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This forum is part of our mission to promote the preservation of vintage computers through education and outreach. (In real life we also run events and have a museum.) We encourage you to join us, participate, share your knowledge, and enjoy.

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Another recycle-center rescue...

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    Another recycle-center rescue...

    I dropped by the local computer recycler again in search of interesting things, and I came across a little 386-era minitower. (I didn't even know minitowers were a thing at this point, but then I was a Mac kid at the time.) It caught my eye for a couple reasons, aside from the fact that I was looking to grab a 386 system: it had some kind of cassette tape drive installed, a DE9-to-DB25 dongle for the serial port, and a full-length four-port Ethernet (or possibly serial-over-Ethernet?) card with a giant breakout box on the outside of the case giving four RJ45 jacks. (Crazily enough, it looks like there's space on the board for another four 16550 UARTs and associated logic! I can only imagine that somewhere out there is a breakout box even larger - and this one's already about the size of a 3.5" floppy drive, just dangling off the back of the computer...) This was very clearly not your ordinary home DOS box.

    I haven't had a chance to fully investigate yet (it won't boot, as the CMOS battery is dead,) but the tape drive is hooked to an Everex controller card. According to Wikipedia Everex not only made tape-backup systems, but also file-server software and a version of Unix; given the monster network card and the serial cable (for hooking to an admin terminal?) I'm wondering if this wasn't the central server for someone's business LAN, back in the day. I was lucky in that the recycle-center folks forgot to remove the hard drive, as they customarily do, so I have the full system on hand; I'm looking forward to drive-spelunking if I can get it booting into whatever's currently installed on it.

    The system itself doesn't look to be at all bad, either; it's based on this baby AT board, with a 33MHz Chips & Technologies Super 386 installed and some amount of cache (not sure what yet.) A maximum of 32MB RAM for a 386 is certainly nothing to sneeze at... It also came with this video card; a 1024x768 display in a 386-era system reinforces my theory that this is a Unix system...

    So anyway, I've got a new battery on the way, and I'll post updates as I see if I can't work out what culture this artifact originated from and what significance it held there
    Last edited by commodorejohn; April 24, 2012, 04:58 PM.
    Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
    Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
    "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

    #2
    Good score. I await future installments with interest.
    Thomas Byers (DRI)- "You'll have a million people using the A> [MS-DOS prompt] forever. You'll have five million using [nongraphic] menu systems such as Topview, Concurrent PC-DOS, Desq, and those types. But there'll be 50 to 100 million using the iconic-based interfaces."

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      #3


      I cant wait to see them. ^.^
      Attached Files
      It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

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        #4
        Heh, this thread would be equally useless with my phone camera, but I'll see what I can do
        Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
        Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
        "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

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          #5
          Picher is a ghost town in Oklahoma. http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/ok/picher.html
          Thomas Byers (DRI)- "You'll have a million people using the A> [MS-DOS prompt] forever. You'll have five million using [nongraphic] menu systems such as Topview, Concurrent PC-DOS, Desq, and those types. But there'll be 50 to 100 million using the iconic-based interfaces."

          Comment


            #6
            It will be an interesting box though I suspect that it has 4 RS-422 ports not ethernet which was a common setup for scientific data recording.

            Comment


              #7
              I had some of those full length, 4 network connector cards, not sure what they were or what I did with them.

              Comment


                #8
                Okay, found the mega-board: it's this 4-port serial controller. The left four UART sockets are populated; the other four are bare board. Turns out you can daisy-chain up to four of these things (or the eight-port equivalent) for up to thirty-two serial ports...yow. The tape drive connects to an Everex EV-833 SCSI controller, which it seems isn't even on TULARC, but turns up some Google results elsewhere. The hard drive's a Seagate ST3120A (a whopping 107MB of space!) - it's AT-IDE, so even if I can't get the system to boot in its original configuration, I can image the drive if it's still functional.

                Anyway! Pictures!

                The computer. A little scuffed and dirty, but generally in pretty good shape. Plenty of dustbunnies inside, though; I'd bet it was on 24/7 for years and never got cleaned after it was decommissioned...


                The motherboard. It's difficult to tell from the picture, but the cache has the tag socket and bank 0 populated, so it's either got 32KB or 128KB cache. Haven't checked what size SIMMs those are, yet.


                The Omega Board, for all your serial-port needs.


                The Everex SCSI controller for the tape drive. If I knew more about it I'd scan it and submit the information to TULARC...

                ...

                ...what I hate most about my phone camera isn't the ridiculously low resolution, or the horrible graininess. It's the fact that it has a square CCD, crops it to portrait mode to fit the phone's screen as a viewfinder, crops it in landscape mode when taking the picture, and uses the level sensor to auto-rotate the crop direction so that I can't even adjust for this inanity myself.
                Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
                Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
                "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

                Comment


                  #9
                  Wow is that one fudgly machine, but the hardware in it is pretty nice! Good find! Towers became popular in the 386 era, I actually have a 286 as well that has a tower chassis.

                  Wonder if that tape drive was like my old wang that took cassette tapes.
                  '. \ / .'
                  '. .'``'. .'
                  ......:::::::`.....`::
                  Currently seeking a Compaq Deskpro 386

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                    #10
                    Bet you $20 this thing was running a *nix of some sort and the Digiboard was used to hang serial terminals off it.
                    [Need something to waste time on? Click here to visit my YouTube channel CelGenStudios]
                    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    [No time for videos? Click here to visit my Twitter feed @CelGenStudios]

                    = Excellent space heater

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                      #11
                      Hmm, so I looked up the beep code it was making; if the various AMIBIOS guides out there are correct, one long plus eight short equals a video-adapter problem, but I've tried it with several known-good cards with no change. I hope the board isn't shot...
                      Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
                      Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
                      "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I don't care what everyone says about that case. I worked at a PC Builder back in the early 90's, and that was the case we used 90% of the time. I loved it (except for the occasional cut on the hand!)

                        Comment


                          #13
                          When I was working in the IT department of a foreign bank, based in London, in the late 90's, we used this kind of board (and breakout box) for either a multi port RAS (Remote Access Service) machine for dial-in to the office network or for a software based FAX to email gateway.
                          My vintage Computer Museum. Please visit.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Haha! I remember that case! My first PC clone was in that exact case. It was a 386. It got upgraded many times over the years - I still have the case, with some Pentium something or other in it, I think. It's been apart so many times that all the screw threads on the back are stripped out, so you have to use sheet metal screws now.

                            Great case. And yes, I cut myself on it a few times too. Heh.

                            -Ian

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                              #15
                              Made all us techs look like we were cutters. Same with my full tower, damn if that thing wouldn't slit ya on any part inside. My other tech friend was smart (or stubborn) enough to show me their shop trick with those systems which was sand paper to smooth down all the metal innards. That made the system much less of a pain to work on.
                              Looking to acquire: IBM 5100, Altair 8800

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