I purchased this computer from eBay in January 2014. What intrigued me about this machine was the lack of information available online. While searching for the model number online, I only found a Windows 3.0 compatibility list and some information about the CMOS battery of the PC.
From this, I was able to ascertain that the computer was a 286 from the mid-1980s, but that was about it. I ummed and aahed about buying this for quite a while, but eventually I gave in, and before long, the computer had arrived:
From the outside, the computer appeared to be in fairly good condition considering its age. There is some yellowing to the front of the case, but that is par for the course when buying computers that are nearly thirty years old. The inside of the case was a different story, however. It was immediately clear that this computer had been used in an industrial environment; the inside of the case was coated in a fine layer of foul-smelling black dust. Also, according to a sticker on the side of the case, the system was PAT tested in 2008, so it may well have been in use for over twenty years!
A quick look at the back reveals what ports this computer has:
There’s a DIN connector for the keyboard, an EGA graphics port, a parallel port, a serial and parallel port on one card (this card is labelled as ports for a “PATA BOX”), a second serial port and a port that I had never seen before that was labelled as “MOUSE”:
I cracked open the lid and took a look at this mysterious mouse port, and found that the card was a Microsoft InPort card. This was a card that was developed by Microsoft in around 1986 for use with the Microsoft Bus Mouse. The idea was that you could free up one of your serial ports by using a bus mouse with the Microsoft InPort card instead. With the introduction of the PS/2 interface with the IBM PS/2 in 1987, the bus mouse was driven out of the marketplace.
Let’s have a look at the other cards in this machine:
From left to right, we have:
- Western Digital WD1003-WA2 FDD/HDD controller dated 1985. This has three ribbon cables; one going to the hard disk and one going to the 5.25″ floppy drive. I was unable to trace where the third cable goes.
- AST-3G Plus EGA graphics adapter. This has a ribbon cable coming out of it which ends in a 25-pin parallel port which was used for a printer. I have only been able to find out information about the AST-3G Plus II card; according to this Microsoft support page, there were numerous problems with the AST-3G Plus card, and as such the AST-3G Plus II was introduced. Here are the ports on the back of this card:
From left to right, we have an emulation switch, which allows the card to switch between CGA and EGA graphics modes, four DIP switches (possibly for switching between EGA, CGA [80×25 or 40×25] and MDA modes), a 9-pin EGA graphics port, and two RCA video ports which, according to this page, require a ‘feature adapter’ to use.
- AST I/O Mini II card. This has a ribbon cable with a second serial port on the other end. According to this page, there is also a way of adding a game port to it.
- The Microsoft InPort card, as above.
A MiniScribe Model 6053 hard disk is also fitted to this PC, which has a whopping 44MB capacity. There is also a NEC 5.25″ floppy drive fitted, however when I attempted to put a disk in the drive, it would only go in about 3/4 of the way. It looks like I may need to do additional work on this drive to get it going again.
I have yet to test this machine, as I don’t have an EGA monitor for the video. It looks like there are some EGA to VGA converters available, however these seem to be more for use in arcade systems, so I’m not sure if they would be fit for this purpose. Another possibility would be to obtain an ISA VGA card, for example a Cirrus Logic card.
According to the auction listing, the computer did power on and get as far as the BIOS, so in terms of getting this computer working again, it’s looking promising. All in all, I’m glad I picked up this computer and I’m looking forward to restoring it to its former glory.