1. Check out OCAU's review of the SpaceX Starlink satellite internet service!
    Dismiss Notice

386 build: A march into the unknown

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade Worklogs' started by Pierre32, May 22, 2020.

  1. dacow

    dacow Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2007
    Messages:
    470
    Location:
    Sydney
    QEMM 386 is all you need for DOS memory management! I remember running it back in the days even before memmaker and it was a godsend! Even after memmaker came out it couldn't hold a candle to QEMM!
     
    baronbaldric and Pierre32 like this.
  2. OP
    OP
    Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2019
    Messages:
    1,393
    Location:
    Sydney
    Birthday time for the 386. I've had a few improvements lined up for a while, but was waiting until all the pieces were in hand so I only had to open the case up once. Finally this week it was time. The punchlist:

    • Address the quiet PC speaker
    • Swap in the SB2.0 CT1350B I was so lucky to score (now upgraded with CMS chips)
    • Add intelligent MPU-401 (because why run a TSR when you can spend money)

    Here's all the stuff. On the left is the SB 2.0. Top right, Roland MPU-IPC card & breakout. Should that not work out, at bottom right is a new PC-MIDI card from Leo / Keropi on Vogons. And in the middle is a new PC speaker. I grabbed a couple of these from Wiltronics.

    PXL_20210904_082801076.MP.jpg

    Case opened, and it looks like everything is where I left it. Cards from left to right are GUS, Yamaha, Network, Video. Note the beige card bracket at bottom left too - and the speaker inside.

    PXL_20210905_054817170.MP.jpg


    PC Speaker

    Here's that bracket removed, with the speaker mounted inside. At right is the new speaker (0.7W, despite the 0.5W Wiltronics listing) sitting next to the still connected stock 0.5W speaker.

    PXL_20210905_054923438.MP.jpg PXL_20210905_055112850.MP.jpg

    It turns out there's nothing wrong at all with the stock speaker. It's great quality. Here's what the problem seems to be... when installed it's pointing straight at this solid wall of steel:

    PXL_20210905_060150244.MP.jpg

    I swapped in the new 0.7W speaker anyway, because my mind said it was marginally better. But instead of putting it back in that bracket, I hard mounted it to the front of the case against the vent holes. You can see two screw heads here. On the reverse side, the speaker is clamped down under washers.

    PXL_20210905_062012348.MP.jpg

    The improvement was substantial! PC speaker sound is now a certified domestic disturbance.

    Sound Blaster

    Out with Labway, in with Creative.

    PXL_20210905_062806893.MP.jpg PXL_20210905_064201867.MP.jpg

    The first test of the SB2.0 was Monkey Island on the CMS chips, which you simply launch with monkey g. And it was instant, chippy glory. You don't even need drivers or environment variables for CMS; if it's there, the game will see it. After this I installed the SB drivers, and that was that.

    MPU-401

    I was beyond chuffed to have scored a real Roland setup. This is the MPU-IPC which is one of the early iterations, said to be problematic for some people on machines faster than a 286. I'd already done some quick tests in a Pentium system with no issues, so I was feeling pretty confident putting it into a 386. If I had speed related issues, I could always de-turbo to 20mhz.

    PXL_20210905_070645653.MP.jpg

    First test was again Monkey Island, on the MT-32. And again, glorious. Then I switched to Dune, possibly my favourite MT-32 OST. This is where some problems appeared, manifesting as incorrect instrument mappings. I ran through various troubleshooting steps: De-turbo, different cables, ensuring everything was cold booted. But I couldn't make it right.

    I installed the PC-MIDI card in its place, and everything worked perfectly. Good thing I impatiently bought it when one half of the Roland setup was assumed MIA in the North Pacific. So that's the config I'm running with for now. I don't much care what's generating the magic inside the case, but I won't lie, it's a shame I don't have that gorgeous little MPU-IPC breakout box in service on the desk. But it will find its home.

    The new family unit:

    PXL_20210905_073208948.MP.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2021
    BiggusDickus, adz, rugger and 4 others like this.
  3. baronbaldric

    baronbaldric Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2016
    Messages:
    421
    Location:
    Sydney
    Awesome! Envy you have a working SB 2.0. Mine has busted digital audio and Keropi on vogons said it might be a dead Creative IC unfortunately. Been promising myself to set up SB dev kit and read through error codes for years now :).

    Anyway back to your machine. I find this a really baller setup. So much goodness inside. Good to hear a PC speaker success story. I used PC speaker more often than any other sound option in the 90s. A proper sounding PC speaker is a must in a machine of this caliber in my opinion. I love that you achieved the mandatory "domestic disturbance" levels for your setup!

    Overall for my 386 I would have the same - SB 2.0 with CMS, Keropi's MPU card, and a MT32.

    Love how clean and tidy everything is. Do you have any outside shots? What monitor do you use? I dream of a 1993-1994 Nec Multisync for my 386, but they are impossible to find these days.
     
    adz likes this.
  4. OP
    OP
    Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2019
    Messages:
    1,393
    Location:
    Sydney
    Cheers! Yep, you definitely need a meaty speaker. It was all I had in the old days, and even though I've slightly overcompensated now, it's still fun to go back to. And there are plenty of titles that have no other option of course.

    That's a shame about your SB. Hopefully you can do something with it.

    Here's a recent pic of the setup:

    upload_2021-9-5_20-42-44.png

    The SC-55 is actually driven by my Pentium, which is KVM'd up with the 386.
     
    adz, rugger, Grant and 2 others like this.
  5. baronbaldric

    baronbaldric Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2016
    Messages:
    421
    Location:
    Sydney
    Simply stunning.
     
    adz and Pierre32 like this.
  6. ArmoureD

    ArmoureD Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2002
    Messages:
    820
    Location:
    Earth
    Watch out for the y2k bug.:lol:

    I remember back in high school towards the late 90s, the noise leading up to y2k. :eek:
     
    Pierre32 likes this.
  7. badmofo

    badmofo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,591
    Location:
    Australia
    This thing has achieved masterpiece status and yes +1 for a hearty PC speaker. Until ~94 the closest I came to an Adlib or Sound Blaster was puzzling over them in game setup utilities so I have many happy memories of the speaker - like pixelated graphics, you had to use your imagination.

    Great stuff :thumbup:
     
    JaC, adz, baronbaldric and 2 others like this.
  8. ShaggyMoose

    ShaggyMoose Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2002
    Messages:
    506
    Location:
    Sydney, standing up in a pub
    Bonus points for a case with a key lock on it and a HDD caddy.
     
    adz, baronbaldric and Pierre32 like this.
  9. adz

    adz Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2003
    Messages:
    1,749
    Location:
    ಠ-ಠ
    Those be some wicked upgrades :thumbup:
     
    Pierre32 likes this.

Share This Page

Advertisement: