VOGONS


First post, by jewesta

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Hi Vogons!

I‘m looking for any technical documentation on a ca. 1988 IBM compatible EGA Victor V286C. I‘ve seen one on eBay (Germany) recently that had the jumpers documented on the inside of the system unit’s cover. Unfortunately the text is unreadable, the seller (whom I contacted) has deleted the original pictures and the inside of my machine is blank. 😒

https://www.ebay.de/itm/RARITAT-Victor-V286C- … AT/323883208883

There is next to nothing about this thing on the internet. I keep googling my own forum posts, which is never a good sign... 😉 Attempts at contacting the author of an old YouTube video have failed. An email to a UK museum remains unanswered.

Based on what can be seen on the auction pictures and what I gathered on the internet I recreated the jumper documentation sheet. Here‘s what I‘ve got so far.

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Any info about this machine would be much appreciated! Really grasping for straws here.

I‘m also looking for a way to enter the BIOS setup. The usual suspects like F2 etc. do not work. Maybe a DOS DEBUG command?

The machine does boot into DOS via floppy.

Thanks a lot in advance

Jens

Last edited by jewesta on 2020-01-13, 14:25. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 14, by Ivan_V

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Hello Jens!

Your post motivated me to open an account on this forum. This is my first post although I'm watching this forum for years!

Victor V286C/VGA was my first computer and I have very vivid memories of it 😀

The hardware configuration of the unit was as follows:

  • 10 MHz AMD 80286 processor & 80287 co-processor
  • 1 MB RAM
  • motherboard integrated serial & parallel port, floppy controller, Western Digital WD90C00 VGA adapter
  • bus mouse is supported as an option (empty socket for the bus mouse chip below the keyboard controller, as seen on the photo)
  • Dallas DS1287 RTC (socket below the BIOS chips, as seen on the photo)

My unit was fully populated and had an IDE HDD controller with 40 MB HDD on a card, 2 ISA memory cards (each with 2 MB RAM) and later I added Sound Blaster 2.0 card. I was running DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1 on it. I remember that I also didn't know how to enter BIOS setup, but I later discovered that pressing and holding random keys on the keyboard during memory test produced keyboard error message and then it gave the choice to enter BIOS setup. Try it!

Your post also motivated me to digitize the documentation for this machine. Attached are user manual(s) in PDF (RAR-ed because of permitted size) and a few pictures for completeness.

Enjoy,

Ivan

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Reply 2 of 14, by jewesta

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Hey Ivan!

After nothing had happened for a couple of days my expectations were pretty low. So I almost fell off my chair today when I checked VOGONS to see if there were any news. Boy, were there news! 😁

This is incredible and I thank you very, very much! What beautiful condition your machine is in. And those scans are fantastic. Also thanks for the nice pictures.

You can follow my "restauration" efforts here:

https://forum.classic-computing.de/forum/inde … 5-victor-v286c/
(Forum of a German association for the preservation of classic computers - so it's in German)

My V286C is in overall very good condition. So restauration is a bit too big of a word. Still, I need to replace some components here and there. A main concern is the hard drive. It works mechanically, but it's as if it wasn't there. I cannot access it in any way. But chances of that happening just increased exponentially! 😉 I really need to process all of this information you just gave me and see what I can do with it. This is very exciting. I really thought I had to file this Victor's case under "unsolved".

I took the liberty of uploading your brilliant scans in the forum I mentioned above, since you flagged them as Public Domain. The more the information is spread, the better, I guess.

One thing that still bothers me is that I have no way of accessing the BIOS setup. From what I gathered there is a special utility floppy disc. Do you have access to that disc (or the utility) by any chance?

Again -- thanks a ton for this! You definitely made my day.

Reply 3 of 14, by Ivan_V

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You're welcome, Jens! I am glad that you find my post useful! 😀

It is important to note that there are two manuals in the RAR archive. The smaller one (17 pages) is for V286C/VGA model and it only documents the changes between the regular model and the VGA one. The second, bigger one is for the original V286C EGA model (which you have) and it documents all of the jumpers and switches of the EGA model (including jumpers on the riser card!). From the outside of the computer on the back the only difference is the VGA connector and DS1 bank of DIP-switches (VGA model has only 4 switches vs 6 for the EGA model).

As for the original software - I unfortunately formatted all of my original Victor floppy disks when I was a kid, including the one with the setup program. 🙁
You can try the method in my initial post to enter BIOS setup (holding several random keys on keyboard during the memory test and waiting for the keyboard error to pop up and computer should then offer the choice of entering the BIOS setup or resuming; it works with my computer every time I try it). If that doesn't work for your BIOS version, then you could try to use generic BIOS setup program for DOS (attached).

Problem with not seeing the HDD is probably related to wrong CMOS settings. Again, try to change the settings with gsetup program. You can see all of the supported HDD types in Appendix F of the manual (page 125).

P.S. You can share all the info/docs/photos freely, of course!

Good luck and keep us posted!

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Reply 4 of 14, by pentiumspeed

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Might try the setting setup program that is very close to the ibm cmos set up program to store the setting by booting a dos with this program on a diskette? Even this one for phoenix bios set up program might work.

Cheers,

Reply 5 of 14, by jewesta

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Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-13, 19:49:

As for the original software - I unfortunately formatted all of my original Victor floppy disks when I was a kid, including the one with the setup program. 🙁

The stupid things we did when we were kids! 😉

Unfortunately the "random key" manoeuvre does not seem to work with my BIOS version. This is what I'm getting. I'm guessing your output looks different?

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Thank you for the generic setup tool! Unfortunately that's an experiment for another day... For that I need to get my Amstrad XT out as a bridge PC to copy the utility to a floppy.

Reply 6 of 14, by jewesta

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Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-13, 19:49:

It is important to note that there are two manuals in the RAR archiv

Yes, this is great! At first I thought the manuals might not cover all aspects of my model. But then I realized they cover all of the base EGA model plus the VGA raiser version. 👍

Your model must be a later one. The VGA doc suggests that it’s no older than 1990. Which makes sense because the general move towards VGA started thereabouts. The latest copyright on mine is 1988. What I do not understand is why yours has no RTC (empty socket, empty battery spot, no DIP switch) although it is a VGA model which surely must have been more expensive. Mine has the RTC. However the RTC chip on mine is not socketed but soldered. Strange. Did you have to make the BIOS settings all over again every time?

Mine is missing the InBus Microsoft mouse controller chip as well. For completeness’ sake I ordered one off eBay where I got it relatively cheap. I have not tried it out, because I do not have a compatible mouse... yet.

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Reply 7 of 14, by Ivan_V

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Yes, the output of my BIOS looks different. There is a line (SETUP ="F2" KEY) under the line (RESUME ="F1" KEY). So, now we can conclude that most probably your bios version (4.06A) doesn't contain the setup in ROM. I really hope that the gsetup will work! 😀

I will dump the BIOS ROMs from my motherboard (6.10A) once when I catch some time and will upload the images here. I don't know if that version will work on your computer because of older revision motherboard.

You noticed correctly, my V286C is a later one; the stamp on the motherboard reveals that it is from week 21 of 1991. My parents brought me that computer from Germany, used, as a Christmas present in 1994. They paid 400 DM for the computer + peripherals (printer, monitor, keyboard, serial mouse). The price of the same new unit in 1990 was 4450 DM without monitor/keyb./printer... 😀

The computer is currently not operational because I removed the RTC (its battery was depleted - it is standard Dallas DS1287 chip with integrated (non-removable) battery). I ordered Dallas DS12885 RTC + 32 kHz crystal + battery holder as a replacement and will soon solder/glue everything together and put back on the board. The DIP-switch bank DS1 is different between our motherboards because you have Motorola RTC with external battery and EGA card on your riser board, and the last two switches on the DS1 have something to do with that.

My suggestion is that you remove that battery from your board and install it somewhere else in the case. For now it seems in good condition, but you never know when it will start accelerating corrosion rapidly.

Thank you very much for that picture of Microsoft InPort chip! I have a Microsoft InPort card with later revision of that chip + mouse but it always seemed wrong to butcher the card and take the chip out to put it in Victor. Now I searched the ebay and found the German seller that had it, and immediately ordered the V1.1 chip! My Victor will finally be complete after all these years. Thanks!!! 😀

P.S. If remember correctly, I read somewhere that the Amiga and some Atari mice were compatible to the PC BUS mouse standard and could be used in its place, just had different connector that needs to be adapted. If someone could confirm or deny this information, it would be great...

Reply 8 of 14, by jewesta

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Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

I really hope that the gsetup will work! 😀

It does! Again: Thanks a lot. 😀 I was able to make the necessary settings like time, memory size, FDD type and HDD type. Yay!

I am struggling with the HDD though and still cannot access it. Let's hope that the thread in the other forum (in German) will turn up something. Unfortunately I do not have the time to keep both threads in sync. But I will post results (or further questions, ahem...) here.

Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

I will dump the BIOS ROMs from my motherboard (6.10A)

Thanks! I will try these in mine. Or at least I will try to try them... I have an EEPROM writer but have not really used it much except for making one or two copies.

Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

My parents brought me that computer from Germany, used, as a Christmas present in 1994. ...

For me it was an Amstrad/Schneider 1640 around 1989-90ish which I got from my father because he upgraded. At the time the Amstrad was also already outdated. But it was my first "real" PC. I used it for years and it meant the world for me. So I completely get what the V286C means to you!

Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

The computer is currently not operational because I removed the RTC

Ah, that explains it. Thanks. I was wondering.

Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

My suggestion is that you remove that battery from your board and install it somewhere else in the case.

I already have one here and will do that! It's acutally a rechargeable (NiCD) battery. It will be replaced by an otherwise identical NiMH. I will use a cable to keep it separate from the PCB.

Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

Thank you very much for that picture of Microsoft InPort chip!

You are very welcome. I just googled ther Chip's id and I probably bought it from the same seller as you. 😀

Cheers

Jens

Reply 11 of 14, by jewesta

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Ivan_V wrote on 2020-01-14, 07:39:

My suggestion is that you remove that battery from your board and install it somewhere else in the case.

I've considered doing that and had even ordered wires & plugs to be able to quickly separate the battery from the board. But then I finally decided against it and just soldered the new one in place. I just couldn't think of a "proper" way of stowing away the battery as it is really crammed in this corner of the machine. The new battery will probably be good for another couple of decades and the solder points looked like they could cope with a few more replacements. So I guess that's fine. 😀

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As you can see I replaced the broken piano dip switches as well. I'm quite happy with the result.

I must say I really like this little machine. It is nice and compact and well-built. I can see why you are so fond of yours. 😀

Cheers

Jens

Reply 12 of 14, by Ivan_V

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Hey Jens!

Thank you for the very nice job of making the jumper-settings sheet - it looks phenomenal and is ready to be printed on a sticker and put inside a case ! 😃

I also like the clean work you did with replacing the switches and battery. It sure is more risky to have the battery on the board, but looks more original that way.
Also, I have been lurking at Victor thread on German forum and saw that there is a considerable progress in data retrieval from the HDD. Thank you for the original boot disk and your BIOS images!!! 👍🏼

I got my Microsoft InPort chip from eBay days ago but unfortunately haven't had any time to play with the Victor and that is the reason I haven't dumped the BIOS chips yet. Last year I disassembled the computer to the last screw after taking the photos of it, to be able to measure the case and make the 3D model of it. My intention in the end is to make a plan (just drawings, not to cut the original case if everything is operational) for the modification of the case in case the original motherboard fails and needs to be replaced with standard Baby-AT board. The progress is very slow but with time and the right conditions, I might finish it one day...

Regards,
Ivan

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Reply 14 of 14, by jewesta

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Ivan_V wrote on 2020-02-10, 08:23:

I also like the clean work you did with replacing the switches and battery.

I made a rookie mistake, though. I looked for ages to find a piano that was a) black, b) had six switches, c) had long(!) switches and was d) configured in a way that the UP position meant ON. I finally found the one you see on the pictures. Which I had to import.

After soldering it in I realized that I had misread the DIP switch direction and that the switches are now upside down. So the documentation no longer matches. 🤦 Which is exactly what I was planning to avoid. 🙄

It's not the end of the world. But after all the effort I put into finding this one dip piano... haha, man!! 😀