View Full Version : Interested but where to start?

March 18th, 2011, 12:56 PM
I guess starting with the backplane/motherboard id prefer to go with new either build it from parts/kit or maybe ready to go.

What are my options?

March 18th, 2011, 02:58 PM
What's your skill level? There are projects out there (both S-100 and otherwise) that can be slapped together by someone with some electronics experience and minimal tools. A fairly active project to check is:


The guys in this group designed a Z-80 based system using Eurocard's, but, they also have begun working on S-100 versions of their cards in collaboration with S-100 Computers (http://www.s100computers.com/), which is one of my favorite S-100 sites, and the guy who runs it, John Monahan, is a true genius. Those two sites are great starting places.

Some other great reading:
Herb's S-100 Stuff: http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/s100.html
Altairkit.com, this guy is redesigning the MITS Altair into a new kit, very cool: http://www.altairkit.com/diffcompare.html
Harte Technologies S-100 Manual Archive: http://www.hartetechnologies.com/manuals/
gaby's page, with good CP/M stuff: http://www.gaby.de/ecpm.htm

Again, it would be helpful to know what your skill level is and what you would like to accomplish.

Hope this helps,

March 18th, 2011, 05:07 PM
Well first thanks for your reply and the links , some are new to me and some are not.

My skill level : Electronics hobbiest since I was a early teen , i'm 47 now , radios and a few other projects but mostly building and repairing p.c's as a hobby .
Plenty of operating system experience , mostly other than windows.
1 year of college for a electronics tech degree.
ZERO programming skills unless you count making several web sites and playing around with HTML .

What I want: is the same as my other projects the stuff I wanted as a teen and into my early 20's that I could not afford. Take my Compaq 8086 deskpro as an example I could have never afforded it as it sits now when it was new.
So now want a "new" s-100 system to play around with just like I wanted as a teen looking at the ads in the electronics mags.

March 18th, 2011, 06:06 PM
If you want a vintage s-100 system, try to find one built in the early 80's, these will be more reliable. It's hard to start off with the IMSAI or Altair, they're too flakey.

March 19th, 2011, 05:44 AM
This is the exact same reason that I got back into S100 systems now at 43 years old. When I was a kid, I could barely afford my Timex/Sinclair 1000, but, I would drool over S100 boxes advertised in Byte magazine and places like that.

Now that I can afford the stuff, I try and purchase something whenever money becomes available. Also, frankly, I find modern day computers to be boring and cookie cutter.

I would suggest ebay I guess. The only problem there is that you never know what you are going to get. I am often shocked and amazed by how poorly people take care of their stuff and how "as-is due to age" is abused to peddle junk. This is why I would suggest building it yourself unless you can get hardware from a reliable source.

March 19th, 2011, 10:35 AM
Klee, welcome! From how you describe yourself you should have no problem working with new or old S-100 boards. As billdeg mentioned it's best to stay away from early S-100 boards. They tend to be slow and somewhat manufacturer specific. The key thing is to see if they are listed as “IEEE-696 compatible”. While this does not assure you of an easy ride it will eliminate many early issues.

As to new or old, it really depends what you want out of the system. If you want to reproduce a true 30+ year old original system there are many very reasonable prices S-100 boards on eBay. Just scan “Vintage Computing” S-100 and S100. This I look upon this approach as with people that like to collect/repair vintage cars. Fun and very rewarding.

If however you want to build a more modern system but still base it on the S-100 bus structure (according to IEEE-696 specs etc.) then you might consider the N8VEM/S100Computers boards. This is a growing collection both of boards and people. Starting with a 10 slot motherboard, 10MHz Z80 CPU, 4Mg Static RAM, EEPROM, System Monitor board, PIC/RTC boards, IDE Disk/CF card and now a FDC board. There are a number of other prototype boards in the works. A Propeller driven VGA video board, a 68000 CPU board, and an 8086 board to name a few. These bare boards typically run about $40 each. However I must stress is just a hobby by those involved. We try and help get others started but there are absolutely no guarantees. Andrew Lynch at N8VEM is doing a fantastic job of coordinating this now growing large effort.

Longer term we will have an 80286, 80386, probably SBC Pentium, 68020 as well as ARM and Propeller CPU driven systems – along with their corresponding operating systems. One nice thing about the S-100 bus is you can have many CPU’s in the same bus in a “Master/Slave” arrangement.

To ease yourself into such a system you might want to start with an “old S-100” system and step by step upgrade. I’m always reluctant to suggest this because many times these old board create more problems than they help but at least you are “on the air” – and so should consider it.
Again welcome.
John (www.S100Computers.com)
Goshwak1 – thanks for the kind comments. Far from a genius – just persistent!