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linuxlove
December 30th, 2010, 04:51 PM
While up here in Birmingham AL for Christmas vacation, I went to a thrift store.
There was an IDS, Inc. branded computer in one of those generic AT tower cases. It was $10 and I bought it.
Inside the case, there's 16MB RAM (I think) and an AMD 586 133MHz CPU in a Socket 3 socket (the CPU is smaller than the socket however).
I'm not sure if the hard drive is any good because I don't have an AT keyboard up here. I do know it's working up to the keyboard error.

The motherboard is interesting... When I opened the case up to see what was inside, I noticed two cache chips and a COAST slot.
Taking a closer look at the cache chips, I notice something: They both say "Write-Back". Looking at the traces, they go nowhere, a sign of PC Chips. Yep, it's a PC Chips motherboard alright: http://www.redhill.net.au/b/b-96.html#fake-pci
Oh well...

But anyway, this is my latest find. Pictures coming Saturday as that's when I'm going back home.

Edit: Is this a 486? Pentium? ??? I don't know...

Unknown_K
December 30th, 2010, 05:11 PM
I have one of those motherboards, it runs fine except for being slower (no cache, BIOS reports there is). If you use a special and hard to find coast cache SIMM it will use the real cache and speed up. VLB + PCI 486 systems are not my favorite anyway.

Tetrium
December 31st, 2010, 08:41 AM
It's a 486 motherboard. The larger socket was made especially for the Pentium Overdrive CPU.

vwestlife
December 31st, 2010, 09:16 AM
I have one of those motherboards, it runs fine except for being slower (no cache, BIOS reports there is). If you use a special and hard to find coast cache SIMM it will use the real cache and speed up. VLB + PCI 486 systems are not my favorite anyway.

Mine has the COAST (Cache On A STick) module installed. It gives you 256 kB of real L2 cache, but is somewhat flakey with certain CPUs and BIOS settings. The ROM was patched to display "Write Back Cache On" when you pull out the COAST or disable the L2 cache, which of course is a lie because the onboard "Write Back Cache" chips are entirely fake. Eventually when the scam was discovered, PC Chips stopped soldering on the fake cache chips, although the go-nowhere circuit traces were still visible.

Tetrium
December 31st, 2010, 04:11 PM
Are you sure the coast is the real deal?

vwestlife
December 31st, 2010, 05:37 PM
Are you sure the coast is the real deal?

Yes, CACHECHK confirms that it does cache the RAM up to 64 MB. Any RAM above 64 MB is not cached.

linuxlove
January 1st, 2011, 12:23 PM
Pictures! My dad found a 6.1MP camera being thrown away. Works perfectly and the pictures look a lot better than the old 2.1MP camera I've been using for years.

The hard drive in this thing is sadly dead, so I don't know what was on here.

kb2syd
January 1st, 2011, 03:59 PM
Well, if you need a couple of 2 to 6 gig hard drives let me know. I've got stacks of them. Cover postage plus the paypal vig and you can have what'll fit in a flat rate box (you pick the size of box or how many you want).

linuxlove
January 1st, 2011, 06:03 PM
Percussive maintenance never hurt anything, right?
I hit the Seagate drive once with the end of a screwdriver and hey! Windows 95 is coming up! On a cacheless board it's starting and running painfully slow. Word 2000 takes even longer to start up and display a document.
Apparently this computer was used at a realty place. Looks like the last time this computer was used was in 2000.

I guess I better do the right thing and put this drive through a DBAN cycle.

Dave Farquhar
January 4th, 2011, 01:50 PM
That case sure looks familiar. I built several systems on a shoestring using those. I have no idea who made them, but they were cheap. Fairly plentiful too, as I recall. It seems like any time I needed to build a system, regardless of where I was, I could find one. I won't say it was the very cheapest case available at the time, but it had to be near the bottom.

Odd that it appears to have an NEC CD-ROM though. That seems pretty high-end compared to the rest of the system.

If I had to hazard a guess, the system probably dates to 1996-97 or thereabouts. This was fairly typical of what people would buy if a Pentium-75 was too expensive. I built a few el cheapo 486s for running DOS and Wordperfect for people, usually to replace dead or dying 386s, that looked a lot like this. AMD's 5x86-133 could run Windows 95 OK, provided it had real cache. I never tried running Word 2000 on a 486-class system. Word 97 would run adequately on them, with some tweaking.

Unknown_K
January 4th, 2011, 02:10 PM
It does look like a cheap case, but it seems to have the CPU speed LED which was popular in the 386/486 era so that is a plus. I prefer the En-Light cases used in the 486 era (have a few I purchased new and some later ones found at garage sales or recyclers), they just seem more "vintage" compared to cases that look ATX.

http://ep.yimg.com/ca/I/ramplus-2000_2134_14666608

There are also those distinctive 386 mini tower cases I can't find a good picture of at the moment.

Dave Farquhar
January 5th, 2011, 05:21 AM
Yep, it did. We always knew who the old-timers were in that era, if their speed indicator only had two digits so they had to set it to "99" when they upgraded to a 100 MHz DX4 or Pentium. :)

I agree, Enlight cases were nice. My doctor actually asked me to either stop building systems or start using cases built with heavier gauge metal, because I was cutting my hands a lot and it was causing problems. That was when I discovered them. There were a couple of other makers of nice cases, but Enlight stood out.

Unknown_K
January 5th, 2011, 02:22 PM
Enlight and later on InWin were the cases I purchased when I built a new machine. No idea what is good anymore or if anyone makes a solid case these days.

mark66j
January 5th, 2011, 02:53 PM
Enlight and later on InWin were the cases I purchased when I built a new machine. No idea what is good anymore or if anyone makes a solid case these days.

Antec cases are pretty nice and some run very quietly. For more special uses, such as home theater, Lian Li makes some really nice boxes, but some of them are very pricey.

glitch
January 5th, 2011, 03:14 PM
Antec cases are pretty nice and some run very quietly. For more special uses, such as home theater, Lian Li makes some really nice boxes, but some of them are very pricey.

Yes, the Lian Li cases are very nice! I've got one of the all-aluminum ones...picked it up cheaply on CraigsList because it's missing the power/reset switches.

I'm a big fan of the old AT full towers...of course, with the size I can only reasonably keep one around. My current one contains a 486 EISA motherboard (not much else yet), and usually acts as a pedistal to whoever's computer I happen to be working on at the time.

k2x4b524[
January 5th, 2011, 03:32 PM
pc-chips board, i have one of those, its yellow-brown in color, with the fake cache, but it's pretty snappy with 128mb and win2k. To each their own :P

kishy
January 5th, 2011, 03:36 PM
Late to the party but I have some COAST modules...PM if wanted.

k2x4b524[
January 5th, 2011, 05:22 PM
if memory serves, can someone verify, but pc-chips used a proprietary coast module, using the pentium style, will fry the board

kishy
January 5th, 2011, 06:37 PM
Oh that's lovely...good work PCChips.

I have 5-10 of them. When I still had a COAST-equipped mobo I tested some of them so I could include one that at least reflected the increased cache amount on that board when I sold it. There were one or two that didn't reflect any change in the amount of installed cache...could these be the alternate design?

I'll throw them on the flatbed scanner at some point. Regardless of the type you seek, PM if you need one, I may be able to help.

dabone
January 5th, 2011, 06:59 PM
Enlight and later on InWin were the cases I purchased when I built a new machine. No idea what is good anymore or if anyone makes a solid case these days.


I work for a computer distributor and over the years when have sold thousands of enlight cases, a few years ago, the quality of the power supplies went down hill and we switched over to supercases for a year, what a mistake. Now we sell inwin cases and they are as nice or nicer quality than the enlights we used to carry.

(To give you an idea of how long we have been at it, when we opened we sold alot of iit math coprocessors.)

Just a little know fact, all the Intel Server Pedestal cases were originally designed by enlight (And I believe they are still made by them, the layout hasn't changed in over a decade except for the harddrive bays.

later,
dabone

vwestlife
January 5th, 2011, 07:43 PM
if memory serves, can someone verify, but pc-chips used a proprietary coast module, using the pentium style, will fry the board

Correct. The manual says "128K/256K/512K/1024KB asynchronous SRAM module supported; Future will support pipeline burst SRAM module." But I've never seen one with anything larger than the 256K module, and of course the "future" pipeline burst module never came. I don't think it's even possible to use a pipeline burst L2 cache with a 486-based system(?).

Unknown_K
January 5th, 2011, 07:49 PM
So I picked decent cases then (Enlight and Inwin).

The PC-Chips M919 486 motherboard needs Async SRAM (not the more common Pipeline Burst Coast module found in Pentium 1's), from what I recall last I searched it had some specific writing on the side of the module. You will need to find the correct one and change the jumpers to enable it.

linuxlove
January 6th, 2011, 05:04 AM
Oh wow, I never expected this thread to be so popular.

But yeah, I know about the special ASync module from reading Red Hill's Computer Guide.

What's also interesting is that all I read of this board is nothing but "Throw it out" or "Unstable" or something like that.
I was playing some Quake yesterday on the machine and it never skipped a beat. Windows 95 hasn't thrown any white-box system errors, BSODs or GPF errors yet. It's been running very stable.

vwestlife
January 6th, 2011, 05:57 AM
The M919 is one of the more stable PC Chips boards, probably because 486 technology was very mature by the time it was produced. It was pretty much the last new 486 board you could easily find at computer shows in the mid-'90s.

bluethunder
January 6th, 2011, 10:25 AM
Interesting read about PC-Chips. Amazed they lasted, cause alot of what they were doing sure sounds like fraud.

Luckily, when I was young and dumb about these things in the 80s and 90s, the computer shops I dealt with only carried good quality stuff like asus and soyo.

Unknown_K
January 6th, 2011, 12:49 PM
There were quite a few companies selling the same exact boards as PC-Chips around that time.

I kind of liked M-tech for Pentium 1 boards, don't think they are still in business.

dorkbert
January 6th, 2011, 02:05 PM
So I picked decent cases then (Enlight and Inwin).

The PC-Chips M919 486 motherboard needs Async SRAM (not the more common Pipeline Burst Coast module found in Pentium 1's), from what I recall last I searched it had some specific writing on the side of the module. You will need to find the correct one and change the jumpers to enable it.If I recall correctly, around that time there was acute shortage of high speed SRAM so a lot of boards were shipped with just the DIP packaging; no silicon inside...

PeterNY
January 6th, 2011, 03:18 PM
I recollect that initially some 80486 boards ran at 50Mhz bus speed. At any rate I could only afford a cheap integrated no-name 80486 mainboard + CPU + 4MB RAM in 1993 or 1994. By luck I managed to get 8 MB in really cheap SIMMs in 1994 or 1995 because someone had mistakenly dropped a lot of 1MB SIMMs in a computer case and I was able to buy plently for a very low price.

vwestlife
January 6th, 2011, 03:23 PM
If I recall correctly, around that time there was acute shortage of high speed SRAM so a lot of boards were shipped with just the DIP packaging; no silicon inside...

Exactly. SRAM was expensive, so to offset this, low-end 486 boards often shipped with empty SRAM sockets, to let you add your own L2 cache later as you could afford it. But seeing all the empty DIP sockets looked cheap and ugly, and people knew that a board with no L2 cache would have poor performance. So thus "fake cache" was born: fake, empty SRAM chips to give the appearance of a preinstalled L2 cache, soldered directly to the board and paired with a patched BIOS, so the fraud could not be easily discovered.

Unknown_K
January 6th, 2011, 06:53 PM
DRAM and SRAM prices have been known to go up and down like crazy. I recall at one point SRAM was cheaper then DRAM and some computer maker did a 386 with no wait states using faster SRAM (or maybe it was a 286 forget). One reason from RAM prices going up was a fire at a factory in Japan I think.

wolfie
January 6th, 2011, 07:23 PM
that is why i pull the memory from all the computers i have go rid of in the past. then i always have a bit of everything if i need it. the only problem i have is i have tons of memory and it takes a long time to test it all

PeterNY
January 7th, 2011, 08:09 AM
DRAM and SRAM prices have been known to go up and down like crazy. I recall at one point SRAM was cheaper then DRAM and some computer maker did a 386 with no wait states using faster SRAM (or maybe it was a 286 forget). One reason from RAM prices going up was a fire at a factory in Japan I think.

Japan or Taiwan but I also recollect prices doubling overnight at some point.

njroadfan
January 20th, 2011, 04:46 PM
Don't knock that PC Chips M919, its a stable board if you get the right one. I had purchased one back in 1996 as a bundle deal. Oddly enough it had the AMD 5x86 133Mhz chip and 16MB of RAM. I believe the board was the latest revision as it had the non-quite COAST cache on it. I ran it from 1997-2002 as a firewall running Linux and it never skipped a beat. The board was wonky though. It refused to work with my Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428 VL-Bus video card and tech support said those cards weren't compatible. I was forced to pick up some no name brand CompUSSR special with an ArkLogic video chip (yeah, ghetto but it oddly worked great with XFree86). Another odd thing was Windows 95 never showed a Plug & Play BIOS in the device manager, even though the board should have been PnP.

EverythingIBM
January 24th, 2011, 10:35 PM
Those PC Chips mobos are rather interesting... fake cache? Hilarious! At least the designers had some humour.

Raven
February 21st, 2011, 09:14 AM
If you did a fresh install of 95 it would likely run a hell of a lot better. I'd stick to high-end DOS and Win3x stuff on there, myself. I know that sounds odd coming from me, but I only obsessively max out machines with hard limits - otherwise "replace the motherboard" is always an option. :P

Where did this thread come from, btw... it wasn't here before, and it's not brand new, so it must have been moved... but to the wrong section?

Unknown_K
February 21st, 2011, 11:23 AM
Those PC Chips mobos are rather interesting... fake cache? Hilarious! At least the designers had some humour.

The original 486 had something like 8K cache built into the CPU, the late 486 chips has 16K so not having 128-256K cache on the motherboard is not exactly going to completely kill performance. Besides on VLB systems the CPU is fighting the VLB cards over access to the memory bus wich the cache resides on anyway.

TheLazy1
February 21st, 2011, 12:34 PM
The original 486 had something like 8K cache built into the CPU, the late 486 chips has 16K so not having 128-256K cache on the motherboard is not exactly going to completely kill performance. Besides on VLB systems the CPU is fighting the VLB cards over access to the memory bus wich the cache resides on anyway.

I think we all know what needs to be done...
Now, finding my M919 board might be a bit difficult.

Unknown_K
February 21st, 2011, 05:02 PM
I have a fake cache system in the lab with a AMD 486-80 installed.

Raven
February 22nd, 2011, 10:11 AM
Unknown_K: I might know a ton about the 486 (at least I'd like to think so), but you know WAY more than me when it comes to practical application.. Thus I pose a question: I may be able to create (or participate in the creation of) a riser card for the Presario 400 series that would add up to 1MB of L2 cache to it (the chipset supports it, there just aren't any sockets for it). The box that I'd use this on runs the P24T at 84Mhz (or can run the Am5x86 at 133Mhz in an upgrade chip format), has 20MB RAM (which I may also be able to increase through modding) and a GD5420 GPU. Do you think it would make much of a difference to add the L2 to this system? The P24T has 32K of L1 cache, for reference (if you didn't know).

linuxlove
February 22nd, 2011, 10:21 AM
This thread still popular? o.o


If you did a fresh install of 95 it would likely run a hell of a lot better. I'd stick to high-end DOS and Win3x stuff on there, myself.
That's what I ended up doing. I wanted to run Windows 3.1 on this system but I could only find video card drivers for Windows 3.1, so it got Windows 95.

Unknown_K
February 22nd, 2011, 11:20 AM
Unknown_K: I might know a ton about the 486 (at least I'd like to think so), but you know WAY more than me when it comes to practical application.. Thus I pose a question: I may be able to create (or participate in the creation of) a riser card for the Presario 400 series that would add up to 1MB of L2 cache to it (the chipset supports it, there just aren't any sockets for it). The box that I'd use this on runs the P24T at 84Mhz (or can run the Am5x86 at 133Mhz in an upgrade chip format), has 20MB RAM (which I may also be able to increase through modding) and a GD5420 GPU. Do you think it would make much of a difference to add the L2 to this system? The P24T has 32K of L1 cache, for reference (if you didn't know).

A benchmark would notice it but I don't think you would. From what I read back in the day cache over 256K didn't help out much on slower FSB chips. I will look around for some information on it and hit percentage and report back if I find anything.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2896660/Basics-of-Cache

Raven
February 23rd, 2011, 04:51 AM
Cache over 256K, maybe not, but as I said - the machine currently has NO L2 at all - would adding any be worth it?

Unknown_K
February 23rd, 2011, 07:17 AM
If you can do it cheaply then yes. Thing is you can still find 486 machines cheaply if you look around enough and it might be a better idea just to get one with cache then to hack one that does not have it. The hit percentage over 256K cache doesn't realy help you out much, but having no cache will slow you down.

Raven
February 23rd, 2011, 10:57 AM
Well I have dozens of 486 boards and machines - the thing is this is an all-in-one machine and I absolutely love it's design, so I'm trying to make it the best it can be without replacing it's motherboard, since the video card is unique and plugs into the monitor directly.

I will continue to look into the cache chip and how it could be leveraged for a mod then - thank you for the input on practicality of the L2 cache use - I did read that link, BTW.