VOGONS


First post, by RJDog

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

So a while ago I salvaged some old Cisco PIX ("Classic", ca. 1996-97) appliances from an old storage room at work. Didn't think much of them until I opened them up and found it's actually PC hardware, a PPro 200Mhz, on Intel VS440FX motherboard. Very cool find.

Anyway, there was no traditional storage in them, only a floppy drive (with Cisco-branded disk inserted) and this friendly looking ISA card which I can only assume is some sort of flash storage device. I'm guessing that the OS boots off the floppy and configuration is stored on this flash card. Or maybe the other way around.

Anyway, I can't find any information on this card to either confirm or deny it is in fact flash storage, nor how I might be able to use it myself for something useful. When I install it in an ISA slot on a PC, the PC refuses to boot. Same in the PPro system it came out of. Maybe this one is defective..?

Any information you fine folks can provide would be greatly appreciated, if only to satisfy my curiosity.

Attachments

  • 20181011_101601.jpg
    Filename
    20181011_101601.jpg
    File size
    1.62 MiB
    Views
    619 views
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception

Reply 1 of 5, by cyclone3d

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

It is a flash based card.
Here is one for sale:
https://the620guy.com/product/productivity-en … ter-flash-card/

And here is some info about it - look under the Hardware part of the page:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisco_PIX

A bit of information about the card itself on pages 7-18 through 7-20 in this manual:
https://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/security/pix … n/guide/535.pdf

Not sure if it is actually the 16MB model as they don't actually show a picture. Look up the numbers on the 4 identical socketed chips and that should tell you what the capacity is.

It is a proprietary card, so not sure if changing the jumpers would make any difference. Guessing there is no way to use it outside of the appliance it came in.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header

Reply 2 of 5, by dr.ido

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

The flash chips are 4Mbit/512kb each, so it's a 2MB card. The 5th smaller chip is the BIOS. On generic versions of these cards the BIOS allows the flash memory to appear as either a floppy drive or hard drive that the PC could boot off. Most of these kinds of cards that I have seen in the past were in PC based embedded controllers that ran DOS. You'd boot from the card, the custom software would start from AUTOEXEC.BAT and the machine it was connected to ran. If you quit to DOS the contents of the card would appear as a write protected drive A: or C:. They were used for reliability - less likey to fail in harsh conditions than a hard disk or floppy drive.

The BIOS on this card may be specific to CISCO and may not boot in the normal way. Another thing to consider is that many embedded devices do not have a video card or display - they will boot without initialising a video card so you will get nothing on screen.

Reply 3 of 5, by RJDog

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
dr.ido wrote:

The flash chips are 4Mbit/512kb each, so it's a 2MB card.

Hm... not large enough to do anything super useful, really...

dr.ido wrote:

On generic versions of these cards the BIOS allows the flash memory to appear as either a floppy drive or hard drive that the PC could boot off.

. Interesting... if I had to guess I would say they would emulate a hard drive, given the presence of a traditional floppy drive.

dr.ido wrote:

If you quit to DOS the contents of the card would appear as a write protected drive A: or C:.

Yeah, reading the spec sheet for the memory chips, its prerty clear that these are not designed to be a read/write storage, but read-only, in a write-once (or few), ready-many kind of configuration... like a BIOS EEPROM.

dr.ido wrote:

Another thing to consider is that many embedded devices do not have a video card or display - they will boot without initialising a video card so you will get nothing on screen.

This is a good point... the PIX's did not have any kind of display adapater so maybe it simply didn't use them, hence the appearance it's not booting? May have to experiment a bit. They should output something on the first serial interface...

That all said, these cards are obviously not going to be all that useful to me as is. Are 256kB EEPROM chips useful to keep?

Reply 5 of 5, by stamasd

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

I have a couple of similar cards, probably from a later generation. They have Intel surface-mount flash chips on them, and had DOS preinstalled (together with some programs which were specific for the systems they came from presumably) when I got them a few years ago from ebay. They appear as HDDs to the BIOS, and the cool part is that they are in fact writable - I have since replaced the version of DOS that was originally on them with another one. They aren't very big (one is 4MB, the other 8MB) but enough to for a basic OS and a few utilities. They are useful for diagnostic: just plug it in an ISA slot and you can boot the computer straight off it.

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