Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

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Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby xjas on Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:58 pm

Hey all,

I'm looking for some kind of portable PC DOS system that has a couple of (well, at least one) 16-bit ISA slots. I'd like an integrated display and a hard drive. An old-style laptop (some of them essentially had a port replicator/docking bay functionality built in) or luggable/industrial PC would be great.

Doesn't need to be anything modern, a 486/100~ish or Pentium whatever would work just fine although I *maybe* could get by on something slower. VGA is essential, battery is unnecessary. It would be a real bonus if the whole thing ran from a single power cord.

Any suggestions on what to look out for or where I could get something like that? I'm in Auckland BTW.

Also, if any of you have a Gravis Ultrasound PnP or other AMD Interwave-based soundcard, or SB AWE64 lying around I could use to fill one of ^^ said ISA slots, contact me!

Thanks!
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby SpidersWeb on Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:51 am

The portable desktop range somewhat died before the high end 486 / Pentium era, so I'm not sure if you'll get one quite that high spec.

Compaq Portable 486DX2-50 would be my recommendation if you don't mind some weight. Colour LCD built in, mains operated, 2 or 3 expansion slots (can't remember) - in mine I have a network card and generic sound blaster clone - plays Doom great :) I'm hesitant to sell, not because I"m a tight ass, but more because my unit isn't perfect - the keyboard cable is frayed, it's missing the disk drive button, and the screen is losing contrast (it gets better after 10-15 minutes). But if you see a good one on trademe, definately snap it up. Their $10-12,000 price tag in NZ made them quite rare to see.

Another option is the Toshiba T series - the portable desktop - for a while I was using mine as a bridge for copying files off the network through a serial cable to an XT. The T5200 is a good model, 386DX-20 with 2MB RAM standard (handy if you get one with a memory expansion though). The display is orange plasma, but there is an external VGA connector if you need it. I run a sound card in the 16 bit slot, and a network card in the 8bit slot (16 bit card configured for 8 bit mode). They are starting to get a little fiddly with age however, and they are very picky with what hard drive is used (must be a Conner CP IDE).

All are mains only powered, single connector. The compaq is huge and heavy, the Toshiba's are a little lighter but much easier to carry.

I haven't seen any other ISA laptops turn up on trademe, just more Toshiba's like the T3100e etc.

Compaq Portable:
Image

Toshiba T series: http://www.toshiba-europe.com/computers ... index.shtm

Edit: If you can give up the ISA requirement, I have a range of tested Pentium laptops, mostly Toshiba, some with battery and some mains only. I also have a few Pentium desktops. I go to TrashPalace occasionally and grab an untested laptop for $50 and bring it home to fix, however most of the time the Toshiba's just boot up with no faults.

Edit2: the earlier Toshiba T series, e.g. T3100E or T3200 may not have VGA, best to check before hand, T3200SX and T5200 are definately VGA though.
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby xjas on Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:28 pm

Thanks for the reply. That's more or less what I'm looking for. I could probably even do with a 386 like one of those Toshibas in a pinch but the faster the better (up to a point, heh.) Various companies did make luggables into the semi-modern era for industrial use (often marketed as "packet sniffers") but I only ever see them in the States. Something like these would do the job:

BSI Prism N8
Pair of Dolch portables

...but I don't want to pay shipping from the US on something that big and risky. I'm imagining there must be a few of them kicking around locally from liquidated IT businesses?

I'll be using this as a sequencer to run various vintage MIDI interfacing gear so the ISA slots are an absolute necessity. I don't really have the space for a full desktop rig w/monitor, hence why I'm looking at portables.

I just remembered had a Dell 316LT aaaaages ago which was a 386DX "laptop", which had a single ISA but I can't remember if it was 8 or 16 bit. Hmm...
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby SpidersWeb on Wed Nov 28, 2012 4:01 pm

That Compaq above was originally setup as a packet-sniffer too, even had a dedicated network sniffer card with it's own CPU (Intel 960).
I think most have been retired a long long time ago, but a user on here works at a recycling place and does list some cool items, so there very well could be a quite a few left.

The most popular one I've seen on trademe has definately been the Toshiba range.

I've had a pretty good run with ordering international, with only one bad arrival and that was caused by poor packaging - but yeah it's still a finger-crossing-exercise :S

Spacewise I think I could match the Toshiba T series with a slimline Pentium unit I have spare (if you put keyboard and small LCD on top) but that would still be a bigger foot print than a luggable and look no where near as awesome (not to mention it lacks handles).
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby SpidersWeb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:43 am

I posted up a reply recommending this http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/vint ... 463532.htm
But removed it because this is only a 286-12, CGA, and only a single 8bit half length ISA slot.

So close!
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby XOR on Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:17 pm

SpidersWeb wrote:The portable desktop range somewhat died before the high end 486 / Pentium era, so I'm not sure if you'll get one quite that high spec.


The portable desktop market never died. They just became a niche market that is restricted to engineers and specialist field service guys.

You can even still buy portable desktops with ISA slots (for supporting legacy instrumentation and capture cards). The only difference is that these days they have LCD screens and modern processors.
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby Carcenomy on Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:13 pm

You can still buy them to this day.

Of course this firm does them as a bare chassis, then you populate it how you like. Be that with something new or something not so new that has ISA slots, your call... :)
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby xjas on Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:18 am

SpidersWeb wrote:I posted up a reply recommending this http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/vint ... 463532.htm
But removed it because this is only a 286-12, CGA, and only a single 8bit half length ISA slot.

So close!


^^ Man, I would be all over that if it were one of the 386 models, but most of the software I want to run isn't 286-friendly... Too bad.

@Carcenomy: yeah, I know I could do that but I don't feel like tracking down a 486-era mainboard, video card, RAM, etc. and having to adapt it to a (presumably) ATX case. I'd rather have a 'real' vintage machine in my studio for a bit of extra amber-gas-plasma-sporting character. 8)

My current setup is a Dell D430 with a docking station & PCI soundcard (inc. MPU401 interface), which works great, but not so much for DOS stuff. If I get a vintage PC I can use that as a sequencer+sampler and this one as a dedicated audio recording/processing box. It's a real pain to have one system do those tasks double-duty.
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby SpidersWeb on Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:48 am

Powered up my T3200SX to see if it was reliable enough to pass on since I rarely use it, but yeah, it crashed... more than once.
Believe it is suffering from a "Toshiba board flex" issue around the keyboard area - when/if it stops working I may hit it with the hot air gun. Not sure how common this is, but might be something to watch for.
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Re: Suggestions on portable PC with ISA

Postby Carcenomy on Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:34 pm

xjas wrote:
SpidersWeb wrote:I posted up a reply recommending this http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/vint ... 463532.htm
But removed it because this is only a 286-12, CGA, and only a single 8bit half length ISA slot.

So close!


^^ Man, I would be all over that if it were one of the 386 models, but most of the software I want to run isn't 286-friendly... Too bad.

@Carcenomy: yeah, I know I could do that but I don't feel like tracking down a 486-era mainboard, video card, RAM, etc. and having to adapt it to a (presumably) ATX case. I'd rather have a 'real' vintage machine in my studio for a bit of extra amber-gas-plasma-sporting character. 8)

My current setup is a Dell D430 with a docking station & PCI soundcard (inc. MPU401 interface), which works great, but not so much for DOS stuff. If I get a vintage PC I can use that as a sequencer+sampler and this one as a dedicated audio recording/processing box. It's a real pain to have one system do those tasks double-duty.

I would have suggested either a Pentium III if you wanted horsepower and ISA slots, if not I definitely have at least a dozen ATX Socket7 boards... ;)
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