The "Turbo 30" Project

This is the end result of entirely too much time on my hands...

On the outside, it looks just like any 30-286...
Looks just like any 30-286 on the outside...
The inside, though, is something different...

Apologies for the bad pictures, I didn't have a particulary good digital camera when I did this and I haven't yet decided to retake the pictures.

This project all started when I was digging thru a stack of unused computers and parts in my closet, and I happened across a Model 30-286 PS/2 that I'd used to get several other 30-286's up and running. It was pretty bare...only the floppy disk drive, power supply, and motherboard were left in the case. I then had a thought. Rather than stripping it and throwing a perfectly good computer out, I decided that I would boost up the processing power of this computer and give it a new life.

How was I going to do this? I'd tried the obvious, and had put a 386sx CPU upgrade in my other 30-286. That upgrade didn't go well, so I figured it probably wouldn't work this time either. My next thought was that a new planar board would be needed. But where to get one? I didn't know of any specific upgrade planars (not even a Reply board) made for the 30-286.

I found my answer after looking through my box of extra planars. (Always good to have spares!) What I found was a 386slc-25MHz upgrade board (IBM/EduQuest Model 7386) made by IBM for the model 25 PS/2 computers. Knowing that the PS/2 30-286 and 25-286 happen to use the same planar, I figured it couldn't hurt to give this a try.

After about an hour of work, I had the board installed and cabled up to the power supply. Powered it on, and success! The EduQuest logo came up and the machine complained about needing to be configured. This confirmed that the planar transplant was successful, so I powered down the computer and got ready to add in the final details, like the floppy and hard drives, and extra memory.

Yet another hour later, I had put all the finishing touches on the computer. Everything was working great. That's when I had to decide what OS I wanted to use on the computer.

Short decision. I figured that Win95 would be too slow, NT might not even run, and Linux has never worked well on the 7386 board anyway. So I chose MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Loaded them and it seemed to work very nicely.

Then came trouble. The original IBM hard disk was only 30MB and was simply not big enough for me to load anything else besides Windows and DOS. Fortunately, the 7386 board has IDE and a power connector onboard, and I just happened to have a spare 212 MB hard disk lying around. It took a little doing to install. I had to get past the nonstandard power connector on the planar first, but with a DMM and some careful checking, I got past that and fashioned a connector out of some old AT power supply leads. Cabled up the hard disk, booted the computer, and got an error about having added a new hard disk. After setting that up, I was ready to move on and load DOS and Windows.

Loading DOS and Windows posed no problem. I then installed the device drivers for the onboard Tseng SVGA and upgraded the video RAM to 1MB. Set the display to 800x600x256 colors. I also downloaded and installed drivers for the ISA Ethernet card I was planning to install. Did that, and now I was on the network.

It was time to load software. I didn't really have that much from the Windows 3.1x days that I still wanted to use, but I always liked Lotus Organizer and MS Office 4.2c. So I installed those pieces of software. I also found a lot of DOS programs I'd written hidden away in a desk drawer and installed those too, just to see how many of them I could remember writing. I must have been away from these programs a long time, as it was like a big breath of fresh air to be back into good old DOS and using my custom programs. I was in computing heaven at this time.

But I had to break my reverie and get back to the task at hand. The machine was indeed working, but still needed refinement. One of the first things I did was to check and see how hot the CPU was running. Turned out to be so hot I couldn't even touch it! So I dug around, found a heatsink and borrowed some heatsink compound, and installed the heatsink on the CPU. I made the heatsink stay on by super gluing it to the edges of the sink and CPU. Seemed like a good idea to me...I don't think the CPU will ever go anywhere or need to be replaced. I also don't know why IBM didn't already have a heatsink on this CPU, as hot as it runs. The same CPU in my 57slc has one, so I'm guessing this was an oversight and was later corrected. Not that I've ever had a problem with the CPU reliability on the 7386...I just thought it was running really hot.

Next came the appearance of the machine. One of the reasons I relegated this one to the scrap pile was because it looked awful. Whoever owned it before I did must not have taken good care of it. The cover was bent in several places, and the paint was scratched off in several areas. So I took the computer into the laundry room and cleaned it up. Straightened out the minor kinks in the case cover with a small hammer wrapped in a towel, so as to prevent damage to the computer's finish. Took it back in after I finished touching up the paint and hooked it up. It looked pretty decent now. I have plans in the future to turn it into a black PS/2 instead of the beige color it is now. I think doing that would give it a unique, sharp look. (I got the idea from another PS/2er who made a model 95 into a black PS/2.)

Now I was pretty much done. There was only one other thing I wanted to see if I could do, and that was to attempt using the Internet on this computer. This was not without challenges.

One of the largest challenges was Windows 3.11's lack of a TCP/IP driver. However, from having visited a page about someone having restored a 50z, I learned that one such driver did exist. Immediately I went off to Microsoft's FTP server, and although I did find it, I coudn't get it downloaded. So I asked the person (Mark Baker) who maintains the 50z page if he would send me the driver. He did, and I loaded it. (Thanks, Mark!) Now all I needed to do was to find a decent browser. I wanted to use a Microsoft browser, but I couldn't find one available for download that would run on 16-bit Windows. I know there were some, including a version 4.0, but it seems that MS has done like they always do and had stopped providing it.

So I settled on a Netscape browser for Windows 3.x and installed it. Once installed, I started browsing the web. It was a little slow, but not unbearable, and not certainly not bad for "just a 386slc" processor. Now all I need to find is a decent Windows 3.x newsreader and e-mail package. (the newsreader more than the e-mail package) If anyone would happen to know of a Windows 3.x newsreader that works well, I would appreciate it if you would drop me a line.

I did one last thing to the hardware in the machine, and that was to install a small DC fan onto the top of my heatsink. People may think that it is silly to cool a 386 that much, but this thing runs about as hot as my 486-100s do when I am actively using the computer...or even when I'm not.

As much as I would've liked to continue, I had to admit that I was running out of things to do with Turbo 30. I already had installed all the software I wanted to use, and now I'm certainly enjoying it, but there really isn't much left to do with the hardware at this time. Sure, I'd like to install a 486slc upgrade CPU, but I don't have one right now. Right now, I'm not doing anything except using Turbo 30, and I love it. It was a great project, and I'm rewarded with a reasonably fast computer that will do everything I need and ask of it. I certainly couldn't ask for more...

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