Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby RJDog » 2018-10-11 @ 02:32

So I'm finally breaking down and building a 386. As it turns out, I already had a 386 motherboard (an M396F of all things, which as I understand is semi-desirable) just missing some key components... like a Multi-I/O card -- that is, serial, parallel, IDE and floppy controller. Now, I've never had to look for one before, so am not really sure what I'm looking for. The 486 I have is an OEM with VLB controller built in to the motherboard, so I've not had to worry about this before.

So, what should I be looking for? Brand? All-in-one or separate serial/parallel and fdd/hdd controllers? Cost effectiveness is a key factor for me.

Also, trying to go for 1989ish build -- do people consider the multi-I/O card a key component of "period correctness" or is it more of a whatever works kind of thing?
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby stamasd » 2018-10-11 @ 11:39

I'm of a "whatever works" mentality. I've been running a 16-bit I/O card in a XT class machine (8-bit only) with the help of some BIOS extensions. :) On a 386 you shouldn't have any trouble using any 16-bit I/O card provided that the card is correctly jumpered and isn't broken. I have one of those M396 boards, I don't recall what exact I/O board I have in it but the first one that I picked at random from a pile worked flawlessly.
I/O, I/O,
It's off to disk I go,
With a bit and a byte
And a read and a write,
I/O, I/O
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby tayyare » 2018-10-11 @ 11:59

I believe, you can choose any one that works and preferably having an at least online documentation about jumper settings (hint: TH99). Multi I/O cards (HDD, floppy, serial/parallel port on the same card) are preferable in my opinion, but having two seperate cards for the purpose is also ok.

If you want to go fully era correct and especially like dealing with lots of trouble, you can also choose the ST-506/ST-412/ESDI road :lol:
GA-6VTXE PIII 1.4+512MB
Geforce4 Ti 4200 64MB
Diamond Monster 3D 12MB SLI
SB AWE64 PNP+32MB
120GB IDE Samsung/80GB IDE Seagate/146GB SCSI Compaq/73GB SCSI IBM
Adaptec AHA29160
3com 3C905B-TX
Gotek+CF Reader
MSDOS 6.22+Win 3.11/95 OSR2.1/98SE/ME/2000
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby Merovign » 2018-10-12 @ 08:03

Yeah, what tayyare said. Find the documentation online before you buy one, that's the most important thing. Well, get one that works *and* you have documentation.

Technically later models are probably always better for compatibility reasons, though not authenticity.

I use Acculogic s/IDE boards because that's what I already have.
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby konc » 2018-10-12 @ 09:26

tayyare wrote:If you want to go fully era correct and especially like dealing with lots of trouble, you can also choose the ST-506/ST-412/ESDI road :lol:

MFM for a 386? 8-O Not era correct, but I concur with the "lol" part!
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby realoldguy23 » 2018-10-12 @ 09:35

konc wrote:MFM for a 386? 8-O Not era correct, but I concur with the "lol" part!


Not sure this is entirely correct. My first PC in 1991 had a 20MB MFM HD. It was a 286, but 386 were pretty common at this time already and 486 were starting to be available although at insane prices.
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby canthearu » 2018-10-12 @ 10:03

386's with MFM hard drives were extremely common back in the hey day, although IDE drives were starting their takeover at this point.
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby dionb » 2018-10-12 @ 10:39

Given availability, price and general ease of use, if you think a bog standard multi I/O card is challenging, don't even consider MFM/RLL, let alone deceased ESDI unicorns ;)

One period-correct option if you don't want to deal with any 'weird' stuff: SCSI. It would have been very expensive then, only used in workstations, but the basics of SCSI in a 386 are exactly the same as with any other SCSI in any other system, in fact easier: all internal drives and controllers were 50p SE, so no worrying about LVD/HVD or 68p/80p connectors. Also, because SCSI is exquisitely backwards compatible you can use pretty much any SCSI drive with any SCSI controller that will fit in the 386, even if the first one you find is (much) newer than the 386 you want to use.
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby RJDog » 2018-10-12 @ 14:36

dionb wrote:One period-correct option if you don't want to deal with any 'weird' stuff: SCSI.

This is actually not a terrible suggestion; I do have a couple of SCSI hard disks. The only thing is that, to me, putting SCSI into a 386 would definitely turn it into "workstation" territory... and where the 386 motherboard I have has a 386SX processor, rather than 386DX, is decidedly not "workstation". However, the 386SX is perfectly suitable for my needs (that is, playing DOS games in the 1985-1990 era). Additionally, I would still need a floppy controller, and most controllers I've seen that have a floppy interface also have an IDE interface, so... I figure might as well use IDE drive (which I also have many). That's just me though; I would totally understand putting a SCSI drive into a 386 though.
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby tayyare » 2018-10-12 @ 14:54

konc wrote:
tayyare wrote:If you want to go fully era correct and especially like dealing with lots of trouble, you can also choose the ST-506/ST-412/ESDI road :lol:

MFM for a 386? 8-O Not era correct, but I concur with the "lol" part!


:lol:

By the way, early 386 (87-88) era is also MFM/RLL era, Our Unysis 386 PCs and server that we had in the department during university years all had MFM 40MB HDDs.
GA-6VTXE PIII 1.4+512MB
Geforce4 Ti 4200 64MB
Diamond Monster 3D 12MB SLI
SB AWE64 PNP+32MB
120GB IDE Samsung/80GB IDE Seagate/146GB SCSI Compaq/73GB SCSI IBM
Adaptec AHA29160
3com 3C905B-TX
Gotek+CF Reader
MSDOS 6.22+Win 3.11/95 OSR2.1/98SE/ME/2000
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Re: Multi-I/O ISA Card - What Do I Need to Know

Postby RJDog » 2018-10-16 @ 20:19

Just to kind of close off this thread, I have decided to go with an all-in-one (IDE, Floppy, Parallel, Serial) card, just waiting for the right deal to pop up on eBay. Per the others' comments, I am not too worried about year for my 1989ish build. In fact a lot of good Goldstar multi i/o cards seem to be circa 1994...

Anyway, I also found out that should one want to go the SCSI route, Adaptec's AHA-1542 is a SCSI and floppy controller, which would obviously nicely complement a serial/parallel card for complete setup (no IDE of course, kind of negating my previous comments about not finding a floppy controller without an attached IDE controller).
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