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Best 386-era machine?

phreakindee

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I have been on the lookout for a PC that will fill a gap in machines I own... Something with a 386 and ISA slots.

What I primarily want it for is gaming, and I already have some 486 machines but they are both kind of... quirky. So I was looking at an IBM PS/2 because I always wanted one, but I can't seem to find one with a 386 and ISA together, it's always an MCA machine with a 386. I want to add an Ad Lib sound card, hence the need for ISA.

Any particular make and model anyone would recommend, clone or otherwise, that has both a 386 and ISA expandability? Other than grabbing the parts and frankensteining...
 

IBMMuseum

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I have been on the lookout for a PC that will fill a gap in machines I own... Something with a 386 and ISA slots.

What I primarily want it for is gaming, and I already have some 486 machines but they are both kind of... quirky. So I was looking at an IBM PS/2 because I always wanted one, but I can't seem to find one with a 386 and ISA together, it's always an MCA machine with a 386. I want to add an Ad Lib sound card, hence the need for ISA.

Any particular make and model anyone would recommend, clone or otherwise, that has both a 386 and ISA expandability? Other than grabbing the parts and frankensteining...

Correct, IBM never had a 386DX and ISA together in a PS/2 model. There is a few 386SX, 386SLC, and 486SLC2 models that I can list for resources:

25SX: An "All-in-one" system with CRT, but only two regular ISA (and another "reversed", for either of two networking adapters) slots. 386SX at 16 or 20MHz.

33: Only one ISA slot in a small unit, 486SLC2-50 CPU.

35SX, 35SLC: Three ISA slots, either a 386SX-20 or 386SLC-20 CPU

40SX, 40SLC: Five slots, either a 386SX-20 or 386SLC-20 CPU

486SLC2-50 versions of the 35 and 40 are very rare (actually it is the same planar as the Model 33, but the risers can't be found)

L40SX: Laptop, 386SX-20, with a single ISA expansion chassis that is rare

N45: Notebook, limited ISA connectivety

EduQuests might be another option (another all-in-one design, but five ISA slots, and I have extra 386SLC units), but they normally have a specific sound card option already

ValuePoints would have 386SLC or more commonly 486 level CPUs, with ISA slots
 

Unknown_K

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Find a 386 DX/33 Intel or 386/40 AMD motherboard and build a system from that. Be on the lookout for cache, makes things faster.

I have a couple nice 386 machines, one built around the 386DX/40 AMD and a ZEOS 386DX/33 system I snagged from a recycler a while back. The 40 is a gaming rig, the 33 I intend to start programming on. Both have FPU installed.
 

paul.brett

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I recommend the Compaq Deskpro 386S range, and try to get one with dual 5¼" and 3½" floppy drives. The slots are EISA, and as such, can accomodate ISA cards (I think - correct me on this if I am wrong guys)

Paul.
 

barythrin

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I don't really collect systems as new as 386s myself so it's a bit tough to judge but I recall someone recently asking a similar question. Sounded like the Tandy 1000 RSX was a pretty neat system. (LOL!! Not to hijack the thread but double checking I had the right system initials I came across this page which mentioned that alternative energy internet browser). Small world. Anyway, sounded like a desirable system it there was one.

386 era to me seems like the "attack of the clones". To me this is where systems were so similar I don't know anyone that didn't just roll their own computer out of parts during. So really to get the best system out there, I would think the parts probably aren't up there yet in value and can probably still be available to just build your own and have that memory.

- John
 

phreakindee

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Clones do indeed seem to abound from the era, and being post-Compaq, they were pretty much all IBM-compatible. I would love a Tandy R-series from the time, but I have yet to find even a hint of one available.

The Compaq Deskpro mentioned above would also be nice, as I'm really wanting 5.25" and 3.5" drives in one horizontal desktop machine. I've got towers, laptops and all-in-ones... but no 386's. At this point I'm pretty much looking at clones, since the Tandy and PS/2 systems I might be interested in are either cost-prohibitive on eBay and such or very hard to find.

The reason I'm not really going for building a system is simply due to cost. I can seem to find a decent clone PC with all the parts I want for around $40 or so, and guaranteed working parts individually are usually at least twice, sometimes three times that. Plus a clone eliminates need for a case and PSU.


I don't really collect systems as new as 386s myself so it's a bit tough to judge but I recall someone recently asking a similar question. Sounded like the Tandy 1000 RSX was a pretty neat system. (LOL!! Not to hijack the thread but double checking I had the right system initials I came across this page which mentioned that alternative energy internet browser). Small world. Anyway, sounded like a desirable system it there was one.

386 era to me seems like the "attack of the clones". To me this is where systems were so similar I don't know anyone that didn't just roll their own computer out of parts during. So really to get the best system out there, I would think the parts probably aren't up there yet in value and can probably still be available to just build your own and have that memory.

- John
 

glitch

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If you can find one, the Compaq Portable III was a pretty cool 386. You could get an expansion box for it, that would accommodate two ISA cards. The orange plasma screen was pretty impressive. A friend of mine used to have one, which he used as a terminal to connect to his Linux server over Telnet.

IBM's ValuePoint line included a 386 clocked at either 50 or 66 MHz, with a small heatsink mounted directly to it with thermal adhesive. It got quite warm! A great little system with integrated VGA, floppy, and IDE controllers, along with serial/parallel/PS2. I've got one somewhere, but it took a spill off a truck and the back edge of the case was dented. It was fast enough to play Pinball Dreams and Pinball Dreams II with no trouble, as well as running Microsoft's TCP/IP stack under Windows 3.11 for WG for light Internet browsing and FTP downloading. With an ESS 1688 for sound/ATAPI CD-ROM and a NE2000 Ethernet card, it was a great vintage gaming machine.

Sadly, it's fallen into disuse for favor of a much thinner 486. If you're interested in it, I'll see if I can dig it up.
 

Anonymous Freak

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My favorite 386 was my IBM PS/2 Model P70, one of the 'luggable' computers, it had a fairly large built-in monochrome redscale plasma display. Two Microchannel slots, (mine had a modem and one of the rare MCA Soundblasters,) and socketed CPU and FPU, for easy upgrade to a faster 386 or through a 486 socket upgrade.
 

Chromedome45

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Mine is Also the PS/2 Model P70 and it's desktop cousin the Model 70. Both have really good performance except they are MCA only.
Hey A/F you want to get rid of that sounblaster MCA card?
 

Anonymous Coward

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AMD 386DX-40 with cache is a nice 386 machine.

You can also get 486DLC3-100 with VLB slots, which is technically still a 386...but probably a little overkill for what you want.
 

Anonymous Freak

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Mine is Also the PS/2 Model P70 and it's desktop cousin the Model 70. Both have really good performance except they are MCA only.
Hey A/F you want to get rid of that sounblaster MCA card?

Sadly, I disposed of that system before I started collecting... It got some kind of boot error, so I took it to the local electronics recycler. Yes, looking back, I severely regret it.

(This was a system I used in the mid '90s.)
 

hargle

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I have a couple nice 386 machines, one built around the 386DX/40 AMD and a ZEOS 386DX/33 system I snagged from a recycler a while back. The 40 is a gaming rig, the 33 I intend to start programming on. Both have FPU installed.

ha, sorry offtopic, but if you have a Zeos machine from 1991-1997, I probably touched it, tested it, or built it. There is a lot of my blood spilled on the bottom of some of those early cases-those babies were sharp!
 

IBMMuseum

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...IBM's ValuePoint line included a 386 clocked at either 50 or 66 MHz, with a small heatsink mounted directly to it with thermal adhesive. It got quite warm! A great little system with integrated VGA, floppy, and IDE controllers, along with serial/parallel/PS2. I've got one somewhere, but it took a spill off a truck and the back edge of the case was dented. It was fast enough to play Pinball Dreams and Pinball Dreams II with no trouble, as well as running Microsoft's TCP/IP stack under Windows 3.11 for WG for light Internet browsing and FTP downloading. With an ESS 1688 for sound/ATAPI CD-ROM and a NE2000 Ethernet card, it was a great vintage gaming machine.

Sadly, it's fallen into disuse for favor of a much thinner 486. If you're interested in it, I'll see if I can dig it up.

The only ValuePoint with a ¨386¨ was the 6382 (¨Space-saver¨) and 6384 (Desktop) 325T motherboard, with an IBM 386SLC-25 CPU. Derived from that CPU was the IBM 486SLC2 at the frequencies you report (clock-doubled 25 and 33MHz). Both the 386SLC and 486SLC2 were supposed to run the Intel 486SX instruction set (with some additional CPU control registers added as well), but the non-clock multiplied version was called a 386SLC.
 

Unknown_K

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From what I recall the case (desktop) is made of that old thick steel that was curved to keep people from getting cut (and to add strength). Nobody makes comsumer cases like that anymore (well mayne Inwin might).
Any idea what the plastic cover on the back was supposed to be fore (outside of just looks)?
 

saundby

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An HP Vectra 386 would give you a DX motherboard with ISA slots (EISA came with the 486 Vectra tower.) It's got a faraday cage that'll stop bullets. ;)
 

hargle

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Any idea what the plastic cover on the back was supposed to be fore (outside of just looks)?
yep, just for looks. similar to the back cover on a lot of the IBM ATs. Probably has a sticker or two (maybe a 6 digit serial number?) on the back and not much more.
 
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