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Multicards for ISA (what are the common features?)

dr.zeissler

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Hi there, I am searching for alternatives to optimize the ISA-slot usage on my 286/386 systems.
These early systems mostly don't have many components on the motherboard.

So what are typical features combined on a card?

What I have seen:
- EGA Card with opt. Mouseport
- EGA Card with opt. LPT-port
- Multi-IO cards (serial+parallel) + additional FDD and HDD and sometimes also equipped with gameport
- ...
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

- haven't seen a VGA card with either mouseport or lpt-port, do such cards exist?
- haven't seen a RAM-Card with any optional features.

if someone has additional infos about this toppic, please let me know.

Thx
Doc
 

sqpat

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- haven't seen a VGA card with either mouseport or lpt-port, do such cards exist?

A number of the ATI VGA Wonder line of cards have some sort of bus mouse support.
As far as parallel, I don't know about VGA but i think it was normal for hercules cards to have an LPT-PORT.

- haven't seen a RAM-Card with any optional features.

RAM-cards with serial, parallel, real-time clock were sort of the norm in the XT era - cards like the AST six-pak-plus. However, these 256-384 KB RAM aren't super relevant for the 286/386 era you mentioned... You would probably have 640kb on the motherboard already, then be using a card with a couple megabytes of memory and EMS support on a 286, if not memory SIMMs. And the 386 most likely would be using SIMMs too. Anyway, these larger ISA memory cards (AST Rampage for instance) didn't generally come with those extra bells and whistles - maybe due to the fact that many 286 and 386 systems already came with serial and parallel headers/ports and an RTC on the motherboard.

Modem+Sound cards were common in later years. Sound cards also had gameport and sometimes CD-ROM support in various capacities.
I don't know if this counts, but some drivers existed to allow the use of a VGA card's memory as expanded or extended memory. Maybe it was specific to ATI cards, or maybe it was part of QRAM... I don't totally remember.

I've seen ethernet cards with some sort of D-sub connectors before. Don't know if any of those are actually serial or something like that.

Personally, I run out of slots all the time when messing around with XT-class stuff, but never with later ISA boards.
 

Timo W.

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Hi there, I am searching for alternatives to optimize the ISA-slot usage on my 286/386 systems.
I guess the question should be what you actually want in these systems..? Don't they have enough slots to just fit the usual cards?

As for RAM cards, these often had RTC, serial and parallel and whatnot in the beginning, because they were mostly made for the original PC.

You can even get Adaptec SCSI cards with built-in Sound Blaster. Lots of weird cards exist.
 

dr.zeissler

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Thx, I am mostly thinking about my A2286/8 and I have 3x16Bit ISA (two upgraded from 8 to 16Bit) equipped with:

- 1MB VGA ET4000 (no additional features)
- SC1630 Formosa (primary IDE port active with ontrack dm and CF-cards)
- 10MBit NetworkCard

Two things are problematic
- I normally don't use the network card and it's only usefull for the pc-side, copying all files to the amiga-side through the slow dualproted-ram is a bad idea.
- the SC1630 has an PC_Speaker connector that's very usefull, but it has no real OPL and that is one thing to think about.
- that means another solution for the pc-harddrive (no I will not use hardfiles!)

Actuall I I thinking about switching the Networkdcard to a multi-io-card, deactivating the floppy's, making use of the HDD-controller and LPT2! as well as serial for data-transfer. I now it's slow. with LPT2 I can make use of a ziprive for filetransfer for the PC-side, for the amiga-side I will use the SCSI zipdrive and my SCSI-cdrom if I will ever get this thing to work under KS/WB 1.3.
 

Timo W.

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Wait, you have a CF card connected but still use the NIC to transfer files? Why? Just get one of these:


HTB12KyxSVzqK1RjSZFCq6zbxVXak.jpg

and you can simply put the card into your main PC to copy files onto.
 

DOSDays

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I was thinking the same as Timo - 286 and 386 motherboards tended to have loads of ISA slots - I certainly never had more than 4 or 5 cards in mine.
That being said, there are some exceptions that perhaps only got 3 or 4 slots, but as I recall these were usually proprietary PC manufacturers with small form factor cases like Zenith, Elonex, Commodore, Amstrad, etc.
Can you provide a screenshot of the motherboard(s) you're referring to? Are the slots horizontally oriented in the case (which usually means you have fewer available)?

I have a bunch of Hercules and CGA cards, and in all cases they have a parallel port. Most early PC builds I put together these days use 3 slots: (1) graphics card, (2) HDC/FDC/RTC/Par/Ser/Game, (3) sound card. A possible (4) is if I'm using an XT-IDE CF card, in which case I need a separate floppy controller card.

I have several RAM cards (one which is what sqpat mentioned, an AST Six-pak) but I don't use these on anything after XT era, as 286 and 386 motherboards often got their own RAM upgrade slots (SIPPs or SIMMs), but on these systems I just throw in a multi I/O card.
 

Timo W.

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Ontrack should just add LBA addressing as a BIOS extension. Any card reader will use LBA anyway, so there shouldn't be any issues. (though it may depend on how you set up Ontrack - might be a good idea to try with a blank spare card first)
 

dr.zeissler

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to be clear this, I will not switch the VGA card to an EGA with LPT because the VGA card displays EGA faster (but is not 100% compatible for hardcoded ega-games/effects.. On 286/8 there are some great titles that make use of the 16color vga version with a much better color-palette than ega and I still want to display 800K TGA files loaded with qv103 (1024x768 256colors) so that VGA card is set.
 

Timo W.

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This would be epic:

SIGMA DESIGNS WINSTORM

The Sigma Designs WinStorm gives you full 16-bit audio and 24-bit true color SVGA video, along with joystick, MIDI, and SCSI interfacing capabilities, all on a single card.


The three-quarter-length WinStorm board is densely populated with highly integrated components. The board's mounting bracket contains a 15-pin D connector for attaching a color monitor, along with three jacks for microphone input, line input, and headphone or speaker output; no manual volume control is provided. In addition to a 16-bit expansion slot for installation, you'll require a second access slot in the PC's case to receive the mounting bracket which contains the 15-pin D connector for attaching a joystick (this connector doubles as the MIDI I/O connector and attaches via a ribbon cable to the board).

The WinStorm's video is excellent, providing 24-bit true color (16.8 million colors) and SVGA modes up to 1024 x 768 with 256 colors. The board also features fast vertical refresh rates and VESA BIOS compatibility, which means that any modes supported under the VESA specification work correctly with this board. A MultiMode Control Panel application allows instant resolution switching via software under Windows, a very novel and handy capability. For popular applications such as AutoCAD and others, the package provides a number of DOS video drivers.

The WinStorm is certainly no slouch when it comes to audio capabilities. It has a Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3) 20-voice stereo synthesizer chip as its sound source, which also endows the board with full Ad Lib and Sound Blaster compatibility. Since the audio chip set used on the WinStorm comes from Media Vision, the board is also fully compatible with the Thunder Board and Media Vision Pro AudioSpectrum 16 sound standards.

This board uses jumpers for enabling or disabling functions (for example, VGA on and off), altering default settings (such as IRQ), and other variables, although the defaults will prove satisfactory for most installations. Several pin connectors on the board attach various cables. One routes the PC's sound through the board, and another channels the CD-ROM drive's audio through it as well. Another 4-pin block attaches external audio sources, and there's also a 50-pin SCSI connection, in addition to the connector for attaching the joystick or MIDI ribbon cable noted earlier.

All of the WinStorm software comes supplied on high-density (1.44MB) 3 1/2-inch disks; I found no mention of the availability of 5 1/4-inch disks on or in the package. Of the nine disks provided, three contain Windows drivers, OS/2 2.0 drivers, DOS drivers, and utilities.

Additional software exploits the sound and multimedia capabilities of the WinStorm card. Animotion's MCS MusicRack, a Windows-based utility, allows you to control multimedia hardware with an interface resembling a home stereo. You also get Midisoft's Multimedia Music Library, a collection of MIDI music and sounds. Multimedia Make Your Point, a Windows-based presentation application from Asymetrix, completes the assortment of bundled software.

Sigma Designs' WinStorm is a good, cost-effective means of adding high-resolution video, 16-bit audio, and other multimedia features, all in one product.

But pretty much no chance to find one of these I guess.
 

hornbetw

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The D-Sub connector (a DA-15) on early 10MBit ethernet cards is called an "Attachment Unit Interface" (AUI). It's used to connect to 10Base5 (Thick Ethernet) connections.
 

dr.zeissler

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ok, so let's make that more specific,...

currently I am using a SC1630, what could be a better option with a real OPL2 or OPL3 chip that also
- features a PC-Speaker header,
- can be used with SBMIDI and patched MT32 support (softmpu which requires 386+).

This implies of course that I can use my CF-cards on a multi-controller.

Doc
 

Timo W.

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The ESS 1688 has one of the best OPL3 clones ever made; why do you want a "real" one? Of couse, that is your decision, but given how versatile the SC1630 is (SB Pro, Adlib, MIDI, non-PnP, primary IDE) and that we are talking about an 8 MHz 286, that card is just a good match for the limited number of ISA slots.

Also, whether or not you can use patched MT32 support or softmpu is not related to the sound card, but to the system itself. For true MT32 support, you need an intelligent MIDI port (not UART). That means either an extra card (e.g. HardMPU) taking another ISA slot or one of the expensive and rare Roland cards. But then you still have no real OPL3...

Given the slowness of the system, I would rather install a GUS and enjoy hardware mixing, from which games benefit more on the given CPU. Investing in MT32 support on a system that can barely run 10% of the games with MT32 support at good speed does not make too much sense to me. But again, it's your decision. I'm just trying to understand.

As for sound cards with PC speaker header, this is common. It is harder to find one without.
 

DOSDays

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This implies of course that I can use my CF-cards on a multi-controller.

I've never had an issue running my CF card interface like the one Timo provided a screenshot for off any of my multi I/O controller cards. I probably wouldn't attempt to run it off a caching controller card like a Promise, but the standard ones like a Goldstar Prime 2 / 2C, etc, run just fine.
 

ajacocks

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I was thinking the same as Timo - 286 and 386 motherboards tended to have loads of ISA slots - I certainly never had more than 4 or 5 cards in mine.
That being said, there are some exceptions that perhaps only got 3 or 4 slots, but as I recall these were usually proprietary PC manufacturers with small form factor cases like Zenith, Elonex, Commodore, Amstrad, etc.
Can you provide a screenshot of the motherboard(s) you're referring to? Are the slots horizontally oriented in the case (which usually means you have fewer available)?

I have a bunch of Hercules and CGA cards, and in all cases they have a parallel port. Most early PC builds I put together these days use 3 slots: (1) graphics card, (2) HDC/FDC/RTC/Par/Ser/Game, (3) sound card. A possible (4) is if I'm using an XT-IDE CF card, in which case I need a separate floppy controller card.

I have several RAM cards (one which is what sqpat mentioned, an AST Six-pak) but I don't use these on anything after XT era, as 286 and 386 motherboards often got their own RAM upgrade slots (SIPPs or SIMMs), but on these systems I just throw in a multi I/O card.
Welcome to the forum @DOSDays !

Is this your site? If so, it has helped lots of folks, and I’ve seen links to it many places.

- Alex
 

dr.zeissler

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Let's think about letting the SC1630 in that machine and use the onboard-primary-ide with CF-card and ontrack as I did for some years.
With that one free slot I can install:
- MusicQuest MPU401 card and therefore having full mt-32 support for everything a 286/8 can run in acceptable speeds.
- Put a RAM-Card in that thing. Currently I only have 1MB. I have several cards, but they are tricky to config und some are not stable and cause a reboot.
- But I think I have an 8Bit EMS-card with 2MB

I have already found some solutions to come over that 1MB RAM Problem. e.g. Deluxepaint requires EMS from 640x480 256colors and up, but there are alternatives that do not require this, but with that EMS card I could switch back to DeluxePaint up tp 1024x768 256colors. Don't know how fast this will be... Win1x/2x/3x are installed on that machine too beside Geoworks and Gem. Windows will perhaps support the EMS card.
 

Eudimorphodon

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Win1x/2x/3x are installed on that machine too beside Geoworks and Gem. Windows will perhaps support the EMS card.

Windows can only use an EMS card in Real Mode (IE, it's less than ideal for Windows 3.x), and there's a fair number of if/ands/buts about how useful it is even then.) Considering how few Windows programs there are for Windows pre-3.0 if Windows is *really* what you want you probably want a RAM card that can be partitioned between EMS and Extended as needed.
 

Caluser2000

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In my experience I've never ran out of isa slots on generic 286/386 mobos. VGA card, multi i/o card with support for fdd, hdd(some times duel channel IDE), game port, 2 com ports, lpt port and a game port, a memory card, a network, sound card with at least one IDE header along with midi support and a few 16 or 8 bit isa slots left over
 
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