Diamond in the rough

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Diamond in the rough

Postby recycled on Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:22 pm

Right-o. Might as well have a crack at stirring the hornets around here. http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=551960569

Quite some throw-away modern machines, but there's a slimline case looking suspiciously like a PC Direct 386sx box.
Is that retro enough to make this worth a second look - it doesn't even have a CD-ROM, how did we ever survive! Surely a good machine for anybody's museum of NZ Technology.
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby SpidersWeb on Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:25 pm

Love it, wish it was separate or local!
When I was younger I used to sit there dreaming at the PC Direct catalogues, would love one of their machines now.
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby recycled on Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:02 pm

You're right! I had forgotten how good the 'literature' for PC Direct was. Glossy magazine style brochures I also spent far too much time drooling over. And the 386sx desktop was the model I most wanted to shell out for, pah, 486 power, that was for bragging rights, nobody would ever need all that speed! Hmm, no questions answered - you asked for it to be separated out too? ;o) Bet he now has a dilemma on closing the auction to split it out or altering the description and starting the desirable box on it's own!
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby Carcenomy on Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:48 pm

Wow... ten years ago I never thought I'd hear someone use the term 'desirable' and '386SX' in one sentence... how times change! I always thought people desired 386DXs anyway ;)
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby SpidersWeb on Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:37 pm

haha yeah, know what you mean.
I think the difference is that if it's too slow now, we just use a 486. Would love a DX/40 setup though.
Clock speed seems to be a big factor too, my 33Mhz SX makes my 20Mhz DX look like chopped liver (although the faster hard drive probably helps too).

Turns out it actually is a PC Direct 386DX anywho but he wont separate or send :(
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby recycled on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:19 pm

Carcenomy wrote:Wow... ten years ago I never thought I'd hear someone use the term 'desirable' and '386SX' in one sentence... how times change! I always thought people desired 386DXs anyway ;)

Even ten years ago, a 386 of any class was considered a vintage box! (The pentium had arrived in '93) If I had known they would have vanished so quickly from the scene I would still have admitted, however foolish it sounded, that I would give house space to an SX!

Back in the day, I had a Compaq 386sx system. It was truly horrible, in only the way Compaq could have managed. Proprietary memory, diabolic layout, 'disc spaces' needed Compaq branded drive slides to fit anything - see my current Compaq Prosignia 300 system as another example! Poor BIOS (which was barely configurable with the Compaq diagnostics) and none of the user selectable drive shapes forcing you to use really ugly old small hard drives - (System had an IDE HDD cotroller built in, no MFM, but yeah, finding an IDE drive that matched one of the old MFM CHS patterns was so much fun, 33MB of a 40MB HDD. money well spent). So if anybody was going to say I'd like another 386sx I might have hit them. Eventually, I got a wonderful no-name motherboard. Used standard SIMMs, no controller on board, and I think it may have had the exemplary Award BIOS. It was only 25MHz, and I quickly sold it as a 386 had become just a toy - clock doubled and tripled 486 or pentium for everybody!

I'd have to go and read details about the SX version of the 386, but off the top of my head it was mainly crippled in the memory controller, max 16MB addressable, and all done with 16bit transfers, so that explains why they were frowned on, but for a home computer (Windows 3 just on the scene, 4MB being considered huge in a home computer) it was plenty if you didn't go in for many shoot-em-up games. The DX had huge memory addressing space, though limited by the motherboard manufacturers and SIMM sizes available at the time, and 32bit transfers. Woo-hoo, I'm dizzy just thinking about it.

Not so bad off as the 486sx, that was a chip worthy of your derision. I used a 'server' with a 25MHz 486sx. Even 32MB of RAM, two cached controller cards and a network card with it's own 20MHz AMD CPU and 1MB RAM couldn't help that cripple. The less said about that, the better.

The PC Direct 386 system would have been about as middle of the road as a representative of the home PC in the early 90s could get. A real good example being a 'Kiwi' machine too!

(Man alive do I ramble. I better go have a lie down, and I apologize for wasting your evening again)
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby recycled on Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:24 pm

SpidersWeb wrote:Turns out it actually is a PC Direct 386DX anywho but he wont separate or send :(

Nice, quite a good score for some enthusiast then.
So many lazy Aucklanders who won't ship, but I suppose population density is in their favour anyway.
Hope whoever in the northern region that wins the auction will give it a good home, or separate it out for resale if they really want the newer stuff, they now know they can make a profit on winning this auction!
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby arjoll on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:29 pm

recycled wrote:Back in the day, I had a Compaq 386sx system. It was truly horrible, in only the way Compaq could have managed. Proprietary memory, diabolic layout, 'disc spaces' needed Compaq branded drive slides to fit anything

Lovely things - when I was a trainee at Ernst & Young we got three of those to replace the two Wang 286's in the typing pool (the third typist was just that - she used a typewriter! They actually got me quite liking Compaq - although it may have been that with the office computers consisting of 4x IBM XTs, 1x Compaq 286, the aforementioned Wangs and a Mac Plus for the auditors (with matching external SCSI hard drive) anything 386-ish would have looked amazing.

From memory the capex approval from National IM was about $13k - EACH.
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby SpidersWeb on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:37 pm

I have fond memories of Compaq 386 machines too, but in fairness I never had to work on them, that's probably why!
My home machine was a 386SX/16 with twin MFM hard drives for quite awhile - but it had a nice big 4 x 5.25 bay AT desktop case with lots of room (home made style).

Neither IBM nor Compaq did very well in the 'making it easier to work on' departments. I laughed when I watched Computer Chronicles and IBM is demonstrating their new PS/2 range and the guy fumbles and has trouble meanwhile explaining how much better and faster it is to work with.
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby kevman3d on Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:09 pm

I recall back in the late 80's, we used ICL workstations at the City Council. They had gigantic cases in comparison to what was inside (thought the PSU's were pretty large)- In 1991 managed to score a one - 286, a 2 button MS mouse (which I only just sold a couple of years back - Big boxey thing, and made in Japan (not China :wink: )), EGA monitor for $200 from the boss cause they were being written off as we upgraded to PC Direct gear in around 1991. It had a whopping 10Mb HDD and 1Mb of RAM. I threw in a SB and 2400 internal modem and spent most my time either being a file sponge on BBS's or in Turbo C. :lol:

PC Direct became the main supplier for Auckland City Council at the time, right until they went out of business.
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Re: Diamond in the rough

Postby Carcenomy on Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:01 pm

recycled wrote:Even ten years ago, a 386 of any class was considered a vintage box! (The pentium had arrived in '93) If I had known they would have vanished so quickly from the scene I would still have admitted, however foolish it sounded, that I would give house space to an SX!

Back in the day, I had a Compaq 386sx system. It was truly horrible, in only the way Compaq could have managed. Proprietary memory, diabolic layout, 'disc spaces' needed Compaq branded drive slides to fit anything - see my current Compaq Prosignia 300 system as another example! Poor BIOS (which was barely configurable with the Compaq diagnostics) and none of the user selectable drive shapes forcing you to use really ugly old small hard drives - (System had an IDE HDD cotroller built in, no MFM, but yeah, finding an IDE drive that matched one of the old MFM CHS patterns was so much fun, 33MB of a 40MB HDD. money well spent). So if anybody was going to say I'd like another 386sx I might have hit them. Eventually, I got a wonderful no-name motherboard. Used standard SIMMs, no controller on board, and I think it may have had the exemplary Award BIOS. It was only 25MHz, and I quickly sold it as a 386 had become just a toy - clock doubled and tripled 486 or pentium for everybody!

Thirteen years ago my day to day system was Am386DX40 powered. I miss that machine.

I know exactly what you mean about the Compaqs. I still have a couple lying around - a Prosignia 486-based server with EISA and SCSI, a Presario 7222 desktop (early Pentium) and a Deskpro 486/33L. The Prosignia is a joy to work on, the 7222 is a little tricky being weird old timey low profile but the Deskpro is in a totally different league. It's got the full on Compaq custom drive sleds and weird daughterboards thing going on right down to a truly bizarre pushbutton 5.25" drive. The great behemoth runs too, scarily enough.
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