pc clone

Bringing “Vienna 286” back to life

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A friend of mine found an early 286 computer from the 80s in his garage. It was built in 1987 in Austria and then sold to an engineering school in socialistic Czechoslovakia for an incredible amount of money. The system contains 8-MHz Intel 80286 & 80287, a 1.5MB RAM expansion card, a Hercules clone (the first ever PC graphics chip from ATI) and a 30-MB Seagate hard drive for the ST-506 interface. We were not sure if it worked after decades in garage but to our surprise, we were able to boot. The system was fully working once we set up CMOS variables.

A few notes:

  • Modern computers with USB floppy drives are still usable for creating and testing DOS boot floppies without a need for emulators
  • The Czech “old computing” community is very generous. We forgot to take a PS/2-DIN adaptor and didn’t want to go back to Prague for one (two hours of driving) so I wrote a message on Facebook and got a keyboard (with mechanical switches) for free from a person living in a city near us.
  • Copying a whole 30-MB disk drive over a 115 kb/s serial port is faster than copying modern drives over USB 3.0
  • Booting to DOS prompt takes only 12 seconds (including BIOS)
  • I had to find a generic BIOS setup utility, because the early Phoenix BIOS didn’t
    have it built-in. GSETUP31.EXE was a solution. Check this for good DOS stuff (more
    info in 00_index.txt).