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A 286 computer, is it totally useless?

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Reply 20 of 229, by chinny22

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I'm the same, First PC was a 486 DX2 so even back then 386's and earlier held no interest with me for gaming.
Only 2 games I wanted to play wouldn't work as the PC was too fast. (Lamborghini American Challenge and Test Drive)

I wouldn't say no to a 286 today though, it's charm isn't in gaming more the hardware side as it's so primitive compared to anything I grew up with

Reply 21 of 229, by HanJammer

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Anonymous Coward wrote:

Why would anyone have put 16-bit sound on a 286? 16-bit sound was a 1993 thing, and the 286 more or less died in 1991.

Define 'died'.
Was no longer produced? Not entirely true (they still make CPUs and put their in products like Boeing 737MAX ;] ) - consumer products - maybe yes.
Was no longer sold as new? Not really - at least not in the Central/Eastern Europe. Even brands like Vobis/Highscreen sold them longer.
Was no longer used? Definitely not! It depends on the country, but I used mine well into 1997 and then switched to K5 PR133. Some of my friends used them even longer. 286 stuff I buy now frequently has files dated on like 1999-2001 (if it was used in Poland) or 95-97 (if it was used in Germany).

So I don't see collision here... Problem is is that there is not much software that can take advantage of 16-bit sound and would run on 286 at the same time. Mod players mostly I guess... Still SB Pro or it's clone is a good idea in 286 just for the sake of stereo sound even if it's just 8-bit sound...

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Reply 22 of 229, by Jo22

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😉

AlessandroB wrote:

I don't like CGA games or even EGA, except for curiosity, I'd play them just to see what the graphics were like, but I started with VGA and I wouldn't take much less. I could have been wrong in my comments, tell me yours.

Ironically, though, most 286 clones had VGA on-board. 😉

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In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 23 of 229, by appiah4

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I really can't justify investing in anything older than 386SX, it does everything XT/AT systems do, and more.

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Reply 24 of 229, by Jo22

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appiah4 wrote:

I really can't justify investing in anything older than 386SX, it does everything XT/AT systems do, and more.

The 386SX is a 286. At least to the 286 ecosystem. It runs on its chipsets, has same 16/24-bit addressing etc.
On top of that: 386 and 286 had same "parents" (as had 386 and original 486 I recall)..

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 25 of 229, by appiah4

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Jo22 wrote:
appiah4 wrote:

I really can't justify investing in anything older than 386SX, it does everything XT/AT systems do, and more.

The 386SX is a 286. At least to the 286 ecosystem. It runs on its chipsets, has same 16/24-bit addressing etc.
On top of that: 386 and 286 had same "parents" (as had 386 and original 486 I recall)..

It executes 386 instructions, it is NOT a 286. The amount of QOL improvements in brings to the table are immense. That is why it makes the whole 8086/286 family completely pointless IMO.

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Reply 26 of 229, by Jo22

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Anonymous Coward wrote:

Why would anyone have put 16-bit sound on a 286? 16-bit sound was a 1993 thing, and the 286 more or less died in 1991.

Well, my father got me a cheap second-hand 286 at age 6 or so. Then he added spare memory and an old HDD.
Not much later on, we realized that there was no way around the new CD-Rom craze.
So he got me a CD-ROM drive, also. Which was bundled with a PAS16..
On Windows 3.10, this PC met the requirements for software complying MPC-Level 1.0 stuff.
That 286 remained my main PC until 2000 or so.

Edit Thev 286 died in '93. '92 was his summer/heyday, actually.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 27 of 229, by Jo22

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appiah4 wrote:
Jo22 wrote:
appiah4 wrote:

I really can't justify investing in anything older than 386SX, it does everything XT/AT systems do, and more.

The 386SX is a 286. At least to the 286 ecosystem. It runs on its chipsets, has same 16/24-bit addressing etc.
On top of that: 386 and 286 had same "parents" (as had 386 and original 486 I recall)..

It executes 386 instructions, it is NOT a 286. The amount of QOL improvements in brings to the table are immense. That is why it makes the whole 8086/286 family completely pointless IMO.

Read carefuly, I said the 386sx looks the same to the 286 ecosystem..

In some way or another, the 386 is akin to an inflated 286 with extra intructions, more microcode and a paging unit slapped on. 😉
The basic stuff (ring scheme, mmu, virtual memory, invalid opcode traps ..] is available on the 286 already.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 28 of 229, by PTherapist

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My first PC was an 8088 IBM Compatible PC, which ran at 10MHz. I went from that straight to a 386. I totally skipped the 286 until a couple of years ago when I decided to build one out of curiosity. I built myself a 12MHz 286, with 1MB RAM & an ISA VGA Graphics Card (as I don't own an EGA monitor).

I have a 4.77MHz 8088 build with CGA for the earlier DOS games, whilst the 286 build covers EGA and early VGA games, as well as games that require more than the paltry 256KB RAM in my 8088 build.

Now if I'm being honest, I built both of those systems just for completion sake and for some nostalgia for my old dead 8088. I never really played many DOS games back in the day and PCs prior to the 386 really couldn't compete with something like a Commodore 64 or even the ZX Spectrum! It wasn't until the 486 where they could even start competing with the 16-Bit micros like Commodore Amiga or Atari ST! Where the PC did excel however was in serious software and my old 8088 was mostly used for Office style work, word processing etc.

So is a 286 totally useless? If you only like the later 486-era games, then yes. But they're fun to play around with if you accept their limitations and even remotely enjoy the early-mid 1980s games available for them, as well as like to use old period-specific software.

Reply 29 of 229, by HanJammer

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Jo22 wrote:

😉

AlessandroB wrote:

I don't like CGA games or even EGA, except for curiosity, I'd play them just to see what the graphics were like, but I started with VGA and I wouldn't take much less. I could have been wrong in my comments, tell me yours.

Ironically, though, most 286 clones had VGA on-board. 😉

I would argue.
In Western Europe - probably yes (VGAs and later SVGAs).
In Central/Easter Europe - they had cheap'o hercules clones mostly and VGAs to some extent.
In United States - I can only tell from the YouTube videos and some forum threads - I think most of them had CGAs and EGAs.

Check out my AmiBay and eBay for ISA and PCI card, 286/386/486 Pentium motherboards and more.

Reply 30 of 229, by Scali

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Faster 286 systems with VGA (16-25 MHz) were pretty cool...
It was the era of Monkey Island I and II, Test Drive 3, Stunts, Wolfenstein 3D, various flightsims such as F29 Retaliator, LHX Attack Chopper.
They all run fine on a decent 286 with VGA.

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Reply 31 of 229, by 386SX

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Errius wrote:

I remember that Elite, released for the PC in 1987, describes the 6 MHz 286 as a 'powerful' machine.

Also the Motorola 68000 @ 7.6 MHz of the Mega Drive console was considered a powerful cpu. 😁
Would be interesting to compare it to that 286. 😀

Reply 32 of 229, by 386SX

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Scali wrote:

Faster 286 systems with VGA (16-25 MHz) were pretty cool...
It was the era of Monkey Island I and II, Test Drive 3, Stunts, Wolfenstein 3D, various flightsims such as F29 Retaliator, LHX Attack Chopper.
They all run fine on a decent 286 with VGA.

Also considering many didn't run very well on my 386SX-20 with the Oak vga card... 😵
Stunts ran well with medium details, Test Drive 3 with low details (also cause those sprite based trees were awful while the game gfx was awesome probably the best I played on that PC), Wolf3D like @ 1/3 view of the fullscreen window... I remember buying for such high price (for that times) 4x1MB of SIMM ram and obviously nothing changed cause I didn't know that a better ISA vga card would have made MUCH difference. The cpu was soldered unfortunately.
I remember a friend having a Compaq 486SX 33Mhz was like night and day difference on the same games. Wolf3D @ full screen was like a VR game in 4K nowdays. 😁

Reply 33 of 229, by Socket3

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I use my 286 to run XT games and some late 80's and early 90's dos games. My machine has a 12mhz soldered CPU branded "headland" (probably a rebranded AMD 286), 1MB of ram, a 256kb Paradise PVGA2 graphics card, a sound blaster pro 2.0 and a 800MB disk drive. The turbo button halves the frequency to 6MHz, witch is enough to play speed sensitive XT games w/o issues - but I mostly play lemmings, dyna blaster, ninja (shadow knights), castles and so on on it. While I do have a turbo XT (a hyundai with a 4.77 / 10MHz siemens 8088) i prefer using the 286 because it has 16 bit isa slots and I was able to install an IDE disk drive w/o having to pay 50$+shipping for an XT-IDE card (my XT has a 20MB MFM disk drive witch is not very reliable).

So I'd say if you have a slow 286 with a turbo button you can use it to run speed sensitive games.

Reply 34 of 229, by maxtherabbit

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Scali wrote:

Faster 286 systems with VGA (16-25 MHz) were pretty cool...
It was the era of Monkey Island I and II, Test Drive 3, Stunts, Wolfenstein 3D, various flightsims such as F29 Retaliator, LHX Attack Chopper.
They all run fine on a decent 286 with VGA.

Yep. A fast 286 with VGA can do anything a low end 386 can do. (Other than 32-bit protected mode obviously)

386SX wrote:
Errius wrote:

I remember that Elite, released for the PC in 1987, describes the 6 MHz 286 as a 'powerful' machine.

Also the Motorola 68000 @ 7.6 MHz of the Mega Drive console was considered a powerful cpu. 😁
Would be interesting to compare it to that 286. 😀

The 68k is the GOAT. Sega MD, NEO-GEO, Macs, Amiga, X68k, Atari ST. Pretty much everything that was worth a shit in the 90s that wasn't IBM-compatible or a SNES.

Reply 35 of 229, by King_Corduroy

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AlessandroB wrote:

As I have already written in the other post (which is more technically oriented) friends have given me a beautiful Olivetti 286. For my experience and for what I read here on the forum it would seem a useless computer on the retrocomputing side. Excluding those who have a sentimental value for the 286 having been the first computer, it would seem very limited compared to the 386 for the lack of 32 bits and protected mode. Personally, I started my computer "history" in PCs in '92 with a DX2 and already at that time I considered the 286 a very slow and extremely limiting computer. The software that I like to launch from time to time in nostalgia is the same as in the early 90s. I know that graphic adventures can work on this 286, but only that? I wouldn't like to play Dune2, for example, with a grueling slowness. I don't like CGA games or even EGA, except for curiosity, I'd play them just to see what the graphics were like, but I started with VGA and I wouldn't take much less. I could have been wrong in my comments, tell me yours.

This is why I got bored with retro computing. 80's computers look cool but that's about it. The sweet spot for me personally was Pentium to P3. Anything less is just limited, anything more wasn't as interesting.

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Reply 36 of 229, by Unknown_K

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Harris 286 20/25's were still being manufactured up to at least 1992 for desktop use. I had a reveal 16 bit soundcard in my 286-12 Packard bell around 1990 and didn't build my first 386 (DX40) until sometime around 92.

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Reply 37 of 229, by Grzyb

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Unknown_K wrote:

I had a reveal 16 bit soundcard in my 286-12 Packard bell around 1990

Can't believe it...
SB16 came in 1992, other 16-bit sound cards even later.

I reckon there was some PC-based Digital Audio Workstation stuff already in the 80s, but I don't think that Reveal card had anything to do with it.

Reply 38 of 229, by AlaricD

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The 286 can be looked at as transitional technology, such as how the compact fluorescent was transitional (it briefly filled in a gap between incandescent lighting and LED lighting). With the 386 (even the SX) the Virtual x86 mode was too compelling a feature to not use and pretty much obsolesced the 286. That being said, the 286 fits in well where it does. I recall reading in some computer magazine that the 286 was "too powerful for the desktop" and should be in the server room instead. And even in December '86 or January '87 it was still thought that the 386 wouldn't be that widely adopted and the sales of 286 systems were still going strong. (Idiots, the 386 was just by far better and even if software that took advantage of Virtual x86 mode was few and far between, it existed, and was become more and more available.)

All that being said, the 286 is still important, and a system built from well-chosen parts can be a joy just for the history.

Reply 39 of 229, by Shagittarius

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I lived in the days of the 286 (Actually I lived in the days of all home computers, my first computer was a TRS80). All of my friends had 286's with Soundblasters and VGA cards. I was poor and had an 8088 with EGA that I had until later when friends gave me hand me down parts when they upgraded. 16bit sound wasn't a thing because it didn't exist but certainly 286s had sound and VGA.