Checking out three IBM PS/2 30-286s


The Wellington haul came with three PS/2 30-286 machines. It was time to check these out and decide what to do with them.

Do I really want THREE PS/2 30-286s?

Figure 1. Red arrows show the PS/2 30-286s.

There is an irony here. I already own a PS/2 30-286 which I spent weeks and weeks and no small amount of money trying to get working. Now I'm given three of them as a gift! Anyway, although not particularly notable as vintage computers go, they were nonetheless interesting even if just for their nifty form factor.

All three machines had network cards. All needed a good clean and an internal vacuum (including the floppy drive - Figure 2). I did this before firing them up. Checkout results are described below.

These drives make good dust collectors!

Figure 2. Like the Macs, these open PS/2 drives make good dust collectors

Machine 1

The POST on switch-on told me this computer had 4MB. That was a surprise as most units like this only have 1MB. The machine had obviously driven a scanner in a past life as it was decked out with a couple of cards dedicated to that purpose. One card supported a Scanjet scanner, the other was a large mystery card which I originally thought was a memory expander providing the extra memory. Turns out it was an ORC coprocessor card for the scanner software, probably Omnipage (Figure 3). To my surprise the 4MB onboard the 30-286 all came from its own planar-based SIMMS. These are a very rare type only provided by IBM. Wow, an unexpected bonus!

This thing is huge!

Figure 3. OCR co-processor scanning card for Omnipage. Note the memory and processor chip.
Obviously plenty of grunt was needed for the task!

Firing up showed the expected 161 and 163 error from the flat Dallas battery but otherwise booting was successful.

The hard drive had its original content. I wanted to wipe this off and also ascertain the condition of the floppy and hard disk drives on this machine and the others. Googling around I eventually found a site containing the necessary advanced diagnostic disk and away I went.

A low-level format showed the floppy drive and 20MB hard disk were both in tiptop condition. After a FDISK, a fresh copy of PC-DOS 3.3 was installed on the hard drive along with the diagnostic program Checkit. System tests showed no issues.

Machine 2

This 1MB unit just had the network card. I followed the same process as with machine number 1. Booting first failed, until I realised there was a floppy disk in the drive. Once this was removed the machine fired up successfully albeit with a flat battery as in the above. A low level format revealed about 100k of track of the 20MB drive was faulty and this was subsequently locked out from DOS. Not too bad a result on a machine of this vintage. The floppy tested ok as did the overall system.

As before, this machine received a fresh copy of PC-DOS 3.3 and Checkit.

Machine 3

Switching on did nothing. Actually, there was something; a kind of fizzing sound, coming from I'm not sure where. This one needed repair. Now normally I would have put this to one side and fixed it eventually. However, I now had THREE working models and lots of spare parts from my original attempt at getting my first 30-286 up and running. Feeling just a little guilty, I decided to strip the machine of the SIMMS, floppy drive, hard drive and cables, and send the case, board and PSU for recycling at our local e-day.

I tested the drives collected from machine 3 in machine 2. The hard drive seemed to have a bit of stiction but once moving survived a low-level format with no errors. The floppy drive seemed to only work only sometimes. I guess two out of three ain' t bad!

Two good IBM PS/2 30-286s

Figure 4. Two good IBM PS/2 30-286s awaiting a home


One PS/2 Model 30-286 is enough for me so at least one or possibly both these machines will be sold (or donated) to anyone who wants them. At the time of writing one is being advertised on our local auction site for $1. Hopefully someone will give it a good home.

If nothing else these PS/2 30-286s have been fun to check out and the've stocked up the spare parts bin. I'm keeping the four IBM 1MB memory simms and they will grace my current showpiece model. The machines also came with one Model M IBM P/S keyboard. These are always valuable additions to the stash!

11th November, 2010

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