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Intrest in new ISA cards?

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Reply 60 of 86, by HanJammer

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Also: why would anybody want to emulate ET4000 while it's not that great to begin with...

As for the GOTEK - personally I do use them just for convenience of deploying new systems or testing hardware. Other than that I have one installed in Tandy 1000 (soon to be replaced with regular FDD) and one in Amiga 2000 (just to have way to transfer the software from PC which is otherwise impossible for me) and that's about it. I don't like to use them on a regular basis because they take away the great experience of using real floppies. But at last they do something differently than the standard floppy drives. Using FPGA to emulate an old graphic adapter would be just a waste - however It could have been justified if such card would go beyond standard isa graphic card capabilities offering something which never was available in the vintage adapters (ie support for fullhd or even 4k resolutions - hardware scaler, scanline emulation on LCDs, multi hdmi output on ISA card (useful for grabbers) and such.

Want to buy AT cases, motherboards and other vintage stuff? My Items for Sale
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Reply 61 of 86, by Hamby

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I like the idea of ISA cards.

I don't know if it's possible, but the VGA/EGA/CGA/Herc video card would be exceptionally cool from my point of view... especially if you could manage Voodoo-compatible acceleration. I know the ISA bus is very slow, but still, it would be cool, imo, to be able to install a voodoo-compatible card in an ISA-only motherboard and play *some* 3d accelerated games and apps.
One nice aspect of such a card is the idea of flipping a switch or running a utility and switching from CGA/EGA/VGA/Herc. It would help software development so I wouldn't have to swap out cards or set up a separate system to test new code on. If it had multihead capability, like that one old Matrox card, so you could run a two-display system, that would be useful, as well.

I also very much like the idea of the GPIO breakout. For awhile I've been wanting some form of GPIO board for ISA PCs. Main idea I have is connecting to LEDs, switches and displays on a custom-or-customized case.
Also such a board might be usable with homebrew, custom-built CNC machinery.

Another idea, which probably isn't possible, is an FPGA-based accelerator card. Operate your PC normally, then flip a switch and reboot and it's running much, much faster. Like maybe turning an 8088 into a 486 or Pentium. With, of course, the limitations of the ISA bus. One application would be to ensure compatibility with older software. You can cruise along on a "486", then when you get an old piece of software or game, you can switch back to "native" mode.

I know some people may criticize this idea with "might as well run an emulator"... well, one of my fantasies is to make my daily driver computer a 486 or a Pentium running dos, and maybe multibooting into some old flavor of Linux or BSD. And not run on modern hardware that I increasingly distrust.

Another possible card, maybe, is a dedicated encryption card. So it would handle SSL handshakes, allowing you to use legacy software/hardware on modern sites. One of my other fantasies for years has been modifying Arachne to somehow handle SSL so I could visit modern websites. My most recent ideas involve running a proxy on a modern Linux box. Not only could an ISA encryption card provide SSL for web access, but ssh for shelling onto Linux and other systems from older PCs.

Going at it from the other end, an ISA and/or PCI adapter for the Raspberry Pi, so you could plug ISA/PCI cards into it. Why would anyone want to do this? I dunno. But it sounds neat to me.
Also, a Raspberry Pi-on-an-ISA card adapter that would take either a PI, or a Pi Zero, or a PI compute module, and plug it directly into your PC's ISA slots.
Again, not sure of the uses for this, but sounds neat. Or maybe simply an arduino-on-ISA card. One thing they would do is maybe give you access to the variety of sensors and controllers available for the PI/arduino.

I've seen PCI-e ISA adapter cards, and I really liked the idea except pricing. Basically a backplane you can plug ISA cards into, that connects to a PCI-e slot.

oh! One card I would like is an MPU-401 card. Definitely. Even as part of a sound card.

Reply 62 of 86, by Hamby

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Another ISA card idea, a lot more esoteric... would be an Amiga bridge adapter.
It could be anything from a bridge that connects zorro side to the isa side, like a "dumb" Bridgeboard, so you could, for example, stick an ISA vga or ethernet card in an Amiga 2k,3k,4k.
Or it could be very smart, with the FPGA and all, and be a bridge card that not only emulated a PC (Pentium level, even) but provided VGA graphics with acceleration and ethernet connectivity for the Amiga side, maybe even with IDE support. That's dreaming on the extreme side, though.

(I would *love* such a card for my A3000...)

Reply 63 of 86, by dumpsterac1d

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A Lot to reply to -

First, the Tseng ET4k is just an example of what people could do given a powerful enough FPGA and some dedication. That being said, Herc cards for VLB are more expensive than anyone here gives them credit for. If someone wants to sell me a VLB Herc with 2mb VRAM for under 130, please do. I'll buy next Friday.

The price of FPGAs was supposed to go down. Cyclone 5 has been in the environment for a long time relatively speaking, and with the backing of Intel I would have assumed fabrication would accelerate and price would decrease. The real issue is of course, the 3-year-long disease which has destroyed a lot of what we conventionally understand about parts availability, limiting probably to a good extent the Cyclone 5 manufacturers' ability to deliver product. They bumped UP the price of DE-10 boards, even. It also has a similar effect, as people dealing with parts shortages for products ended up using more powerful FPGAs in their designs because they needed to rely on fewer dyed ICs from various manufacturers. So the combination of the inability to ship product out to distributors and then an increased demand since covid has kept "bigger/faster" FPGAs (like a cyclone 5) in the higher price category. They were never dirt cheap and probably never will be, however ...

It's worth it to note that there are already tons of FPGAs out there in retro computing/retro gaming, in products that cost *less* than their real-deal counterparts. There has been for years and it's going to increase hand over fist once the world figures its shit out. The only thing I see making that trend even better is developing a modular, community-oriented, open source FPGA board that attaches to PCI and/or ISA 16. There are already retro PC enthusiasts programming FPGAs (the MiSTer project alone is a huge example of this), there is a clear need for a myriad of tools from the community, from network adapters, video cards, things with modern i/o, things that have never existed or were so rare that it's impossible to find in 2022, I mean look at all the ideas in this thread. If there's even a chance that we get any of this it'd be if more than half the fabrication work is done by a community project developing an open source backbone by which their ideas can attach to.

There's also a consideration to be paid for the price of a non-cyclone5 FPGA. I think a lot of the thoughts on price here are based off what's required by MiSTer and not what's required to sufficiently run a single component. It may well be that a cyclone 3 might be good enough for most i/o based projects dealing with a slow 16-bit bus. I'm not an expert, but a 40 dollar FPGA chip in a board that enables a large amount of the ideas here to be executed in theory seems like a good deal. Especially if the host board is around $150 or possibly more.

Reply 64 of 86, by rasz_pl

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@Hamby ISA bus Voodoo in a 486 would not be able to accelerate anything to a playable state. 3dfx only speeds up rasterization, all the geometry still runs on the cpu (fpu to be exact unless late drivers with SSE/3dnow). But I agree this is the right direction if we want cheaper interesting hardware for vintage computers. Universal ISA/PCI board ala MiSTer so anyone can implement rare/esoteric hardware from back in the day is definitely a way to go.

Apparently https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spectrum … um-next-issue-2 did a respin from cheap Spartan 6 to much more expensive Artix 7 due to chip shortages.

https://github.com/q3k/chubby75 is a great low cost alternative riding of economies of scale (LED panels is huge business in China) $25 for good size FPGAs with banks of 245 ttl translation and 8-16MB sdram already on board with long term availability.

Reply 65 of 86, by douglar

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Instead of using an FPGA chip, how much could you do if you mounted a Raspberry pi on an ISA card?

You could probably use it to present USB storage, USB mouse, and wireless internet as a collection of serial ports. Performance might not be the best but it would be the most compatible.

This guy used a rasberry pi to emulate a floppy with a custom int13 hander
http://www.smbaker.com/raspberry-pi-virtual-f … -xtat-computers

Feeding VGA emulation and Sound emulation out the HDMI port would be a lot harder, but maybe not impossible:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7Lov_MH6n8

Reply 66 of 86, by Sphere478

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dkarguth wrote on 2019-02-07, 05:20:
I was pondering the idea of designing a brand new line of ISA cards to retrofit into old PCs. Things along the lines of: - A v […]
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I was pondering the idea of designing a brand new line of ISA cards to retrofit into old PCs.
Things along the lines of:
- A video card that used an FPGA to emulate VGA/EGA/CGA/MDA graphics, settable either by dipswitches on the card or a software utility, that has an HDMI output rather than a VGA. Since an FPGA would essentially completely replicate the functionality of the original VGA/MDA/CGA/EGA cards, it would be able to be 100% compatible with the video cards of the era.
- An 8 bit USB controller that supports hot-pluggable USB mass storage devices such as flash drives, and possibly includes a virtual COM port so that a USB mouse would appear as a generic microsoft serial mouse to DOS.
- A modern network card with integrated wifi
- A card that emulates a Gameport, but connects to Xbox/PS4/Bluetooth controllers to provide wireless controllers
- A card that uses an FPGA to completely emulate a Commodore 64 and use the PC keyboard and display. Onboard SID chip with audio pass-thru, a commodore serial port on the back to connect authentic commodore accessories, and a simulated serial link in between the PC and the Commodore to facilitate file transfers.
- A standalone commodore serial card that lets DOS treat the commodore disk drives as a normal floppy drive, or use a commodore printer as a normal printer.

I am not planning on any PCI cards at the moment, mostly because many of these things already exist on PCI cards. These are some things that were never available on ISA cards.
None of them have been designed yet, these are just general ideas.

If anyone feels like suggesting something that they would like to see in a new ISA card, that would be well received as well.

Note: Mods, if this comes off as too close to advertising, just message me and I'll happily remove it. That is not my intention. I'm not trying to sell anything, I am just curious to see if there would be any interest in this area.

I would be interested in new inproved versions. Like faster or better than old versions, especially cool looking ones, gold I/O and colored pcb

Sphere's PCB projects.
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Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
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SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
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Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 67 of 86, by debs3759

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Sphere478 wrote on 2022-01-23, 22:18:

I would be interested in new inproved versions. Like faster or better than old versions, especially cool looking ones, gold I/O and colored pcb

I'd pay a premium for cards with a psychedelic colour scheme 😀

See my graphics card database at www.gpuzoo.com
Constantly being worked on. Feel free to message me with any corrections or details of cards you would like me to research and add.

Reply 68 of 86, by Sphere478

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debs3759 wrote on 2022-01-23, 22:22:
Sphere478 wrote on 2022-01-23, 22:18:

I would be interested in new inproved versions. Like faster or better than old versions, especially cool looking ones, gold I/O and colored pcb

I'd pay a premium for cards with a psychedelic colour scheme 😀

It seems like we have the ability to make better cards these days also.

Like pci chipsets using isa to pci bridges

Better deaigned sound and video cards

Heck, what about a voodoo isa video card with dual dvi hmmm?

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 69 of 86, by BitWrangler

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8/16 bit ISA to M2 SSD. 😉

DDR 4 to 30 Pin SIMM convertor.

ISA MP4, H.264, H.265 etc hardware codec.

ISA PhysX card

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 70 of 86, by debs3759

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Sphere478 wrote on 2022-01-24, 00:02:

Heck, what about a voodoo isa video card with dual dvi hmmm?

ISA bus might just cope with dual single-link DVI, but not dual-link DVI. I may be wrong though, but I don't think ISA would do avy Voodoo card justice. Would be a fun project for someone though 😀

See my graphics card database at www.gpuzoo.com
Constantly being worked on. Feel free to message me with any corrections or details of cards you would like me to research and add.

Reply 71 of 86, by rmay635703

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debs3759 wrote on 2022-01-24, 02:13:
Sphere478 wrote on 2022-01-24, 00:02:

Heck, what about a voodoo isa video card with dual dvi hmmm?

but I don't think ISA would do avy Voodoo card justice. Would be a fun project for someone though 😀

VLB Might though

Reply 72 of 86, by rasz_pl

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rmay635703 wrote on 2022-01-24, 03:18:
debs3759 wrote on 2022-01-24, 02:13:
Sphere478 wrote on 2022-01-24, 00:02:

Heck, what about a voodoo isa video card with dual dvi hmmm?

but I don't think ISA would do avy Voodoo card justice. Would be a fun project for someone though 😀

VLB Might though

Watch some videos showcasing 486 with PCI 3dfx and tell me you want this 😀. With Am5x86 160MHz you can look forward to 2-5 frames in Unreal for example. Best cpu for 3dfx on a 486?
To see usable gains you would have to additionally patch glide shim offloading geometry calculations to your external custom hardware(ancient take on T&L). Once you are offloading glide why not offload even more, like Douglas Little did in Quake port to Atari Falcon even pushing BSP traversal to Motorola DSP https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNs6Jw … 3Ww_M5nMm10m0UM Soon enough we are talking Ship of Theseus just to play games that run flawlessly on $100 worth of Pentium2-3 hardware.

Doesnt mean there arent more realistic targets. Custom FPGA ISA/PCI card would enable implementing perfect zero delay VGA core achieving peak theoretical transfer speeds in all graphical modes. FastDoom development revealed some interesting particularities in different implementations. For example ViTi95 (re)discovered(1) even the fastest VGA cards around get even faster if you switch from 13h to VESA despite using same resolution, memory organization and access patterns.

Re: FastDoom. A new Doom port for DOS, optimized to be as fast as possible for 386/486 personal computers!

*1 M13speed was a tool exploiting this fact back in the day: 'M13SPEED speeds up your Trident 9440/96xx's MCGA (320x200 256-color) performance'

Reply 73 of 86, by jskyboo

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rmay635703 wrote on 2022-01-24, 03:18:
debs3759 wrote on 2022-01-24, 02:13:
Sphere478 wrote on 2022-01-24, 00:02:

Heck, what about a voodoo isa video card with dual dvi hmmm?

but I don't think ISA would do avy Voodoo card justice. Would be a fun project for someone though 😀

VLB Might though

New VLB cards would be pretty cool.

Reply 74 of 86, by Shreddoc

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Like many things, sounds fun, and awesome in principle. Some magical device, possibly or possibly-not called The Wildcard (geddit?), which can be 'flashed' as a Gravis Ultrasound one day and an SBPro2 the next. Etc. Etc. Working similar in principle to the way the MiSTer loads cores of all kinds of computers and consoles, while translating user inputs and outputs through standard interfaces.

All we need now, is the one-in-a-million full-stack computing genius with the spare time and the inclination to make it a Thing. Again, "like many things". 😒 - Having the idea is about One Billionth of the work, and probably the easiest part.

Reply 75 of 86, by digger

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The common suggestion, a sufficiently powerful yet affordable FPGA on an ISA card, has already been mentioned by several people here.

I have something different in mind: an ISA USB Card. But not just any ISA USB card. An "intelligent" one that exposes the USB devices you plug into its backplate as typical DOS-compatible devices.

So for instance, if you plug in a USB mass storage device, such as a USB thumb drive, it becomes visible to the host system as a SCSI device. If you plug in a USB sound device, it becomes visible to the host system as a Sound Blaster compatible sound card. (Perhaps even with the card handling OPL2/OPL3 emulation and piping the FM music to the USB sound device as digital audio, along with the sound routed from the emulated DAC.) If you plug in an USB MIDI adapter, the host system sees it as an MPU-401 compatible MIDI interface at port 330h. If you plug in a USB floppy drive, the host sees it as an IBM PC compatible floppy drive. A USB to 15 pin joystick adapter would allow games to see any attached joysticks as if they were directly connected to a PC-compatible joystick port. (Better still: expose modern USB game controllers in the same way!) If you plug in a USB CD-ROM drive, it will be seen by the host as a SCSI CD-ROM drive. And so on.

USB mice would be exposed as serial mice connected to a newly added serial port. Keyboards might be a bit trickier, since even older motherboards back in the day had an integrated keyboard controller. Perhaps add an additional port at the back of the card to allow a DIN or PS/2 loopback cable to link the keyboard port of the host system to this intelligent USB ISA card, and then have the card bridge the input from an optionally attached USB keyboard to that host port?

Such a card would allow USB devices to be used with an MS-DOS era retro PC and with existing software from the era, without the the need of porting a USB stack to DOS, and/or having to patch any applications or games to work with such a USB stack.

It seems complex, but basically you just need a microcontroller to function as a bridge between any such USB devices and the proper I/O ports on the host PC. The emulation could then be handled in software (running on the microcontroller, not the host). For devices that would require DMA on the PC side, such as sound devices and floppy drives, it would be somewhat more complex to implement, but not impossible.

Reply 76 of 86, by Shreddoc

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A USB-to-legacy protocol converter. Also a not-uncommon idea. e.g. It basically exists, for controllers (USBanything-to-Gameport) : saw a roundup video about the new product doing it, in just the last month, but can't recall offhand exactly where I saw it.

Translating those principles direct to the ISA bus isn't a stretch at all. Nor would Mass Storage necessarily be that complex, or MIDI stream. However I too suspect that, as mentioned, implementation of 'general sound devices' might be rather more of a muck-around, given the much greater complexity of the protocols involved.

Reply 78 of 86, by Shreddoc

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Functionally speaking, USB4VC (on kickstarter, and recently looked at by LGR) is the device which basically aims to be "this", but only for game controllers, keyboards and mice.

It does not use the ISA bus specifically - but the ISA bus has been worked out a long time ago.

Likewise, the ability to cheaply and ubiquitously work with USB hosts has been worked out a long time ago, by way of devices like the Pi and Arduino.

So, the USB4VC an already working proof-of-concept that a generalised "USB Host -> Protocol Convert To Legacy" is not only do-able, but happening already in some senses. Again, not in the specific ISA-card sense, but knowledge of ISA is not what is holding anything back here.

Almost everything asked-for above already exists - could theoretically be bolted together from work already done by various projects - EXCEPT the sound card stuff (a la "let your retro PC use any USB sound device as though it were an ISA Sound Blaster, including possibly OPL2/3") which, as previously mentioned, is in a whole different league to everything else posited. And, without wanting to offend anyone, imho that particular function would anyway be too niche to bother with the huge effort it would take. I am not interested in using USB sound devices with my retro PCs. There are so many other options before I would resort to that, personally.

Reply 79 of 86, by rasz_pl

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Shreddoc wrote on 2022-03-02, 06:24:

by way of devices like the Pi and Arduino.

pi yes, arduino no unless all you want is HID or serial

Shreddoc wrote on 2022-03-02, 06:24:

So, the USB4VC an already working proof-of-concept that a generalised "USB Host -> Protocol Convert To Legacy"

at that point you can just remove PC altogether and run dosbox on the pi 😀

Shreddoc wrote on 2022-03-02, 06:24:

Again, not in the specific ISA-card sense, but knowledge of ISA is not what is holding anything back here.

Its not "knowledge of ISA" that is the problem, but strict bus timing requirements forcing use of FPGA unless you are willing to write software support from scratch (then dual ported SRAM will suffice)

There is a difference between:

-connecting PI in some standard way like serial/PS2/keyboard/gameport and emulating standard devices. This is easy and pi is huge overkill.

-connecting PI in non standard way like LPT/dual ported ram. This requires custom software on the PC, devices interfaced thru PI wont "just work" in DOS programs. For example http://www.smbaker.com/raspberry-pi-virtual-f … -xtat-computers

-fully emulating devices on the ISA Bus level (register/memory map) transparently to the PC and DOS programs.