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NCR and MicroChannel Clones?

ButINeededThatName

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Fort Wayne, IN
So apparently NCR (and maybe some other companies?) made MicroChannel clones which is definitely news to me, as I always assumed MicroChannel was an IBM hosted party and that nobody was invited. From what I've found there were four NCR systems that utilized MicroChannel;

The 3300 and 3350, which were desktop systems...
...and the 3400 and 3450, which were server towers with two 486DXs.

Does anyone have any of these systems and if so, how do you like them? Also, were there any other companies that made MicroChannel systems aside from IBM and NCR, or was that it?
 

krebizfan

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There was also the Tandy 5000 MC and a bunch of ALR models plus Dell demoed some MCA clones and Wells American advertised a MCA plus ISA superclone. I don't know if Dell's was released. I think Wells American ran out of cash before development completed.

Apricot, Mitac, Memorex Telex, Olivetti, and Wang also had their labels on MCA clones but I think some of those were rebadged from other vendors. The Oct 30, 1990 issue of PC Magazine has a lengthy comparative review of a bunch of them. Chance to see pictures at least.
 

NeXT

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I always assumed MicroChannel was an IBM hosted party and that nobody was invited.
IBM did allow third parties to develop their own machines with the MicroChannel bus however the licensing fees were extremely steep and those who attempted to produce unlicensed MCA machines have been almost completely erased from existance.
The whole reason EISA came about was an attempt to counter MCA with something (that wasn't really much) cheaper but for the most part it didn't stick.
 

eeguru

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The first 486 was actually an Apricot machine with an MCA bus - VX FT. They made a few others as well.

An incomplete list:
- ALR MicroFlex 3300
- Apricot Qi PCi
- Apricot Qi 300-80
- Apricot VX FT
- Memorex Telex 7270 Intelligent Workstation
- NCR PC386sx/MC
- Reply 386SX/20
- Wang MC350/16S
- Mitac MPS3000F
- Tandy 5000MC
- Olivetti P800
 

g4ugm

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There were a whole lot more EISA machines built then MCA so it worked out.

Does any one have any figures for numbers of machines actually built, rather than models?. I find EISA based servers incredibly rare.

At one time I had an NCR microchannel desktop. I wish I still had it!.

I have a PC Server with microchannel and a P390 card.....
 

rmay635703

Experienced Member
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May 29, 2003
Messages
443
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Wisconsin
I had an NCR 486 MCA desktop with a 20” Cornerstone monochrome monitor from a bank with a cash register addon and matched cornerstone 1mb dual head graphics card with 256 “color” emulation

I sold the machine as a POS system years ago for fair money, shipping was atrocious

The proprietary graphics were quite speedy for what it was but the dos compatibility of the graphics card was “good” but didn’t look good. I played the windows version of knights chase quite effectively but it would chug when large object got close the to camera view

The lack of sound is what sunk it for me at the time (back then a 486 wasn’t very collectible) if I had the machine today I might reconsider it for my collection
I liked the mono screen but actually trashed the last one 2 years ago for the metal and circuit boards (I had 5 of those screens at one time, wish I would have kept one now that I located an ISA graphics card for it)
 

1ST1

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Olivetti MCA machines (source: pocket service guide and other documents)

M6-520
M6-540
M6-560
M480-60
M480-40
M480-30
P750
P800
P500
M300-25

Olivetti EISA machines (source: pocket service guide and other documents)

M6-850
M6-860
M6-880
M6-620
M486 ESDI
M486 SCSI
CP486
LSX5010
LSX5015
LSX5020
LSX5025
LSX5030
LSX5040
SNX 140
SNX 140/R
SNX 160
SNX 160E
SNX 60/R SYSTEMA
SNX 160/RS SYSTEMA
SNX 200/400/RS
SNX 200/400/RM SYSTEMA
NetStrada 5000
NetStrada 7000

(All SNX & Netstrada are EISA+PCI)
 

njroadfan

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Leading Edge made the Model D3/MC. I have an Adaptec AHA-1640 out of one.
 

svetlyo

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May 26, 2014
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USA
I used to have an NCR 3300, before a fire destroyed completely my collection of vintage computers. After I upgraded the CPU to 486DX2-66 it became reasonably fast, but what I hated most about it was the video card - it was integrated on the MoBo and with its 512KB supported only 256 colors at 640x480 resolution (which also required a DOS driver to be loaded before windows can recognize it and use it with anything else than the most basic 640x480 resolution and 16 colors). I replaced the original CD drive (which used a caddy) with a 4x SCSI CD-R and the HDD with a 73GB Seagate Savvio to get an additional speed boost. The memory configuration was another PITA - it worked well with 4MB 72 pin RAM (not EDO, but FPM if I remember correctly), but it didn't accept any of the larger sizes I tried. The total amount I had in it was 32MB. It could have been an OK machine if it wasn't that noisy - the power supply fan was much noisier than the case fan and if used on a desk it can drive you crazy. I am not going to complain about the weight, but that thing was built like a tank and was difficult to move around. Another problem for me was the lack of cheap MCA sound cards, which limited its use to business software and games that can play sounds through the speaker (like Jill, Commander Keen, Wolf3d, Doom, etc). I would say, it was a curious piece of hardware to have in my collection, but its use for vintage gaming or Windows 3.1/95 era software was impractical. You would be much better off with any 486 with standard ISA or PCI slots.
 

T-R-A

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I find EISA based servers incredibly rare.

One word: COMPAQ

Being part of the "Gang of Nine", they fell in love with EISA (up until the VLB/PCI era).

https://www.cbronline.com/news/compaq_will_build_entire_future_product_line_around_the_eisa_bus/

https://books.google.com/books?id=_...AQAQ#v=onepage&q=Compaq EISA machines&f=false

Having had a 486 Prosignia Server (with a PNY Quickchip 133 upgrade) I had to concede that it was built like a tank and regretted seeing the machine fall victim to a failed power-supply. The configuration disks were a PITA, however....

And for a quick refresher on how MCA met it's demise:

https://www.networkworld.com/article/2287517/micro-channel-vs--eisa-and-pci.html
 
Last edited:

eeguru

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I found this comment, "...Gang of Nine -- AST Research, Compaq Computer, Epson, HP, NEC, Olivetti, Tandy, WYSE and Zenith Data Systems – reacted to IBM’s proprietary architecture and refused to license it for use in their servers", a bit funny considering at least two did.
 

eeguru

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I've also recently discovered Reply made MCA upgrade planers for IBM machines. I found an IBM 486SLC @ 66 MHz soldered onto a Reply upgrade board in a PS/2 model 70 I recently acquired. Which I guess still complies with the SLC licensing restrictions IBM was under (upgrades only).
 

krebizfan

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I found this comment, "...Gang of Nine -- AST Research, Compaq Computer, Epson, HP, NEC, Olivetti, Tandy, WYSE and Zenith Data Systems – reacted to IBM’s proprietary architecture and refused to license it for use in their servers", a bit funny considering at least two did.

Did they license it? I think the Olivetti was an ALR design rebadged. ALR had to pay the license fees but not Olivetti. That dodge may have protected from the serious part of the MCA licensing terms: the back license for all ISA bus systems.
 

krebizfan

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Tandy certainly licensed it and payed the back-fees.

But the quote was "refused to license it for use in their servers" which in the case of Tandy is correct since the 5000MC was not a server. A mistake by Tandy since it wouldn't have been hard to make a better server than the Model 80 and that would have filled an important and very profitable hole in the Tandy lineup. Or mistake by IBM making it difficult to actually use the MCA license which killed the potential of getting more companies to license it.
 

GiGaBiTe

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Does any one have any figures for numbers of machines actually built, rather than models?. I find EISA based servers incredibly rare.

I would say more uncommon than rare, and they existed well into the Pentium II era.

The last machine I saw with EISA slots in it was in a college tech class where one of the guys brought in a Dell server that had 3-4 EISA slots in it. IIRC it had dual Pentium II 450s with like 1-2 GB of RAM. It had Windows 2000 Advanced Server on it, and we tried to upgrade it to Windows 2003, which we figured out dropped support for EISA. turns out the last version of Windows to support EISA is Windows 2000.

It was a chore trying to find the EISA setup disks because this was back in 2007 and the server then was almost a decade old.
 

Unknown_K

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I don't think IBM expected to license MCA to more then a handfull of companies anyway by the way they priced it. When an industry gets huge like the PC market did you will eventually get an open standard like PCI and what followed.
 

Unknown_K

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The vast majority of servers sold were low end small business models and I don't think very many of those were EISA.
 

njroadfan

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Compaq had a MicroChannel license as those were relatively cheap to obtain. The royalties for building machines with MCA slots were the killer part.

Microsoft seemed to prefer EISA as well. Windows 9x's PnP system autodetected EISA cards just like PnP ISA and PCI cards and autoinstalled drivers . The Intel DOS/Win 3.1x PnP config tools borrowed liberally from EISA as well (The CFG files for ISA PnP cards were based on the EISA format). Meanwhile, MCA machines required manual scanning with the "Add New Hardware" control panel when you added in a new card.
 
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