Slimline 386DX

Here we have an early, but higher-end 386 computer, made at late 1992. These times most computers were 286s, so 386 had to visually stand out - and this one does, it is built in a slimline case. These cases were smaller than desktop ones, their height was smaller than height of an ISA board. How it was possible to install boards in it? Boards were installed parallel to the mainboard by using special riser card.
In this computer, we have rather high-end components as for 1992. CPU is socketed, so it is from time when people were thinking that there will be faster 386 (in fact, there was no faster 386 than Intel's 33MHz and AMD's 40MHz). Trident 512kB VGA board allows to work in 800x600 in 256 colours. And hard disk is bigger than 100MB while in early 1990s 60 or 80MB was known as too large for one user. As in all computers from this age, it has 2 floppy drives: One for 5.25" disks and one for 3.5".

Approx. year Early 1993

Class AT
Speed 40MHz
RAM 8MB (8x1MB, SIMM30)
Mainboard PC Chips M321 (TH99)
Graphics Trident TVGA9000i, 512kB,
16-bit ISA
Sound PC Speaker
Ports I/O Super  I/O card (manual below)
Network None
System expansion bus 6x 16-bit ISA slot
2x 8-bit ISA slot
Floppy/removable media drives 1x 3.5" 1.44MB floppy disk drive
1x 5.25" 1.2MB floppy disk drive
Hard disks/ATA devices: WD Caviar 1170 (170MB, PATA) CHS: 1010/6/55

Peripherals in collection:
 - Cordata CMC Display, Dexxa mouse and keyboard

Other boards:


Casing SLimline AT with riser
Non-standard expansions: None
Operating system(s): MS-DOS 6.22 + Windows 3.11 For Workgroups

Because I know this unit since it was purchased, I can track the history of it very well. It was bought for one University in Poland in late 1992/early 1993, and it was the fastest unit in this University until someone got 486 in 1994. It was used there sometimes by few people by using multiple document directories, and it was my first computer when I was young. It came with 14-inch color Cordata monitor, keyboard and Dexxa mouse, I preserved these components with manuals and the display is still used as my service monitor.
Soon after purchasing, problems started to emerge. 120MB Xebec drive got some bad sectors and they were cut out by partitions... lots of partitions. Taking into account that hard disk became compressed, a whole number of drive leters oscillated around 8. Next, cache memory failed and the computer has been sent to service. The service disabled cache memory in BIOS Setup and "evaporated" (read: stolen) 4MB of RAM, so only 4MB left from 8MB. Such "repairs" were, and still are frequent in Poland. Currently it is restored back to original 8MB configuration.
The most frequently used programs were TAG word processor, Quattro Pro spreadsheet and, for writing papers with illustrations, Ami Pro under Windows 3.11.
The computer has been used this way until 1998 or 1999 when hard disk finally gave up. There were tries to install first edition of Win95 on it, but it was unusable on 4MB of RAM. Finally, the machine was replaced near 1999 and put to storage being a source of 3.5" disk drive, finally being erased from inventory as electronic junk in 2004 when I acquired it (this awful photo is from November 2004). Since begining there was no front sticker on it, I put this blue "LM" one ca. 2006. I used it in my retrocomputing projects (some were described on now-defunct portal), finally restoring it to near-initial condition near 2010.

Contents: Starting, usage Drivers  


Very typical 386 mainboard. Del to enter Setup. AMI BIOS.

The casing is in a "slim" style. It is not as high as desktop one, and boards are plugged into riser, so they go in parallel to mainboard plane. The problem with these cases is that you need to remove many parts to get into mainboard as everything is quite condensed.

Slimline cases usually have small or no vents in front. This particulas case has no opening for air coming into case, but has power supply fan pulling the fan from inside the case. In a small space of slim case, it can cause overheating but there is something more - all aitr comes into casing through floppy disk drives. When I cleaned 5.25" drive, I pulled a good few cubic inches of dust in form of "balls" from underside of the drive mechanics.





Super I/O card manual
TVGA9000i manual
M321 AMI BIOS ver. 910505
Trident TVGA9000 (DOS/Win3.x)
TVGA9000i driver disk files recovered from original disk.
Dexxa mouse driver disk - with Rainbow Paint