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First post, by Jo22

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Hi everyone,

Today, 40 years ago, on February 1st 1982, the 80286 CPU saw the light of the day.

While it wasn't meant to be a desktop processor, originally, it quickly found its way into advanced IBM PCs and clones.

It was the first x86 processor with a memory management unit, virtual memory and the ring scheme
and among the last CPUs to be still made in NMOS technology (HMOS actually, later versions came in CMOS as well).

Many competing manufacturers produced their own versions of the 80286 under license, too.

And it created a market for 80287 compatible math co-processors, as well.

The ISA bus, as standardized by the Gang of Nine, was essentially based on the 286 frontside bus due to being used by the prior PC/AT bus itself.

A late 80286 clone, the U80601, also was made by East Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U80601
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80286

What were your memories of the 286?
- Please feel free to share them.

286_die_shot.png
Source: https://en.wikichip.org/wiki/intel/microarchitectures/80286

"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 1 of 10, by GigAHerZ

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It was about 1998. I was 7 years old and our family's financial situation was not the best, to be honest. (So no computery things at home! Too expensive!)
But even earlier than i could remember, i was always drawn to computers, whether i saw any in someone's home or at my father's workplace. Love at first sight.

Back to 1998. We visited our downstairs neighbor in our apartment building, and of course, they had a computer there that nobody used and you can only imagine, how my only thought throughout the whole visit was just the computer in that dark room sitting all alone.
Suddenly, news came in - they don't use that machine and can give it to us! Background story for that machine was that it was an old machine belonging to Estonian Air company and those old machines, at one point, were given away. That neighbor's daughter had used it at one point for some school work, but not anymore.
And so, the heaven came from the skies down to earth, when my father dragged this old machine one floor up into our apartment!

It was some 286 machine with 1MB of ram and ~40MB of conner IDE harddrive. Lot's of components were from TwinHead company and the super-io controller, videocard and the 1MB of ram was all integrated to the motherboard. (I'm still trying to search for that machine. I have a suspicion, it could be under name of KLH/KLM 195. It's also very similar, but not same, to TwinHead Netstation)

It also came with terrible foam+foil type keyboard (that was already internally disintegrating) and a mouse, that never worked well for us. (Who knew the rollers should be cleaned inside it!?) For monitor, it was some ultra-worn and dark monochrome VGA screen.

"Fun" part was that i was able to put the VGA cable into the computer wrong way around - it had so little pins (because of being monochrome) that it was not a problem. Of course, there was no picture and i was really sad for not being able to play with that machine... Thankfully, next day, we discovered, what i had done. 😁

It had some kind of DOS on it, a Norton Commander 3-point-something (that later we replaced with 5.0) and bunch of games. I most notably remember Prehistorik 2, Volfield, Wolfenstein 3D, SimCity and Supaplex.

From day one, i was interested in making games on my own. (and in general how computers work) So over time, i did find QBasic, but never recognized it to be a programming environment. (i thought it's just a "different kind" of "edit". I knew nothing about programming, not even the idea. I thought it's a "reverse boss mode", where you do some text writing, and then, through menus, some games (like gorilla) pops up for entertainment.)
Through all kinds of "researches" i did, i was able to get rid of the boot sector on the hdd somehow and so on.

A year or two later, we got 386sx-20 with ~100MB hdd and the 286 was then history.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - And i intend to get every last bit out of it even after loading every damn driver!

Reply 2 of 10, by rkurbatov

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GigAHerZ wrote on 2022-02-01, 13:45:

Through all kinds of "researches" i did, i was able to get rid of the boot sector on the hdd somehow and so on.

Lol, so familiar 😀 The friend in need is friend indeed. The friend of yours was 286, mine was 486 though in 2000 there was not much difference.

I didn't have 286 in my possession and can't say I want to. One of our neighbors had 286 with 5.25 floppy drives, that was something like 1995. I was studying PC at school courses and didn't have mine, but I had a pack of floppies for some reason 😀 So I had several games that I brought with me so we could play with neighbors children, but only once.

Later, something like in 1998 the friend of my got his first PC, it also was 1998. He could play only Dune 2 and very simple games - that was so sad at times of Diablo and Fallout. We even managed to install absolutely useless Windows 3.0 (or Windows 3.1 but not Windows 3.11 - it did not support 286). But soon after that parents bought him P166MMX and it was my turn to be sad 😀

486: ECS UM486 VLB, 256kb cache, i486 DX2/66, 8MB RAM, Trident TGUI9440AGi VLB 1MB, Pro Audio Spectrum 16, FDD 3.5, ZIP 100 ATA
PII: Asus P2B, Pentium II 400MHz, 512MB RAM, Trident 9750 AGP 4MB (Voodoo2 SLI, MonsterSound MX300 in plans)

Reply 3 of 10, by LightStruk

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GigAHerZ wrote on 2022-02-01, 13:45:

It was about 1998. I was 7 years old and our family's financial situation was not the best, to be honest. (So no computery things at home! Too expensive!)
...
A year or two later, we got 386sx-20 with ~100MB hdd and the 286 was then history.

I'm glad that your family was able to put a 386sx-20 to good use in 1999-2000. At least with that machine, did you end up running Windows 3.1 and get to experience some of the fun to be had there?

Reply 4 of 10, by GigAHerZ

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LightStruk wrote on 2022-02-01, 15:10:
GigAHerZ wrote on 2022-02-01, 13:45:

It was about 1998. I was 7 years old and our family's financial situation was not the best, to be honest. (So no computery things at home! Too expensive!)
...
A year or two later, we got 386sx-20 with ~100MB hdd and the 286 was then history.

I'm glad that your family was able to put a 386sx-20 to good use in 1999-2000. At least with that machine, did you end up running Windows 3.1 and get to experience some of the fun to be had there?

It stayed in our family for very long time. 😀 Later, a used Pentium 100MHz was bought from father's workplace, that was sold off as obsolete scrap and so i moved the 386 to my room. It went out of use maybe at around 2001 or 2002. I even managed to sqeeze Windows 95 on it, but damn, it was slow! 😁

But originally, it had Windows 3.11. I didn't have installer for that so one day, when it broke, it became DOS+NC machine. Until the sadomaso experience of Win95. 😁
And i still had a lot of fun with that! For example, networking was a thing we didn't have. Yet my father was able to hold a soldering gun and get some cables and plugs. So at one point we had 3 computers "networked" together, one link over LPT cable, the other link over COM cable. 😁 (With win95 on 386 i was able to mount Pentium machine hdd as network drive and then play games on my 386 that were stored on Pentium's hdd! Amazing!)

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - And i intend to get every last bit out of it even after loading every damn driver!

Reply 5 of 10, by creepingnet

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The first PC I ever played games on was the IBM PS/2 Model 30 286 we got in 2nd grade because our school read the most books from the "Book It" Program in our area (pizza and computers - win-win). A year later we got a grant from RJR Nabisco to build our new school. Probably the majority of my computer usage as a little kid was on PS/2 286 systems (50's and 30's mostly). I never got why they get so much flack. I remember also running some IBM Edutainment program on several with some early sound card (SoundBlaster 1.0 perhaps? with those painful Telex headphones) where you got gold ribbons for getting the answer right, but we learned you could get cool neon green ones and blue ones, only to find out later the school network admin was adding all the crazy colors because we seemed to like them. Had digitized speech too ("how many...boowls..."). 🤣.

The first 286 I ever owned was of course, yet again, an IBM PS/2 Model 30 286 I got from a Tuskeegee University professor in my A+ Certification class in 2003 who wanted me to recover some files from him off of it. It survived a fire in one of the buildings and had discolored the paint leaving a big square on the top where the 8514 CRT sat. I had that thing connected to mFire dial-up using a Diamond TeleCommander 2300 SoundCard/14.4K Modem combo over NetTamer and it was a joy to surf the web in Text mode on. Used to play a lot of games on it as well.

After that I picked up a barebones Compaq Deskpro 286 2551 in 2004 from e-bay for $14 and restored that, I may even still have that lurking at my childhood home somewhere. Played a lot of Indenture and Ultima on that one. Used to "do the twist" on a rickety side table I had it setup on when the MFM HDD did read/write. It had a CGA card and a SoundBlaster, and ran on an original Compaq DSM monochrome Amber monitor.

Had a Zenith SuperSport 286 for awhile that I got as partial payment for a computer I built a co-worker in 2004. I actually dialed up to our mFire internet with it at 3800 baud - probably the longest wait for Google to load to ever happen, but it loaded it. I don't even remember what happened to that one. I did play Ultima V a lot on it on the blue/white screen.

I still have the GEM 286 I picked up a year later for $32 from a Del Rio TX Airforce base that put it on e-bay. That thing is still a monster and acts more like a 386SX despite being an overclocked 10MHz 286 with a math co-processor. Maybe I'll bring that one out next. That GEM is the computer in my collection I've had the longest - August 2005, when I still lived in Alabama. I've since made that thing into a pure representation of what a true 286 truly capable of. SVGA, DVD, SoundBlaster, stupid-huge hard disks (<8GB >1GB), broadband internet access over mTCP with a packet driver using Arachne. Right now I kind of want to drag race it against my Compaq Deskpro 386s/20 in 386SX mode just to see how much speed the 386SX actually has over the 286/10 with a 287. They seem comparable speed wise in a lot of cases.

So yeah, lots of fun experiences with 286s.

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Reply 6 of 10, by Malik

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I am proud to have been an owner (actually bought for me by my father) of the 286 back then. (It was 1991 IINM, or was it 1990?.....hmmm...)

I got it late at the end of the 286 era with 386s just starting to appear.

I remember it had the numerical LED alternating between 12 and 20, when Turbo off and on respectively. I regret I don't have it anymore since it was traded in for my Pentium 133 system later on. I was not well versed in hardware back then like how I am now, and I really don't know what CPU (Intel or AMD or TI) it had at that time. I guess AMD is more likely, looking at the speed.

I think it had a Seagate 40MB HD and came with 640K and 2MB Expanded Memory board (since I remember it came with some device driver already loaded that enabled me to make use of the additional features in Wing Commander 1 later on).

It had the button on both sides to release the latch and pull up the casing cover.

I had a blast with it and to this day some of the best games I have ever played were with this machine. I played my all-time favourite games with it - Ultima VI, Wing Commander 1 & 2, Monkey Island 1 & 2, Sierra Games - KQ5, 6, Gods, Lemmings, SSI Gold Box games, Microprose Simulations...and so many many more. And I had Sound Blaster 1.5 with it.

I had many great memories and nostalgia with it and I never get tired of talking about my 286. That and those days - the golden era of DOS games, have permanently bonded me to gaming both nostalgically and emotionally.

5476332566_7480a12517_t.jpgSB Dos Drivers

Reply 7 of 10, by kixs

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My first PC was based on 286 too. Some custom build @16MHz. For nostalgia reasons I acquired all the parts it had and it's waiting for the resurrection - no idea when 🤣

I had a lot of fun but also many frustrations as 386 was getting more common and many games wouldn't run. It's funny that it was actually a little bit faster then a friends 386sx-25. 40MB HDD didn't help much as it was always full and I found out that some files weren't required and quickly deleted all the unnecessary files - sometimes deleted too many 🤣

Come to think about it I was always at least one/two generations behind with my hardware and never played new games when they were released.

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Reply 8 of 10, by Jo22

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GigAHerZ wrote on 2022-02-01, 13:45:

It was about 1998. I was 7 years old and our family's financial situation was not the best, to be honest. (So no computery things at home! Too expensive!)
But even earlier than i could remember, i was always drawn to computers, whether i saw any in someone's home or at my father's workplace. Love at first sight.

Hi there! I think I can relate to this, too. Got the computer feaver in young years, too. 😃
My very first computer-thing was a learning computer from a coffee shop (Tchibo), I believe.
It was a black laptop with a foil keyboard, if memory serves.
It coukd play music tunes (piano), had a quiz, calculators etc.
After this, I got my father's Sharp MZ-700, which was followed by a 286 PC.
The situation here at home wasn't great, either. My father was a very kind person, but suffered from anxiety at the time and couldn't work as much anymore as he used to.
On the bright side, though, he thus had more free time to spend with me. 🙂
He also was glad that I wasn't playing outside all the time, but also spent some time at the NES or computer.

creepingnet wrote on 2022-02-01, 16:42:

After that I picked up a barebones Compaq Deskpro 286 2551 in 2004 from e-bay for $14 and restored that, I may even still have that lurking at my childhood home somewhere. Played a lot of Indenture and Ultima on that one. Used to "do the twist" on a rickety side table I had it setup on when the MFM HDD did read/write. It had a CGA card and a SoundBlaster, and ran on an original Compaq DSM monochrome Amber monitor.
[..]
So yeah, lots of fun experiences with 286s.

That's cool, thanks for sharing your story! 😎👍
- I'm very happy that you restored that 286, too. 😄
Because, at the time, in my place, people didn't value 286s or 386/486 PCs anymore.
It often broke my heart seeing fine old machines standing on the roadside. 😢

Malik wrote on 2022-02-11, 07:04:

I had many great memories and nostalgia with it and I never get tired of talking about my 286. That and those days - the golden era of DOS games, have permanently bonded me to gaming both nostalgically and emotionally.

I can relate to this! ^^ Thank you very much for sharing your memories!

kixs wrote on 2022-02-11, 07:36:

My first PC was based on 286 too. Some custom build @16MHz. For nostalgia reasons I acquired all the parts it had and it's waiting for the resurrection - no idea when 🤣
they were released.

Glad to hear! I'm looking forward to the ressurection, too! 😀

kixs wrote:

I had a lot of fun but also many frustrations as 386 was getting more common and many games wouldn't run. It's funny that it was actually a little bit faster then a friends 386sx-25. 40MB HDD didn't help much as it was always full and I found out that some files weren't required and quickly deleted all the unnecessary files - sometimes deleted too many 🤣

Yes, same here. 386 PCs were considered "mighty" back then and many games started to require DOS4GW and a 32-Bit processor..

Looking back, I'm really glad that my papa was allowing me to play a few games on his 386DX-40 PC that didn't run on my 286-12.
For example, that MIG-29 flught simulator.

That PC was his primary workhorse with a 20" CRT monitor, card reader (towitoko? telephone and insurance cards),
16MB of RAM, Win95 RTM with lots of compilers/productivity software, two huge IDE drives, two floppy drives, a Sytos compatible QIC streamer, a data/fax modem (28k8?), Mitsumi LU-005s CD-ROM drive..

By comparison, my humble 286 with its 14" monitor seemed very little. Heck, it ran at shortwave radio speeds (4MHz-30MHz)! 🤣
Anyway, still loved my little 286 at the time. It bravely ran Windows 3.1, also.

kixs wrote on 2022-02-11, 07:36:

Come to think about it I was always at least one/two generations behind with my hardware and never played new games when they were released.

I can relate to this, I believe. Back in the 90s, for a while, a 486 notebook with a monochrome LC display (!) was the most advanced technology at our home. 😅

"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

//My video channel//

Reply 9 of 10, by BitWrangler

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Early 90s, a 286 was the 3rd "PC" I owned but the 7th computer I think and the first "AT". I had an Amiga I was regarding as my daily driver, had got two junked Amstrad XT clones to play with, and found them a bit limiting, so grabbed this 5170 for cheap... and was a bit underwhelmed, the Amstrad 1640 felt faster. It had the really pokey 6Mhz chip in it... now I guess it had a meg of RAM, which got me win 3.0 running, but didn't have much for it... this was all in the name of figuring out what this MSDOS and PC compatible fuss was all about really, wasn't spending much cash on the PC stuff.

Now, I was at a college and had a shell account on a Vax which was connected up to something called the internet, and I could send email, but what all I could do from a VT-52 wasn't very interactive, I could use an email to archie gateway to retrieve files and do searches. Even the email setup used a line editor. However, the computer lab also had some 286-16 machines, with windows 3.1 annnnd we could also log into our accounts on them and establish an internet connection, wooohooo, interactive gopher, veronica, wais.... and what's this cello and mosaic thing???? The web.... woooo.... info dot cern dot ch, the www virtual library... So yeah I was born onto the web then, on a 286.

So that had me taking PCs more seriously, and gathering bits, built something proper with a 386sx40 board, but was scratting for bits at fairs all the time and dragged home a 286-25 board, Harris CPU of course... never really put that in a system, but had it powered up and screwed around with it, impressively fast and smooth on the likes of wolfenstein, windows on it seemed to run as nice as on my 386... albeit limited by not having 386 enhanced mode, and virtual memory and various 386 functions were becoming necessary. So unfortunately that board was a little forgotten in the march of progress, and shelved.. but kept for now because I thought it was the coolest 286 evarrrrr.... however when it came time for a long distance move, it drew a short straw and got left behind... sadly.... still wish I kept it.

These days, I'm certain I've got a complete Packard Bell 286-12 system, lurking in the pile, I've got a DFI Concorde-L motherboard with CPU, and I'm vaguely sure I've got a faster CPU and board combo around somewhere, maybe a 20mhz. Also not entirely sure if 2 system units that say 286 on them have 286 systems in them or not, fairly sure one of them got a 486 board in it, the other one is going to be a surprise when I eventually haul it out.

Plans are to fully clean up that Packard Bell, then maybe also I'll be putting together the most ultimate 286 I've got parts for.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 10 of 10, by Jo22

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BitWrangler wrote on 2022-02-13, 04:19:

Early 90s, a 286 was the 3rd "PC" I owned but the 7th computer I think and the first "AT". I had an Amiga I was regarding as my daily driver, had got two junked Amstrad XT clones to play with, and found them a bit limiting, so grabbed this 5170 for cheap... and was a bit underwhelmed, the Amstrad 1640 felt faster. It had the really pokey 6Mhz chip in it... now I guess it had a meg of RAM, which got me win 3.0 running, but didn't have much for it... this was all in the name of figuring out what this MSDOS and PC compatible fuss was all about really, wasn't spending much cash on the PC stuff.

Hi! My father can probably relate to this, too. Because, in the 80s, he had got an Schneider (Amstrad) PC1512 XT compatible that ran on an 8086 @8 MHz.
- And the CPU was upgraded almost immediately through the recommendedation of a friend of him.
Said friend told my dad that an x86 CPU < 80286 was horrible slow. Especially below 8 MHz.

So it's no surprise that you suffered from an 286 @6MHz. Depending on the configuration (RAM speed, waitstates) an early AT was very very slow.
Slower than a Turbo XT, in some cases. But that's not the fault of the CPU, as such, I assume. 🤷‍♂️
The XT 286 was, ironically, much quicker than the original ATs. 😉

http://www.starringthecomputer.com/computer.html?c=287

BitWrangler wrote on 2022-02-13, 04:19:

So that had me taking PCs more seriously, and gathering bits, built something proper with a 386sx40 board, but was scratting for bits at fairs all the time and dragged home a 286-25 board, Harris CPU of course... never really put that in a system, but had it powered up and screwed around with it, impressively fast and smooth on the likes of wolfenstein, windows on it seemed to run as nice as on my 386... albeit limited by not having 386 enhanced mode, and virtual memory and various 386 functions were becoming necessary. So unfortunately that board was a little forgotten in the march of progress, and shelved.. but kept for now because I thought it was the coolest 286 evarrrrr.... however when it came time for a long distance move, it drew a short straw and got left behind... sadly.... still wish I kept it.

An 25MHz Harris? Wow! 😁

Yeah, it's a shame that Windows 3.x never used virtual memory on a 286! OS/2 1.3 did..

I assume that's because Windows 3.0 evolved from Windows/386.
One of the MS developers hacked it in its free time and so the 386 Enhanced-Mode mode kernal was born.
The Standard-Mode kernal thus likely was a side product that was assembled after that.

Anyway, Standard-Mode also turned out pretty solid. It's still valuable as a fallback for tricky 386 hardware that has compatibility issues or little memory (less than 2MB).
Or early 386 double-sigma CPUs ("16-bit software only"). 😀

BitWrangler wrote on 2022-02-13, 04:19:

Plans are to fully clean up that Packard Bell, then maybe also I'll be putting together the most ultimate 286 I've got parts for.

That sounds great! I'm looking forward to it! 😁

"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

//My video channel//