Description

The Big Blue Beast

A custom IBM 5160 PC/XT-486 system - quite possibly the highest-end and most capable PC/XT-based system, ever.

Disclaimer: This is not a stock IBM PC/XT, it is 'hot-rod' edition. It is classified as an XT-486 because it is a vintage build clearly based on an IBM PC/XT 5160 that uses mostly 30+ year old vintage retail components that were originally intended for use with an IBM PC or PC/XT. The IBM and third party components remain intact and unmodified, including the original PC/XT 5160 system board, BIOS and memory, which is the heart and soul of an IBM PC/XT. It is also, by virtue of the 80486 CPU upgrade, a 486-class system. This project is intended to achieve the most functional, fastest, feature-rich, and application-capable system in aggregate, ever, based on an original PC/XT and PC/XT motherboard. This is not a system for absolute 5150/5160 purists.

Among my many interests and hobbies, I enjoy building PCs and have done so since the early '80's. I am also keenly interested in vintage computing; it provides a fascinating contrast against the bleeding-edge technology development I do in my present job as a software engineer. It serves to remind me of what was once considered impossible, but has since become possible, too often dismissed and forgotten at the cost of innovation and invention.

I became interested several decades ago when I had a unique and rare opportunity to get a personal tour from an IBM corporate historian of what was then a pair of virtually unknown climate-controlled warehouses in Hawthorne, NY. In those two huge warehouses neatly stood two of every hardware product that Big Blue had ever made, including original clocks, tabulating machines, and recorders (hence the company's original name, CTR Corporation). I heard much of those artifacts have since been donated to various museums. I was able to get my hands on dozens of systems and technologies dating back to the early 1900's - including an IBM 001 single hole manual desktop card punch and early vacuum tube mainframe computers. It was an especially solemn feeling to sit in Herman Hollerith's actual chair and desk - a slice of history few have ever seen up close and in person.

So in the spirit of that history, I share with you this small blog, a tiny sliver, a tribute, and a throwback to the original IBM PC. What follows is my experience recreating a vintage build on which I've spent a good deal of personal time and effort. I've painfully reconstructed an IBM PC/XT model 5160 to the pinnacle state of its day...and slightly beyond. I named the build - The Big Blue Beast.

What makes this build special

  • Has an extremely rare Intel InBoard/386 PC accelerator adapter from 1986
  • The Intel Inboard has been upgraded using a Cyrix CX486DRX2-20/40GP 40MHz clock doubled CPU
  • The Intel InBoard has an 80387 math co-processor (enabled)
  • Uses an ultra-fast bootable, solid-state, swappable compact flash XT-IDE adapter (XT slot 8 compatible!)
  • Twin half-height, front (bay) mounted, compact flash drives; super-easy access and swapping of CF cards
  • Runs multiple operating systems including PC DOS 2000, Windows 3.1 - just pop in a different CF card
  • The Intel InBoard/386 has 1MB of on-board memory with a 4MB daughter card used for extended memory
  • Implements a 1MB virtual RAM disk
  • Running PC/DOS 2000
  • Runs Microsoft Windows 3.1 in enhanced mode with Internet Explorer 3.02a, and Java - on a PC/XT!
  • Has 8MB of expanded memory via an Intel AboveBoard Plus 8 - fully compatible with the Intel InBoard/386
  • Has a rare PC/XT (5/86) BIOS that natively supports the IBM Model-M 101-key classic keyboard
  • Uses an auto-sensing ATi 38800-1 Graphics Ultra Mach8 SVGA adapter with 1.5MB of video memory
  • Supports a 20" ViewSonic flat panel display at 1024x768x256 SVGA resolution in Windows
  • Has a Backpack CD-ROM with audio
  • Uses a high-density floppy drive controller with an on-board BIOS enabling bootable 1.44/1.2MB drives
  • Has full internet & web connectivity via a 3Com Ethernet III 3C509B Ethernet Adapter via Trumpet WinSock
  • Modem connectivity via an US Robotics 56K external modem
  • Has a rare Sound Blaster CT1350B 8-bit audio card with an option to add CMS support
  • Has a serial Microsoft mouse (uncommon for PC/XTs, mice didn't get popular until Windows 3.x came along)
  • Uses a BOCA 9582 multi-function adapter for serial and parallel ports to conserve slots
  • Has a classic Kraft 2-button Joystick driven off of the SoundBlaster CT1350B
  • Has a 100MB hot-swap cartridge Iomega Zip drive
  • 80mm blue LED 30CFM fan mounted inside the front chassis to provide additional air flow for the 80486
  • An IBM/Lexmark 4029 600dpi 10ppm PostScript level 1 laser printer (parallel-port)
  • Bootable half-height, high-density 3.5" 1.44 and 5.25: /1.2MB floppy drives with a dual-drive bay mount
  • All in a single, classic PC/XT chassis - no 5161 expansion chassis required

Software Installed and Fully Operational

* Primary Base OS: IBM PC DOS 2000  - 7.00(1) 
* Memory Optimization: Quarterdeck QRAM
* Graphical Desktop 1: Windows 1.3 
* Graphical Desktop 2: Windows 2.3 
* Graphical Desktop 3: Windows 3.0 for the Intel InBoard/386 PC (Intel/Microsoft special edition)
* Graphical Desktop 4: Windows 3.1 
* Graphical Desktop 5: Windows 95 GUI for Windows 3.1: Calmira II 
* Graphical Desktop 6: DesqView 2.0 
* Graphical Desktop 7: OpenGEM
* Plain Text Editor (DOS): Mansfield KEDIT Version 5 
* File Manager: IBM File Command 
* Word Processor #1/DOS:  WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS 
* Word Processor #2/DOS: Microsoft Word for DOS Version 4 
* Word Processor #3/Windows: Microsoft Word 6 (Microsoft Office Version 4.2) 
* Photo Editing: Adobe Photoshop for Windows 2.5 (1st version for Windows) 
* Accounting 1: QuickBooks Version 1.0
* Accounting 2: Peachtree Accounting
* Page Layout: Aldus PageMaker 
* Spreadsheet #1/DOS:  Lotus 123 Version 2.4 
* Spreadsheet #2/DOS: VisiCalc
* Spreadsheet #3/Windows: Microsoft Excel for Version 5 (Microsoft Office Version 4.2) 
* Spreadsheet #4/Windows: Lotus 123 Version 5 for Windows 3.1 
* Contact Manager #1: Contact Master 
* Contact Manager #2: ACT! 
* Graphics #1/DOS: Harvard Graphics 2.03 
* Graphics #2/Windows: Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows (Microsoft Office Version 4.2)
* Graphics #3/Windows: Microsoft Publisher
* Communications (Dial-up): QMODEM and ProComm Plus 
* Database: Ashton-Tate dBase III Plus 
* Document Reader (DOS): Acrobat 1.0 
* High-End Document Composer: DWSCRIPT 
* Games:  Monopoly, PacMan, Pong, Jeopardy, Space Invaders, and Wheel of Fortune 
* MIDI Software: Voyetra Sequencer Plus Pro 
* MP3 Player: WinPlay3 V2.3b5
* CD Music Player: CDP (CDPlayer)
* Video Player: Xing MPEG Player
* Video: Microsoft Vide for Windows 1.1
* Internet Browser/DOS:  Arachne 
* Internet Browsers/Windows): Internet Explorer, Lynx, and Netscape 
* Internet TCP/IP Stack/DOS): mTCP  
* Internet TCP/IP Stack/Windows: Trumpet Winsock with a DOS shim
* FTP Clinet: WsFTP
* Programming: Borland Turbo Pascal for Windows
* Programming: Borland Turbo Assembler
* Flowcharting: TopDown Flowcharter 
* Cash Register (DOS):  Point of Sale Cash Register

The Complete Back Story (long)

I remember that sunny May, 1983 afternoon vividly; it was the day on which I purchased my first IBM Personal Computer. It was an IBM 5160 PC/XT with a whopping 10MB hard drive, an IBM monochrome display, and an IBM 4101-001 dot matrix ProPrinter. It cost me just north of $3,000 from an IBM retail store in Albany, NY, and that was with an employee discount. I believe the list price of an IBM PC/XT back in 1983, with a color monitor, and printer, was somewhere around $8,000 with a typical retail price closer to $5,000.

In the ensuing years I enhanced it, component-by-component, plugging integrated circuit (ICs) chips into green printed circuit boards (PCBs), setting jumpers, and wrestling with memory address conflicts and hardware interrupts (IRQs). Remember, PCs back then didn't have visual CMOS-based BIOS setup utilities like modern PCs do today - you had to configure hardware components manually using rocker switches on the motherboard. This quickly became an expensive and time-consuming endeavor that would never end. I've been building new systems ever since, so I guess that makes me a system builder going on more than 35 years and counting.

Building and modifying PCs became one of my life-long loves. Prior to that I had a company-issued IBM PC-1 5150 in the office 38 years ago - one of the first off of the IBM manufacturing line. At home I treasured my precious IBM 5160 PC/XT, and continually enhanced it over the years.

Just about everything I ever needed to fundamentally learn about personal computing I learned on that machine. I was no novice at computers, even back in the early 80's when the IBM PC emerged. My prior IBM training and work with Assembler/370, PL/1, APL and JCL mainframe programming in an MVS mainframe operating system development lab provided a solid foundation.

I had even earlier experiences with nine-edge punch cards, punch card sorters, readers, interpreters, as well as a 70's era AVL microcomputer on which I cut my teeth while working as a IBM Co-Op student. I had used a CP/M-driven AVL Eagle, which was about the same size as the original IBM PC, to sequence 2 dozen Kodak slide projectors to soundtracks. The first Eagle computers were produced by Audio Visual Labs (AVL), a company founded by Chuck Kappenman in New Jersey in the early 1970s to produce proprietary large-format multi-image equipment. Those computer sequenced projectors driven by the Eagle were used to create massive 40 foot long by 20 foot high rear-projection multimedia extravaganzas at IBM. These were stunning, heart-stopping Hollywood-class analog multimedia productions for major corporate events, hosting thousands of employees, years before the emergence of mainstream computer-based multimedia as we know it today, became possible.

However, as life progressed, things changed. I was horrified when I discovered that my beloved PC/XT had been given away in a garage sale before I could retrieve it. It didn’t matter that I had customized countless systems since then - you never forget your first love, as the saying goes.

Thus you now know why, decades hence, I decided to resurrect the original Blue Beast – only better. Call it nostalgia, call it retribution, diagnose it as you will, but alongside my modern, massive Intel i7-3930 six-core behemoth, sits the Big Blue Beast, a reconstructed IBM PC/XT Model 5160 - on steroids.

And so the quest began. I started by obtaining two marginal IBM 5160’s PC/XTs that needed quite a bit of TLC. I tossed the dead and useless circuit cards and components, and, thanks to eBay, and the good folks on the Vintage Computer Forum, found many near-extinct vintage parts from practically every corner of the planet. What follows is where the Big Blue Beast reconstruction project is to date, and a few hints to where it might be headed. Like others before me, I wanted to retain the original look and feel as best as I could, so I upgraded using mostly vintage IBM components and third-party products from that era, with the exception of a few modern components just too juicy to pass up. I feel that I've accomplished that, but rather than simply reconstruct yet another vintage build that could do little more that bootstrap the hardware and run just the operating system and maybe an app or two, my goal was to build the most functional, useful PC/XT system ever - able to run a boatload of the best DOS and Windows 3.x software from the 80's and 90's.

The litmus test for being able to claim and classify this as an advanced IBM 5160 PC/XT was minimally the following:

  • The build must retain an original IBM motherboard and case
  • The CPU, regardless of make or speed, must use the 8086 instruction set
  • The vast majority of the components used must be of the vintage era (circa 80's)

This build isn't just a lump of hardware; it can run all of the software from back in the day, and a great many applications that no PC/XT its day could dream of running well or at all thanks to the combination of modern CF technology combined with rare top of the line vintage components. In fact, I'd challenge anyone, anywhere, that can best this system based on an original 5160 PC/XT motherboard. That makes this system priceless.

I've attached photos and will post more as it continues to evolve; some photos have been taken between installing components, some replaced by better components since, so it is every changing. What follows is snapshot in time.

The Blue Beast Reconstruction Project - The Gory Details

System Case: Of course the foundation begins with a genuine IBM PC/XT 5160 case. Mint cases are difficult to find, but this one cleaned up like new with a little bit of careful effort. I had to empty the chassis completely to properly refurbish it, but it was worth the effort to clean out all of the dust bunnies and polish it up like new.

Power Supply: The system has an original PC/XT 130 watt PSU with the standard Molex connectors. The power supply is extremely quiet with sufficient power to run a fully packed system. Some of these PSUs can be very noisy - this one is whisper quiet.

Motherboard: I obtained an excellent condition original PC/XT system motherboard to replace the dead one that came with the original unit. The replacement is a late model 256-640K version. Some 5160's with 256-512KB motherboards have been jury-rigged to get 640K onto them, but that often causes other problems when using other components. This was a big deal because the original PCs came with only 16KB, before progressing to 512KB, and then finally to a native 640KB (maximum) on the main board. Anything less than 640KB on the motherboard required the addition of an external memory adapter to increase the base addressable RAM up to its full 640K limit. This was typically done using an expensive add-on memory expansion board, most commonly an AST Research SixPakPlus or equivalent, and consumed one of the precious 7 available expansion slots in a PC/XT. There are actually 8 narrow expansion slots in a PC/XT, but the last one is a half-length slot closest to the CPU which is useless for all practical purposes, save for a few very special add in cards. I've conquered the use of Slot 8 in this build with a special version of an XT-IDE compact flash adapter. Also, being a late model PC/XT, it has the latest revision BIOS (May/1986) that added native support for the IBM 101-key extended keyboard. This was also a big deal because it allowed the use of a full 101-key keyboard over the original 83-key version, and especially permitted the use of the legendary IBM Model-M keyboard which earlier PC and PC/XT BIOS versions could not natively support.

CPU Upgrade (initial): Next, I upgraded the original 8088 CPU to an 80386 using an extremely rare Intel InBoard 386/PC accelerator board that came with the required cable and manual. This CPU accelerator was widely available in 1986 and specifically built for the IBM PC; it is the most controversial part of this build. I contend that because the build maintains the original 5160 motherboard that it remains essentially an IBM PC/XT 5160, albeit, a unique 386/486-class version. The original list price for this adapter was around $1595 in the 1980s. The Intel InBoard 386/PC takes this machine to true beast status - a PC/XT able to run 80386 programs and break the 640K memory barrier for applications that support the LIM/EMS memory specification, including the retail edition of Microsoft Windows 3.1 which Microsoft, Intel, and Wikipedia all say isn't possible; this build proved them all factually wrong. The Inboard accelerator came with 1MB of on-board RAM that took the place of all but 256KB of the the main board's RAM, and has an additional 4MB memory expansion daughter card (for 5MB total) that provides additional extended or expanded memory and an Intel 80387 math co-processor; I am using the additional InBoard/386 RAM as extended memory.

Even better, the Inboard accelerator is designed to co-exist with the Intel AboveBoard Plus I am also using that provides an additional 8MB of expanded RAM (expandable to 14MB) in this build. To install the Intel Inboard/386 I had to first pull the 8088 CPU and the 8087 math co-processor chips, install the Intel Inboard/PC adapter, and plug a ribbon cable from the InBoard/386 into the original 8088 CPU socket. Then I held my breath. The upgrade made the system wicked fast (and I mean, shocking fast!) Locating the drivers for an Intel InBoard 386/PC was a major challenge, but I found 'em after hours of searching. I installed a retail version of Microsoft Windows 3.1 without difficulty running in standard mode. The only limitations of an Intel InBoard/386 PC is that is when I initially ran Windows 3.x in protected mode the keyboard locked-up, but everything else, including the mouse, worked. I eventually figured out a way to run Windows 3.1x in protected mode without the keyboard lock-up by stealing a few files from a special edition of Windows 3.0 for the InBoard 386/PC - an extremely rare and obscure version of Windows that few know about (created jointly by Intel with Microsoft) - more about that fun later...

Other than the built-in fan in original power supply, no other cooling was usually needed. However, the Intel Inboard/386 adds quite a bit of heat inside a closed case. To deal with that issue I installed an 80mm blue LED 30CFM cooler and mounted it inside the front chassis to provide additional air flow for the Intel 80386/80387. The middle expansion slots are all short adapters that left ample room for this 3" square fan. The added feature are the blue LED fan lights which make the front 5160 case light up blue - quite appropriate for the Big Blue Beast!

CPU Upgrade #2 (Current): I found Cyrix CX486DRX2 20/40GP 40MHz clock-doubled CPU, which is a 133-pin compatible upgrade for the original 80386DX that came installed on the Intel InBoard accelerator. It was a direct CPU replacement and once installed, resulted in very nice performance boost making it nearly equivalent to a PS/2 Model 80 and a Dell i486-33. It has only a 1K cache compared to an 8K cache on something like an 80486DLC, but that would have required I replace an oscillator on the InBoard which I'm not ready to risk and not sure if it would result in something as stable as I've gotten with the Cyrix CX486DRX2, which was designed for such an upgrade. More powerful CPU upgrades, like the Kingston 133MHz 586 would also have worked with a special adapter and a matching oscillator, but with an otherwise fully-loaded system I would have had to upgrade the power supply with one that didn't fit an XT case and I concluded that just wasn't worth going that far out of spec. For the Cyrix CX486DRX2 CPU I did have to install the Cyrix DOS and Windows software and turn on pipelining to fully unleash the CPU, but the Cyrix configuration utility made that a snap. I found a ton of new Cyrix CX486DRX2 CPUs readily available for round $26 USD at Quest Components online- http://www.questcomp.com/questdetails.aspx?pn=CX486DRX2-20%2F40GP&utm_source=Digipart&utm_medium=ws&utm_term=CX486DRX2-20%2F40GP&utm_content=StandardPricing&utm_campaign=DigipartWS

An interesting detail - I had previously installed an Evercool HD-AR-RBK HDD Cooling Box in the extra drive bay that that was originally used to house a traditional hard drive. The Evercool fits perfectly into a PC 5150/5160 full-height drive bay. I ended up removing the Evercool in favor of putting twin half-height CF drives in the front bay which makes for super-easy access and swapping of CF cards. But the Evercool HD-AR-RBK HDD Cooling Box was rather nifty and if I ever end up getting a 5161 expansion chassis I might put the front-mount CF-drives in the 5161 and put the Evervcool back in that bay for extra cooling.

Hard Drives: This is another one of the things that make this PC/XT a rockin’ build. The original IBM PC/XT 5160’s came with a whopping 10MB MFM or RLL hard drive. If you had a 20MB hard drive, let alone a 40MB HDD or (gasp!) a SCSI HDD, you were geek royalty back in the day. I've installed a custom XT-IDE Rev 2.8 CF 8-bit ISA adapter that accepts IDE compact flash (CF) cards. The adapter accepts interchangeable CF cards and can act as the primary boot drive or as a slave drive. I’ve made it the primary boot drive. The IDE adapter also supports a second CF drive so I’ve also added a second 1GB CF Adapter as a slave driven off the same cable and also picked up a front bay mount for easy access to CF card. Ponder that for a moment - removable, large, solid state hard drives (up to 2MB partitions for each under DOS) in a PC/XT!

Even more astounding is I have a special version of the XT-IDE that works in slot 8 of the PC/XT. It has an additional chip on the backside of the PCB that permits it to be installed in the otherwise-useless half-length expansion slot 8, freeing up yet another expansion slot for additional adapters. This is big deal; other than a 3270 emulator and a few other obscure adapters, few adapters work in Slot 8. This helped avoid the need for an IBM 5161 Expansion Chassis in a fully maxed-out system. If this makes you brim with excitement then you are definitely a true geek.

What about SCSI? I have a SCSI adapter and considered adding it, but with the CF drives there is no need for a fixed SCSI hard drive nor most other removable SCSI media. Possibly the only benefit of adding one might be to support an internal CD drive instead of the external backpack CD drive, but again, the value of installing it is questionable. I chose to keep the external backpack CD. If I ever pick up a 5161 Expansion unit I might include it in the build sometime down the road.

Display and Display Adapter: This is yet another item that makes this system more unique than most. I trashed the brittle IBM Color Graphics Adapter (CGA) card that came with the original system and replaced it with an auto-sensing, ATi 38800-1 Graphics Ultra Mach8 SVGA adapter with 1.5MB of video memory. It has no switches or jumpers to set and provides me with 1024x767x256 resolution when running Windows 3.1 (720x400 under DOS). Maybe some of us with dual GTX 990's in SLI won't think that a big deal, but it was a very big deal back then - the equivalent of having dual GTX cards. I connected my modern 20" Viewsonic Flat Panel to the VGA port just to see if it would work, and it worked like a champ at fairly high resolution and color – simply awesome! Windows 3.1 and other programs look mighty crisp!

Mouse: A mouse? With a PC/XT? Back in the early 80's you’d rarely find a PC with a mouse. Mice didn't become popular until Windows emerged later. A few programs provided rudimentary support for mice, such as WordPerfect 5.1, but these were not common in the lab early on. I noticed that the ATi Graphics Ultra Mach 8 ISA adapter had an external port for a bus mouse, so tried it out with WordPerfect 5.1 and voila, a live mouse on a PC/XT! It’s was only a 200dpi mouse, so I've since upgraded to a Microsoft serial mouse on COM1.

Additional (RAM) Memory Expansion: I was able to find an unopened Intel AboveBoard Plus 8 memory expansion adapter with 8MB resident on the board. The AboveBoard is expandable to 14MB with a daughter card. I am using it as expanded memory. Installing it required setting a specific 64K hexadecimal upper memory block that didn't conflict with other installed components. The Above Board also requires a special null-bridge chip to make it work with a PC/XT bus, so most of the ones available on eBay are useless without that chip as it didn't come pre-installed on the board.. Luckily this board came with that special chip along with original driver disk and manual. Originally, this baby cost $1500 retail and was far out of reach for most in a 1980's economy; I paid all of $8 for this one, new in its original shrink wrap, on eBay. If I ever find the memory daughter card to take the board to its full 14MB I'll add it, but watching and waiting the full 8MB memory count up during a cold boot takes about 3 minutes (though it takes about 1 minute to count up on a warm boot).

I am using it to provide expanded memory (EMS) which has several good uses, including RamDisks, print buffers and is also used by some multi-tasking/windowing programs such as Desqview, providing additional memory for running multiple apps. If you understand the different between expanded and extended memory, UMB, LIM EMS, EEMS and XMA, you are a kindred spirit.

Floppy Drives: I've acquired a rare high-density FTG-FA-100 high density floppy-drive controller that drives twin 3.5” 1.44MB bootable floppy drives. Again, this is a feat on an IBM PC/XT; high density floppy drives were not originally supported in PCs. The original IBM and most third-party floppy disk drive (FDD) controllers didn’t support them. Supporting a bootable one requires a rare 8-bit controller with an on-board BIOS that supports high density disk drives. Finding one of these adapters with an on-board BIOS was always difficult ; nearly 30 years later it seemed nearly impossible. I hunted long and hard and finally found two of them, the FTG FA-100 and a Mini-Micro. I had tried using a TSR to make a high density drive work with a multi-I/O adapter, but that creates several problems which include the inability to boot from the TSR-driven drive and install operating systems and programs that come only on high-density disks. Many apps insist being installed from the A: drive. Besides that, TSRs didn't like my set-up due to the Intel Inboard/386 BIOS that takes over the boot process after the original PC/XT BIOS initially kicks in. Further complicating things, the AT version of the TSR didn't like either the XT or Intel InBoard/386 BIOS - so much for considering a TSR-based solution and unnecessary with a native FDD high-density BIOS.

UPDATE 7/18/2019 I've since swapped out the FTG-FA-100 floppy-drive controller with a DeluxeFloppy - 8-bit ISA Bootable HD Floppy + Serial controller from Montotech (https://monotech.fwscart.com/DeluxeFloppy_-_8-bit_ISA_Bootable_HD_Floppy_+_Serial/p6083514_19478745.aspx). I had been experiencing 601 errors when I added a 5.25" floppy drive (so now the build has a half-height 3.5" 1.44M floppy drive, a 5.25" 1.2M half-height floppy drive, and I still have the additional external 1.44M backpack drive (having it makes duplicating 1.44M disks easier). That same error has been corrupting my CF drive cards. The DeluxeFloppy - 8-bit ISA Bootable HD Floppy + Serial controller bios is far easier to configure than the older boards and allowed me to properly configure to eliminate the 601 error that I simply could not do with the older boards no matter how I set their jumpers, and eliminated the conflicts causing the CF drive corruption. It took more that a year to solve this nagging issue - but now we're 100%.

One of the challenges with PCs is that the drive bays didn't easily support stacked half-height drives. Some late model units came with half-height drives with special mounting brackets. There was, at one time, a rare dual drive mounting kit which is now extinct. I was fortunate to locate some custom dual drive mounting plates that were very nicely machined. Most people give up and jury-rig mounts that are not very stable nor very attractive. The original machines I started had home-made brackets that looked sloppy and resulted in misaligned drive bezels. It is really nice to have found these mounting plates to do the build properly.

External 1.44MB 3.5” Floppy Drive: I am also using a Microsolutions Backpack 1.44MB external floppy drive which is driven off of a parallel port. The drive is blazing fast with the exception that these external drives are not bootable. Having one is a boon even with the internal high-density internal drives; it makes it convenient to easily copy disks without having to continually swap floppies using a single drive.

External Compact Disk Drive: Microsolutions backpack drives can be daisy-chained, so I picked up a Microsolutions 166700 8X Backpack External CD-ROM drive with audio playback support. It reads and plays music CDs as expected and software off of CD installs in a snap.

Hot-Swap Removable Storage: I have Zip drives on other systems from different eras, so it was nice to find a brand new Iomega Zip100 Parallel drive for a few bucks on eBay. I simply daisy chained the zip drive off the last Backpack drives and installed the DOS ASPI drivers. It is more convenient to hot swap 100MB zip cartridges between machines when transferring programs between them. Back around 1983, Iomega released a removable storage cartridge device called a Bernoulli Box which was considered a luxury, and a rather costly add-on. The Bernoulli Box was rendered obsolete by the Zip drive. Later on, Jaz drives succeeded the Zip, though Zip drives became the most popular of the three. Short of having USB support for a PC/XT class machine, which would require a custom-built 8-bit ISA adapter (not impossible, but would have to be done by someone who is an EE), the Zip drive is the next best thing.

Sound Card: Sound Blaster audio adapters were hands-down, the premier audio adapters of choice when users began to add audio to personal computers. I was able to score a rare Creative Labs Sound Blaster CT1350B 8-bit adapter which was the king of those adapters in that era. That particular edition of the SoundBlaster adapter has some open chip slots that can be optionally populated with CMS chips ripped from and older Sound Blaster 1 or 1.5 adapter which had them prior to 2.0, but I not yet sure if it is worth the effort unless I start using some of the games that could benefit from the upgrade.

Keyboard: Given the late model system BIOS on the motherboard, I was able to obtain and install a classic IBM Model-M 191401 with a 5-pin DIN connector. I initially made the mistake of trying to use a PS/2 to DIN adapter and learned that I just needed to get a full PS/2 5-pin DIN keyboard cable that was readily available on eBay to make the keyboard work with a PC/XT. In my opinion, the IBM Model-M keyboard (pictured) is the best mechanical keyboard ever made, hands-down - save for maybe the highest-end Cherry-enabled models. I smiled when I noticed a recent Maximum PC magazine article that agreed, a fact some of us have known for many years. IBM Model-M keyboards are readily available on eBay and still work with modern systems, but prices for good ones have been rising of late ever since Maximum PC let the cat out of the bag. You have to be careful to make sure all of the original key caps are present. I still use an IBM Model-M keyboard with a PS/2 cable on my monster i7-3930 system as well as on this PC/XT.

Parallel and Serial Ports: To conserve expansion slots I’ve installed an 8-bit BOCA High Speed I/O Interface Adapter Card, 9582 multifunction expansion adapter. This saves an entire expansion slot for other expansion adapters and it is a half-length adapter, allowing it to be installed in a half slot leaving a long slot available for special adapters such as memory expansion boards and accelerators.

Joystick: Any respectable retro PC needs a joystick (or two). There are many models out there, but I opted for a classic Kraft 2-button Joystick in nearly new condition. I plan to add a 2nd joystick to support dual players, so I added a DB15 game port switch and splitter that can toggle between one or two player operation. The joystick is connected and driven off of the SoundBlaster adapter.

Printers: I have an IBM/Lexmark 4029-10 PostScript Laser Printer – a true classic. It didn't print very well until I cleaned it up, replaced the toner, replaced the rubber paper take up wheel, and let the fuser heat up for a while and run a few dozen pages through it, but it now works and prints like new. I upgraded it by adding 8MB of RAM, a PostScript expansion (circuit) card, and a PostScript PCMCIA card. With those upgrades, the 4029-10 runs as a PostScript Level 1 printer with 39 fonts, 600 DPI, at 10 pages per minute. The printer can also optionally run in IBM PPDS mode.

Modem: There isn’t anything like the sound of a screechy/beepy modem connecting to the Internet, especially in the pre-web internet. If you can speak TCP/IP and Telnet or understand the joys of IP tunneling and BBSes, then you are pretty hard core. I have an external US Robotics 56K modem. I also have an internal US Robotics 56K modem that works, but have no more available expansion slots unless I find an 5161 expansion unit. I found a copy of QMODEM which was my favorite communications program for many years. And yes, there are still some dial-up BBSs in service. I also have AOL and recently discovered that my original AOL account is still intact - You've Got Mail!

Internet Browsing via IP: I was able to achieve full internet and web connectivity using a 3COM Ethernet III 3C509B RJ45 network adapter. I needed a matching packet driver for the 3C509B, but the regular drivers were for PC/AT systems. Luckily I found a working DOS packet driver that works with a PC/XT. The packet driver loaded fine, but due to the adapter's default IRQ setting (IRQ10), it conflicted with the XT-IDE CF adapter, hanging the CF drive after the NIC's packet driver would start- ugg! With a bit more digging I found the configuration utility for the 3CX series 3COM adapters (3C5X9CFG.EXE) and it provided an easy to use interface to pick from a variety of available IRQs and I/O ports. After that I was able to load the packet driver without any conflicts.

To get TCP/IP enabled for DOS: I installed mTCP, and with a few AUTOEXEC.BAT mods I was able to start DHCP and get an IP address assigned for use with DOS. I was then able to ping other Windows systems on my network and was also able to install, configure and connect to the web with the Arachne CSS-enabled graphical web browser and navigate to a variety of current web sites. Arachne has a built-in eMail client. I was also able to configure both inbound and outbound email service via Arachne. mTCP comes with a variety of other utilities including Telnet, FTP client and host, an IRC client and more.

To get TCP/IP enabled for Windows 3.1: Since I already had a working Ethernet adapter and a matching packet driver, I downloaded and copied TRUMPET Winsock to my C: drive, added a PATH statement for it in my AUTOEXEC.BAT, and then added WINPKT.COM 0x60 following the packet driver. This is what is called adding a 'shim' between Windows and DOS which essentially allows Windows to communicate with the Ethernet adapter through DOS. In Windows 3.1 I simply added TCPMAN.EXE to my Startup group, ran Setup on TCPMAN then rebooted - and voila - full Windows 3.1 internet (TCP/IP) connectivity without ever needing all of the overhead of Windows 3.11 Workgroup for Windows.

Before I had the 3COM Ethernet III 3C509B RJ45 network adapter I had set up an alternate, no-slot Ethernet solution using an XIRCOM PE3-10BT RJ45 Parallel Port Ethernet adapter. This tiny device doesn't take up an expansion slot, which is great for those of you that are out of expansion slots or can't find a decent network interface adapter or want quick and easy net connectivity. The XIRCOM simply plugs into an available parallel port and is automatically recognized as an Ethernet adapter on same IRQ as the printer port and defaults to soft IRQ 0x60. The XIRCOM I had came with its original driver diskette and the matching packet driver - all I needed to do was copy the packet driver to my hard drive, add it to my AUTOEXEC.BAT, and then install a TCP/IP stack (photos attached). You can speed up an XIRCOM up to 4x faster with an high-performance EPP parallel port.

Documentation Library: I picked up a full library of original IBM boxed manuals for a song on eBay, including of course the original PC/XT Guide to Operations, the two volume PC/XT Hardware Maintenance and Service library, and the complete three volume IBM Technical Reference Library – Options and Adapters library. I also have the hard cover DOS Reference and BASIC Reference plus a variety of manuals for the printers and various peripherals. Manuals and documentation is a must for vintage gear and I have found a number of web sites that have thankfully continued to make thousands of these archaic documents available. Many years ago I personally worked with some of the wonderful people that wrote these manuals.

Software Installed and Fully Functional

There isn’t enough space to enumerate the much longer long list of software I have installed or plan to install, save for a short list of favorites here:

Plain Text Editor (DOS): Hands down it’s Mansfield KEDIT Version 5 for me. I grew up on mainframe XEDIT under the IBM VM operating system and there isn’t a more powerful or customizable text editor in existence then, or now. In fact, I still have KEDIT for Windows on my massive i7-3930 system. Almost unbelievably you can still find and purchase KEDIT for current versions of Windows on the web.

File Manager: For me it is IBM File Command all the way. Again, I cut my teeth on VM/CMS Fulist/Filelist running off an IBM 3081/3084 mainframe and this is a solid clone. I've always liked it because of its simple, uncluttered elegance and you can execute DOS commands right next to any file or multiple files. FileCommand is also highly customizable. There is a photo of it below.

Word Processor #1/DOS: WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. WordPerfect was the standard back in the day (alongside WordStar) before Microsoft Word came along. WordPerfect continued to rule the day for years with its seemingly archaic ‘reveal codes’ feature that I thought of as poor-man's VS/SCRIPT. Version 5.1 even has mouse support.

Word Processor #2/DOS: I've installed a full version of Microsoft Word for DOS Version.

Word Processor #3/Windows: Microsoft Office Version 4.2 installed well under Windows 3.1 running on this PC/XT along with Microsoft Word 6 and runs rather well with its full graphical interface.

Photo Editing/Windows Adobe Photoshop for Windows 2.5 (1st version for Windows). This is a fascinating one. It will only run in Windows enhanced mode to make enough RAM available for it to run. Of course, Microsoft and Intel wrote that the Inboard PC wouldn't run Windows in enhanced mode, let alone the retail version of Windows 3.1, but I am!

Accounting #1: The original QuickBooks Version 1.0.

Accounting #2: PeachTree Accounting Suite.

Page Layout: Aldus PageMaker, (before Adobe bought Aldus).

Spreadsheet #1 (DOS): I have a full copy of Lotus 123 for DOS Version 2.4 installed.

Spreadsheet #2 (Windows): Microsoft Excel for Windows Version 5 is installed and runs very well as part of Microsoft Office Version 4.2 under Windows 3.1.

Spreadsheet #3 (Windows):Lotus 123 Version 5** for Windows 3.1.

Contact Manager: Contact Master.

Graphics #1 (DOS): Harvard Graphics Release 2.03 (photo included below).

Graphics #2 (Windows): Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows as part of Microsoft Office Version 4.2.

Communications (Dial-up):There is only one for me, QMODEM, but I also have a copy of ProComm installed.

Database: Ashton-Tate dBase III Plus.

Document Reader (DOS): Acrobat 1.0

High-End Document Composer: If you are old enough and a mainframe geek, you might remember Generalized Markup Language (GML), which was the precursor to SGML which in-turn, is what HTML and XML was based upon many years later. So of course I go with a DCF/Script clone called DWSCRIPT, an internally-developed IBM DCF clone which you won't find on the internet, but can still find its equivalent, SCRIPT/PC on eBay. It's not much different from HTML, except that instead of '< >' brackets, tags begin with a colon (:) and end with a period (.) like this :p. which I still think was better than using the crummy HTML brackets which are far more difficult to type. Plus, GML tags, extended with SCRIPT and REXX macros, provided powerful page formatting control which, although impure for device-independent publishing, was wonderful for page layout control long before CSS and Javascript.

Games: Dozens of them. Among the more name-brand ones are Monopoly, PacMan, Pong, Jeopardy, Space Invaders, Wheel of Fortune, and dozens of others. I've included a few photos of some running on this build below.

Music Software: I've installed a SoundBlaster Midi Kit, Voyetra Sequencer Plus Pro. Since I play keyboard and also write music it will be fun to hook-up my Yamaha P-200 stage piano and get a sense what pre-Cakewalk Sonar X3 Producer was really like.

Windowing Programs:: As you can see from the pictures, I’ve got copies of Windows 1.3 and Windows 3.1 running fine and fast run on this build with the Intel InBoard/386. Did you ever see Windows Versions 1or 2 or know anyone that has? Why do it? I duno, because I can? It certainly makes for a very cool conversation piece to run and show the original versions of Windows which very few have ever seen since it wasn’t until Windows 3.1 when the general PC user population saw or experienced Windows for the first time. Of course I have a list a mile long of other utilities, applications, and games; that’s part of the ongoing fun of having a revved-up working build of the machine that started an entire technological revolution. I've also installed several other pre-Windows multitasking and pre-MS windowing programs running, including Desqview 2.0 and OpenGEM.

Windows 3.1: Contrary to conventional wisdom, yes, I am now running a full retail version of Microsoft Windows 3.1 along with Internet Explorer 3.02a and Java. Having 4+ MB of extended RAM from the Intel Inboard/386 PC (5MB total) made this possible - and it runs wicked fast on the 486DX CPU.

Windows 3.11 Workgroup for Windows (WFW): Like Windows 3.1, this isn't suppose to install at all according to every scrap of documentation and web post ever written, but I was able to install and run WFW with full mouse support. The only issue is the keyboard gets disabled due to some unknown conflict on WFW startup. WFW 3.11 also isn't as snappy as Windows 3.1 and, though I thought about using it for its networking support, I plan to stay with Windows 3.1 and added a shim between the DOS packet driver and add WinSock to enable TCP/IP for Windows 3.1, making the need for WFW a moot point.

LATEST UPDATE 10/2015: Windows 3.1 running in Enhanced Mode! I think I've just done the impossible on this build. I've actually gotten the Windows 3.1 to run on this build IN 386 ENHANCED MODE! I don't think that has ever been done in history using an 5610 PC/XT motherboard. I did it by acquiring an extremely rare copy of Microsoft Windows 3.0 made by Intel specifically for the Intel Inboard 386/PC accelerator. This is a very special version of Windows that was available only to buyers of the InBoard adapter - very few Windows historians even know about that legitimate version of Windows. Standard Windows 3.1 would run, but only in standard, not in enhanced mode; trying to run it in protected (enhanced) mode would cause the PC keyboard to lock up (what is called the Gate A20 keyboard switching problem). I got around the limitation by hijacking some of the additional Intel drivers from that rare Intel/MSFT copy of Windows 3.0, and using those drivers to replace some of the standard Windows 3.1 drivers - and it worked. I can now win Windows 3.1 software that requires the use of protected mode and extended memory. Wikipedia says running Win 3.1 on an InBoard was not possible, let alone running one in enhanced mode...I guess that proves Wikipedia double wrong now.

Internet Browser (DOS): I am using the Arachne CSS-enabled graphical web browser (and eMail client)

Internet Browser (Windows): Internet Explorer, but not without issues as it doesn't support CSS. I also have DOS Lynx, Netscape, and Opera.

Internet TCP/IP Stack (DOS): mTCP (includes support for DHCP, FTP, IRC, TelNet and more).

Internet TCP/IP Stack (Windows): Trumpet Winsock with a DOS shim.

Programming: Borland Turbo Pascal 6.0 (DOS)

Programming: Borland Turbo Pascal (Windows)

Programming: Borland Turbo Assembler (DOS)

Challenges Overcome

I did have quite a few challenges along the way.

To build out a PC/XT with these many features and without needing an IBM 5161 Expansion unit is a feat in itself. It would be easier to find a unicorn than finding a good condition 5161 expansion unit for an acceptable price even if such a rare unit surfaced completed with its send/receive cards and cable. Careful selection of components is a must because as I mentioned earlier, the original IBM PC/XT had only 8 expansion slots, of which only 7 were typically useful, The 8th slot was highly restricted save for just one or two special purpose half-length adapters such a 3270 emulator which was a special adapter to use a PC as an IBM mainframe terminal which we all used back when everyone replaced their IBM 3270 terminals with PCs along with token ring network connections. Eliminating hard drives with the XT/IDE CF replaced the traditional HDD and using half-height floppy drives freed up drive bays, and, with the XT/IDE CD adapter being Slot 8 compatible, freed up an entire long adapter expansion slot. Acquiring multi I/O adapter with four ports - game, parallel, and two COM ports - saved yet another slot due to the typical I/O cards having just two or three of those. I could have used the 16-bit Digital Research Super ISA multi-I/O adapter I have with FDD support to drive the floppy drives and save yet another expansion slot, but that would require a TSR and I wanted a bootable 1.44 3.5" drive - hence the need for an FDD controller with its own BIOS.

As for working with CF drives, I started with a 1GB CF card and made it the primary bootable drive. Like I said, that allowed me to eliminate the traditional platter HDD and controller to free up an expansion slot and a drive bay. I discovered it gets a bit tricky to prep some CF cards for use with DOS. I had to use a modern system to clean the CF cards of their default out-of-the-box default partitions, otherwise DOS sees most new CF cards as having no available space due to being filled with a non-DOS partition. After wiping CF card clean of its stock partition I could boot DOS on the PC/XT from floppy and then partition and format the full 1GB CF card which, amazingly, took only a few seconds. Back in the day, a 10MB HDD would take quite a long time partition and format!

I chose to use PC DOS 2000 for several reasons. First, it is year 2000-compliant, second, it has a smaller memory footprint and more functionality, third, it supports 1.44MB floppy drives and can create and format up to 2GB partitions each. In theory I could get larger CF cards and partition them into multiple 2GB partitions, each with its own drive letter if I wanted to, but that would be a bit overkill (as if this entire build isn't already!) 1GB CF cards are more than sufficient and the notion that I can simply swap out one CF drive for another in seconds means I can boot up entirely different systems with various OSes at will. Hello CP/M, XDOS, DR DOS, and Linux distros!

When I began I didn't have a booable 1.44MB drive; I had only low-density floppy drives. DOS 6.0 and beyond require a high-density 1.44MB drive to install. The way I got DOS to boot without initially having a high density 1.444MB floppy drive was to create a bootable DOS 720KB 3.5” disk on my modern system using a USB-attached floppy drive. Remember, even the backpack drive isn’t bootable - and good luck finding DOS 6.x or later on low-density disks which were available only by mail-in request a few decades ago. To overcome this barrier I did was load DOS into a VMWare virtual machine (you can’t boot DOS on an i7-3930 natively), do a DOS system transfer to the 720K floppy disk. I was then able to use the 720K 3.5" disk to boot DOS on the PC/XT, run FDISK to partition the CF card, then make a master boot record (MBR) on the CF card using FDISK /MBR command after which the system booted DOS 6.1 natively from the 1MB CF card -- piece of cake!

The most vexing problem of all was getting the high density 1.44MB and 1.2MB floppy drives to work. PC/XTs didn't support these high density floppy drives natively; they require a high density floppy drive controller with its own BIOS which I found, but then learned that the floppy adapter's BIOS conflicted with the XT-IDE CF adapter BIOS. There was very little to no help on this one as there must not be many (if any) people that have tried to make a HD floppy adapter and an XT-IDE CF adapter co-exist. After a great deal of fiddling and consulting with some of the experts in the vintage computer forums, I had a solution which involved modifying the starting BIOS address of the XT-IDE adapter such that it resolved the conflict. To solve it I literally had to pull the XT-IDE controller BIOS chip out of its socket, find and bend a particular pin #12, wire it to pin #3 and re-seat the BIOS chip to shift the BIOS address from C000 to D000 given that the FDD BIOS need to occupy C000 in memory trying to reprogram the XT-IDE EPROM to stuff the FDD BIOS into it didn't pan out. I don't have an EE experience so this was a bit of a harrowing experience for me; I owe a great deal of thanks for the generous expert assistance I receive to resolve that challenge.

In Conclusion

It appears that the original IBM PC and PC/XT are quickly becoming hot commodities with collectors. Most of the units available are in pretty bad shape - if they run at all, and even then can't do much with software given their typically limited configurations. Components, especially the good ones, are getting more difficult to find and are also getting expensive. Oh, and good luck finding the drivers and documentation required to install and configure the more obscure or exotic components!

I built this system to represent the pinnacle of what could be made of the classic IBM PC/XT while staying largely true to the original, within reason. Most of the system components are of the same vintage you could have found in the '80's. When I hook up a 5151 or 5154 display and original 83 key keyboard, the system looks exactly like the original, but how can one resist using a gorgeous large VGA flat panel color display at 1024x768x256, and the magnificent and legendary IBM Model-M keyboard?

There were even more challenges I encountered along the way. Thanks to the vast internet and Google I was able to locate ancient copies of documentation, technical specifications, vintage device drivers, and of course forum discussion threads, most of which are aging but still active with some highly-experienced vintage computing peers for whom I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for their knowledge, expertise, and self-less willingness to solve vexing issues I faced and remind me of details I once knew but have since long forgotten. There were also several pioneers that have gone before me that have created spectacular builds whom I won't name but to whom I owe a great deal of thanks for their blogging efforts which provided a great deal of information and tips of what works, what doesn't, and what to avoid. They set the bar which I tried to exceed with this build in aggregate. If you think yourself an expert system builder, go spend a little time over in the vintage computing discussion boards where members think nothing of reprogramming EPROM chips, design circuit board pin-outs, and build their own adapters - THAT is hard core system building!

Why did I go into such detail on this build? I did so in the event some other hardy souls choose to take on a similar challenge. I hope to add more detail, tips, and links to key resources. More to come as the journey has once again, just begun...

Regards,

Mike

Comments

  • 62 months ago
  • 111 points

so far after reviewing all the other builds on this site, i found the one and only that can run minesweeper. thank you :) +1

  • 62 months ago
  • 39 points

And it still beats consoles

  • 9 months ago
  • 34 points

CONGRATULATIONS!!

YOU HAVE EARNED THE TITLE OF:

CHEAPEST BUILD ON PCPartPicker

YOU HAVE EARNED THE TITLE OF:

SHORTEST PART LIST ON PCPartPicker

YOU HAVE EARNED THE TITLE OF:

LONGEST DESCRIPTION ON PCPartPicker

  • 6 months ago
  • 12 points

its the most expensive one now. 50000 usd

  • 6 months ago
  • 8 points

Haha yes. Was wondering where the $50,000.01 build came from.

  • 62 months ago
  • 29 points

Genuine, Historic, Legendary

  • 61 months ago
  • 29 points

Description was not adequate

  • 61 months ago
  • 11 points

:-)

  • 1 month ago
  • 6 points

dude, im hiriing you to write my science paper

  • 62 months ago
  • 14 points

Thanks for taking time to recollect and re-educate so refreshing to see

  • 62 months ago
  • 13 points

Thanks you... :,) *sheds tear

  • 62 months ago
  • 9 points

I'm at a loss for words...

  • 9 days ago
  • 1 point

so am I, but only because this guy used every single word on earth for this description.

  • 62 months ago
  • 8 points

So... Can this run BF4 at 60+ on Ultra settings ? (remeber im just joking)

  • 62 months ago
  • 7 points

Don't worry I'm remebering :P

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

Just in case ... :D

  • 62 months ago
  • 8 points

now you are a TRUE PC BUILDER

  • 62 months ago
  • 7 points

Lots more pictures posted as requested.

When I swap out the 8088 MOB for the 8086 the wiring will a lot more tailored - I'm still waiting on the SCSI terminator to be able to install the high density IDE/SCSI card for the 1.44MB 3.5" internal floppy after which I'll route and tuck all the wiring properly and neatly.

Regards, Mike

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

Pure amazing.

  • 62 months ago
  • 6 points

But... will it run crysis?

  • 62 months ago
  • 3 points

Maybe if I IP tunnel to my i7 3930 with my twin GTX boards to launch it over there! :-)

  • 62 months ago
  • 2 points

Seems legit.

  • 5 months ago
  • 6 points

Congratulations! You have earned the following PCPartPicker titles:

Most Expensive Completed Build Most Expensive Single Part Shortest Parts List Most Pictures for a Completed Build Longest Build Description Oldest Operating System Used

  • 5 months ago
  • 2 points

god that formatted horribly oops

  • 3 months ago
  • 2 points

Yep

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

YeaY

  • 62 months ago
  • 5 points

You are a hero, my friend. A legend, the greatest of legends! May you die with a screw driver and circuit board in your hands, and thank you for serving us!Thank the gods we have you! salutes

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

dont die yet,, my science paper is due tomorrow and I need someone to write it, and after assessing your skills I beleive you will be the perfect fit to write a comprehensive guide on tennis balls.

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

or on just balls especially if you are gay

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

and with that comment i have officially put myself at risk for getting my account banned from PCPartPicker

  • 31 months ago
  • 3 points

BUT can it run Crysis 3?

  • 62 months ago
  • 2 points

Woohoo! I just scored a brand new Intel Above Board Plus 8 2MB memory RAM expansion board for the PC/XT still in its original shrink wrap box! It is expandable to 8MB (I am not sure if I want to wait to watch the memory count up that high). There goes the last available expansion slot - guess I'll need an 5161 Expansion Unit if I want to expand any further (pretty near impossible to find complete and in good shape).

  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

one of the best builds i have ever seen on this site, massive congrats +1

  • 9 months ago
  • 2 points

I've just now run into this build posting and I LOVE it!!!

You are right, I didn't know there was a Windows before 3.1 (which I started out on and still kinda miss!)

I remember going to the store and buying my first Word program on a floppy and thinking I finally stepped into the real computer world! Not to mention when I finally got my first 56K V.92 modem card!

And the fun of logging in with AOL and the all the beeps and sometimes up to several hours to get on.

Now it's all about speed and graphics and hurry up about it!

Wish I could play with your computer, sounds very fun and nostalgic.

Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  • 9 months ago
  • 3 points

I have to admit a large part of building it was out of nostalgia but also the technical challenge as well. I was so impressed seeing the builds folks were doing in the vintage computer forum (VCF) that I wanted to see if I could take one to an entirely new level that I couldn't do (afford or tech) back when I received my first IBM PC - one of first that rolled off the line.

  • 9 months ago
  • 1 point

Man, that is awesome!

The last several days I have been kicking myself all over the place for getting rid of my old PC's. Would have liked to take on such a challenge.

I will have to check out that forum, as well.

  • 5 months ago
  • 2 points

Sincerely, i just wanted to see the most expensive build on PPP and was expecting a crazy ridiculous high-end PC, with lots of RGB, multiple high-end graphics cards, a expensive CPU, huge RAM at higher MHz, multiple expensive monitors, a Sim racing setup as well and many more...

But i should have seen this 1 coming.

Got give my upvote. Nice job man :) I bet you are super proud of this 1

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Dad would worship.

  • 2 months ago
  • 2 points

He would if he would hurry back with that milk it has been 8 years and still no milk

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Can it run Crysis?

  • 2 months ago
  • 2 points

bru 50 thousand are you a mad man

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

This is absolutely incredible.

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

Coool

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

MORE PICTURESSSSSS

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

Amazing. Simply, amazing.

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

Are you an electrical engineer? (I'm asking because it seems only an engineer would have the expertise to complete a build of this magnitude)

  • 62 months ago
  • 7 points

LOL, no, I don't have an EE.

I was visual arts major that in the deep recession of '81, went back to school for graduate work in Computer Science and then got hired into a software development related role. I was a fish out of water in the internal programming training classes. I was from a small school and around me were mostly valedictorians from a list of the most prestigious universities. Keeping up with 25 brilliant software engineers that read 500 page assembler dumps (in hexadecimal) as fluently as reading Sunday paper was,....let's just call it, intimidating. I had to pass all of the same grueling programming tests for months on end; the motivation was a matter of survival to keep the new job as a new hire.

I was equally enamored with hardware as I was with software. It was easy to get into it because I was there literally Day 1 of the PC revolution when the first IBM PCs rolled off the line. Of course I also had a lot of exposure to mid-range and mainframe systems as well since I was in the software development end of the systems.

When everyone around you are brilliant software and hardware engineers in their own right, the knowledge sharing on a daily basis was just status quo. We learned together as it all evolved and things were not as complex as they are today.

To many old timers like me this stuff is second nature; much of it is plug and pray ...and I'm not THAT old yet! I am still in the thick of R&D and lead multiple development teams that build some of the most advanced software systems in the world :-)

Regards, Mike

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

Purely amazing :) +1 for sure!

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

Very nice post, both interesting and educational :D! It's like an old classic car :P + 1

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

my god your the really og pcbuilder

  • 62 months ago
  • 1 point

That legend of a PC deserves a better desk!

  • 62 months ago
  • 2 points

I agree! This is only my workbench. When I wrap up my final mods it will move right next to my Storm Trooper tower system and sit there in class!!

Regards, Mike

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Such a great machine, most won't understand.

+.... no number high enough.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I like this! Such dedication. You need an in-era mouse pad... which, at the time, probably would have been the manual for the motherboard or something.

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

Good idea! I think I know where I can find an old IBM pad. I also need to take picture with the original 5154 enhanced color display and 83 key PC 1 keyboard as I have both just to capture the total original look. I don't have a ProPrinter through - that would complete the setup. I we never keen on my original dot matrix printer though - not too long after I had it, IBM came out with the 4019 laser printer which I jumped on. The 4019 was slightly smaller than the IBM 3012 (code named Red Cloud) VM network laser I had at work; they were early B&W laser printers with CRU (customer-replaceable units) e.g, user serviceable. We used to dream that one day there would be color laser printers and imagined how they might function to achieve color....

  • 60 months ago
  • 1 point

I love this. Taking a trip through time... seeing the original computers, watching them operate, hearing them process, the ludicrous amount of errors... though I wasn't around to see it, I'm sure as hell glad they're still around so I can at least get a grasp on what they WERE like.

  • 60 months ago
  • 3 points

Thank you. I hope people of all levels of experience enjoy this build for the reason you cited. Many newer system builders will likely not be able to grasp the significance of a build like this - or how complex it was given the era and nature of the technology. Interestingly, this system, both hardware and software, now run flawlessly. The ludicrous amount of errors you cite is an accurate description during the build process given all of the complexities involved - especially with all of the vintage parts and manual adjustments needed. Once those are overcome then you are home free, but getting there isn't for the weak of heart :-)

  • 54 months ago
  • 1 point

This is so awesome! You have waaaaayyyyy more patience than me when it comes to older tech. I guess it shows you how spoiled we really are these days.

  • 53 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice build. My only thought is, it's a little light on pictures. Could you please add some more?

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. It was my second computer so, so many years ago. This was an upgrade from my beloved 386. You even have the 1200 baud modem, a BBS, the joystick, the two button mouse, and the software. Wow!

This was a joy to view. Thanks so much for saving and restoring this beauty.

  • 48 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks for looking; it was a joy to build!

Regards, Mike

  • 46 months ago
  • 1 point

breathes heavily "Why am I horny?"

  • 46 months ago
  • 1 point

Very cool. Wow we had an 8088 with a 20 my hard disk. I knew a fella in college that had an 80386 @16mhz pc that ran great. This would have been a monster playing Wing Commander back then. Thanks for showing this awesome piece of pc history. +1

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey, found the wizard.

  • 35 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow. You build truly is like stepping into a time machine. Great job. I know the feeling of your first love and giving one away. I had an old Mac Plus (when I was a mac person) that with an impulse move, gave that away and regret doing so even today.

  • 35 months ago
  • 1 point

pc description or harry potter series?

  • 35 months ago
  • 1 point

Harry potter series.. its wizardry!

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

This is currently my favorite thing. Thank you for your dedication to the PCMR and your fantastic building and writing ability. Salute

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

Can it run Crysis 3?

  • 13 months ago
  • 1 point

Mike, thank you. This build and the Impossible Build have absolutely made my day. You've put a smile on my face that is going to last the entire day and then some.

I have a stack of 15-20 older 98/Xp era machines... and have been planning on going thru what I have, and trying to salve at least 2 functional retro builds, without investing anything into them...if I can pull it off.

You've went far beyond the scope of my plans. But you are truly inspiring, and this is what I needed to stop procrastinating and start on the project!

So again, THANK YOU!!!

  • 13 months ago
  • 2 points

Glad I can help advance the cause! It's fun to see how far we can push things. Many would not understand the sheer challenge, but it's every bit the climb as it is the destination!

Let me know how it goes! Mike

  • 13 months ago
  • 1 point

I started doing inventory on the PC gear last night... opening up cases, taking pictures, putting together a folder of the stuff I currently own...

Then I hooked up the Power Mac G4 and played the rest of the night. It had crashed a few years ago on boot, and would freeze at the same point every time I booted it.and I had shut it off, unhooked it, and let it sit. I didn't even realize it had an optical drive until last night.

I hooked it up and turned it on...and wife called me to supper. While we were eating, I commented, wouldn't it be funny if simply turning it on and letting it run, it got past where it had been freezing...and actually booted?

I went back into the room where it was running when I finished eating...and lo and behold it was waiting for me to login!

Crazy stuff.

Apparently I just needed some patience with this one!

  • 13 months ago
  • 2 points

I have a garage full of old PCs and boxes of parts - once I get into them it's like an addiction.

  • 13 months ago
  • 1 point

Yes sir! So you know exactly how I've been feeling the past two nights digging in! :D

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

There is a beauty and as art to old PCs. I love this build

  • 9 months ago
  • 1 point

Part list: Wire $0.01 the end

Impressive

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

AH!! i reached the comments!! a magical place thiat i feared never existed! i've been scrolling so long, AND I MADE IT!!!

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

are you bill gates?????????????

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

Nah, Someone from NJ could never be Bill Gates LOL.

Mike

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

Something about the modern flat panel monitor just doesn't sit well with the aesthetic.

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point

I know - you are correct. I so wanted to have1024x758 by 256 colors when running Windows app on it that I couldn't do with even an original IBM EGA monitor and adapter, so I swapped them out the EGA adapter and 5154 EGA IBM monitor for the VGA adapter and the flat panel. I suppose I could find an older VGA CRT, but it still wouldn't be an original IBM 5153 (CGA) or IBM 5154 EGA monitor. I'd love to support both and switch between EGA and VGA modes and displays on the same machine - I'll have to think if there is any possible way to accomplish that and still have 1024x758 by 256 when in VGA mode as the auto-sensing ATi 38800-1 Graphics Ultra Mach8 SVGA adapter with 1.5MB of video memory is the highest end ISA display adapter I could find and has only a VGA connector. I'll have to do a little more research to see if it can support an EGA display.

Regards, Mike

  • 5 months ago
  • 1 point
  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Has anyone even bought this masterpiece yet?

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

For sale...one of a kind, had 2 inquiries so far. It'll go.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey Mike! You've inspired me to try to do the same, and now I'm trying to upgrade my XT with the Inboard 386/pc. It works and all as-is, but I'm wondering how you got past the following:

1) The instructions say that you can't have any cards in slots 5,6,7, and 8 (but the Inboard can be in slot 5, which is what I've done). I've had to sacrifice one of my cards (the sound blaster), but I'd like to put it back in there;

2) And how did you pry the 386 CPU out of the Inboard in order to upgrade it? I have a faster 386DX/33 I'd like to upgrade mine with, but that stock CPU is jammed in there pretty good and tight. After trying with various tools, I stopped because I was afraid I was going to break something.

Thanks so much for sharing all this!

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Just get a cheap chip puller from ebay - it will pop right out: https://www.ebay.com/itm/1PCS-PLCC-IC-Chip-Extractor-Motherboard-Circuit-Board-Component-Puller-Tool/221944834880?epid=24010176342&hash=item33acf16b40:g:WiwAAOSweuxWTTAu

I recall the 386 needed to go into a specific slot (I forget which - I'd have to pull the cover - somewhere in te middle - which is why my CPY cable has to always lay over one or two other cards - a pain when I need to pull one of them), but there is no absolutely restriction on what ISA cards can be in any other slot other than Slot 8 which is limited (which is why when I got an XT-IDE card I got one with the extra curcuit on the backside of the PCB that makes it work in slot 8 just fine.

If I get a chance I'll pull the cover and tell you exactly which cards I have in which slots.

Regards, Mike

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the info! To follow-up, I got one of those IC extractors and tried and tried to upgrade that 386 InBoard to a 386dx/33, but the stock CPU is wedged so tight in there, I ended up scratching it a bit. So I decided just to live with the 386dx/16 before I broke anything. Mine just has the 1mb onboard. So that's cool you have the additional memory! I put my sound blaster back in there, and moved the multi i/o card back off to slot #7 (overflowing to #8 with the ribbon extension), and it seems to work just fine, as you said it would. So I'm happy I have sound for my games again. I've found that the CF slot on those XT-IDE cards can be a little delicate; I have the one where you can load/unload them from the back of the computer. Problem is, the pins easily get bent and crunched. So now I have one like yours, that can be used in slot #8 if needed. I imagine that's a tight squeeze with anything in slot #8 and the InBoard's ribbon cable in the way? Anyway, my next project is to try to get an ethernet card and get a LAN going... Thanks again!

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Sounds great! It does take a firm pull to get that CPU out of its socket, I remember I was scared too - I think I rocked out on one side a tad first then the other until I could do a straight up pull to get it all the way out without bending any pins. I still have my old InBoard 386 CPU so if you ever do damage yours let me know and I can have it. Like I said, if you can find Cyrix CX486DRX2-20/40GP 40MHz clock doubled CPU its a simple drop in replacement with no other mods than to add a driver to the AutoExec.bat which several of us have copies. There used to be a place online that had a shedload and sold them for about $25 each, but somebody wanting the gold scoffed them all up at that price. If I ever come across one on eBay I'll let you know - pushes the InBoard right up to 33MHz instantly with no hardware mods.

Those 4MB daughter cards for the Inboard are rare, but if you camp on eBay with a search one might pop up someday. I waited about a year and didn't hesitate 5 minutes to scoff it up when one did show up. Usually folks don't know what they are really worth and there's no history left, so sometimes they go for a song.

Yah, that Inboard ribbon cable to the CPU goes right over Slot 8 - a PIA, but just have to use care.

Mike

Yah, have to watch those CF adapters.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

It will be interesting to see if the 386DX/33 works - it has a much bigger cache than my 20/40 486 Cyrix. I would think as long as its 133-pin compatible it should work. I'd have gone to a 133-pin 486DX but the system InBoard is limited by the speed of its oscillator and without a replacement InBoard in case I foul up didn't want to risk it with a solder gun. I did try a 133MHz 486DX chip with an adapter, but I found I needed to have upped the power supply beyond the standard 130W PSU and it wouldn't have fit into the XT's case. One or two others have done so I believe.

Mike

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Most people would buy the most ultimate liquid cooled 4x RTX Titan beast with 50k but this guy just buys the most vintage pc out there. Talk about a collector.

  • 3 months ago
  • 1 point

This man really just tried to make me read the declaration of independence.

  • 2 months ago
  • 1 point

But Can it run crysis

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

YOU.....ARE.........GOD!!!!!!!

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Boi my dad had a cpu that is even more rare than this(at least slower and older) with an 8MHz clock speed and 14MHz boost clock

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Yes, this machines original CPU that I upgraded with the Intel Inboard was only 4.77MHz (an Intel 8086). I had to pull the 8086 CPU, install the Intel InBoard 386 (which also replaced the original 8087 math co-processor with a 386 math co-processor), and replaced the InBoard's 386 with a 66Mhz 486. The 486 is limited to only 33MHz in this rig because of InBoard's original oscillator - which I could replace (and might at some point) to unleash the full 66Mhz of the 486 (doing so takes some risky soldering on a very rare and expensive InBoard component along with nerves of steel). Nevertheless, the original motherboard limits the system overall due to its original 8-bit bus.

Interesting stuff, 'eh?

Mike

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I'd pay 50$ for a scrap collector to take it away

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Just the InBoard card alone sells for up to$1000 on eBay when they rarely come up, and the 4MB memory piggyback card for it goes for more than that because they are virtually non-existent. You'll make a scrap collector smarter than you a small fortune and be out $50.

:-)

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

WhAt tYpE Of pRoCeSsOr iS ThAt? As iN WhAt tYpE Of ****** PrOcEsSoR Is tHaT?!?!?!

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

Intel 8088 originally (4.77MHz), then upgraded to an Intel 386 16MHz, then to an Intel 486 50MHz (limited to 33MHz dues to the oscllator on the Intel InBoard.

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

i have no idea what that means i was an intel fan but 10th generation came out so i switched to amd and even bought an amd processor

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

also please appreciate how hard i had to actually make the text look like that. it's harder than it looks like.

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

I bet, good deal!

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

but, the ultimate test has not been done. It is, could it run minecraft with OBS?

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

It can run a range of software that no other machine past or present can run on the same box.

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 point

so that's a yes

  • 10 days ago
  • 1 point

but can it run minecraft?

  • 2 days ago
  • 1 point

Your Completed Build has been removed due to the false price throwing off the index slider. It will be reinstated if you correct your list to reflect reality.

  • 59 months ago
  • 0 points

This is so beautiful.

A genuine legend.

However, the description was not long enough and there aren't enough pictures.

The question remains: Can it play Minesweeper at 60 FPS?

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  • 50 months ago
  • 2 points

Thank you! I am honored and humbled.

Latest update > I've just done the impossible on this build. I've actually gotten the Windows 3.1 to run on this build IN 386 ENHANCED MODE! I don't think that has ever been done in history using an 5610 PC/XT motherboard. I did it by acquiring an extremely rare copy of Microsoft Windows 3.0 made by Intel specifically for the Intel Inboard 386/PC accelerator. This is a very special version of Windows that was available only to buyers of the InBoard adapter - very few Windows historians even know about that legitimate version of Windows. Standard Windows 3.1 would run, but only in standard, not protected mode; trying to run it in protected (enhanced) mode would cause the PC keyboard to lock up (Gate A20 switching problem). I got around the limitation by hijacking some of the additional Intel drivers from that rare Intel/MSFT copy of Windows 3.0, and using those drivers to replace some of the standard Windows 3.1 drivers - and it worked. I can now win Windows 3.1 software that requires the use of protected mode and extended memory. Even Wikipedia says running Win 3.1 on an InBoard was not possible...I guess that proves Wikipedia double wrong now.

Mike

  • 31 months ago
  • 1 point

You are my favorite person on PC Part Picker.

  • 31 months ago
  • 0 points

If you like this build, check out this one! https://pcpartpicker.com/b/yJjcCJ

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  • 38 months ago
  • 2 points

OK, tell me, which 133 pin-compatible 486 would you have selected to put in this rig that would actually work properly, and how would you have accomplished it? Would you even know how? How would the systems oscillator play into the equation? I am waiting to hear your vintage engineering knowledge, maybe you can teach me something 40 years of working at the circuit level didn't teach me. Seriously, this has only actually been done by fewer people than I can count on one hand, each with decades of experience, and I've conversed with most of them. Be specific and sure of your technical answer - you are in precarious territory.

  • 9 months ago
  • 2 points

OOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH BUUUUUUUURRRNNNNNNN ROASTED AF

  • 36 months ago
  • 1 point

Roasted, nice build btw

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

huh

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

why do i just now see this