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Victor V386MX

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First post, by bofh.fromhell

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Recently acqured this little gem!
And it seems to be mostly working.
With mostly I mean that the CMOS battery (DS1287) is long dead.
And the HDD will not be recognized (boots from floppy just fine).

So my question here is:
Will a dead battery prevent HDD detection?
BIOS seems to save other settings just fine until power is cycled.
The drive is a Quantum Prodrive LPS 52.
Wich seems to be period correct.
And if the HDD is dead (very likely) what would the typical size limitations be in a system of this age?
Got a fair amount of old and working IDE drives, but sizes start at 850MB and up wich seems a tad large.

Also the powersupply makes a really loud "CLACK" when powered on/off.
But no sparks, veird smells or smoke so I guess its just some relay.

The motherboard/CPU board with soldered CPU (what a pity), and a blistering 16MHz of i386 power!
All the I/O connects in the bottom left corner including an IDE controller.
Removed here is the VGA daughterboard that sits on top of everything.
It connects to a backplane thats adds 3 extra ISA slots.
And I'm assuming that the empty socket is for a math coprocessor, would adding one actually improve performance in say games? =)

SgfnAHpl.jpg

Comes with what i think is 8x1MB memory:

8BILYC0l.jpg

Reply 1 of 16, by douglar

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Cute!. That board reminds me of my 386sx 20 from 1992.

I don't think adding an FPU will help games. There weren't any 386 vintage games that used floating point. Entertainment was all integer back then. FPU's were too rare, too slow, to make coding worthwhile for most devs. Even 486 floating point wasn't fast enough to be useful for many games at the time.

Floating point didn't start to become important in entertainment until the P54C Pentiums became common.

Reply 3 of 16, by chinny22

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Will a dead battery prevent HDD detection?
Anythings possible but it shouldn't as everything else is saved till next cycle.

Typical size limitations be in a system of this age?
I would have thought cmos would have picked up the HDD if it was working. you can try the 850MB and see. I'd expect it to come back with something even if completely wrong rather then nothing at all.
Should be safe up to 500MB but maybe your lucky and it may work upto 1GB drive.

Reply 4 of 16, by rmay635703

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I don’t recommend this much on old hardware but once you get the system up and running stable with OS in tow.

You might consider an overclock.

IFF you find the system can’t run your target programs acceptably.

Something I didn’t know when I started getting outdated cheap 386sx systems in the mid to late 90’s was that some of them were very overclock friendly.
At the time I just knew that 486’s (especially sx) we’re very overclockable but never thought about the 386sx.

In any event many 386sx-40’s came right from China as a lower speed chip overclocked.

Depending on the year of your board (late 80s vrs early 90’s) you might find that your chipset is 25 or even 33mhz tolerant.
If your chip and motherboard are from the early 90’s you might be able to overclock to 20 or even 25mhz. Just make sure your ram is fast enough.

It’s obviously a risk but something to consider later on if your not super worried about damage.
Might even be fun socketing a crystal to test different speeds.

Good Luck
Ryan

Reply 5 of 16, by Anders-

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bofh.fromhell wrote:
Recently acqured this little gem! And it seems to be mostly working. With mostly I mean that the CMOS battery (DS1287) is long d […]
Show full quote

Recently acqured this little gem!
And it seems to be mostly working.
With mostly I mean that the CMOS battery (DS1287) is long dead.
And the HDD will not be recognized (boots from floppy just fine).

So my question here is:
Will a dead battery prevent HDD detection?
BIOS seems to save other settings just fine until power is cycled.
The drive is a Quantum Prodrive LPS 52.
Wich seems to be period correct.
And if the HDD is dead (very likely) what would the typical size limitations be in a system of this age?
Got a fair amount of old and working IDE drives, but sizes start at 850MB and up wich seems a tad large.

Also the powersupply makes a really loud "CLACK" when powered on/off.
But no sparks, veird smells or smoke so I guess its just some relay.

The motherboard/CPU board with soldered CPU (what a pity), and a blistering 16MHz of i386 power!
All the I/O connects in the bottom left corner including an IDE controller.
Removed here is the VGA daughterboard that sits on top of everything.
It connects to a backplane thats adds 3 extra ISA slots.
And I'm assuming that the empty socket is for a math coprocessor, would adding one actually improve performance in say games? =)

SgfnAHpl.jpg

Comes with what i think is 8x1MB memory:

8BILYC0l.jpg

The loud "clack" of the powersupply is normal, there's a metal pin moving up/down into the removable hdd bay.
Mine is a 25MHz model and I don't think the 386MX came in a faster version, one of the press-on 486 conversions might work...
I'd install a fpu regardless of whether the programs benefit from it 😀

On a sidenote, I've been curious about the victor 486MMT (similar case design, though wide enough to accomodate a cdrom) since I read about it in Bit back in '92.

Reply 8 of 16, by Horun

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There is no password reset jumper that I know of, you may have to short pins on the Dallas RTC to clear the cmos fully. The only jumpers listed for V386MX I can find are in this:

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First computer was an IBM 3270 workstation with CGA monitor. 🤣

Reply 10 of 16, by severinmazarin

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Hi!

I have a Victor 386M (without the X!) and just like Pravnuk my Victor has a password preventing me from accessing the BIOS. Any ideas about removing the password?

The motherboard lacks a Dallas chip and the BIOS is stored on an Atmel AT27C010. Removing the cmos battery (for extended periods of time) or removing/shifting nearby jumpers does not help.

Thanks!

Reply 11 of 16, by severinmazarin

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In the end I managed to work out how to reset the BIOS settings (including password). Removing the cmos battery didn't change anything. Then I started scanning the motherboard for nvram/rtc chips other than the classic Dallas. I didn't find any, although I could not find any data sheets for some of the ICs . Then I focused on the jumpers. None of the jumper blocks (probably around 15-20 or so) have any other marking than J2 or J11 etc. So it was basically a matter of trial and error trying each jumper and rebooting until I hit jackpot.

So here's the solution! There is a set of three jumper blocks on the backside corner of the cpu board, adjacent to the RAM daughterboard. The center block will reset the BIOS settings if jumpered during boot. It is the white jumper, just below the red reset button in the attached image. The only way to reach the block (or even see it!) is by removing the cpu board, or by removing the front part of the chassis.

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Reply 14 of 16, by bofh.fromhell

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So I modded the Dallas clock with an external battery and everything seems sorted.
It now correctly autodetects the "massive" 52MB HDD.
A weird quirk tho is that memory amount needs to be set manually.
And on cold boot the mem test takes several minutes.... (can be skipped tho), i suspect that 8MB is a huge overkill.

Now 2 issues remain:
1. Gotta get me a serial mouse (again), any suggestions?
2. This this is for games and needs a sound card, what would be appropriate for it? an AdLib?

Reply 15 of 16, by bofh.fromhell

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A small update with pictures:

Working perfectly, gotta love CIV:
o0jJU5Gm.jpg

A very compact design, looks way ahead of its time.
Sidepanels open like a clamshell, and everything is -very- robust.
A very well made machine, and the fact that its working 30+ years later with original hardware is a testament to that.
iSzQfxBm.jpg

Expansionslots at the bottom of the case (3x16bit free, CPU card takes one):
3InYUhYm.jpg

CPU card with added 387 (got lucky and found it in a pile of CPU's sold together as "junk") and now a modded clock chip:
rLCE4IKm.jpg

Getting quite good att modding theese now:
OLqI5t4m.jpg

A generic soundcard with an OPL3 takes care of the noises, its far to new i know but all I have ATM:
DhswybNm.jpg

Memtest takes ages, good thing you can skip it:
DhswybNm.jpg

About 2 minutes later and we are done!:
cVKGyoSm.jpg%5D

I like the setup, nu jumpers to fiddle with just all done in software.
Maths Coprocessor seems to be vorking fine, no idea how to check it tho!:
chdRsq9m.jpg%5D

16MHz baby, take it to the max!:
4WMui1Zm.jpg%5D

All in all a great little computer, its really growing on me!
Its perhaps a tad sluggish in games, maby theres some more tweaking to be done in the setup or perhaps a 16MHz SX was like this? =)
Been so long since I fiddled with stuff this old so my memory cant be trusted.

Reply 16 of 16, by matze79

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Windows 3.1 will benefit from fpu,its using it to accelerate drawing and other stuff.

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