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Just picked up a Compaq Portable 386/20 and it seems to be working but needs disks

wowbobwow

Experienced Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2015
Messages
56
Location
Bay Area, California
Hi everyone! A very lucky Craiglist find yesterday has added a fascinating and unusual vintage computer to my collection: a Compaq Portable 386, which dates back to 1987. It's in surprisingly good shape overall but didn't come with any boot floppies, and I don't currently have access to a PC that is modern enough to be able to download the necessary files from the Internet (or at least receive them from a USB flash-drive), while also being old enough to write the data to the 5.25" floppies. This might be a long-shot, but could anyone here help me create some 5.25" disks for this machine? Ideally I'd need a copy of the BIOS tool (which I think is required to enable the HDD, since the CMOS battery has long since died and the hard drive config would've died with it), some bootable DOS disks, and (if possible) a terminal app and/or any other cool software which would be suitable for this machine.

If yes, let me know - maybe you can help me 'bootstrap' this awesome old lunchbox machine back to life!

PS I actually found this with another also-interesting machine (and also one I need boot / software disks for): an Amstrad PPC512. I posted a bunch of details and pics in this Imgur gallery if you're curious :)

compaq.jpg
 

Lutiana

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 26, 2009
Messages
3,203
Location
Dublin, CA USA
I saw that machine on there, decent price too (assuming you paid the asking in the listing). Good to see it went to a good home.

Chances are the machine would work fine with a 1.44Mb floppy drive and disks, which are easier to make. So I'd just hang that off the side temporarily and then use a 1.44Mb DOS boot disk to format a 1.2Mb floppy and then you can go from there.

That said, I can totally help you create 5 1/4" disks for it. Where in the bay are you located?
 

wowbobwow

Experienced Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2015
Messages
56
Location
Bay Area, California
That said, I can totally help you create 5 1/4" disks for it. Where in the bay are you located?

That would be amazing, thank you! I know there's at least a good chance that the internal hard drive died years ago, but it does seem to be spinning. If I'm understanding this oddball machine correctly, when the CMOS battery died years ago, it probably wiped out the BIOS setting that enables the "TYPE 17" hard drive. If I can get a working BIOS disk for the machine, it's at least conceivable that I could get it to recognize the HDD and it might boot from that into DOS from there. If not, having a bootable DOS floppy with a terminal emulator would be an awesome fallback option while I figure out what form of IDE-to-CompactFlash to pop into the HDD bay as a long-term solution...

Anyway, I live in the East Bay (near Oakland) and work in San Jose 2-3 times per week, so meeting up somewhere convenient for you should be doable...
 
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