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Help me identifying the Interface of this Old X286 Computer

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December 20, 2005 6:47:32 AM

Hi all,

Please look at the images affixed with this thread, and help me to indentify the interface of this old X286 computer, because i think this old computer is totally dead, with 'CMOS Battery State Low' keep poping up in start-up no matter the motherboard battery is new.
I need help because i want to find a working used computer to replace this lab computer, so that i can start doing the research. I really appreciate your help. Thank you very much.


This is the interface card that we use to connect the lab equipment to the X286 computer, and I am very sure that this is not PCI interface


The connector has 50-pin, please correct me if i were wrong


This is the motherboard on the dead x286 computer, please look at the socket and help me to address what kind of interface is that.

BTW, sorry for heavy load of images, but thank you guys again.
December 20, 2005 8:09:21 AM

I am not 100% sure, however it looks like an SCSI controller to me, which is used on an ISA or EISA bus.

If it is just an old SCSI controller, then it should be easy to find another to do the job.

If it's not a SCSI, then you should find any PentiumIII board, or even some of the first P4 (423) that still had ISA bus.

If it is an EISA bus, things are not so easy... You have to search for old server boards, since those had EISA slots. Newer borad had Local-Bus, and later PCI, so EISA was abandoded too early
December 20, 2005 9:48:50 AM

I am clueless as to the 50-pin connector, and it may indeed be an older generation SCSI connector of some sort (I was under the impression the previous SCSI interface used a 60-strand ribbon though?)

The interface on the card is indeed an ISA connector - quite a common sight on Pre-P4 systems. The differentiation between ISA & EISA is in the length of the connector strip - you'll see longer slots on the motherboard, where the card in question only fills the first section.

A card which only fills the first section is ISA - the original 8-bit extension, where a card that would fill the full length would be an EISA (16-bit extension)

Any ISA card can however be used in an EISA slot.
Related resources
December 20, 2005 12:09:06 PM

Definitely looks like ISA. Since this is a full length card you will probably have some difficulty getting it to fit into a newer chassis. If you find a P3 or similar with an ISA slot (which should be easy since every PC made from the 80's until 1998 had them) you might run into space issues inside of the chassis of the PC. Those full length cards are huge!

Also, expect a lot of configuration problems. ISA devices typically required dedicated IRQ's, I/O ranges, etc. and I've never seen an ISA card that didn't require a TSR style driver in config.sys or autoexec.bat. Unless you have the original drivers you'll want to keep this computer around for the HD's, because you'll need to get device drivers and probably settings off of it.

You'll want to avoid any newer OS, probably avoid anything post-DOS if this is a dedicated device computer.

It might be easier to find a more modern card to replace this one and install it in a new PC. What does this attach to? is the cable or port on the other end labelled? If it is SCSI you could probably find an older PCI SCSI card that will work fairly well in any new PC.
December 20, 2005 12:14:09 PM

I just noticed in your last pic that this PC has two BIOS chips. This was pretty common in the days when ROM wasn't very stable. If you're getting strange boot errors every time you load it could be a corrupted BIOS. There should be a jumper on the motherboard to switch over to the second BIOS copy. If you're lucky, the jumper will be near the two chips with the white AMI stickers, those are your BIOS ROMs.
December 20, 2005 1:58:09 PM

Definitely an 8-bit ISA board. To make it easy, find any old 286/386/486 that has ISA slots. You should be able to just attach all the cards/drives and turn on the new mobo.

That board doesn't look like SCSI (SCSI usually didn't use that type of connector - generally it was Centronics or D-sub connectors), but I could be wrong. It looks more like some sort of data acquisition card. If you can't find another ISA system to install it into, maybe the mfg of the equipment it attaches to has a PCI version available.

Mike.
December 20, 2005 3:30:41 PM

Yup definitely an 8bit ISA card. This is probably a data acquisition card or relay controller card which probably connects to a relay board / brain? via a 50pin flat ribbon cable [ same cable as FAST-SCSI 2 - before SCSI switched to 68pin and 80pin ].

You do not actually need to find a 286 / 386 / 486 machine! You can use an Abit BH-6 440BX Slot 1 Pentium II motherboard or any other PII or PIII motherboard with 16bit ISA slots.

8bit ISA cards will work just fine in 16bit ISA slots commonly found on most Pentium, Pentium PRO, Pentium II and Pentium III boards.

Most motherboards with the very popular intel 440BX chipset [like the Abit BH-6 ] have 2 or 3 16bit ISA slots.

I'm sure you can find a board like that on ebay, or you can bribe me to part with mine ;-) I'm joking, I'm actually planning to keep mine.
December 20, 2005 3:37:23 PM

Woo Hoo! The good ol days! Imagine the creative gaming played back in the day!
December 20, 2005 4:21:03 PM

That interface doesn't look like SCSI because it would have terminating resistors and a fuse for the termination power. Is there NO manufacturer information on that board anywhere? My guess is that its a data acquisition board. I have a 500MHz K6-2 motherboard with 16-bit ISA slots that you can have for $20. I think it has 64MB of SDRAM in it, which I'll leave. Its a BABY-AT board so it will fit right in that case you have. It also has a few PCI slots and 100MB/sec IDE.
December 20, 2005 11:12:38 PM

wow, thank you guys for the responses. ya'll are very helpful.

the computer is actually more than 15-year-old, which we bought it along with the laboratory equipment (Micromeritics Sedigraph 5100).

does the 'CMOS Battery State Low' error a permanent error? what i mean is that is the motherboard totally dead? because no matter the battery is new or old, and the message will just keep popping up and keep asking me to set the system time, devices, hard disk type, etc.

I don't have to worry about the driver problem, since we still keep the 5 1/2" floppies in good condition, but i look forward to backup those driver to 3 1/2" floppies. In addition, we don't really need Windows for the working used computer, since DOS is what we need when we conduct the experiment.

However, thank you guys for offering your old computers, i am now station in Asia, i don't think it's feasible to buy the computer from US and ship to my place :) .

Thank you all again, i look forward to the answers for the CMOS problem.
December 21, 2005 12:46:41 AM

I have another concern about the interface card show in the first message.

If i change a computer and the computer has ISA slot, will it damage the interface card because of AC, un-recognize protocol, or other problems? I want to double confirm this issue since the manufacturer has long discontinued this interface card.

Thank you in advance
December 21, 2005 1:07:25 AM

You won't have any problems. The AT motherboard power plug is standardized and has no AC, just make sure to connect it properly. The ISA bus is standardized and has no AC.
December 21, 2005 3:54:30 AM

You could get a CMOS replacement battery if you needed to. That would in theory be the cheapest solution but as much as I love old hardware a 286 is very limited and I would recommend upgrading to either an Intel Pentium II, Pentium III or AMD K6 using a decent chipset with at least 2 or 3 16bit ISA slots. You can get a decent system like that on ebay CHEAP -- I'm thinking 50-100 bux or less??.

Sadly the 286 is not very maintenable :-( if something else breaks you will be in trouble.

Another OPTION is to get a PCI to ISA bridge which can convert a PCI slot into one or more ISA slots. Something like this: http://www.costronic.com/Ev71p.htm

This particular one requires that you write your own drivers but I'm sure there are other ones which come with drivers.

If a modern computer is too fast for your DOS software you can slow the computer down with special software. Also you could run DOS in a virtual machine under a Linux, BSD or winblows host operating system using wine, dosBOX, etc or a commercial product like VMware (rocks!) or virtualpc
December 21, 2005 4:00:55 AM

i don't know what "CMOS replacement battery" is. Is it different from the V3.0 CR2032 battery that we used to use on motherboard? Please correct me. thanks
December 21, 2005 4:14:12 AM

On a machine that old it is probably a rectangular battery encased in black or white plastic with a red and black wire coming out of it plugging into the motherboard with a 2pin IDC connector.

It should have a sticker on it indicating VDC and mAh

If I recall correctly it should be about 3 - 3.5 VDC not sure about the mAh.

I'll post a link as soon as I can google one!
December 21, 2005 4:18:54 AM

If a new battery doesn't fix it, you still should be able to use the computer without other problems. What the message seems to indicate is either the battery is dead or maybe there's a short in the socket or maybe the nvram is dead and it can't save any more (after all, it is 15 yrs old...). A BIOS that old doens't store much more than a date & time anyways, and since you set it when you boot up, it'll be set for the duration..

Mike.
December 21, 2005 4:19:10 AM

It probably looks like this:

http://shopping.microbattery.com/s.nl;jsessionid=ac112b2a1f43737a52a4b17044a6ab9bb930ad55b21f.e3eSbNyQc3mLe34Na3iLb3yObh90n6jAmljGr5XDqQLvpAe?sc=2&category=763&it=A&id=6569

or this:

http://shopping.microbattery.com/s.nl;jsessionid=ac112b2a1f43737a52a4b17044a6ab9bb930ad55b21f.e3eSbNyQc3mLe34Na3iLb3yObh90n6jAmljGr5XDqQLvpAe?sc=2&category=763&it=A&id=6567

The volts can vary a bit most modern CMOS batteries are 3.3V lithium cell batteries.

In older computers it may range from 3 to 6 or 7.5 VDC it's hard to tell.
December 21, 2005 4:27:47 AM

I just hope you don't have the "solder on" type because if you do you may have no choise but to either use a soldering iron to remove it or cut it off and try to attach some kind of connector to the pins that are gonna be sticking out.

Here's some "solder on" batteries:

http://shopping.microbattery.com/s.nl;jsessionid=ac112b2a1f43737a52a4b17044a6ab9bb930ad55b21f.e3eSbNyQc3mLe34Na3iLb3yObh90n6jAmljGr5XDqQLvpAe?sc=2&category=763&it=A&id=6552

http://shopping.microbattery.com/s.nl;jsessionid=ac112b2a1f43737a52a4b17044a6ab9bb930ad55b21f.e3eSbNyQc3mLe34Na3iLb3yObh90n6jAmljGr5XDqQLvpAe?sc=2&category=763&it=A&id=6555

I wouldn't recommend soldering a machine that old that cannot be easily replaced.
December 21, 2005 4:43:43 AM

I think this is the battery right here:



Looks like a Dallas Semiconductor DS12887A Clock Chip with Battery or clone / something similar

However you might want to check to see if there is anything else that looks like a battery.

Do you think you could post bigger / high res pictures somewhere and give us the link?
December 21, 2005 5:14:23 AM



I did not see any batteries anywhere except for the Dalas-like clockchip+battery but I cannot tell for sure. If there are any other batteries they may be hidden under the drives or something or behind the front panel.

This is kinda to recap... Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The purple portion of the 16bit ISA slot is an 8bit ISA slot by itself, the tail end makes it 16bit ISA.

I think the card at the very top may be a modem, but I dunno for sure and I suspect the card at the very bottom might be a graphics card or another data acquisition card.
December 21, 2005 5:56:11 AM

Hi there,

I don't see any battery on the motherboard, but the battery is located on another ISA interface card of where you addressed "Modem?". Please refer to the photo below for detail look of the card.


Picture 1.


Picture 2.

Does it look weird to you? I looks weird to me, because the battery locates on another extension card, not mobo itself.
December 21, 2005 6:48:56 AM

What I thought was a modem (the lithium battery holder looked like a speaker to me because I couldn't see it very well) is actually an 8bit ISA I/O card.

I believe that I/O card has:

1 DB-25 parallel [LPT] port or DB-25 RS232 serial port
1 DB-9 RS232 serial port

I can clearly see the SiS 82C5CB UART (serial port chip)

It is very strange that an I/O card like this has a lithium battery on it. I would replace that battery but I would also replace the Dallas real time clock chip with integrated battery as well.

I you have a multimeter you might want to check the voltage on the lithium battery.

You might also want to remove the Dallas real time clock with integrated battery, find the datasheet for it and check it for voltage as well being very careful not to short it out (even though it is probably quite dead by now).
December 21, 2005 6:55:21 AM



This is the real time clock with integrated battery which I was talking about.

If you do not have a Dallas you probably have a clone of that chip which was VERY popular.

What is the card at the very bottom? Do you have a picture of it?

Just want to make sure it doesn't have any weird components on it like everything else in this system.
December 21, 2005 7:05:11 AM

thanks for the help, if it's the problem from the 'Real Time Clock', can i change that chip only? Anyway, i have to look at the mobo to see whether the chip does exist :) 

FYI, the card at the very bottom is the mono VGA card :lol: 
December 21, 2005 7:28:29 AM

hi there, i just checked the mobo, and there really is a Dallas Real Time Clock

the complete description of the chip as follow:
Dallas
DS1287
Real Time
8931B3

if i can get a same new chip, should i just remove the old one and put the new one in? please advice me on how to remove the chip as it is tightly attached to the movo :) 

thank you very much :wink:
December 21, 2005 7:30:04 AM

:-)



It is right there ^^^^ you can see the "clock" icon on it.

If you can take a picture of it or give me the ID numbers that are printed on it I can try and find you a replacement online.

It is definitely a Dallas or Dallas clone.



December 21, 2005 7:52:00 AM

hi there, i just checked the mobo, and there really is a Dallas Real Time Clock

the complete description of the chip as follow:
Dallas
DS1287
Real Time
8931B3

if i can get a same new chip, should i just remove the old one and put the new one in? please advice me on how to remove the chip as it is tightly attached to the mobo :) 

thank you very much :wink:
December 21, 2005 7:57:31 AM

Ok great! :-)

That one still exists :-)

Unfortunately it is rather expensive.

I found it on ebay and at froogle:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Dallas-DS1287-Real-Time-...

http://cgi.ebay.com/DS1287-CMOS_W0QQitemZ6754637343QQca...

http://froogle.google.com/froogle?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&q=...

sells for about $12-$26 USD

There is a generic knockoff / clone 2 of them for 10.99 on ebay (from froogle)

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=7568...

They claim it is fully compatible with the DS1287 however I do not know if that is the case.


As far as removing it that can be a bit tricky. Sometimes they are stuck in there. You can use a DIP chip puller / extractor or you can try to pry it off VERY carefully with a flat head screwdriver. Please be as careful as you can be, if you pry too hard you could damage your motherboard.
December 21, 2005 10:57:32 PM

Quote:
Please be as careful as you can be, if you pry too hard you could damage your motherboard.


yea, that is what my concern is :) 

Thanks for the help though, you've been very helpful :wink:
December 22, 2005 12:34:24 AM

You can use one of these DIP chip extractors / pullers:

These are for DIP chips, you can also use a PLCC extractor sometimes but that might damage some DIP chips.



They are usually very cheap about $2 USD and come in many computer tool kits which can be picked up online or offline for $10-$50 USD.

You can buy it here:

http://cgi.ebay.com/VTIC-IC-EXTRACTION-TOOL-CHIP-EXTRAC...

or froogle / pricegrabber for it.

Good luck!
December 22, 2005 12:41:59 AM

If Plan A does work you can try Plan B :

Pickup a combo like this on ebay for about $20-$40 USD

http://cgi.ebay.com/ABIT-BE-6-MOTHERBOARD-SLOT-1-P2-350...

For about $40 bux or less you can get the board, CPU, RAM and VGA all you need after that is an ATX power supply and something to put it in (case).
December 22, 2005 12:45:01 AM

i actually have a computer similar to Plan B, but i need to add a power supply to test if it's running :lol: 

anyhow, my boss just brought some old computers back from our factory, i gonna test whether they work or not :wink:
December 22, 2005 12:55:52 AM

Awesome :-D

As long as the computer has 2 or 3 16bit ISA slots it will work just fine!

You just have to make sure your case can accept a full length ISA card, some do not because there's stuff in the way.

You also have to be careful because some motherboards put tall components next to some ISA and PCI slots which may prevent you from plugging in full length ISA or PCI cards for that matter. That's why I'm recommending using a board with 2 or 3 ISA slots so there's a better chance at least one ISA slot is unobstructed!!!
December 23, 2005 12:02:05 AM

i just checked the casing, there is enough space to fit my ISA card :wink:

thanks for the help
December 23, 2005 3:53:03 AM

Awesome! :-)

Happy holidays!

Live long and prosper!
December 26, 2005 9:53:49 PM

Your old video card has an ISA interface as does your motherboard. If your BIOS state is always low then it may mean that you have leaky capacitors on the motherboard and they are draining the battery constantly. Your motherboard is tired and fading fast it seems. My advice would to be to upgrade to a Pentium 2 or a socket A motherboard with at least 3 ISA slots. Not only would you be able to keep your current cards but you would see a dramatic increase in performance over the 286. You would no longer need the floppy / LPT board in the system you have as they are built-in with Pentium 2 / socket A motherboards. The last bit of news is that it should be very cheap to do this if you can find someone who has any motherboards with ISA slots. They may even give the motherboard free !!!!
December 27, 2005 12:03:13 AM

i found a working AMD K6-III unit from my factory, it has three ISA ports. But i am having problem to install the NIC and printer driver which i need to use while conducting experiments. Should i reformat the Windows 98 SE? As my colleague told me, the computer has been left idle in the factory for quite some years :) 

anyway, please advice me. Thank you very much
December 27, 2005 12:27:06 AM

Yes I would say check it for anything important that might still be on there and reformat.

You could also install Linux instead of DOS or windows and use DOSBox or something to run your DOS applications in.

Good luck!
a b V Motherboard
a b K Overclocking
December 27, 2005 5:19:02 AM

I'm glad you sorted through all the misinformation. Yes, those are 8-bit ISA cards.

Someone said the board was Baby-AT, but whoever said that needs to take his advice elsewhere, it's a 3/4 AT board (full depth but not extended beyond the keyboard connector. Full AT boards are around 3 inches "taller", and baby AT boards are around 3 inches shorter in "length".
!