VOGONS


Tiny Vortex86-based DOS gaming PC - weeCee

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First post, by rasteri

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ICOP manufactures some super-small (70mm square) Vortex86-based System-on-Modules - https://www.icop.com.tw/product/SOM304RD-VI

So I thought they'd be great for building a lil DOS gaming PC -

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Of course it requires a carrier board with the appropriate connectors, so I designed one and open sourced here - https://circuitmaker.com/Projects/Details/rasteri/weeCee -

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The module itself doesn't really require any supporting components beyond a power supply, so the only components I had to add on the board were a CS4237 sound chip connected to the module's ISA bus. This gives it Soundblaster and Adlib compatibility, and I figure I'll connect a Sound Canvas through the joystick port when I set it up permenantly in my living room.

I made a build log video here - https://youtu.be/aJEp4ZUG7BI
Part 2 here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P1E2vjpcRo

It works really well. Although the processor is 800MHz, the Vortex86 is much slower per clock than Intel processors, and can even be throttled in the bios for running speed-sensitive games :

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And it supports booting directly from an SD card meaning cheap/accessible storage :

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I'm gonna do a bunch more tests and benchmarks on it, but I have run it (and some other Vortex CPUs) through some of phil's dosbench suite :

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I also have a Vortex86EX based SoM that I will benchmark shortly.

Last edited by rasteri on 2021-08-06, 09:19. Edited 3 times in total.

Reply 1 of 161, by Tiido

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This seems pretty interesting ~

T-04YBSC, a new YMF71x based sound card & Official VOGONS thread about it
Newly made 4MB 60ns 30pin SIMMs ~
mida sa loed ? nagunii aru ei saa 😜

Reply 3 of 161, by rasteri

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weedeewee wrote on 2021-04-13, 11:18:

Driver support for the different OSs will be annoying.

It runs pretty well on Win98- drivers are available for the graphics/sound/network/usb. 2000/XP supposedly work too but I don't have much interest in that really

Ndis2 drivers work on MS network client for DOS, I haven't tried the ODI or packet drivers yet though - http://www.dmp.com.tw/tech/vortex86dx/

Reply 4 of 161, by weedeewee

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rasteri wrote on 2021-04-13, 11:32:
weedeewee wrote on 2021-04-13, 11:18:

Driver support for the different OSs will be annoying.

It runs pretty well on Win98- drivers are available for the graphics/sound/network/usb. 2000/XP supposedly work too but I don't have much interest in that really

Ndis2 drivers work on MS network client for DOS, I haven't tried the ODI or packet drivers yet though - http://www.dmp.com.tw/tech/vortex86dx/

They don't say anything about USB drivers for any OS and dos only mentions network and possible serial interface.
I bring it up because of this recent post getting bios mouse to work in 98se where no USB drivers were found and graphics drivers were also problematic.

Are you saying you are running Win98 with USB support? If so, you might want to let the other guy, weldum, know.

edit: watched build video, yes win98 has usb drivers apparently... 😀

Last edited by weedeewee on 2021-04-13, 14:52. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 6 of 161, by rasteri

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weedeewee wrote on 2021-04-13, 12:06:

They don't say anything about USB drivers for any OS and dos only mentions network and possible serial interface.
I bring it up because of this recent post getting bios mouse to work in 98se where no USB drivers were found and graphics drivers were also problematic.

Yes the Vortex86 BIOS USB mouse support is extremely buggy/crashy, so I had to put a PS/2 port on my mini PC - the mouse and keyboard are both routed to it and you can use a laptop-style PS/2 splitter to plug them both in. Not sure if that's possible on the thin client.

USB mass storage works fine though, I think I just used standard USB UHCI drivers, I'll double check

I used these display drivers - https://www.helpjet.net/Fg-87913681-84611383.html

Last edited by rasteri on 2021-04-13, 15:34. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 7 of 161, by weedeewee

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rasteri wrote on 2021-04-13, 15:01:
Yes the Vortex86 BIOS USB mouse support is extremely buggy/crashy, so I had to put a PS/2 port on my mini PC - the mouse and key […]
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weedeewee wrote on 2021-04-13, 12:06:

They don't say anything about USB drivers for any OS and dos only mentions network and possible serial interface.
I bring it up because of this recent post getting bios mouse to work in 98se where no USB drivers were found and graphics drivers were also problematic.

Yes the Vortex86 BIOS USB mouse support is extremely buggy/crashy, so I had to put a PS/2 port on my mini PC - the mouse and keyboard are both routed to it and you can use a laptop-style PS/2 splitter to plug them both in. Not sure if that's possible on the thin client.

USB mass storage works fine though, I think I just used standard USB UHCI drivers, I'll double check

I used these display drivers - https://www.helpjet.net/Fg-87913681-84611383.html

Nicely done! you'll be havin' lotsa fun 😁

Reply 8 of 161, by rasteri

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keenerb wrote on 2021-04-13, 13:24:

also your open-source carrier link doesn't seem to have any files or documents or anything, just a picture of it?

I haven't released the project yet so the source files are only available in Circuitmaker software, once I get rev2 tested I'll generate gerbers etc

Reply 9 of 161, by kdr

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rasteri wrote on 2021-04-13, 10:33:
It works really well. Although the processor is 800MHz, the Vortex86 is much slower per clock than Intel processors, and can eve […]
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It works really well. Although the processor is 800MHz, the Vortex86 is much slower per clock than Intel processors, and can even be throttled in the bios for running speed-sensitive games :

...

I'm gonna do a bunch more tests and benchmarks on it, but I have run it (and some other Vortex CPUs) through some of phil's dosbench suite :

chart2.png

Wow, the performance increase going from the 166/300Mhz parts to the 800/933Mhz parts is.... extremely modest. Any idea what's going on with that?

Perhaps the benchmarks are maxxed out on video memory bandwidth?

Anyway I like your project and will be keen to take another look once you have a final version of the board!

Reply 10 of 161, by Mu0n

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Love the project. Been following your youtube channel since December. I'm thinking of jumping in and replicating my own here, with or without bodge wire (although I understand if you don't want to release your v1 at all).
I already ordered a few sounds chip which could serve in other projects as well.
As for the Hammond 1457J1201, I found it here in my home country of Canada https://canada.newark.com/hammond/1457j1201/e … lear/dp/90W0312
but annoyingly, the depth is just a tad longer at 131.1mm instead of your 120.57 which would require a tiny tweak to your PCB design, or cutting the enclosure. Both a bit annoying for someone without the skills or equipment.
The Vortex86DX doesn't seem overly expensive for what it is.

Reply 12 of 161, by keenmaster486

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I've wanted this for years, but nobody's done it until now.

My idea is to make a laptop out of it.

I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.
World's foremost 486 enjoyer.

Reply 13 of 161, by rasteri

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kdr wrote on 2021-04-13, 23:35:

Wow, the performance increase going from the 166/300Mhz parts to the 800/933Mhz parts is.... extremely modest. Any idea what's going on with that?

So the original Vortex86 was based on the Rise MP6 which I believe is like a Pentium in terms of architecture. I don't think the Vortex86SX and later processors are based on the MP6 at all, however. I suspect for power reasons they're some sort of RISC-like processor that simulates the x86 instruction set in microcode. This means you have to clock them higher to get the same performance but they use much less power.

Mu0n wrote on 2021-04-14, 18:07:

(although I understand if you don't want to release your v1 at all).

The latest version of the design files should have the bodge wire incorporated, but I don't want to release gerbers till I've double checked everything (and possibly added a waveblaster header). If you're desperate to build one now I can generate you some gerbers if you like.

the depth is just a tad longer at 131.1mm instead of your 120.57 which would require a tiny tweak to your PCB design, or cutting the enclosure

That 130mm includes some waterproof end-plates that you can just throw away - the enclosure itself is 120. It should work just fine

Reply 14 of 161, by Mu0n

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rasteri wrote on 2021-04-15, 08:29:

The latest version of the design files should have the bodge wire incorporated, but I don't want to release gerbers till I've double checked everything (and possibly added a waveblaster header). If you're desperate to build one now I can generate you some gerbers if you like.

I contacted ICOP (California based if I'm not mistaken) and they gave me a quote, but they don't have it in stock. I'm waiting for a lead time from their mfg in Taiwan. So there's absolutely no rush since it's gonna be a matter of months probably.

rasteri wrote on 2021-04-15, 08:29:

That 130mm includes some waterproof end-plates that you can just throw away - the enclosure itself is 120. It should work just fine

Cool, appreciate it! Although it is tempting to DOS GAME in the pooooool.....

I'll order that and I'm wondering if I should also order the pcb mounting connectors. All I've done in other electronics projects is buy stuff that can be plugged on a breadboard with hit-and-miss success depending on my ability to read datasheet. I know you'll eventually have a parts list with purchaseable item links from circuitmaker - how are the chances that I mess it up if I poke around myself in canada.newark.com? For example, the audio jack https://canada.newark.com/cliff-electronic-co … pos/dp/05AC8351 is at a decent price, but I don't have much experience shopping for lead spacing and whatnot. Anyone more versed in hobbyist PCB-focused projects, feel free to chime in.

Reply 17 of 161, by matze79

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Nice very well made.

Vortex 86 is based on Rise MP6 Core, its no 486 at all 😀

https://dosreloaded.de - The German Retro DOS PC Community
https://www.retroianer.de - under constructing since ever

Co2 - for a endless Summer

Reply 18 of 161, by Mu0n

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I've been progressing slowly on recreating this for my own purposes, 2 copies.

1) Have the audio chip ordered and received (x3)

2) Hammond cases hammond 1457j1201 ordered and received (x2)

3) 2x SOM304RDVINE-1 modules ordered from ICOP California offices, including 8x mating connectors (4 for each SoM) refered to as FTS-138-01-L-DV and also more informally ICOP SOM304 SX/RD/MX+/DX2/DX3 Dev Board Mating Connector. There was a 4 week lead time to manufacture in Taiwan and arrive in Los Angeles. Currently waiting on their imminent reception and shipping to me (in Canada)

4) Finding as few stores as possible to order the parts themselves in North America. The best options are usually digikey.ca our mouser.ca for me (they also exist in USA as .com), ship ultra fast to us (often next day). So far, mouser looks the most promising. Currently going section by section to label everything and make it easier to assemble zone by zone on the board

5) output gerber files for PCBWay, had some back and forth to correct some layers they were not getting, even though I was following their own tutorial on exporting gerber files from circuitmaker. They complained about not knowing whether it was a 1 or 2 copper layer board (it's 2!), simply because I had not ticked that layer, since I zoned out and mimicked their tutorial images EXACTLY, and it's missing in the tutorial. They also complained about not finding an outline definition, so I had to create one using circuitmaker using the primitive shape of the board layout, output in its own new dedicated OUTLINE layer. I wasn't sure how it would interact with the mechanical layer, which is supposed to dictate where the board ends physically for real, and after hesitating, I just went with the default thickness of the outline shape the tool created for me. The last detail they requested right before fabrication is whether I wanted the main board to have a v-cut along the frontier between the tabs that are supposed to slide in the case and the rest of the board and whether I wanted this to be a keep-out zone (ie no components). I said no to v-cut and yes to being a K-O. The boards are all done after a few days and the shipment is incoming, May 27th.

6) One thing though, is that I've jumped the gun on the board ordering. I forked Rasteri's project right after his v0.2 (which didn't include a connector for a waveblaster S2) and right at the start of his 'first' v0.3 revision (waveblaster connector included). I don't really need waveblaster capabilities, but wth, I ordered one anyway to make one of my units get this capability (the other will just connect to my Roland hardware units). I noticed the project got at least one, if not more few minor updates (but which have not ticked up the revision number so far, I guess it's still ongoing) that essentially (as far as I've noticed, not 100% sure) regroup components to the same package sizes (eg all 1206 instead of 0603 for some and 1206 for some). I'm crossing my fingers that the state of the board I ordered will allow me to make this work.

7) Ordered a Pluggable USB microscope with decent refresh rate to help with what will be my first SMT soldering with small 1206 and 0603 packages, as well as the audio chip. The space feels cramped and I have definitely watched some excellent visual tutorials on the topic. I already have rosin flux paste, but looking to equip a liquid flux pen and/or syringe. I didn't order the stencil from PCBWay and go the solder paste type 5 route, I don't have a hot air gun anyway.

Reply 19 of 161, by Mu0n

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Questions still orbiting in my mind:

1) what do we do with the EEPROM, must it be programmed ourselves, or the SoM just needs one and does its own thing with it? I have the very popular XGEcu TL-866II Plus everyone has, but I don't have adapters for SMT eeproms if I needed to link pins in specific places, and I haven't been warned from ICOP that I need to program one. My fear is that it's where you put the bios and you must find it, somehow.

2) is it picky on the type of microSD card that can work with it? Ordered cheapo ones from Amazon (2x 32 Gb) and crossing my fingers. Looking forward to findout out if partitions are possible on these things and whether I can suit all my needs with a > 2 Gb format that runs outside of MSDOS and FreeDOS and retains max compatibility.

3) Anticipating some trouble in soldering order when some components are well placed, but the iron has to be put in awkward places to put in the next ones...I may have to go with solder several adjacent pads from different components at once a few times.