386 Buildlog

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade Worklogs' started by Phido, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. Phido

    Phido Member

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    So I have been thinking about building a 386 for a long time, ever since my original 386 went missing. It is believed to be still around somewhere, but no one is sure where. It was a 386DX25 with 387, 4mb sipp ram and I built it from new parts around 1992-3 and it went missing sometime in the early 2000's. I loved that box. It wasn't my first pc, I had a Wang 286 with EGA, and that was great and I later sold that to fund my 386 build.
    But the 386 was my workhorse. I really got into programming, rendering, it was my first real Windows PC (win 3.11 and Win 95). While slow and limited, it is a period of time I really want to re-experience. So I have spent up acquiring some stuff and I have pretty much everything ready to go.

    Specs (this will evolve as I go):
    • am386DX 33Mhz* + 486DLC33
    • PC Chips motherboard with 64Kb of cache* - My original board had no cache.
    • CyrixFasmath 33Mhz - About twice as fast as my Intel 387
    • 8Mb ram 30 pin simms -(i have 4mb*)
    ISA cards
    • ISA Cirrus Logic 5429 1mb Graphics card* / ET4000 1mb* I guess I will have to choose eventually
    • 3com Ethernet III Lan card* - This will be connected to a wifi bridge(vonets 300Mbps*), allowing basic internet and file sharing.
    • SuperIO* -LGS Prim3B circa 1997. 2 coms + para + game + ide + floppy
    • Soundblaster 16* (full length AWE32 may fit in later otherwise going to my slot 1 build).
    Storage
    • 5 1/4* and 3 1/2 *floppy drives
    • CD reader drive IDE*
    • Gotek USB Floppy emulator* (will be switchable with regular 3.5" floppy)
    • SD2IDE adapter* - With 32Gb SD card*.
    • I have an adaptec scsi card for use with a scsi drive in the future.*
    Externally
    • Keyboard - New black Wyse commercial PS/2 keyboard*
    • Microsoft Intellipoint USB* with PS/2 adapter* and PS/2 adapter to RS232*
    • Awyun 202 mini-ATX* + PSU*

    Software:
    • MS DOS 6.22
    • Windows 95 OSR2
    • OS/2 Warp
    DOS Software
    • 3DStudio R4 - This is what I really want to build this for. This software was originally written by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Yost. I used this software heaps back in the day and this thing supported heaps of stuff, and was then simply adapted to Windows NT and became 3DS Max. So imagine 3dsmax for DOS. Its got everything, keyframers, codecs, support for various mathcos, video drivers, etc. You can still create models and export them into max or vice versa. My year 10 bridge building project I created a texture mapped and lit model and rendered different views etc, was totally cool back in the early 1990's to have a 3D model of your school project.
    • Quickbasic 4.5 - used to do heaps of experiments and coding in this. Fractals, 3d engines, interesting math stuff, BBS games, vga games, demos, video playback engines etc. Also played with Turbo Pascal and some other stuff.
    • Games - Wolf 3d, older 386 based games, as I said, I will have a 1000Mhz celeron for more demanding DOS games. Older dos games for xt/286 like digger. Everyone seems to do retro for the games. They are a side thing for me.
    • Really interested in performance with and without maths co-processor. Want to explore JPEG and MP3 performance with and without co-processor. I will see if I can compare with a regular intel 387.
    Windows Software
    • Office 97 - In particular excel
    • Photoshop 2.5/3.0 - I remember using this on the 486 at school and on the macs..
    • I am also interested in a machine that is basically too slow to browse the internet. Yet hopefully productive enough to be able to use some older content creation software.
    • Terminal software
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  2. matz

    matz Member

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    Nice look forward to seeing this unfold. A 386 is on my to do list as well!
     
  3. adz

    adz Member

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    For some reason I've always wanted a 386DX-40...
     
  4. flu!d

    flu!d KDE Neon 5.16

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    I remember throwing one out....

    Gawd damn I've thrown out some good stuff over the years.
     
  5. JidaiGeki

    JidaiGeki Member

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    Nice plan, and writeup! I've just made progress on getting a 386DX-40 up and running:

    [​IMG]

    Played through the main Wing Commander quest over a couple of days ;)

    I'll see what ISA network cards are floating around here, saw your WTB thread :thumbup:
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
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  6. Hive

    Hive Member

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    Turbo button <3
     
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  7. OP
    OP
    Phido

    Phido Member

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    That is a sweet desktop. I have purchased a 3 com card, but its full height, if you find anything half height, I would definitely be interested. I want to make it quite compact in size (like your desktop) and half height network will hopefully get me there.

    Unfortunately I think due to the amount of modern parts in my build I will have to go with a black aesthetic. Case, keyb,screen will all be black.

    At this stage I am planning for 33Mhz, because the parts are cheap and easy to find. I'm not opposed to exploring 40Mhz or even more, but at this stage 33Mhz will be fine. I am not trying to build the fastest 386, so things like clockspeed and cache aren't too important.

    I have already received:
    * Motherboard, cpu and ram
    * IDE IO card
    * 5.25 floppy
    * 3.5 floppy
    * 19" lcd(have access to crt but its so massive)

    I have paid and waiting on shipping for:
    * 4Mb more ram
    * Cyrix fasmath coprocessor (not cheap)
    * 486DLC cpu (was suprisingly cheap)
    * AWE soundcard
    * sd2ide
    * floppy emulator
    * Video card
    * 3com network card
    * at power adapter

    I am still yet to acquire
    * case - any suggestions?
    * Keyboard/Mouse ??? May have some old stuff, but may want clean spiffy new ones
    * Speakers
    * IDE CD drive (I think I already have a beige one)
    * Wifi bridge
    * PSU (although I have a SFX one)
    * Turbo switch and LED

    A 386 good build is likely to be more expensive than a 486 build. 486 motherboards are available with PCI and VLB graphics cards, which are plentiful and cheap. Anything above 256kb vga isa is pricey. Also a 386 has no motherboard integration, most 486's have ide, floppy, com ports etc. 486's don't really have to worry about separate math co-processors etc. Things like ps/2 ports are more common etc.

    But a 386, which first appear 1985, are really of a different vintage. Everything is chunkier. Because the market was sx/dx, most consumer gear was 16bit isa only. A 386 EISA setup would cost a bomb.
     
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  8. matz

    matz Member

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    You can easily make the CD Drive black with some Vinyl & Fabric Paint. I got mine from SuperCheap Auto and did my entire 486 case and drives, it soaks into the plastic doesn't leave a coating. Plastics just need to be cleaned properly before application, you wouldn't know it was painted, looks original.
     
  9. JidaiGeki

    JidaiGeki Member

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    Thanks Phido, getting a running machine together is a labour of love! Already gone through 1 AT PSU, and that CD-ROM drive doesn't seem to be working.

    I've got the network cards box out, will have a rummage through. However, I'd recommend sticking with a full height setup, it's going to be easier finding all full height ISA cards - video, sound (AWE32 is a full height card), IO controller, network - unless you can get a riser card or cable and ISA backplane matched to a suitable low profile case, which is kind of difficult. The desktop pictured is full height, and full length too. It fills out the desk, but it's totally worth it :D and it generates very little heat too, which is nice.

    For a case, most older ATX cases will support an AT board, or you could somehow find an AT case cheaply. The expensive option is buying a system from eBay, and gutting it:
    e.g.
    Desktop 486 - https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Old-com...866643?hash=item4b2e272d53:g:BQUAAOSwry1aDkMV
    Tower Pentium - https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Vintage...224205?hash=item2f0ee30e0d:g:tHQAAOSwh1paCpkI
    Tower Pentium - https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Vintage...185381?hash=item1c97c26b65:g:XcQAAOSwTm9aCAa9

    For KB, you can also easily get a PS/2->AT keyboard adapter, and so you can use fairly recent stuff.
     
  10. OP
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    Phido

    Phido Member

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    I now realise it would probably be cheaper and easier to buy a whole working computer for $200 locally. Or buy an near spec PC and gut it.

    But I am pretty particular about what I want. I really want to explore some options I didn't take back in the early 90's when I had my 386.

    Looking around I was after a atx mini desktop/tower, pretty simple, cheap, and has a classic shape about it. I think I've basically decided on the Aywun 204.

    It basically looks like a modern version of that ebay pentium 200mmx (which looks like an upgraded 386/486) case. Externally 2x5.25 (DVD/CD and 5.25 floppy) and 2x3.5 (3.5 floppy and floppy emulator) which will suit this build. Philscomputerlab has used a simularish aywun case for one of his 386 builds https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=45156. I quite like his old equipment in new case, and interesting and cost effective blending of old and new.
    I think I will cut out the USB ports and replace them with some red or blue or green 7 segment led displays behind some tinted plexiglass for clock speed, and locate a turbo button on the firewire cutout. While black, I think this is a pretty good estimation of a late 80's early 90's computer case, you could get black mini towers back in the day and I always thought they looked pretty neat in a NextStep kinda way. Plus you can get that case delivered for $60 with 500w PSU. I'm just worried about only having 4 cutouts for expansion cards.

    Vinyl paint sounds like a great idea, for colour matching those beige parts.
    I found a place on statice that still sells serial mice at $4 a pop.
     
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  11. DonutKing

    DonutKing Member

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    Looking forward to this, hasn't been something of this vintage on here for a while.

    I tried to dig up my own 386 build thread but all the pictures seems to be broken :upset::thumbdn: and I can't find the OCAU version at all.

    Are you really desperate to run Win95 on this machine? With 8MB RAM (let alone running on a 386) it will probably chug. I remember another member here (dirkmirk? badmofo?) had it running on their 386, with 64MB RAM. I reckon it would be much better served running DOS with a program manager like QuikMenu. But hey, if you're really keen go for it.

    With your SD2IDE and 16GB SD card... remember that most 386 BIOS's couldn't use hard drives larger than 504MB - and even then, FAT16 (so DOS and WIN95) only let you create 2GB partitions. You might be able to get around this using dynamic drive overlay software. Your IDE ISA controller is most likely going to be PIO mode only so yes, an SD card will easily mac out the interface (and chew CPU while its doing it due to lack of DMA mode).
     
  12. JidaiGeki

    JidaiGeki Member

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    Or you could go the ISA SCSI adapter (and floppy controller on some variants of controller cards) and SCSI2SD route. I use a 2GB SCSI drive running off an Adaptec adapter, and a general IDE/floppy/IO controller on board as well for floppy drives.
     
  13. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    Nar my 386 is just a humble DOS machine - I personally wouldn't bother with Win95 on anything slower than a 486DX2 66 but each to their own.

    I'm looking forward to updates on this one too - XP era machines seem to dominate the retro forums these days. Nothing wrong with that of course but I'm personally more interested in early 90's beige :lol:
     
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  14. OP
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    Phido

    Phido Member

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    It will mostly be a DOS box. 90% of the time. I want to specifically explore the 386 world and its limitations, from early 80's to mid 90's.

    But I do want to try a few things out in Win95. I did run a pretty lean 95 machine on my 386 @25Mhz. It wasn't ideal, but there were some things Win95 was the only tool for the job. If you go for Win95 original, 4Mb is useable, 8Mb is much better. The problem is people often want win95 OSR2 which is a much bigger animal then want to do a lot of wizbang windows stuff like use directx. At least with the SD2IDE disk transfers are going to be as fast as ISA allows.

    I will probably have a 16Gb SD card, so I can easily afford the space for win95 even if I don't use it much. If your building an out and out win95 machine to play games you would want a 486. But I have 1000Mhz celeron for that and fast dos stuff, this machine doesn't have to play NFS I or Doom2 or windows games. In fact the only software it will run on 95 is old productivity stuff.

    Still tossing up on cases:
    https://www.newegg.com/global/au/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811121010 an actual atx desktop case $80 shipping will hurt
    https://www.kogan.com/au/buy/aywun-...1x-usb31x-usb2-hd-audio-2-yrs-warranty-aywun/
    https://www.kogan.com/au/buy/antec-vsk-4000b-u3-mid-tower-case-black-antec/
     
  15. adz

    adz Member

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    After the P4 water build, the next build will most certainly be a 386DX-40, so if anyone has one ;)
     
  16. dirkmirk

    dirkmirk Member

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    MP3 is a no go on the 386.

    The only option would be some kind of accelerator board if it existed (Not that im aware of, I searched years ago).

    I have a Digigram PCX20 card which was used in radio/broadcast using the .Mp2 format I believe, IE the audio from an Mpeg1/VCD stream.

    I havent been able to work out If I can use the hardware processing to run .mp2 audio files with traditional MP3 players, it might have to use Digigram software or other professional software.

    So yeah, .mp2 is a best case scenario for a 386 and the limiting factor might be the software you can use, still its pretty good quality and a cool thing to try with the 386.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. DonutKing

    DonutKing Member

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    SCSI is your go then; gets around BIOS limits and much better performance due to DMA mode. You'll need to divvy it up into 2GB partitions because of the FAT16 limit though.
     
  18. OP
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    Phido

    Phido Member

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    386 stuff is getting a bit rarer and more expensive.. I can definitely see it drifting upwards.
    When I started I thought I could build a whole box for about $200. I think it will go north of $500. Where as there are decent 486 stuff
    But like I said, I am being pretty particular.

    My intention is now to fit a Baby AT motherboard into a mini-atx case. It will have only 4 expansion slots without modification, but I think I can make it work. Also I will most likely have to drill all the motherboard mountings. The case will be a Awyun 202 mATX case, as this allows me 2x5.25 and 2x3.5 external drives.

    Looking at it in more detail, I will need win95 OSR2 for fat32.

    I've heard if you have mp3 at a low enough bit rate they are playable on a 386. I am interested to see if that is possible. Back in the day I only played mod files on my 386 (I used to listen to a lot of 90 rap like snap and KLF).
     
  19. OP
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    Phido

    Phido Member

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    I am concidering this. But it adds a not insignificant amount of cost.
     
  20. JidaiGeki

    JidaiGeki Member

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    https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Adaptec...514655&hash=item25db4fcdf1:g:OuIAAOSw95FZawN-

    Make an Offer is available. This card is a 1542 as it has the floppy controller as well. Should give you sufficiently decent performance, max 10MB/s. Then you'd just need a drive.

    And how about this for a case?

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/New-Enli...e=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

    At the least it has pre-drilled AT holes! ;)
     
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