air older than me.

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Smelled great, by the way.
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Re: My ongoing 386 build (or: The Disasterpiece)

Postby novasilisko » 2019-2-08 @ 18:52

Oh yeah. Now we're ready.

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OH YEAH. Celebatory pocky! I can officially start calling it Phoenix, now.

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These are some very... enthusiastic BIOS colors (now with all the RAM installed - apparently I've got 4x 1MB and 4x 4MB)

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