First post, by Daniël Oosterhuis

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These have been swerving around retro computing Twitter threads, but I didn't see a thread on these here, so I figure some might want to see this.
Apparently, someone in China managed to source enough chips for both an 8088 based laptop, and a 386SX SoC handheld computer:



(I do not have any affiliation with this seller or AliExpress, just stating in case)

I find them incredibly fascinating, with just how niche these are.
The 8088 laptop appears to use mostly ICs of the era, whereas the 386SX handheld has an SoC that's effectively a 386SX core glued to an ALi M1217B chipset.

While it's not listed for the 386SX, I believe both it and the 8088 laptop are using the CH375B chip for USB, which is the same as those 8-bit ISA USB cards.
Whoever is making these, definitely knows their retro computing.

I've seen some weird retro stuff on AliExpress before, but these do absolutely take the cake.
If I had the spare cash to throw around, I might be tempted to grab the 386SX, just out of interest, though I wish it had configurable game controls (either emulating keyboard inputs or a gameport controller) on the front instead of a seemingly uncomfortably tiny keyboard.


Reply 1 of 7, by Thermalwrong

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I think it's just the one guy that put most of this together, amazing. I was initially thinking that this might be for some industrial application but it appears it's someone in China that's passionate about retro hardware 😀
You can see the Book 8088 in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgl7pmDJAy4

I'm guessing that's the person that developed it because he's been hacking up similar hardware for a few years now if you look at the history of videos on his channel. The fit and finish of the housing look really nice though and it looks injection molded? Crazy. Maybe that's more possible in China / Shenzhen and it's a minor adaptation of a fairly standard design.

And in the Hand 386 video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI71ELzd498
He's talking about the features of it in Chinese and using Google translate's transcription feature I can make out that this is something they've been working on for a while and it's a limited production run that's probably going to finish if the components used in it increase in price.

Both are really impressive efforts of integration that have me wondering how the keyboard's implemented. Same for the screen, are they running the panel directly and the VGA chip does the scaling, or are they using one of those realtek VGA > LVDS / parallel display driver boards / chips to run the VGA and doing the scaling there. Scaling looks better than I think a Chips VGA from that era could manage so it's probably using the realtek chip for scaling.

The ISA bus being broken out means that you can quite easily add a gameport and PCM / soundblaster audio support with a PCB that would stick out the back.
Ahh, two very awesome little objects. The 8088 is more interesting to me since I've already got a PC104 386sx m6117 that's built up with sound and video.

What's a carp battery though?

Reply 5 of 7, by bartonxp

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jmarsh wrote on 2023-05-15, 14:49:

Running windows 95 on a 386SX with only 8MB of RAM seems very ambitious.

Doable and with some massive tweaks it runs ok but it's guaranteed to use the swap under normal use.

One day, I hope, a project will emerge to replace the venerable HP 200lx that uses off-the-shelf AA batteries. Those Vortex CPUs look promising.

Reply 6 of 7, by creepingnet

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Tempting to snag one of the 386SX units and slap FreeDOS on it. Could be my new "travel companion" - or a good backup for when the NanTans/Versas die. Sort of like an MS-DOS Game Boy.

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