VOGONS


First post, by bjt

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I've been playing with the idea of a 486 system for a while, but was resisting it because I know what a time sink a new build would be. However this kind of fell into my lap 😀

Bought an unidentified Thinkpad on eBay for 99p + postage. I knew it was a 486 but had no idea what spec. Luckily it turned to be a 370C:

- 486 DX4-75
- 20MB
- 540 MB HDD
- 10" colour TFT
- No sound hardware

Has a broken catch, exterior's banged up but basically all there. Battery shot of course but I don't plan on using it off AC. It wouldn't boot at first but reseating the HDD fixed that. This is a great spec for DOS games but as is often the case with laptops, sound was an issue.

eBay provides all however and soon enough I had a Thinkpad Dock I for £15 inc postage. This dock has built in speakers and an ISA slot, perfect for a SB Pro 2. I hope to find the matching CD-ROM kit some day - it takes a non-standard 1" high SCSI drive.

The speakers didn't work at first but again taking it apart and reseating the audio board connectors fixed that. I have to say IBM hardware has awesome build quality, and the hardware maintenance manuals make taking these apart a piece of cake. My favourite part of the whole thing is the carry handle 😀

Pics!

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Reply 1 of 44, by Mau1wurf1977

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Hehe that's cute 😀

With a short AWE64 and SoftMPU you can even drive a Roland.

My website with reviews, demos, drivers, tutorials and more...
My YouTube channel

Reply 2 of 44, by carlostex

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Mau1wurf1977 wrote:

With a short AWE64 and SoftMPU you can even drive a Roland.

A more compact YMF718(9) card will give genuine FM synthesis and excellent SoftMPU compatibility as well. 😈

Reply 4 of 44, by bjt

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Sure does.

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I haven't been able to find the IBM CD kit so I ordered a DEC version of the same drive and a SCSI cable I think will work.
Hopefully I can get some multimedia action going 😎

Reply 6 of 44, by bjt

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I bought a broken 7-series Thinkpad for parts and transferred across one of the screen latches and the feet to replace the broken ones on the 370C. Also transferred across the CS4236-based audio card from the 7 series. Unfortunately it's a massive piece of shit in DOS and requires a huge TSR for SB emulation so I don't think I'll be using it.

Ordered a CF-IDE adaptor and a 512MB card - not optimistic it will work but I fancy giving it a try. Also caved in and bought a CT1770 from the States for a ridiculous price ($60 including postage/import charges) as they seem to be rare in Europe.

Reply 7 of 44, by Unknown_K

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The old IBM Thinkpads are very easy to work on and find parts for, I have a pretty large collection of them. Drivers are also still available online and you probably need one for the dock SCSI to function (have to look at mine and see what is needed).

Collector of old computers, hardware, and software

Reply 10 of 44, by bjt

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obobskivich wrote:

Neat looking little bugger. Question: what's with the key? Does it make it "go" or does it keep it latched shut?

In position 1 the key stops the laptop being undocked, in position 2 it stops it being turned on too.

Reply 11 of 44, by obobskivich

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bjt wrote:

In position 1 the key stops the laptop being undocked, in position 2 it stops it being turned on too.

Oh that's very cool! I was thinking it might just be a physical latch thing (I have some cases like that), but it's cool that it actually does something for the hardware too.

Reply 12 of 44, by bjt

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Tried the CF card and surprisingly it worked straight away. The old HDD has some bearing whine so I won't miss it. I've also disabled the fan in the dock so the system is silent now.

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Reply 13 of 44, by bjt

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The CT1770 (SB16 SCSI-2) arrived today so I couldn't resist trying it out. Good news is that it works great with the DEC CD-ROM, digital sound gets mixed with CD-audio just fine and is output from the stereo speakers in the dock. Bad news is that the PCB has some scratches and FM doesn't work (tested, yeah right)... so I'm going to need another CT1770 at some point.

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Reply 14 of 44, by bjt

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Update on this little machine

- Got a 1GB Kingston CF card (boots to DOS fine 😎)
- Got a replacement rechargeable coin cell for the CMOS battery (was losing the time on the old one)
- Also ordered another CT1770, this time from Cyprus... should get here a bit quicker and hopefully the OPL will work on this one.

I need to solder the new CMOS battery to the exisiting connector. Also going to connect the output of the CT1770 directly to the speakers in the dock, as the amp in the dock is only working intermittently. Will connect the CD drive's audio out to the CT1770.

Then we'll be ready to rock DOS 6.22 😎

Reply 15 of 44, by bjt

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Talking to myself here but that's OK 😎

Installed the new CMOS battery. Oddly the problem with the dock speakers seems to have been cured by this?!
Mounted the CF card in the old hard drive holder. Installed advanced mounting system for the CD drive (duct tape).

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Reply 16 of 44, by LunarG

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That's an awesome laptop imho. I've always liked the IBM Thinkpads. Sturdiest laptops I've come across so far.
Too bad the battery is dead, cause being able to do native dos gaming on the go would be wicked.
Don't think I've seen a docking station with ISA slot before this one, but it's been a while since they were in fashion, so it could be that my memory fails me.

WinXP : PIII 1.4GHz, 512MB RAM, 73GB SCSI HDD, Matrox Parhelia, SB Audigy 2.
Win98se : K6-3+ 500MHz, 256MB RAM, 80GB HDD, Matrox Millennium G400 MAX, Voodoo 2, SW1000XG.
DOS6.22 : Intel DX4, 64MB RAM, 1.6GB HDD, Diamond Stealth64 DRAM, GUS 1MB, SB16.

Reply 17 of 44, by bjt

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Yep both batteries were DOA. I could look at cutting one open and replacing the cells but the laptop isn't much use without the dock as the onboard sound is terrible in DOS.

The second CT1770 works great so that's awesome 😀 Shame I can't return the first one, postage back to the US means it's not worthwhile. Also, I didn't realise that when you buy something using the eBay Global Shipping Program, the postage & customs fees are non-refundable! That in itself means I won't be buying anything via GSP again.

Does anyone know how bad the hanging note bug will be on a CT1770 with DSP 4.12? There's enough room in the dock to put a daughterboard on the sound card 😀 Will try it with my spare XR385 later on.

Reply 18 of 44, by LunarG

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Yeah, the cost of shipping when ordering from the US often is more than the hardware itself for us people in Europe.
With the ridiculous customs regulations here in Norway, I'm pretty much limited to orders of a value of less than €24 or $33 or else I'll have to pay 25% VAT (yep, even on second hand goods) not only on the price of the item, but also on the shipping costs. In addition comes the customs fees and such. Pretty much means I can never return anything unless I've been extravagant and ordered something expensive despite the high costs.

Glad to hear the new CT1770 is working though. I can't help being impressed with the build quality of older hardware. If you don't purposely try to break it, it seems to last forever... I hope I didn't just jinx my 486 or something >_<

As for that hanging note bug. Most google hits claim that all SB16's with DPS 4.12 should have that bug, but http://queststudios.com/smf/index.php?topic=2605.0;wap2 suggests there might be a workaround. As I don't have one, and no daughterboards or external modules, I can't test it myself, but may be worth having a look.

WinXP : PIII 1.4GHz, 512MB RAM, 73GB SCSI HDD, Matrox Parhelia, SB Audigy 2.
Win98se : K6-3+ 500MHz, 256MB RAM, 80GB HDD, Matrox Millennium G400 MAX, Voodoo 2, SW1000XG.
DOS6.22 : Intel DX4, 64MB RAM, 1.6GB HDD, Diamond Stealth64 DRAM, GUS 1MB, SB16.

Reply 19 of 44, by bjt

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Hooked up the XR385, and sure enough the sound is completely broken in Heretic. Pretty cool having wavetable in this machine though, and other games seem to work OK. Might pick up a SCP-55 (PCMCIA Sound Canvas) too at some point. I think as a portable retro system with authentic hardware this is about as good as it gets 😎