VOGONS


First post, by Lomax

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Hi all!

Registered here since I'm about to build my first ever retro gaming system; I stumbled upon a really cute "EBX" format (146x203mm) PIII Coppermine board and couldn't resist it 😀 It's basically the same footprint as a 5 1/4" drive, and I'm planning to build my own case for it with a CD-ROM and floppy. The board is an industrial single board computer from Arcom (defunkt) called "Olympus", and all I've managed to find out about it is in the datasheet (the manual has sadly not been archived by the WayBackMachine). I know it has a Via VT82C686B southbridge, which I've verified does support Sound Blaster emulation (through the VIAAUDIO.COM & VIAFMTSR.COM TSRs). I also know it has a reasonably nice S3 Savage4 3D graphics controller on board, and further expansion possibilities via a PCI slot and a PC/104 slot. I do not know for sure what northbridge it has though; this is covered by a heat sink in the photos, and it's not mentioned in the datasheet. Since I haven't got the board yet I'm unable to check myself, but I would like to get a stick of PC133 SDRAM to populate its single RAM slot before it arrives, so I can test it out straight away. My question is though, what is the maximum stick size this board is likely to handle? I know the datasheet says 512Mb max, but looking at the possible northbridge candidates (Apollo Pro 133, ProSavage PM133, PLE133, etc) they all say 1-2Gb. Any chance I could get away with putting a 1Gb stick in there?

Edit: I'd also be interested to hear your general opinions about this board; what would you suggest I put in the PCI slot? And what about the PC/104 capability? How do I figure out the pinouts for the breakout headers?

Edit 2: Adding a photo of the board

Arcom Olympus.png
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Reply 2 of 7, by PC Hoarder Patrol

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Welcome to VOGONS

Probably 512MB limit per memory slot (all my 1GB SDRAM sticks are Registered ECC rather than unbuffered)

Think the 133T (Tualatin) chipsets are Trident Blade rather than S3 Savage IGP, so most likely is ProSavage

Reply 3 of 7, by Lomax

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Thank you! I managed to get hold of a full manual for the board thanks to a helpful soul at Eurotech (who bought out Arcom many years ago) - it includes pin-outs for all the headers and lots of other useful information. It says the board has a VT8604 northbridge (Via Apollo PL133), so no (native) Tualatin support and no 1Gb RAM stick support (I think you can get non-ECC 133 SDRAM sticks with 1Gb size, but they're rare and expensive). Never mind, 512Mb should be plenty for DOS & Win98SE! But what about a Tualatin with adapter board, would one of those work?

Thrilled to see some other good things in the manual, such as

  • the secondary IDE channel goes to a CompactFlash slot on the back of the board
  • dual floppy support (some BIOSes are neutered to just one)
  • UDMA ATA100 IDE (could have been 66)
  • built in 4W audio amplifier (I'll probably add internal speakers to the case)
  • 4x AGP S3 Savage4 (I thought this might be PCI)
  • DVI-I with analogue output (handy for a CRT without having to mess with pin header)
  • 8-bit character LCD output (Hitachi HD44780 compatible)
  • +5V ATX standby power (despite the odd looking connector)
  • output pins for network port status/activity LEDs

In all, pretty sweet considering the tiny footprint!

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Reply 4 of 7, by Lomax

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Some time later...

  • 512 Mb DDR RAM stick - check
  • McGyvered ATX power adapter cable - check
  • Re-wired P/S2 breakout cable - check
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12:15, press return (actually: short the ATX "start" pins with a pair of tweezers).

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It's alive! ALIIIIVE!

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Ok, so now what? I don't think this thing will boot from a USB stick. I don't have a floppy drive, and even if I did, I don't have any other system to plug it into to make a boot floppy. I also don't have a CD-ROM drive. I have some IDE hard drives, but no cables, and again, no way to connect to another system to make one bootable. I have an 8 GB Compact Flash card, which the Arcom board should be able to boot from (it has a CF socket on the back, IDE secondary master), but again, I don't have a CF adapter for any of my other computers. I also have a few SATA SSDs, one 80 and two 128 GB - and a SATA <> USB adapter - but to use a SATA drive I would also need an IDE <> SATA converter. I know I need to buy something, but what?

Reply 5 of 7, by Oetker

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You could try to netboot it.
http://kentie.net/article/pxe98/index.htm
Tualatin support would depend on the bios, vrm wise a board that supports coppermine should be ok, but your bios might or might not refuse.

Reply 6 of 7, by Lomax

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Oetker wrote on 2021-02-25, 22:10:

You could try to netboot it.

Wow. Something I hadn't considered. And I wouldn't need to buy anything (though I would have to make an IDC header <> RJ45 cable). I've known about PXE boot since forever, but it's not something I've ever tried. I have to say though, having looked at your link, that it seems a little too convoluted... I think I'm leaning towards getting a USB <> CF adapter, though I'm unsure what sort of performance I can expect from a CF card; maybe the 1 TB 2.5" SATA drive I have spare, via a SATA <> IDE adapter, will be a better option (I could format this via the USB <> SATA adapter I already have). Then again, I know I will want to add a CD/DVD drive, and at least a 3 1/2" floppy - one of the reasons I was interested in this board in the first place. I dunno, I'm gonna sleep on it...

Reply 7 of 7, by Warlord

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interesting choice, just get a cf reader and start from there. Ya you could net boot it, but its probably more trouble than its worth.

If it was my project I would spend a little more time getting all the adapters and what not, adding floppys and cds, nics, etc before i tried anything.