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What ISA cards for an IBM 5150?

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First post, by Lylat1an

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I'd like to make a light DOS gaming machine but the motherboard is limited to just five 8-bit ISA slots and 64KB RAM.

So far I have the following cards in mind:

VGA
Audio
FDD/IDE/Serial - Monotech DeluxeFloppy
RAM expansion - Lo-tech EMS 2MB

I'm open to suggestions for the VGA and Audio cards, and would prefer "new" cards to vintage ones to avoid capacitor troubles.

What might be a good option for the fifth slot?

Reply 1 of 47, by Sphere478

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Oh man, that is limiting!

The ram expansion will help!

Can you expand the onboard to at least 640 or 1024k? Those expansion cards are sllllllloooowww.

Pic of mobo?

Have you considered a xt-ide?

Plop might be useful. (Cd rom access, if you intend this.) a gotek is also a must these days far as I am conserned.

But anyway,
Isa cards:
Sound, 16 bit
video, (vga 16 bit 1-2mb)
xt-ide, 8-bit
ide/floppy card, 8 bit
ram expansion.

You could go crazy and use 16 bit cards. I stuffed a scsi setup in my latest 486 build. But that would be lost on a 286 🤣.

I may be way off though. Oldest I’ve played with is 386.

Sphere's PCB projects.
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Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
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SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
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Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 2 of 47, by zyga64

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I'd say that expanding system ram will be more reasonable than adding ems memory.
https://www.lo-tech.co.uk/wiki/Lo-tech_1MB_RAM_Board

Next step - XT IDE for sure (XT-CF Lite v2).
For Soundcard ? Snark Barker (SB 1.0 clone - PCM+OPL2+CMS chips) will fit best - if you can find one already assembled (there is currently an offer on amibay), or have soldering skills.
Or maybe Blasterboard ? https://www.tindie.com/products/jrlab/blaster … a-sound-card-2/ - SB 2.0 Clone (PCM + OPL2)

For exchanging data with modern world ? Ethernet card https://www.tindie.com/products/weird/isa-8-b … net-controller/ + EtherDFS EtherDFS - a network drive for DOS

1) VLSI SCAMP /286@20 /4MB /CL-GD5422 /CMI8330
2) i420EX /486DX33 /16MB /TGUI9440 /YMF718+GUS
3) i440BX /P!!!750 /256MB /MX440 /SBLive!+Vibra16s

Reply 3 of 47, by waterbeesje

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With the 5150 you're way more limited than more modern XTs. My suggestion:

- video, CGA or EGA are nice but VGA will be more practical for a modern monitor. Just about any 16b Trident or C&T card will work fine in a 8b slot and provide high compatibility.
- ram expansion: the 1MB ram lotech card will be plenty for your system. Forget about the EMS card.
- FDD/serial/parallel (maybe game): just about any cheap 16b ISA card will provide that. The only drawback is you won't be able to use ide on this card at all, due to the missing 16b connection to the motherboard. But here kicks in the next card:
- XT -CF card. I'm using the Sergey model, but any will do. For storage use any industrial CF up to 512MB. More world be a waste imo
- sounds blaster or adlib (or clone). In my experience an ESS 18xx will work in a 8b slot with only low dma and the unisound driver.

_____

Getting period correct:
- CGA or MDA with parallel integrated
- 256kB ram card
- Serial card
- Floppy card
- IBM 5161 chassis connector and find a backplane to add:

- tape drive controller
- sound card sb ct1350 or adlib
- game card if you want to and isn't present on your sound card
- HDD controller (MFM/SCSI/ESDI/XTA) with corresponding drive

Stuck at 10MHz...

Reply 4 of 47, by kdr

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Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 05:47:

I'm open to suggestions for the VGA and Audio cards, and would prefer "new" cards to vintage ones to avoid capacitor troubles.

What might be a good option for the fifth slot?

(My 5150 is configured with 100% IBM expansion cards as a proper "period correct" system, but that's because I have other retro machines to play with as well.)

Do you have (or want to get) an RGBI monitor? VGA will never give you those amazing scanlines that CGA/EGA modes have. If you're sticking with the 4.77Mhz 8088 CPU it's going to be a struggle to find any VGA games with acceptable performance, and very few VGA cards support proper CGA emulation so there are games which won't work with a VGA installed.

My 10mhz turbo XT can play EGA titles like Secret of Monkey Island but even that's. a. bit. slow. at. times.....

Reply 5 of 47, by zyga64

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kdr wrote on 2022-09-23, 07:41:

Do you have (or want to get) an RGBI monitor? VGA will never give you those amazing scanlines that CGA/EGA modes have. If you're sticking with the 4.77Mhz 8088 CPU it's going to be a struggle to find any VGA games with acceptable performance, and very few VGA cards support proper CGA emulation so there are games which won't work with a VGA installed.

My 10mhz turbo XT can play EGA titles like Secret of Monkey Island but even that's. a. bit. slow. at. times.....

Maybe https://www.serdashop.com/MCE2VGA is the way to go ? (CGA/EGA output on modern monitor).

1) VLSI SCAMP /286@20 /4MB /CL-GD5422 /CMI8330
2) i420EX /486DX33 /16MB /TGUI9440 /YMF718+GUS
3) i440BX /P!!!750 /256MB /MX440 /SBLive!+Vibra16s

Reply 6 of 47, by maxtherabbit

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64kB conventional + 2MB EMS is a fucked up combo, you still won't be able to do hardly anything

5th card needs to be a conventional memory expansion

Reply 7 of 47, by Shponglefan

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Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 05:47:
I'd like to make a light DOS gaming machine but the motherboard is limited to just five 8-bit ISA slots and 64KB RAM. […]
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I'd like to make a light DOS gaming machine but the motherboard is limited to just five 8-bit ISA slots and 64KB RAM.

So far I have the following cards in mind:

VGA
Audio
FDD/IDE/Serial - Monotech DeluxeFloppy
RAM expansion - Lo-tech EMS 2MB

What are your expectations for this machine? What you've listed is more appropriate for a 286 machine or an XT/286 hybrid (e.g. a Tandy TL).

As others have mentioned, you're not going to get acceptable performance for VGA/sound card era gaming on an original 5150. Even mid-to-late 80's EGA-games will struggle on this machine.

For that era of machine, I'd probably just boost basic conventional RAM (via 1 MB lo-tech card) and stick with monochrome/CGA and maybe EGA graphics.

YouTube channel (retro game music)
Ultimate Windows XP build
286 Epson build

Reply 9 of 47, by Shponglefan

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Sphere478 wrote on 2022-09-23, 06:04:

I may be way off though. Oldest I’ve played with is 386.

Yeah, what you've listed (16-bit VGA and audio) is more appropriate for a 286 or 386 machine. The original XT (5150) is an 8-bit machine and so it can't even use 16-bit ISA cards.

Even for a 286, I'd use 8-bit audio in the form of Adlib and Roland LAPC-I cards (or external MIDI like an MT-32).

YouTube channel (retro game music)
Ultimate Windows XP build
286 Epson build

Reply 10 of 47, by rmay635703

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maxtherabbit wrote on 2022-09-23, 12:39:

64kB conventional + 2MB EMS is a fucked up combo, you still won't be able to do hardly anything

5th card needs to be a conventional memory expansion

I had an EMs card that backfilled below 640k, used on a 64kb mobo is actually the ultimate backfill but almost 640kb of the memory on the EMS card will be used as base memory

Reply 11 of 47, by Lylat1an

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Backstory:

I've been using an empty IBM 5150 case as a monitor riser at the e-cycle facility I work at, and someone finally dropped off a 5150 motherboard I can install into it.

I thought it would be cool to make the system functional again, and maybe play some games on it during breaks and downtime.

Sphere478: My motherboard is the early version that's fully populated at 64KB. I've considered an XT-IDE, but the Monotech DeluxeFloppy does floppy, IDE, and has a serial port for a mouse. I've attached a photo for you as you requested.

Zyga64: Yes, I was thinking of the 2MB version of that card. I've heard of the Snark Barker, but not the BlasterBoard. I didn't know there were ISA ethernet cards either, thank you.

Waterbeesje: I'm not going for "Period Correct", I'll be happy if the thing works at all. 😜 Why don't you think the system will benefit from the 2MB card?

Kdr: I'm using a modern flat monitor with VGA, DVI, and HDMI inputs, I doubt the last two are compatible with any ISA cards and scan lines aren't important to me.

Maxtherabbit: What exactly would be the difference between Conventional and EMS memory? I thought EMS was just an expansion to conventional.

Shponglefan: I want the machine to work, and be useful for something. I know it's an early computer, but I respect its history and would like it to to do more than collect dust.

Rmay635703: Are you saying "Backfill" as a bad thing, or do you mean it's taking the place of the onboard RAM?

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Reply 12 of 47, by Sphere478

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That multi io card sounds pretty handy!

Many of these ems cards were dreadfully slow. That is why they are hoping for a better option.

I’m surprised to hear that they think a lowtek 1mb will be better. I’m curious to know the difference between one isa based ram card and another, can someone explain why one would be faster?

Perhaps someone can comment if that board is indeed maxxed out. It does certainly appear to be fully populated. Perhaps a higher density chip would fit?

If you are maxed out at 64k then you are indeed stuck with having to get an ram expansion card.
This system is gonna be verrry slow haha. But it looks like one heck of a fun build :p

Shponglefan wrote on 2022-09-23, 13:28:
Sphere478 wrote on 2022-09-23, 06:04:

I may be way off though. Oldest I’ve played with is 386.

Yeah, what you've listed (16-bit VGA and audio) is more appropriate for a 286 or 386 machine. The original XT (5150) is an 8-bit machine and so it can't even use 16-bit ISA cards.

Even for a 286, I'd use 8-bit audio in the form of Adlib and Roland LAPC-I cards (or external MIDI like an MT-32).

Many (but not all) 16 bit cards work in 8 bit slots. I’ve done it a few times. Is there something about the isa on this machine that makes it not work? Or is it just that those cards are too new or memory intensive to work on such a system?

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 13 of 47, by Lylat1an

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Sphere478 wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:53:

This system is gonna be verrry slow haha. But it looks like one heck of a fun build :p

How about this upgrade CPU? I think it's the same one you can order for the NuXT board. Would that improve the system's speed?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/225065186119

Reply 14 of 47, by Sphere478

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Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 18:06:
Sphere478 wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:53:

This system is gonna be verrry slow haha. But it looks like one heck of a fun build :p

How about this upgrade CPU? I think it's the same one you can order for the NuXT board. Would that improve the system's speed?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/225065186119

This stuff is far older than I usually mess with I am learing here also,

I’m trying to determine which of the chips is the cpu?

I see -5 on a few, does that mean 5mhz?

In which case a 16mhz would be nice, but did those have multipliers or did the entire system have to bump its speed to 16 mhz? I gotta imagine the rest of those ancient chips may not like it.

Did they have math coprocessors yet back then? Those other chips are just the chipset I am thinking?

Raising the isa bus clock on a system with ram on the isa would be a good idea if you can do it stable.

There is a device called anyclock I think it’s called. That allows you to set custom crystal speeds. Could look into that. Lots of people using it on 386/486

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 15 of 47, by zyga64

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Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:37:

I've considered an XT-IDE, but the Monotech DeluxeFloppy does floppy, IDE, and has a serial port for a mouse. I've attached a photo for you as you requested.

Unfortunately Monotech DeluxeFloppy doesn't do IDE. It just provides support for all floppy formats (up to 2.88 MB), which 5150 BIOS doesn't support out-of-the-box.

I wouldn't upgrade CPU in such beautiful, old PC. Just leave it as is, and run period correct software (made for 4.77MHz).
For DOS gaming any 486 simply fits better.

1) VLSI SCAMP /286@20 /4MB /CL-GD5422 /CMI8330
2) i420EX /486DX33 /16MB /TGUI9440 /YMF718+GUS
3) i440BX /P!!!750 /256MB /MX440 /SBLive!+Vibra16s

Reply 16 of 47, by Shponglefan

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Sphere478 wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:53:

Many (but not all) 16 bit cards work in 8 bit slots. I’ve done it a few times. Is there something about the isa on this machine that makes it not work? Or is it just that those cards are too new or memory intensive to work on such a system?

I stand corrected on that point. You are right that 16-bit ISA sound cards can and do work in 8-bit slots. I was doing a bit more research and people are using them as cheaper Adlib substitute cards in XT systems, for example.

That said, for a system as old as the original IBM 5150, I'm still not sure how useful an Adlib card would be given the other limitations of the system. Games using Adlib cards came out from 1987 onward. Yet those games would not likely run in a playable state on an IBM 5150 from 1981.

I have a couple XT-class Tandy's that I've tried late 80's gaming on and the performance is typically too slow to be enjoyable. And these are systems that are faster than the 5150.

Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:37:

Shponglefan: I want the machine to work, and be useful for something. I know it's an early computer, but I respect its history and would like it to to do more than collect dust.

That's certainly a fair goal. I think it needs a calibration of expectations given the age of the machine and what it can really do.

If you look at games available from the early 80's for XT machines, that should give you an expectation of what should be playable and what level of graphics and sound to expect.

Last edited by Shponglefan on 2022-09-23, 20:24. Edited 1 time in total.

YouTube channel (retro game music)
Ultimate Windows XP build
286 Epson build

Reply 17 of 47, by mkarcher

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Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:37:

Zyga64: Yes, I was thinking of the 2MB version of that card. I've heard of the Snark Barker, but not the BlasterBoard. I didn't know there were ISA ethernet cards either, thank you.

Maxtherabbit: What exactly would be the difference between Conventional and EMS memory? I thought EMS was just an expansion to conventional.

Those questions actually are about the same thing. The Lo-Tech 1MB board provides conventional memory, but the 2MB board provides expanded memory. The idea is that the 8088 processor can directly access 1024KB of "memory". This might either be "just normal working RAM" or special purpose memory like memory on graphics cards or the BIOS ROM chips. IBM decided to split the 1024KB memory range into 640KB for "normal RAM" and 384KB for "special purpose". The first 64KB of the special purpose area are neither used by the MDA or the CGA graphics adapter, so if you were to put standard RAM into that range, the "normal RAM" blends seemless into the first 64KB of the "special purpose" area. As these are just names for conventions, you get 704KB continous memory that can be directly accessed by the processor (but that configuration is incompatible with EGA or VGA cards).

As you see, directly accessible memory is maxed out at 640KB when keeping conventions, or up to 736KB in a configuration that is incompatible with EGA, VGA, MDA and Hercules cards, and allows CGA only. If you need more memory than you can directly access in the conventional way (thus the name "conventional memory"), you need to go to some convoluted way to access memory. The way EMS does it: It provides four windows of 16KB each somewhere in the "special purpose" area. Each of these windows can be used to access a software-selected block of the two megabytes on the card. If you want to scan through the whole memory, you need to continously switch out which blocks are visible in the windows.

Conventional memory is managed by DOS, and every DOS program can directly make use of conventional memory. EMS on the other hand is only used by software with big memory requirements. EMS is managed in cooperation between the EMS board driver and the application that decides which part of the EMS memory should be visible at what time. EMS thus is a special-purpose solution. Common users of EMS were database applications, disk caches, print spoolers or RAM drives. EMS is not "just memory".

The Lo-Tech 1MB board is able to map "simple memory" to any address imaginable in the 1024KB addressing range of the 8088. You are not going to use the whole 1MB, in fact, no one is, but you will use more than 512KB, and building a 1MB board with todays components is easier and cheaper than building something like a 800KB board which might be usable in full in certain circumstances. The 1MB board can be used to fill the gap between 64KB and 640KB, and optionally also some unused spaces in the special purpose area. You won't get far with 64KB of conventional memory (the on-board RAM), so you desparately need some board that provides conventional memory.

Lylat1an wrote on 2022-09-23, 17:37:

Rmay635703: Are you saying "Backfill" as a bad thing, or do you mean it's taking the place of the onboard RAM?

Backfill is a term more often used with 16-bit Extended Memory boards (mind you: Extended Memory is an AT concept that is entirely different from Expanded Memory), and describes that some of the memory of a card that provides any kind of non-conventional memory (i.e. EMS or Extended Memory) is able to re-purpose some of that memory and provides it as conventional memory. Late EMS boards that are designed for the EMS 4.0 specification often have the capability to provide memory in the range intended for conventional memory.

Don't worry about people telling you that 8-bit memory boards are slow. They are indeed slow, but they are fast enough that the onboard RAM of the IBM PC/XT is equally slow. They only appear "slow" on faster machines that allow faster access to the on-board memory. You wouldn't want an 8-bit memory card of any kind in a 286 machine. An 8 MHz 286 machine can access fast 16-bit memory cards more than 3 times faster than the PC/XT can access its memory. On the other hand, access to 8-bit memory cards in AT-class machines might be even slower than in the PC, because 8-bit access is slowed down to be "not faster than on the PC" to be compatible to that old machine.

Reply 18 of 47, by maxtherabbit

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rmay635703 wrote on 2022-09-23, 16:24:
maxtherabbit wrote on 2022-09-23, 12:39:

64kB conventional + 2MB EMS is a fucked up combo, you still won't be able to do hardly anything

5th card needs to be a conventional memory expansion

I had an EMs card that backfilled below 640k, used on a 64kb mobo is actually the ultimate backfill but almost 640kb of the memory on the EMS card will be used as base memory

yes that is really cool and works great if you have a genuine LIM 4 card that can backfill, the lo tech cannot

Reply 19 of 47, by maxtherabbit

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Sphere478 wrote on 2022-09-23, 18:20:

I see -5 on a few, does that mean 5mhz?

Did they have math coprocessors yet back then?

Raising the isa bus clock on a system with ram on the isa would be a good idea if you can do it stable.

yes, yes, there is no separate ISA clock on these - there is one single system clock that everything uses (CPU, FPU, DMA, ISA)