The 386DX aka “The Albatross”
Going retro! Memories. Memories that inspired me to try to find something like my first PC style computer, an Albatross, a 386 ( CCCLXXXVI in Roman numerals ).
I had my C64 and my C128, my Amiga 500, all before having a PC was actually personally useful or fun. I was into running bulletin boards and honestly for a long time I found the C64 did it best and was the most affordable option to access and run bulletin board software and there were so many options.
Eventually, the PC scene caught up on the games and fun hobby aspect so I decided to make a jump. Having been exposed to PC’s though friends and my first job at computer store I went for it and priced out a 386 from an ad in Computer Shopper magazine and ordered it. I began to enjoy the bliss of MS DOS.
Having fond memories of that time, I wanted to relive them and I found a 386 DX40 motherboard with the AMD cpu embedded. I had found a Metra 386 computer!! I do not know who Metra was and I have not found anything about them online. But here was one of those units Metra made. We will call it “The Albatross“
It was time to do the retro pc archeology. Let’s get to it!
The case has some minor rust but that is a character of age my friends. Makes it look more distinguished I’d say, like having a little grey hair.
This machine came equipped with a 5.25 floppy drive, 43 Megabyte hard drive (Western Digital), some sort of multi function card (below). It has Midi cables dangling from right hand side ports. There were also a controller card and video card and 30 pin simm memory! Also, notice the flashable eprom at the back is missing the black tape that should be covering it.
As is seen, this machine is fairly populated for it’s time. Someone spent some cabbage on the Albatross.
Notice the extra CPU socket and co-processor socket in the center of the picture under the hard drive. This also has an embedded AMD 386DX40 cpu.
I am particularly fond of the big RED power switch. It is substantial. Throwing it is like engaging a breaker in some old sci-fi movie! Doing so, the power supply buzzed to life, the hard drive engaged.
Oh! nope, nope, the hard drive is making loud noises. Old Hard drives were really noisy but this is making unfriendly loud seek noises. I am calling it probably bad. I know you may be shouting “TEST IT !” I will, however, 24 years of professional IT experience and 10 years before that as a hobbyist gives me a usually correct gut feeling and instinct.
I extracted the Hard Drive. I do not have an 5.25 floppy disks anymore so booting that was out. Hmm Still no post display. I extracted all the cards and attempted to get post, then all the ram and re-seated the ram. No go.
The main board has A340C-H, that’s it. No manufacturer, just that model. Several manufacturers made boards with a similar layout but I have not found that exact model documented anywhere nor do they show the embedded CPU. The closest diagram I can find is from Stason.org below and seems maybe this was a J-Bond. The image is for an A340C-G01, close, really close, but not exactly the same model.
Also the various close models I find info about have conflicting jumper setting information so we will have to work that out when we are able to test with known good components.
At this point I needed another opinion and I contacted a buddy, to be known as Infinit or Infinate, depending on who you ask about the spelling. He is a wealth of knowledge and capability down to component level board diagnostics and repair. The Albatross is with him now undergoing his scrutiny.
All of this was originally going to be part if an inaugural video however due to the issues that is postponed. It would be nice to have the Albatross functional to demo for a video.
What I have heard back from Infinit is that we need another ISA video card (and other ISA cards and 30 pin simms) to test with as it’s own may be bad. We are on the seek for ISA cards and simms to try and bring The Albatross back to working order. We need to test all the ISA slots with known good cards if we can find them.
If you want to donate anything Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Albatross is officially on hold while we seek donor parts.
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