Image Map Image Map
Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: PC2086 advice

  1. #1

    Default PC2086 advice

    I've been looking for an 8086 based machine to relive some nostalgic memories of my Amstrad PC1512, but also thinking about some EGA and AdLib stuff.

    An Amstrad PC2086 popped up on eBay: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/113858664...1&isGTR=1#shId

    The fault is the well known keylock issue that should be fixable. My main concern is if this machine is any good for what I want.

    It's VGA with claimed CGA/EGA compatibility. The internal video can be disabled and a proper EGA/CGA card installed it seems.

    The other big issue seems to be that the internal HDD controller is duff, meaning you need a hard card which leaves only one ISA slot free.

    At least the power supply isn't in the monitor, and that display can presumably be used with other machines or replaced as needed.

    Thoughts? It's cheap but maybe not what I want.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Bristol, UK
    Posts
    159

    Default

    I used to have one of these in my collection several years ago. Not a bad machine actually and wish I'd held onto it.

    The keylock on these is a joke - unlike most it doesn't physically lock the case shut, so you just need to whip the top off and disconnect it. Then no more keylock!

    The VGA chipset is pretty good and backwards compatibility with CGA/EGA will be as good as any other VGA chipset. I wouldn't worry about stepping down to a real CGA unless you particularly want composite mode. For one thing it will spoil the look of the system since this example still has the original monitor which fits into the top of the case. The display is a standard VGA monitor and can swapped or used for other machines.

    Bear in mind also that these carry over Amstrad's weird proprietary keyboard and mouse interface from the earlier machines. If the mouse doesn't work you can easily swap out for a serial mouse but if anything happens to the keyboard you are stuck.

    If you want to run Windows on it this will only work in CGA mode unless you replace the CPU with a V30.

    This is a PC2086D which indicates it was sold as a twin floppy, no hard drive system. I don't believe it has an internal (ie on-board) hard drive controller. Although Amstrad sold a PC2086/30 model which had a 30MB RLL disk mounted in a drive bay, I believe this still used an ISA card in an expansion slot as with the PC1512/1640. For aftermarket upgrading it was far more common to fit a hard card and of course now you could always use an XT-IDE. Either way if you want a hard disk it will cost you a slot.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the small number of ISA slots on these. All basic functionality is on board, so if you fitted a hard drive controller/SSD solution of some sort and added an Adlib card you will still have one slot free. What else would you want to fit into it?. One option which I've started to swear by for mass storage is to get a parallel port zip drive and a copy of PalmZip. Then get a second USB zip drive to connect to your modern PC. Then you can simply use a zip disk as the 'hard disk' for the classic PC (It will even be drive C: if you have no other hard drive installed) and easily move files to and from it using the USB drive in the modern PC.

    You will still need to boot from disk (although you can put a copy of COMMAND.COM on the zip disk and change the COMSPEC to point to it, then once booting is completed the disk isn't required for further operation) and it's not as fast as a real hard drive (although not that much slower than many drives of the time were anyway) but it works, is very convenient and very cheap.
    Last edited by cwathen; August 19th, 2019 at 04:46 AM.

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks, that's a really good idea about the ZIP drive. I was wondering about how I would get stuff on and off the machine, and not looking forward to using 720k floppies to do it.

    No interest in Windows, only GEM. But this reminded me of another issue with VGA monitors - they are too sharp. They don't look right for CGA/EGA.

    I may well do the V30 upgrade. Part of me wonders if a 286 might even be better - although my original machine has an 8086 it was really too slow for a lot of games. Everything from Double Dragon 2 to Monuments of Mars, it was showing it's age even then. I had Hard Drivin and it ran at 1 fps, no exaggeration. EGA monitors are not easy to come by though.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Bristol, UK
    Posts
    159

    Default

    I agree with CGA looking best on a CGA monitor (I think we've had this conversation before?) but never felt there was a huge issue with EGA on VGA (particularly since it is only a basic 640x480 monitor here).

    There is (as I suspect you know) a 286 and a 386 version of these machines which are much more capable. It really just depends on what you want to do, although this is a pretty good tidy example (assuming it works once the keylock is disconnected).

    The 2086 with it's VGA graphics, 3 1/2" disks and enhanced layout keyboard appears much more advanced than the 1512/1640 models but it's no more powerful than they were and likely will disappoint on a lot of EGA/VGA games (if you can even find any VGA games to run properly on an 8086). It was likely produced only so that Amstrad could market a VGA capable range starting at a specific price point, and they anticipated that most would go for 286/386 models. The only real advantage to going for this over a 1512/1640 is being freed from needing a specific CRT monitor to go with it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Principality of Xeon (NJ)
    Posts
    1,208

    Default

    If you want to dangle a zip drive off the machine, you're other option is a parallel port scsi adapter. Can't speak to how well it works, for although I have one, I don't have a zip drive not a working vintage machine with a p port currently.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Fairfield, Ohio
    Posts
    418

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kuro68k View Post
    I may well do the V30 upgrade. Part of me wonders if a 286 might even be better - although my original machine has an 8086 it was really too slow for a lot of games. Everything from Double Dragon 2 to Monuments of Mars, it was showing it's age even then.
    Will a 286 even fit in a socket designed for an 8086 or V30?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Bristol, UK
    Posts
    159

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Casey View Post
    Will a 286 even fit in a socket designed for an 8086 or V30?
    Well it won't fit this one. Amstrad made a 286 version, I assume that's what OP meant.

  8. #8

    Default

    Yeah, trying to decide if I want an 8086 or a 286. I had an 8086 back in the day but many of the games seemed to struggle on it. But then again a 286 may be too fast for some of them. I'm not really interested in 386 and above.

    Maybe the best thing would be to get a an 8086 with CGA as a starting point. EGA is just such a pain with the need for a 21kHz monitor (or multisync).

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •