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Entries tagged 'cat:ISA'

As a child I used to play with old PCs, take them apart, assemble different parts to new PCs, etc. One day when I was 12 I was carrying a 486 Desktop PC to a friend's house, who lived in a different part of the town. On my way there a man stopped me and asked me if I'm interested in computers. He told me he has lots of computers and computer parts at home and I could look at them, pick anything I wanted and take it home to keep. I just had to come home with him and I'd get all the computer parts I wanted. Sadly I couldn't, because my freidn was waiting for me and expected me to bring the 486. So the man gave me his phone number and told me to definitely call because he would soon have to through away good comuter parts if I wouldn't take them.

Back at home I told my mother about the man. For some reason she thought that it was a strange thing to stop a child in the street for and that I shouldn't call him. I replied "He's liek 80 or 90 or something and he said he has to throw the stuff away if I don't take it." I'm not entirely sure whether it was more the age esitmation or my fear of good tech getting thrown away that let her give him a chance to explain himself. So, I called him, took a train to his house and you may guess what happened there, or continue reading, or both.

He lead me to his basement. It was huge. It seemed larger than the already large house. And every single room of it, including the hall in the center, was filled with PCBs, monitors, PCs, racks, more PCBs and cards, software packages (those thick ring binders with manual, diskettes and sometimes printed source code or other notes ticked in an even thicker cardboard box), ICs and other small parts in transparent boxes, empty boards and all the chemicals needed to make your own PCBs, some unfinished projects, home-grown microcomouters, printers, cables, and so on. A retro computer fan's paradise! He was in my home town because he visited a medical specialist. I'm guessing that he knew or suspected that he didn't have much time to get his hobby stuff into the hands of somebody who'd appreciate it. The latter was certainly his goal and did appreciate the tech, which seemed to make him very happy. But I only realised many years later how much more there would have been to appreciate. Back then I wasn't interested in ISA memory extension cards. They were slow and small compared to even SIMM modules. I didn't care for his software collection at all. And I didn't see what I couldn't have done with a custom build computer for which no software existed except what you write yourself. I had no use for his chemical laboratory, hard disks with less than 100 MB of space or electronic parts like logic gates. An 8086 PC was just a worthless piece of too slow hardware to get any fun out of it. I used an MFM drive solely to open it up and take it apart to see how they built these things.

Recently I was thinking, that old man met me too early. My interest in computers was not developed enough at the time. But he did die soon after I visited his house. So for getting some of his computer stuff to somebody who'll at least do something with it before it gets thrown out it was just the right time. I didn't know him, just met him once after his suspicious chat-up. But his wife actually thanked me after he had died. So maybe I didn't come across as greedy or too selfish.

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Looking for a 286 operating system

I got myself a 286. A small tower PC made from collected parts from here and there, a clock display and turbo button, but a motherboard that doesn't seem to have a turbo mode. An MFM hard drive, Mitsumi CD-ROM drive, two floppy drives, a VGA card, IO card, a damaged case. It looks like I could have built it from parts I found here and there. I reckon that's how it was built. It's the first working 286 that I had since I so stupidly through out my IBM PS/2 Model 30. Well, it wasn't that stupid at the time. It was a conscious decision. But anyway. The only other time I had a 286 board was when somebody gifted me their old PC because it was both worthless and broken. The CMOS battery had leaked and I didn't know enough about electronics to make it work, had nobody to ask and internet wasn't really a thing back then.

I had been looking for a specific model before: A Peacock 286 desktop. But Not only didn't I find one for sale so far, I'm pretty sure it would cost more than I'd be willing to pay for a vintage PC just so I could own the same PC model that was the first computer I ever used (for homw work in first grade). The first computer I had contact with was an Olympia People. I didn't even look for one of these because it would be a serious collector's piece and be respectively priced.

So I got just any working 286 PC; just to fill the gap in what I therefore should now start to call my collection of vintage hardware. It just happened to be one with a working MFM hard disk. As if I didn't already have enough unfinished and unstarted projects now I even payed money to buy me another one. Because now I have to do something with this machine, obviously. I bought it weeks ago and it's getting bored.

I thought about what OS I might want it to run. MS-DOS would be the obvious choice. Too obvious for my taste. CP/M after that. But that's too similar. I want something different. But I don't even know what other systems exist that run on a 286. Linux should be out. (Although I haven't yet looked if somebody has made some part of the kernal work on a 286. I doubt it though. No extended mode, no multitasking.) IBM AIX wasn't available for the 286 models either. Are there other Unix clones or versions that run on a 286? Of course there are. I just don't know them. Prologue comes to mind. And Xenix. What others are there? Which one should I try? I could test MikeOS on it.

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