From the archives: Good Hardware Guide – Macs and Desktop PCs

My old mate Steve Gold got me into this. If memory serves, the editor of this book, Richard Jones, had some kind of wheeze as to how this publication was going to be packaged and distributed. It was ultimately published by Kogan Page in 1991.

But the truth is I’ve forgotten most of the details of this project, other than that I wrote the stuff you see below, Steve wrote even more and maybe there were other contributors too.

I’m leaving this here just out of historical interest. Some of these PC brands are well-known, others have faded into well-deserved obscurity. This post can act as their epitaph. But at least there’s a record of their having existed.

When I collected all the text together I found it came to over 20,000 words, so I’m splitting it into three parts: Macs and desktop PCs; laptop PCs; and everything else.


Macintosh Classic

Intended to beat off PC clones in the low cost market, the Mac Classic provides a very inexpensive way into Macintosh computing while offering a highly adept machine. Basic model is a 1Mb memory, floppy-only, using the 1.44Mb SuperDrive that is capable of reading and writing MS-Dos and OS/2 files (using the supplied FileExchange software). Most users, however, will need the other version of the machine with 2Mb of RAM (the minimum needed for future operating system software and to run MultiFinder) and a 40Mb hard disk. Memory of either model can be expanded to 4Mb, an option that many buyers are taking up at the time of purchase as some Mac applications demand large memories. Has traditional Macintosh styling with built-in, 9- inch bitmapped mono display with 512 342 resolution. Disk drive port provided to run second, external floppy disk drive. Has sound output to drive an amplifier or headphones. SCSI port allows connection of external units such as scanners, CD- Rom drives, larger, high-speed hard disks or printers. There are no expansion slots, but AppleTalk networking is supported.

Apple Macintosh LC

A colour machine aimed between the entry-level Mac Classics and the heavy-duty II series, this is fast becoming a standard base model for corporates and for individual users needing speed and some expandability without excess cost. Part of the newer low-cost series of Macs, it is surprisingly rapid. Like the II series it supports 256 colour modes in 512 x 384 and (with video RAM expansion) 640 x 480 resolutions. Its 2Mb of memory (the minimum needed for System 7) is expandable to 10Mb. Comes with sound port for outputting sound to an amplifier or headset. Also equipped with a microphone for voice input and sampling sound for inclusion on presentations, multimedia and so on. Has an 020 Processor Direct Slot for add-on units. Provided with built-in video adapter capable of supporting Apple 12-inch and 13-inch colour RGB displays and the 12-inch mono monitor. Comes with 40Mb hard disk but a SCSI port is provided for adding external units such as scanners, CD-Rom and other storage devices. The 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive is the SuperDrive unit capable of reading and writing MS-Dos and OS/2 files with the supplied Apple FileExchange software.

Apple Macintosh IIci 5/40

Regarded as the middle machine in the Mac II range, the IIci is a powerful beast aimed at corporate and serious applications such as CAD/CAM and desktop publishing. The 25MHz 68030 processor is supported by a Paged Memory Management Unit to handle large amounts of RAM and a 6882 maths coprocessor. The 5Mb memory is normally expandable to 8Mb, although it can go as far as 32Mb with high-density RAM chips. The video adapter is built-in and supports the 12-inch Apple colour monitor, 12-inch mono monitor, 13-inch RGB monitor and the mono Portrait display often used for DTP work. Other displays can be supported through the use of adapter cards in one of the three NuBus expansion slots. Standard disk drive fitted is the 1.44Mb, 3.5-inch SuperDrive which is capable of reading and writing MS-Dos and OS/2 files using the supplied Apple File Exchange software. The 5/40 has a 40Mb hard disk: the alternative 5/80 has an 80Mb hard drive. SCSI port is provided for connecting external systems such as scanners and storage devices. Also provided with the DeskTop bus for input devices or a second floppy disk and a separate cache memory card connector. Machine is capable of running A/UX, the Apple version of Unix.



ALR Powercache 33/4

One of the first machines to feature the 25MHz 486 chip, now upgraded to the 33MHz version, this is a well-priced, MCA bus tower machine for power seekers. The case provides plenty of room for expansion for uses like server applications and multi-user installations. Three drive bays, taking half-height 5.25-inch devices, are accessible from the outside. Inside there’s room for two full-height hard disks, with ESDI drives from 120Mb to 650Mb available. With the built-in controller these give 18ms access time or better and a built-in 32K hardware cache. Available separately in a matching case is FlexStor with space for 4.5Gb of hard disk storage and an uninterruptible power supply. Speed enhanced by an intelligent 128K fast-RAM memory cache using burst mode transfer for pre- processor operations. Uses ALR proprietary dual 64-bit data path architecture for faster data transfer. Proprietary memory board has a minimum of 2Mb and maximum of 32Mb. Six MCA expansion slots included – two 32-bit and four 16-bit (one of which holds the VGA adapter). Basic price does not include a display adapter, but ALR can supply VGA. Machine also available in a desktop configuration.

Amstrad PC 3386SX

The Generation 3 series is finally getting Amstrad into the corporate market and this is the model many will start with as a low-cost network station and general-purpose machine. Runs the 386sx at a fast 20MHz, backed up by an optional 64K hardware memory cache using 35ns RAM. Minimum memory of 1Mb can be upgraded to 4Mb using 1Mb SIMMs or 16Mb using 4Mb SIMMs, giving the option of a lot of fast RAM on the motherboard. That leaves all five expansion slots for other things: you get two 16-bit full-length slots, one 16-bit half- length, one eight-bit full-length and one eight-bit half- length. Full-length cards are mounted horizontally. Four drive bays provided, two capable of taking 3.5-inch third-height devices and two for 5.25-inch half-height drives. Standard 40Mb hard disk is a 28ms IDE unit with integral cache. All drives are accessible from outside. Built-in controller supports up to two floppies and two hard drives. All standard interfaces come direct from the motherboard, including the VGA output. Choice of three VGA monitors – 12-inch paper white mono, 14-inch medium resolution colour and 14-inch high resolution colour. Supplied mouse is Microsoft compatible and uses dedicated mouse port.

Apricot LS 386SX-20

This machine used to be known as the LanStation before being upgraded, which clearly indicates its intended market. The ‘bus-less’ design means the machine has no expansion slots and limited disk capacity, but comes in a very compact, low profile package. Also offers a range of security features essential for network operations. This includes use of infra- red key card, plus password routines. Screen can be blanked and the keyboard easily disabled when the machine needs to be left unattended. Capable of rapid processing thanks to its 20MHz 386sx processor. Basic model is diskless but versions with a single 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive and also 50Mb and 100Mb IDE hard disk drives are available. All models have an on-board Ethernet network adapter. Serial port and serial mouse socket are standard but a parallel printer port is optional as the machine will generally used network shared printers. A two-button, Microsoft-compatible mouse can be supplied with Windows 3 if required. Motherboard can accept up to 8Mb of RAM, though the standard is 1Mb. On board video adapter is VGA Plus, supporting up to 1024 x 768 resolution modes.

Apricot Qi 486-25

Originally known as the Qi 900 before its facelift, this powerful MCA bus is most at home as a network file server or Unix multi-user host. Small footprint machine in very stylish casing. The 486 processor is run at 25MHz but performance is enhanced by the use of Apricot’s proprietary 128K high speed memory cache system. This preprocessor cache uses 20ns memory and the 82387 cache controller. Also allows mapping of ROM Bios to memory to increase speed. Theoretically, the 4Mb memory is expandable to 4Gb, but 64Mb is a more practical limit. LIM EMS 4.0 compatible expanded memory management is included. Extremely wide variety of configurations available, including a single floppy model, but most users will want a hard disk an options include 50Mb, 100Mb, 200Mb and 300Mb SCSI versions and a 120Mb tape drive. The on-board VGA adapter supports resolutions up to 1024 x 768 in 16 colours. All four expansion slots are MCA versions – two 16-bit and two 32-bit. Comes with Apricot’s unique Qi card security system. This uses a credit card-size infra-red emitter as a lock. Allows the screen to be blanked and the keyboard locked quickly and remotely. System also provides password security and network auditing.

Apricot Xen-S 386

One of the best-selling 386sx machines in the UK, not least because of Apricot’s commitment to networking. Six basic versions of the machine are available: all have a single 3.5- inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive. Other versions add a 50Mb or 100Mb IDE hard disk drive. And all three of those models are also available with on-board Ethernet network adapters. Comes in usual stylish Apricot package, with low profile, small footprint system box. Memory can be expanded from the basic 1Mb to 8Mb on the motherboard or a total of 16Mb using memory boards in expansion slots. Three expansion slots are provided, all 8/16-bit AT versions. Support provided for LIM EMS 4.0 compatible expanded memory management. Some memory can be used to shadow the ROM Bios for faster performance. VGA output is provided direct from the motherboard and there’s a choice of 14-inch mono or colour monitors, or for applications like DTP and CAD there are 16- and 20-inch colour and 21-inch mono monitors. Options available include: 150/250Mb external tape streamer; Ethernet LAN interface card; 32-port serial interface adapter card; triple and quad standard modem card; an external 5.25-inch, 1.2Mb floppy disk drive; and an expansion box providing three additional expansion slots.

Austin 386/SX

The full name of 386/SX Winstation gives a hint as to this machine’s intended niche. It’s a small footprint model with plenty of support for add-on cards and general expansion. The 386sx processor is run at a rapid 20MHz. Memory is held in SIMM sockets and the basic 2Mb is expandable to 8Mb on the motherboard or 16Mb using memory boards in expansion slots. LIM EMS 4.0 compatible expanded memory support is provided. Comes with seven slots – six 8/16-bit AT versions and one eight-bit XT. Hard disk options include 44Mb, 89Mb, 124Mb and 211Mb 3.5-inch IDE units and 330Mb and 600Mb 5.25-inch, full- height ESDI devices. The IDE controller features 1:1 interleaving and supports two floppy disk drives. Four drive bays are provided, three of them externally accessible. The VGA display adapter has 1Mb of video RAM, supporting resolutions up to 1024 x 768 in 256 colours. Comes with drivers to support extended text modes in most major applications packages. Also provided with font editor and font loader software. Options include 120Mb and 250Mb internal tape back-up systems, a 2400 baud internal modem, Microsoft two- button mouse or Logitech three-button mouse and a math coprocessor.

Centreprise Leo 386

There are several versions of this machine. The 386 model is available in clock speeds up to 33MHz, and there is a 20MHz 386sx model. The SX model is a small-footprint desktop machine, but the full 386 comes in desktop, tower and ‘megatower’ configurations. The 386sx model has two eight-bit and six 16-bit expansion slots. The 386 machines replace two of the 16-bit slots with 32-bit slots that are most likely to be used for fast memory expansion, and three of the remaining slots are taken up by the disk controller, interface card and video adapter. The 386sx can be supplied with up to 4Mb of memory on the motherboard, while the 386 comes with 2Mb or 8Mb. In all cases the maximum is 16Mb. The machines support up to four floppy and four hard disk drives, though the desktop and tower versions take a maximum of three externally- accessible devices. All floppy disk formats are offered plus hard disks from 40Mb to 380Mb. The standard VGA adapter is very fast, using 512K of video RAM rather than the more usual 256K. EGA and Super VGA are available as options.

Commodore PC20 III

With this low-cost XT, Commodore offers an inexpensive step-up from home computers, or a simple if unassuming introduction to PC computing. Will handle most home and many small business applications. The 9.54MHz 8088 processor is switchable to both 7.16MHz and 4.77MHz to ensure software compatibility. Standard display is a CGA colour adapter offering MDA and Hercules compatibility with mono monitors. Colour and mono VGA options are available. The colour and VGA mono monitors offered are 14-inch units, while the mono Hercules monitor is a 12-inch model. The supplied mouse is Microsoft compatible and uses a dedicated socket, leaving the single serial port free for peripherals such as modems. In addition to the 720K, 3.5-inch floppy and 20Mb hard disk Using an IDE controller) which come as standard, you can add a 5.25-inch, 360K drive or a second 3.5-inch device. The three expansion slots are all full-length XT units and all free. Memory can be expanded from the standard 640K to 8Mb. Unlike original XTs, this one comes with the AT extended 102-key keyboard.

Commodore PC60 III

A serious business machine in a tower format. Fast 32-bit memory cards are used to expand the standard 2Mb of memory to 18Mb. Shadow RAM is used for ROM Bios and other system functions to improve performance. LIM EMS 4.0 expanded memory support is provided. A 32K memory cache using rapid 25ns memory is built in. A socket is provided for 80387 and Weitek math coprocessors. The VGA adapter is integrated on the motherboard and comes with 256K of video RAM. Mono and colour 14-inch VGA monitors are offered, plus 14-inch and 21-inch multi-scan devices supporting Super VGA. Four horizontal, externally-accessible drive bays are included – two for 5.25- inch devices and two for 3.5-inch size units. One of each size of floppy disk drive is fitted as standard. There are two more, 5.25-inch, vertically mounted, half-height bays intended for hard drives. One full-height 5.25-inch unit and one half- height 3.5-inch unit can be fitted. Commodore supplies 80Mb and 200Mb, 19ms hard disk options, as well as 40Mb and 120Mb tape streamers. The disk controller supports up to four floppy drives and provides an IDE hard disk controller. Of the nine, full-length AT slots, two are 32-bit devices for fast memory expansion.

Compaq Deskpro 286N

The fact that Compaq sells a diskless version of this 12MHz 286 machine, the Model 0, shows its intended market – as a network station. This is backed up by the low cost, small size and limited expansion potential. Also available are models with a single 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive (Model 1), and one that adds a 40Mb, 29ms hard disk (Model 40). Three memory slots provided, including two 8/16-bit AT slots. The other is a high-speed 16-bit slot used for memory expansion beyond the basic 1Mb. Maximum memory is 13Mb, using 1Mb or 2Mb SIMMs. Compaq Expanded Memory Manager, which is LIM EMS 4.0 compatible, is supplied. Has on-board 16-bit VGA adapter supporting all standard modes including 132-column text. Uses graphics accelerator hardware to boost video performance in graphics-intensive environments such as Windows. Mono and colour 14-inch monitors are available. Optional upgrades include a 3.5-inch and 5.25-inch, 1.2Mb floppy disk drives and a range of hard disks – 20Mb and 40Mb 29ms models and 60Mb and 120Mb 19ms devices. Installation of 5.25-inch disk drive requires an installation kit. Socket for 80287 math coprocessor provided. Compaq also sells a 16MHz 386sx version, the Deskpro 386N.

Compaq Deskpro 386s

A true business machine offering expandability and built around a rugged metal frame. Three models available: Model 1 has a single 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive for simple network applications; Model 40 adds a 40Mb hard disk with 29ms average access time; Model 84 uses an 84Mb, 25ms hard disk. Other disk drives available for upgrading include 5.25-inch 360K and 1.2Mb models, 20Mb, 40Mb, 60Mb, 84Mb, 110Mb, 120Mb and 320Mb hard disks. Tape drives also available in 60Mb, 80/120Mb, 150/250Mb formats. Supports up to two hard disks and two floppy drives. Three device bays accessible from outside the case. Memory is held in a special high-speed memory slot allowing the standard 2Mb to be pushed in 1Mb and 4Mb steps to a maximum of 13Mb. The other four slots are standard 8/16-bit expansion slots, all free. Three-level security provided by hardware lock, power-on password and keyboard password, making this an excellent network station machine. Display is provided by on-board VGA adapter offering standard VGA modes as well as back-compatibility with EGA and CGA. Advanced Graphics Board offering 1024 x 768 resolution and extra video memory also available.

CompuAdd 320SC

This machine has replaced the popular 220 as the corporate entry-level machine in CompuAdd’s range. Acknowledging the move towards 386 architecture as the minimum configuration, the 320SC has a 386SX processor run at 20MHz. Processor is aided and abetted by a 32K memory cache and ROM shadowing. LIM 4 compatible memory management is provided, too. A 387sx co- processor slot is included. Super VGA output, with resolutions up to 1024 x 768, is supplied from the motherboard. The standard 1Mb of memory is expandable to 4Mb on the motherboard and up to 32Mb using expansion cards. The base model has a 40Mb hard disk, but 80Mb and 110Mb versions are available. The dual IDE hard drive interface is on the motherboard. A dual floppy disk driver is included, too and the system is available with either a 3.5 inch 1.44Mb or 5.25 inch 1.2Mb floppy disk drive. Unlike many machines in this class, the 320SC offers five free expansion slots – unexpected in a machine that uses a low-profile system unit. Three are full- size, 16-bit: two are half-length eight-bit slots. Unusually, a games port is provided as standard, as well as one parallel and two serial ports. Windows 3 and a mouse come as standard.

Dell 320LX

The first 20MHz 386sx machine to become available, it still offers an attractive price/performance specification. Uses a large but highly expandable system box. Has a highly integrated motherboard using surface-mount technology. Most ports are provided direct from the system board, though this doesn’t include the fast, 16-bit VGA display which supports Super VGA modes but uses one of the eight expansion slots. The standard monitors (mono or colour) are analogue units. The remaining seven slots are all free and comprise five full- length, 16-bit AT slots and two half-length, eight-bit XT slots. These slots use an 8MHz bus, but memory expansion is provided by 20MHz SIMM sockets allowing the 1Mb of memory to be expanded to 8Mb on board. Maximum memory is 16Mb. Main board carries an IDE disk controller. System supports up to two floppy disks (1.44Mb, 3.5-inch and 1.2Mb, 5.25-inch) and a total of five devices, including hard drives and tape streamers. Minimum hard disk size is 20Mb, but IDE devices up to 190Mb can be supplied as well as 320Mb and 640Mb, 15ms ESDI devices. MS-Dos, OS/2, Unix and a Microsoft-compatible mouse are all optional extras.

Dell System 210

Dell has always sold well into the price-sensitive 286 market. This machines 12.5MHz processor, use of fast DRAM chips, and on-board 16-bit VGA give it a performance that should worry many 386sx machines. Comes in a small footprint, low-profile case. Processor is switchable to 6.25MHz for maximum software compatibility. Comes in 512K and 1Mb memory options, expandable using fast SIMM-based chips to 6Mb on the motherboard. Maximum system memory is 16Mb. LIM EMS 4.0 expanded memory management is supplied. On systems with at least 1Mb, video and Bios ROM shadowing is provided for increased performance. System board has built-in IDE disk controller that supports two 3.5-inch floppy drives or one 3.5-inch and one 5.25-inch. System also supports one hard drive: minimum size is 20Mb, but 40Mb, 80Mb and 100Mb options are available. Can be supplied with external 40Mb and internal 40Mb, 150Mb and 250Mb tape streamer devices. Three 16-bit, AT expansion slots are provided, arranged horizontally and all free. Supports standard VGA modes with mono and colour analogue monitors available. MS-Dos (3.3 or 4.01), OS/2 and a Microsoft-compatible serial mouse are optional extras. System is supplied with tutorial and diagnostic software.

Dell System 325D

A reasonably compact machine offering very fast operation thanks to the use of cache memory and a rapid display adapter. The 25MHz 386 processor can be slowed to 8MHz for software compatibility. The processor is supported by a 32K high speed RAM cache, providing zero wait state operation on cache hits. Of the six expansion slots, five are 16-bit AT devices and one an eight-bit XT slot. All slots are free as most of the ports and outputs are provided direct from the motherboard. These include a very fast VGA display that uses 512K of video RAM and supports Super VGA and 1024 x 768 resolution modes (on multi-scan monitors). SIMM sockets, accepting 1Mb and 4Mb devices, provide fast RAM expansion from the standard 1Mb to 8Mb on board. The machine supports a total of 16Mb of memory. Front panel of machine has room for three half-height, 5.25- inch size devices. Two internal drive bays are provided. Minimum hard disk size is 40Mb, but 80Mb, 100Mb, 190Mb, 320Mb and 640Mb models are available. A faster version, the System 333D, is also available. This uses the 33MHz version of the 386 and has a 64K memory cache.

Digital Matrix AT/7

A slimline machine claimed by its makers, at its launch, to be the cheapest on the market. This is the latest in a long line of 286-based ATs from the firm, which says it continues to support all previous models, each with a model run of six to nine months. Uses the Texas TACT 80286 12MHz zero wait state processor, which can be slowed to 6MHz. Standard 1Mb memory can be upgraded to 4Mb or 8Mb, with LIM EMS 4 compatible memory management. Can be supplied with a games port. Three 16-bit AT expansion slots are provided, all free. Basic model comes with just a 3.5-inch 1.44Mb floppy disk drive, but a 5.25-inch 1.2Mb floppy drive and 40Mb, 90Mb, 135Mb and 180Mb hard disk drives are available. Digital Matrix can also supply 40Mb and 60Mb tape streamers, an internal modem and a diskless workstation model. Four drive bays are provided, two for 3.5- inch devices (including hard disks) and two for 5.25-inch drives. Standard monitor is a paper-white model, with black/white reversal switch. Can be supplied with a choice of display adapters – Hercules-compatible mono, VGA mono or VGA colour. MS-Dos 3.3 is free with hard disk models but costs extra with floppy-only version.

Elonex LT-386SX/P

A mains-powered transportable about the size of many laptop machines, it offers the advantage of a bright plasma display for people who don’t need to compute on the move. The 386sx processor is run at 16Mhz but can be slowed to 8MHz. Socket provided for 387sx math corprocessor. Neon orange gas plasma display is VGA compatible, supporting 640 x 480 resolution with 16 grey scales and a 1:10 contrast ratio. Automatically switches off, independent of mains switch, when lid folded down. Output provided for external VGA monitor. Ports also provided for external keyboard and floppy disk drive. Of the 1Mb standard memory, at least 640K is usable for programs. Onboard memory can be expanded to 2Mb or 4Mb. EMS LIM 4 support for expanded memory is built in. Uses Pheonix 386 Bios copied to memory for faster operation. Standard 40Mb hard disk has 1:1 interleave and uses an embedded AT bus controller with a track cache to optimise data transfer speed. Higher capacity hard disks are available. A 3.5-inch 1.44Mb floppy drive is also standard. Keyboard has 85 keys, including 12 AT extended keyboard-compatible function keys. Expansion unit available that attaches to left side of machine and provides three 16- bit expansion slots. Ethernet network card also available.

Elonex PC-386SXM

A serious competitor in the small footprint, 386sx market, providing a high specification machine in a small package at a good price. Standard 1Mb of memory, expandanble to 8Mb on the motherboard and 16Mb using expansion cards. Support for LIM 4 expanded memory built in. Comes with 64K Phoenix Bios ROM which is copied to RAM for better performance. Three free 16- bit expansion slots are provided (one is full-length). The 16MHz 386sx processor is switchable to 8MHz if necessary. Socket provided for 387sx math coprocessor. Motherboard uses surface-mount technology, with all main ports running directly from it. These include Super VGA (supporting VESA standard up to 800 x 600 resolution), two serial ports, printer port and floppy disk controller supporting up to two drives. On-board VGA can be disabled if higher resolution display adapters are needed. AT bus connector provided for hard disk and controller. Standard 40Mb hard disk has 1:1 interleave with track buffer. Options include 100Mb, 200Mb and 400Mb drives. Three drive bays are available, two accessible from the front. File server and network station versions are available. Latter is diskless and has the option of a boot Rom for automatic software loading from file server.

Elonex PC-386B/25

Elonex has provided the standard corporate configuration machine in a very compact box at a very competitive price. This model runs the 386 processor at 25MHz. A 33MHz model is also available (PC-386B/33). Processors can be software switched to slower speeds if necessary. Socket provided for 387 or Weitek math coprocessors. Both models based on common motherboard using surface mount technology and offering most interfaces direct: two serial ports, printer port and Super VGA (supporting VESA standard 800 x 600 resolution graphics). VGA adapter can be switched out to allow use of optional 1024 x 768 resolution and other display cards. Up to 16Mb of page interleaved memory, using 32-bit SIMMs, can be mounted on the motherboard. Standard configuration is 1Mb. Comes as standard with 64K hardware RAM cache. Uses Phoenix Bios copied to RAM for faster operation. Has four drive bays, three accessible from the front. Standard 40Mb hard drive uses 1:1 interleave and embedded AT bus controller. Optional disks include 100Mb, 200Mb and 400Mb models. Disk controller supports up to two floppy and two hard drives. Comes with a two-button mouse and Winsows 3. Expansion provided by four free 16-bit slots. File server and network station versions available.

Elonex PC-386V/33E

A fast tower configuration, EISA-bus machine, giving a performance close to 486 machines at a lower cost. Supplied with 32K memory cache using the 82385 controller. Support for 80387 or Weitek 3167 math coprocessors. Choice of 2Mb, 8Mb or 32Mb memory on the motherboard. Provides support for burst- mode DRAM access (like that used by the 486 chip) with a transfer rate of up to 33Mb/s. Some of the memory can be used for BIOS and video BIOS shadowing, speeding up some operations such as screen handling. Basic display is a Hercules- compatible monochrome card with an optional Super VGA card supporting up to 1024 x 768 resoluton in 16 colours (supports VESA standard). Higher resolution displays available. There are eight expansion slots – four 32-bit EISA slots capable of supporting 16-bit AT cards; plus four 16-bit slots. Three or four slots are occupied by the display adapter, disk controller and serial and parallel ports. Seven drive bays, three of them accessible from the front. Disk controller supports two floppy and two hard disk drives. Basic hard drive is a 40Mb 28ms device, but larger models up to 1.2Gb (IDE, ESDI or SCSI) can be supplied.

Elonex PC-486B/25 Compact

Essentially Elonex’s 386 machine with a 486 processor installed, this is a low cost option for people who need great processing power for stand-alone applications such as Cad and DTP. Comes in a very compact box, given the machine’s specifications. Motherboard uses surface mount technology, providing most ports direct: two serial, one printer and Super VGA (supporting VESA standard 800 x 600 resolution). VGA card can be disabled if other display adapters are to be used, including Elonex 1024 x 768, 16-colour high resolution system. Provides four free 16-bit AT expansion slots. Sold with a minimum of 4Mb of page interleaved memory, expandable to 16Mb on the motherboard. A 128K hardware memory cache is available and the DPT Smartcache disk cache is an option for ESDI disk controllers in sizes of 512K, 4Mb, 8Mb and 12Mb. Hard disk options start with a 100Mb IDE unit and go up to 300Mb IDE, ESDI and SCSI devices, the last being most suitable for Unix applications. Standard controller supports up to two floppy and two hard drives. Optional SCSI controller supports up to seven devices. Four drive bays are provided, three accessible from the front. File server and network station models available.

Elonex PC-486V/25E

A tower machine with the emphasis on expandability and storage capacity. The 25E is the 25MHz 486 version delivering around 12 Mips. A 33MHz version (33E) is available. Standard memory is 8Mb, but a 32Mb option (using 4Mb SIMMs, all fast memory on the motherboard) is available. Software support for BIOS and video BIOS shadowing, to improve performance of operations such as screen handling. Cheapest version has a Hercules- compatible monochrome display. There’s an optional Super VGA card supporting VESA standard of up to 1024 x 768, 16-colour resolution. Eight expansion slots provided – six are 32-bit EISA slots capable of supporting 16-bit AT cards; two are 16- bit AT slots. Two slots are occupied by video adapter and serial card, leaving six free. Built-in disk controller supports up to two floppy drives and two hard drives. Of the seven drive bays, three are accessible from the front. Minimum hard disk size is 40Mb, with IDE, ESDI and SCSI models up to 1.2Gb available. Hardware fast disk cache controllers, up to 512K, also available, or memory can be programmed as a disk cache.

Epson PC AX3/25

Desktop machine that can be turned on its side as a quasi- tower for space saving. The 386 is run at 25MHz but a switch allows selection of an AT mode which inserts wait states into read/write cycles to simulate an 8MHz AT machine. Uses 82385 cache controller with 32K of 25ns RAM for memory caching. Gives zero wait states on cache hits, up to four wait states on cache misses. Separate 1Mb blocks of memory above 1Mb can be designated non-cacheable using a setup program to avoid conflicts with intelligent I/O cards. Both 80387 and Weitek math coprocessors can be fitted simultaneously. Memory uses SIMMs in dedicated 32-bit slots, starting at 2Mb and with a maximum on the motherboard of 16Mb. Floppy disk controller supports up to two devices of any format. The two externally accessible drive bays can take 3.5-inch and 5.25-inch size devices. Standard floppy is a 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb unit. Hard disks are available in 40Mb, 29ms and 100Mb, 25ms versions, each with IDE controllers built in. Display adapter is optional, but Epson will supply mono and colour VGA models. Dedicated mouse port is PS/2 type. Has no fewer than eight free slots – six 16-bit AT and two eight-bit XT versions. Supports power-on password security.

Epson EL3S

Compact, small footprint machine running its 386sx processor at 16MHz with one wait state. A switch is provided to slow the processor to 8MHz ‘AT’ mode. Socket provided for a 387sx math coprocessor. SIMM sockets are used for the memory, allowing minimum of 1.6Mb to be expanded, with 2Mb SIMMs, to 5.6Mb on the motherboard. Provided with LIM EMS 4.0 compatible expanded memory management software. Has power-on password security, making it a useful corporate network station machine. Standard 40Mb hard disk has integrated IDE controller and 1:1 interleave. Average access time is 25ms. A 120Mb hard disk is available. One 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy drive is usually fitted: two are supported by the controller, though they have to be small units to fit in the case. Dedicated PS/2-type mouse port is fitted. On board VGA adapter provides all standard VGA and lower modes, up to 640 x 480. The three free expansion slots are horizontally mounted. All are 16-bit AT versions. The version of MS-Dos 3.3 supplied is Epson enhanced, providing setup utilities and diagnostics programs.

Epson EL3/33

Part of Epson’s small-footprint desktop range, the diminutive size of the box hides the power and performance of this machine. Its 386 processor is run at 33MHz and is supported by a 32K hardware memory cache based on fast 25ns memory. Memory uses fast SIMM sockets and is expandable from 2Mb to a maximum on the motherboard of 12Mb with Epson-supplied 4Mb SIMMs. An Epson expanded memory manager program is provided, compatible with LIM EMS 4.0. On board display adapter supports all modes up to Super VGA (800 x 600). Base machine has a single 3.5- inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive. A second floppy drive or a hard drive can be added and the machine can be supplied with a choice of 40Mb, 25ms or 120Mb, 19ms hard disks. Both have embedded IDE controllers and use 1:1 interleave. The three free expansion slots are horizontally mounted. All are full- length, 16-bit AT versions capable of supporting XT cards. Dedicated mouse port uses PS/2-type, 6-pin connector. Version of MS-Dos 4.01 supplied is Epson enhanced and includes machine-specific utilities, setup program and diagnostics. Keyboard has standard AT 102-key layout but has edges shaved off to save desk space.

Hi-Grade HIG 386X/25

Hi-Grade may be a small firm, but it puts a lot of emphasis on solidity and quality of manufacturing in its PCs. The HiG- 386X-25, a 25MHz 386 machine, is just one of several variations on a theme based around the C&T chipset and AMI Bios. ROM shadowing is available. Small but helpful highlights include labelled interfaces (useful when there are two serial ports), LED indication of processor speed (the standard speed is 25MHz but it can be slowed by software), and a quiet fan. Uses a small footprint, ‘Baby AT’ system box. Uses page interleave memory and LIM/EMS memory management is provided. The standard 1Mb of memory is expandable to 16Mb: this can all be on-board, high-speed memory. Of the eight expansion slots, five are left free – three 16-bit and two eight-bit. The other three are used for the video adapter, disk controller and interface ports. Unusually, both 5.25 inch 1.2Mb and 3.5 inch 1.44Mb floppy disk drives are provided as standard (compared to the current trend for 3.5 inch only): hard disk versions from 40Mb to 640Mb are available using a 1:1 interleave controller. Space is available for a further two devices. A mouse is provided as standard.

HM Minstrel 486

One of the smallest desktop PCs on the market in spite of housing a 486 processor. Uses a common casing across the processor range, with just the CPU card and supporting hardware being varied. All models use the standard ISA AT bus. This is an extremely fast machine that will be attractive to users of labour-intensive applications tough lack of expansion potential limit or prevent its use as a multi-user platform or file server. Case can hold one hard disk and one 3.5-inch floppy disk drive. Hard disks start at 42Mb and include fast 80Mb and 120Mb RLL devices and a 240Mb SCSI drive with 32K of cache memory on board. Machine uses a four-slot backplane with main motherboard occupying one slot. Three full-length, 16-bit expansion slots are available, which is fine for stand-alone, network station and personal use. Memory starts at 1Mb and can go up to 5Mb on the motherboard. Uses 16-bit VGA output: basic 256K video RAM can be upgraded to 1Mb for faster operation. Dedicated PS/2-type mouse port provided in addition to two serial ports. A Logitech mouse is included.

Invicta 386-SX

Invicta says it will supply any configuration of machine, allowing you to mix and match specifications and features. This 20MHz 386sx machine comes in a variety of guises and box types, including a small tower model. The processor can be switched to 8MHz for fussy programs using a button on the front of the machine. Basic machine has a 5.25-inch, 1.2Mb floppy disk drive and 40Mb hard disk, but hard disk sizes up to 1Gb are available, plus floppy disk drives in 3.5-inch 1.44Mb and 720K and 5.25-inch 360K formats. The minimum memory of 1Mb can be expanded to 8Mb on the motherboard and LIM EMS 4.0 expanded memory support is supplied. Least expensive model has a monochrome video adapter, but VGA and Super VGA can be supplied. Monitors are available in 14-inch, 16-inch and 20- inch versions. Six expansion slots are provided – two eight- bit XT and four 16-bit AT types. Three slots are occupied by the display adapter, disk controller and interface card, leaving three free. Invicta can also supply CD-Rom drives, modems, tape streamers, fax cards and uninterruptible power supplies with the machines. A mouse is optional.

Logix LG-35

Like most of the Logix range, this is a very slim machine, at around 2.5 inches high. Logix defines it as a workstation product. Casing is metal and solid enough to support a monitor and provided with extensive cooling holes. The 286 processor is run at a comparatively fast 16MHz which should provide performance comparable to a 386sx. Minimum RAM of 1Mb expands to a maximum on-board memory of 8Mb using SIMMs. Small case limits drive bays to two 3.5-inch devices – typically one hard disk and one floppy. Standard hard disk is a 42Mb, 19ms unit, though 84Mb, 120Mb, 170Mb, 210Mb and 300Mb options are available. Can also be fitted with SCSI hard disk drives up to 1.3Gb. Standard configuration has on-board VGA display driving a 14-inch colour monitor. Other monitor and display options, including low-radiation systems, are available. Microsoft mouse is an optional extra though the machine has a dedicated mouse socket as well as two serial ports. Two horizontal expansion slots are included, one full-length, one half- length.

Logix LG65

A compact, small footprint machine intended for single user and network station applications. Offers fast processing and disk access plus several display options that make it suitable for basic desktop publishing work. Uses page interleaved memory to help achieve zero wait state operation. The basic 2Mb of RAM can be expanded using SIMMs to 8Mb on the motherboard. LIM EMS 4.0 expanded memory support is provided. Both 1.2Mb, 5.25-inch and 1.44Mb, 3.5-inch floppy disk drives are fitted as standard. Minimum hard disk is an 84Mb, 19ms model. Hard disk options include 120Mb, 170Mb and 250Mb devices, with larger sizes, including 1.3Gb SCSI drives, available on request. A 64K hardware disk cache is fitted as standard to speed up disk reads. On board 16-bit VGA adapter supports all Super VGA modes plus 1024 x 768 resolution (with memory expansion). Standard monitor is a 14-inch colour VGA model, but Super VGA, 16-inch multi-scan and 21-inch DTP monitors can be supplied. The five free expansion slots comprise two eight-bit XT and three 16-bit AT devices. Shipped with Windows 3 and tutorial software, plus simple word processing, card index and communications programs.

Logix LG-45S

An extremely slimline machine running its 386sx at 16MHz and recommended by its makers for use as a network station. Uses page interleaved memory to achieve zero wait states. Memory uses fast SIMM sockets which take up to 8Mb. More memory can be added using normal memory boards in an expansion slot. Size of case limits expansion to two slots, both 16-bit AT versions, though all main interfaces are ports run direct from the motherboard. Standard display is a VGA card driving a 14- inch colour monitor. Super VGA and several other monitor types are available as options. A socket is provided for a 387sx math coprocessor. The basic 42Mb Quantam hard disk is a fast 19ms device. Larger disks are available and include 84Mb, 120Mb, 170Mb and 330Mb models, some with access times as fast as 15.5ms. Logix can also supply SCSI drives up to 1.3Gb. Controller includes a 64K hardware disk cache to speed up disk reads. Supplied with Windows 3 and a Microsoft mouse running from one of the two serial ports.

Memorex Telex 7255

The intended market for this machine is indicated by its description by Memorex Telex – a firm big in the mainframe market – as the Intelligent Workstation. Essentially a 386sx PC based on the Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) standard, it makes an excellent network station capable of running applications locally. Comes with 2Mb of LIM EMS 4.0 compatible RAM expandable to 8Mb on the motherboard. On-board display adapter supports Super VGA (800 x 600 resolution). Motherboard also provides PS/2-type mouse port directly. Expansion provided by six MCA-compatible slots, though some may be used depending on machine configuration. Slots are easily accessible. Four drive bays are provided, one for an internal 3.5-inch unit (typically a hard disk), two externally available for 3.5-inch or 5.25-inch devices and one externally accessible 3.5-inch bay (normally occupied by standard floppy disk drive). Basic machine comes with just a 3.5-inch 1.44Mb floppy disk drive, but 40Mb, 70Mb, 100Mb and 170Mb hard disks are available, as is a second floppy disk drive. Mains power supply is a beefy 145 watt unit, capable of supporting several extra devices, such as tape and disk drives, expansion cards and so on.

NCR System 3000 Model 3320

An MCA bus machine providing Advanced Bios support, making it suitable as an entry-level model for OS/2. Uses a highly- integrated motherboard supplying all main ports and outputs. The built-in SCSI controller supports up to seven devices. These include the internal hard disk, but an interface socket is provided to allow daisychaining of external devices. A version with no hard disk is available for network station applications. Has three drive bays capable of accepting 3.5- inch devices. Basic model has 2Mb of fast 70ns memory. Up to three SIMMs can be fitted raising on-board memory to 8Mb. Four MCA expansion slots are provided, all full-length and all free. Provided with keylock and software-based password security. Comes with 16-bit Super VGA output supporting 132- column displays and 720 x 400 VGA text mode. The display is very fast due to video ROM shadowing. Analogue monitor options are a 12-inch mono screen with 64-level grey scale and a 14- inch Super VGA colour model. Power supply is an international, autosensing model. Includes a mouse interface, but the Microsoft mouse is extra. Other options include a 486 accelerator board, 387sx math coprocessor and 80Mb and 120Mb tape streamers.

NCR System 3000 Model 3340

A fairly compact machine, for a 486, using the MCA bus and aimed at power-user applications. The 100Mb or 200Mb hard disks are SCSI devices, supported by NCR’s own SCSI controller, making the machine particularly suitable for Unix applications. Has a total of three drive bays (accepting 3.5- inch size devices). SCSI output provided for use with external devices such as tape drives, CD-Roms and so on. These devices can be daisychained. Supplied with 2Mb or 8Mb of fast 32-bit memory, expandable to 16Mb without using expansion slots. Also supplied 128K of 25ns RAM cache memory to enhance the 486’s built-in cache. Four MCA expansion slots are free to the user – two 32-bit and two 16-bit. Display is Super VGA compatible, supporting a 720 x 400 VGA text mode. Mono, analogue standard VGA (640 x 480 resolution) display is available, supporting 64-level grey scale. Can be supplied with a colour analogue Super VGA option. Provided with keylock and password-based security software. Options include: an NCR Graphics Coprocessor giving a display resolution of 1024 x 768; Microsoft mouse; and expansion of video memory to 512K. Operating system options include MS-Dos, OS/2, NCR PC/Unix and SCO Unix.

NEC PowerMate 486/25E

NEC is aiming this machine at the type of people who are impressed by size. The system box is very big (by current desktop standards) but sturdy and up to the rigours of corporate life. Highly expandable machine, and though it doesn’t use the fastest 386 chip (it’s a 25MHz device switchable to 8MHz), makes an ideal fileserver or CAD or DTP engine. Of the seven expansion slots (five 32-bit EISA, one full-length and one half-length ISA slots) five are left free after the standard Super VGA adapter and hard disk controller card have been added. Also has a proprietary internal (25MHz) memory expansion slot. Although the 486 chip has its own 8K cache and math corprocessor, the PowerMate has space for a further 64K of cache memory and a Weitek WTL4167 coprocessor chip. PS/2- type mouse and keyboard connectors, two serial ports and printer port sullpied by motherboard, leaving slots free. The standard 4Mb of memory is expandable to 32Mb on the motherboard. A 100Mb 20ms ESDI hard disk is also standard, with a 300Mb 18ms ESDI device as an option. The front panel has spaces for four storage devices, though the 300Mb hard disk occupies two of these. Security is provided by password protection software and a system box cover lock. Floor stand available, effectively turning it into a tower machine.

NEC PowerMate Portable SX

One of the few remaining mains-powered, ‘lunchbox’-style luggables, for people who want a portable with good performance and display but don’t need to compute on the move. The standard 2Mb RAM can be expanded to a total of 16Mb on the motherboard – 10Mb of 16MHz zero wait state memory, plus another 6Mb of 8MHz RAM. The 16MHz 386sx processor can be software-switched to 8MHz, and a socket is provided for a math coprocessor. Lunchbox design provides space for three standard expansion slots (as much as many desktop machines) – all 8/16-bit AT versions. Display is red gas plasma, supporting 16 intensity levels, which is more readable than most LCD screens in tricky lighting conditions. Resolution is standard VGA (640 x 480), but RGB output is provided for external monitors and this supports Super VGA (800 x 600). Port also provided for external floppy disk drive: NEC can supply 5.25-inch 1.2Mb and 360K versions. Internal disk is 3.5-inch 1.44Mb and 42Mb hard disk with 28ms average access time. Power input is switchable for 115V and 230V input. Standard keyboard forms one side of box, folds down and detaches. It has 93 keys, but a standard 102-key device can be plugged in. Comes supplied with MS-Dos and systems diagnostic software.

Nokia Alfaskop DSM 458

A meaty EISA-bus machine that was born to be a network file server, multi-user platform or Unix engine. Run the 486 processor at its current maximum speed of 33MHz. Processor is supported by a socket for a Weitek math coprocessor and an option for a 128K memory cache. Basic 4Mb, LIM EMS 4.0- compatible memory is expandable to 64Mb on the motherboard. Eight expansion slots supplied, all 32-bit EISA versions, four of which have master capability. Hard disk options include 200Mb, 660Mb and 1Gb SCSI devices. Tape streamers with 320Mb or 525Mb capacities and a 2Mb cache controller are also available. System software comes pre-installed – MS-Dos 4, OS/2, Windows 3, OS/2 Lan Manager and Unix V.3.2 are all available. Four display options available, all supporting the Super VGA standard. Two are 14-inch colour monitors, plus a 15-inch black/white monitor and a mono LCD screen. The four serial ports provided make it easy to set up a five station multi-user system with minimal extra hardware. Three-level password protection (for system, users and keyboard) plus keylock, front panel lock and floppy disk boot disable are useful for multi-user and network applications. Also has a port for an uninterruptable power supply. Has a 20-character, two-line LCD diagnostic display.

Olivetti M386/25

A compact desktop model that, due to some tweaking, delivers more performance than most 25MHz 386 systems. The minimum 2Mb of RAM is soldered directly to the motherboard. Can be expanded using 1Mb or 4Mb SIMMs to a maximum of 10Mb on the board. A proprietary memory board provides further expansion to a total of 18Mb. Also provided with 32K of 25ns cache memory, using the Intel 80385 cache controller chip. Sockets provided for 387 numeric coprocessor and Weitek floating point coprocessor. System box houses up to four 3.5-inch devices, or two 3.5-inch and one 5.25-inch drives, all externally accessible. Standard configuration includes a 3.5-inch 1.44Mb floppy disk drive plus either a 100Mb, 19ms or 200Mb, 16ms hard disk. Hard disks use embedded controllers. Other devices available include 80Mb and 120Mb tape streamers, internal 5.25-inch CD-Rom drive and an external 810Mb Worm drive. All five slots are 16-bit AT devices with XT compatibility. All are free in the standard configuration. Integrated display adapter provides Super VGA plus 1024 x 768, 16-colour modes. Optional AGC card boosts display to 1024 x 768, 256 colour operation. Options include two-button and high-resolution, three-button mice.

Olivetti P750

Styled as a desktop machine, based on the MCA bus, this is most at home running power-hungry stand-alone applications. Can be used as a file server, however, and a multi-port card is available for multi-user applications. An inexpensive version with 2Mb of non-expandable memory is offered, but the standard model starts at 4Mb and is expandable using SIMMs to 8Mb on the motherboard. The 32-bit expansion slots can be used to boost memory to a maximum of 32Mb. One of the six full- length MCA expansion slots is occupied by the peripherals controller. This leaves three 32-bit and two 16-but slots free, all full-length. The display adapter is Olivetti’s own, supporting normal modes up to Super VGA, plus 640 x 480 is 256 colours (or 64-level grey scale on mono monitors) and 1024 x 768 in 16 colours (16-level grey scale). Also compatible with MDA, EGA and CGA standards. Case houses up to four 3.5-inch devices, including 1.44Mb floppy disk drives, hard disk drives (100Mb, 19ms and 200Mb, 16ms options available) and 80Mb or 120Mb tape streamers. Support for the tape streamers is built in to the ESDI disk controller.

Olivetti CP 486

A serious floor-standing machine primarily intended as a multi-user system (supporting up to 50 terminals) or network file server (supporting up to 256 users). The 4Mb of memory is expandable to 64Mb on the board, with up to 256Mb being supported through the use of expansion slots. Of the eight slots, five are free. All are 32-bit EISA devices, compatible with 16-bit AT cards. The Olivetti EVC display adapter supports all standard VGA modes plus 640 x 480 and 1024 x 768 both with 256 colours. It is a 32-bit device allowing very high refresh rates. Four analogue monitors options available: 12-inch mono, 14-inch colour, 15-inch high resolution colour and 17-inch high resolution mono. The device controller is Olivetti’s own 32-bit ESC device, capable of transferring data at burst rates of up to 33Mb/sec. It supports SCSI devices and the machine is offered with a choice of 150Mb, 300Mb and 600Mb SCSI hard disks. A 150Mb tape streamer is also available. A total of five storage devices can be supported. The keyboard and dedicated mouse ports use PS/2-type connectors. Sockets provided for Weitek WTL 4167 math coprocessor and Intel i860 Risc processor. Latter is used for numerically-intensive applications such as CAD and scientific work.

Olivetti PCS 286

A classic low-cost AT machine aimed at the home and small business markets, proving there’s life in the 286 chip yet. Small footprint design with very quiet fan. Only two device bays, typically holding one hard disk and one 1.44Mb 3.5-inch floppy. Minimum hard disk is a 20Mb, 27ms unit: a 40Mb, 25ms device is available. Possible to add external 5.25-inch floppy disk drive or tape streamer. PS/2-type mouse socket provided but mouse is extra. Three free expansion slots, arranged horizontally, all full-size – one 8-bit XT slot and two 16- bit AT slots. Socket provided for 80287 math coprocessor. Standard memory of 1Mb (one wait state) expandable to 4Mb on the motherboard. VGA controller, giving standard 640 x 480, 16-colour VGA resolution, is built on to the motherboard. This is easily disabled using setup software. Mono and colour monitor options available. Comes with Microsoft Works integrated software package, providing word processor, database, spreadsheet and communications programs. Also has proprietary ‘1992’ software providing database of top European companies, on-line dictionary and thesaurus with English- French translation and country-specific correspondence templates – all designed to operate with Works – plus Dos tutorial and a business simulation game.

Olivetti PCS 386SX

Though 386sx machines have gained a niche as entry-level corporate machines, this is aimed more as a high-level home or small business PC with a price to match. Small footprint, elegant design with very quiet fan. Only two device bays, typically holding one hard disk and one 1.44Mb 3.5-inch floppy. Minimum hard disk is a 20Mb, 27ms unit: 40Mb, 25ms and 100Mb, 19ms devices are available. Possible to add external 5.25-inch floppy disk drive or tape streamer. PS/2-type mouse socket provided but mouse is extra. Three free expansion slots, all full-size – one 8-bit XT slot and two 16-bit AT slots. Standard memory of 1Mb (zero wait state) expandable to 8Mb on the motherboard. Memory is LIM EMS 4.0 compatible. VGA controller, giving standard 640 x 480 VGA resolution, is built on to the motherboard. This is easily disabled using setup software. Mono and colour monitor options available. Comes with Microsoft Works integrated software package, providing word processor, database, spreadsheet and communications programs. Also has proprietary ‘1992’ software providing database of top European companies, on-line dictionary and thesaurus with English-French translation and country-specific correspondence templates – all designed to operate with Works – plus Dos tutorial and a business simulation game.

Opus Base Station 286

Essentially a transportable desktop machine, the idea is that the system box is small enough to be carried from site to site, with the standard-size, 102-key keyboard, where it can be plugged into a normal monitor. More likely it will be used as a network station or general-purpose low cost machine where space is at a premium. Main box has a small footprint and is extremely slim. Uses a 12MHz 286 which can be slowed to 8MHz. Socket provided for 80287 math coprocessor. Standard memory is 1Mb, though a 4Mb option is available and maximum is 16Mb. Uses zero wait state, interleaved memory for maximum performance. Size of system box limits number of expansion slots to two. Has room for a single, side-mounted floppy disk drive – a 1.44Mb 3.5-inch model. An external 5.25-inch 1.2Mb drive is available. Range of hard disk options, starting at 40Mb. Mono and colour VGA options available: colour version comes with ‘Super Flicker Free’ monitor and supports all standards including MCGA, EGA, CGA, Hercules and MDA, and has Hotzoom feature, allowing user to zoom in and enlarge an area of the screen, with a panning feature.


Though an aging design, there’s still a place for the venerable XT for less-demanding applications where cost is the major factor. Opus has brought the XT up to date with zero wait state processing and VGA graphics. The 8088 processor is run at 10MHz and can be slowed to 4.77MHz by use of a turbo switch on the front panel. A socket is provided for an 8087 math coprocessor. The standard memory of 640K cannot be expanded on the board, but it is the normal Dos maximum and should be enough for all XT-type applications. The monochrome version of the machine comes fitted with a dedicated mouse port for a bus mouse, but this is missing on the colour version. Standard disk drives are a 5.25-inch 360K floppy drive, though a 1.44Mb 3.5-inch alternative is available, and a 20Mb hard disk. The mono version has a Hercules-compatible, 14-inch amber display. The colour option is a VGA display adapter and 14-inch monitor, giving 640 x 480 resolution, compatible with most other standards including CGA, MCGA, EGA, Hercules and MDA. It comes with a Hotzoom feature to allow enlargement of any part of the screen.

Opus PC VII 386/33

A real power machine with extensive expansion capabilities. The 33MHz 386DX processor gives zero wait state performance. It can be slowed to 8MHz, and system provides selectable wait states to cope with devices in the 8/16-bit expansion slots that expect wait states. Socket provided for Weitek and 80387 math coprocessors. Uses memory for Bios shadowing to increase performance. Built-in Intel 80385 cache controller chip with 32K memory cache. System parameters are stored in Eeprom, avoiding need for battery back-up. Minimum memory is 1Mb, but SIMM slots allow for 4Mb and a special bus gives access to a maximum of 16Mb on the motherboard. Eight expansion slots are provided: six are 8/16-bit AT slots, one is an eight-bit XT slot and the last can be used as an eight-bit slot or as a proprietary, 32-bit memory slot. Three slots are occupied by the serial/parallel interface board, VGA adapter and disk controller card. Six drive bays are provided – two internal for hard disks and four externally accessible (two for 3.5- inch units, two for 5.25-inch). Standard hard disk is a 135Mb drive with built-in embedded controller using 1:1 interleave and a 56K cache. An additional software cache is supplied if needed, as is LIM EMS 4.0 compatible expanded memory management.

Philips PCD 200

The main system box is very small. The 12.5MHz 286 zero wait state processor can be slowed to 8MHz using software. A socket is provided for the 80287 math coprocessor. The 1Mb of memory is expandable to 4Mb on the motherboard, or more using memory boards in expansion slots. While a 3.5-inch 1.44Mb floppy disk drive is fitted as standard, an external 5.25-inch 1.2Mb device is available. A choice of 20Mb, 45ms and 40Mb, 29ms hard disks is offered. Both use an 8K cache and have an auto- parking facility to protect the heads if the machine is moved. VGA graphic output is supplied direct from the motherboard: it also supports EGA, CGA, MDA and Hercules standards. For expansion, including network cards, there are two full-length, 16-bit AT slots. The PS/2-type keyboard and dedicated mouse sockets are near the front of the machine, which avoids trailing cables all the way to the back. A two-button, Microsoft-compatible mouse is supplied as standard. Comes with Microsoft Works integrated software suite, providing a word processor, database, spreadsheet and communications program. Also supplied with PC Tools 6.0 utility software – which includes a disk cache, file viewer, file transfer and hard disk management programs – and two games.

Philips PCD 300

A slightly unusual design, low profile and small footprint make this a very distinctive machine. The 16MHz 386sx zero wait state processor is software switchable to 8MHz. A socket is provided for a 387sx math coprocessor. The motherboard supports RAM expansion to 8Mb, from the standard 1Mb. The integrated disk controller supports two floppy and one hard disk, offers automatic head parking and RLL encoding for the hard disk, and provides an 8K hardware cache. Hard disk options are a 40Mb, 29ms drive or 100Mb, 25ms device. There are three 3.5-inch drive bays for hard and floppy disks. An external 5.25-inch, 1.2Mb floppy disk drive can be added. Two free, horizontally-mounted expansion slots are provided, both full-length, 16-bit AT devices. The supplied mouse is Microsoft compatible and uses a dedicated, PS/2-type port. The VGA adapter is mounted on the motherboard and supports Super VGA and 8514 (1024 x 768, 16 colour) modes. Several utilities are provided including programs for disk parking and mouse and video support. Comes with Microsoft Works integrated software, offering word processor, database, spreadsheet and communications programs. Also supplied with PC Tools 6 utility software that includes disk management, file viewing and transfer, disk cache and so on, plus Golf and adventure games.

Primrose SX.16

A highly configurable machine built around a small footprint but sturdy box. Runs the 386sx at 16MHz but a switch allows this to be slowed to 8MHz. Basic memory is 2Mb expandable to 4Mb or 8Mb on the motherboard. The eight expansion slots – six 16-bit AT and two eight-bit XT – run at 8MHz. Two 16-bit slots are occupied by the disk controller and VGA card on typical configurations. Five drive bays are provided, all accessible from outside. Three take 5.25-inch devices and two accommodate 3.5-inch units. Primrose supplies a choice of three hard disks – 40Mb, 28ms; 84Mb, 20ms; and 125Mb, 17 ms. They feature 1:1 interleave and a 32K buffer. Floppy disk drives include 360K and 1.2Mb 5.25-inch models and a 3.5-inch 1.44Mb device. A 40/80Mb Archive tape streamer can be supplied. Display adapter is Super VGA and supports resolutions up to 1024 x 768. Uses 256K video RAM which can be expanded to 1Mb, allowing 256 colours at the highest resolution. Comes with drivers for Windows and other applications. Monitor options include colour and mono VGA, a Wyse 14-inch paper-white screen and a Samsung A4 display. Machine can be supplied diskless for network station applications.

Tandon PCA 486/SL

Intended as a personal 486 machine,this is excellent as a stand-alone machine for demanding applications such as CAD and DTP. The 1Mb standard memory is upgradeable to 5Mb on the motherboard using 512K or 2Mb SIMM kits. VGA graphics aren’t standard with the base model but will the choice of most people. There is a dedicated display slot, so VGA can be added without occupying an expansion slot. Base model also has no hard disk, but a version with a 110Mb IDE device is available. This has an embedded controller which also handles the standard 3.5-inch 1.44Mb and optional 5.25-inch 1.2Mb floppy disk drives. Three drive bays are provided – two for 5.25- inch devices and one for a 3.5-inch drive (typically a hard disk). Four expansion slots are provided – three 16-bit AT slots and one eight-bit XT slot. Machine configuration software – giving control over features such as memory management and security features – and password security routines are built into the machine. Windows 3 can be supplied as an option. Tandon can also supply an Ad-Pac receptacle sub- system. This allows one or two 30Mb or 40Mb Data Pac removable hard disks to be used.

Tatung TCS-8120S

This is a low-profile, small footprint machine that is well- built and solid. The machine can come with as little as 512K RAM, building to 2Mb using 256K SIMMs. Most users, however, will go for the 1Mb version which can be expanded to 8Mb on the motherboard using 1Mb DRAM modules. Memory uses 2- or 4- way page interleaved accessing. Four horizontal expansion slots are provided – one eight-bit XT type and three 16-bit AT slots. One is occupied by the Super VGA display adapter leaving two full-length and one half-length slots free. The basic machine comes with just one 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive. The case has space for another 3.5-inch floppy disk drive and an internal 3.5-inch hard disk – Tatung sells a 40Mb model. The floppy disk and IDE hard disk controllers are built on to the main board, as are the two serial and one parallel ports, and the dedicated mouse socket. The mouse itself is extra. Options from Tatung include a modem card, a four-port asynchronous communications card and a memory card. A socket is provided for an 80387sx math coprocessor.

Tatung TCS-8600T

This is a large tower machine with the emphasis very much on expandability. It’s aimed at multi-tasking departmental and CAD/CAM applications. The entry-level model runs the 386 processor at 25MHz and supports it with a 32K hardware memory cache. The system starts with 4Mb of memory expandable to 16Mb using up to 12Mb on a daughter board. Five half-size disk drive bays are included, four of them accessible from the outside. The basic machine has just a single 5.25-inch, 1.2Mb floppy disk drive, but you can specify 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy drives and a range of hard disks. The machine has eight expansion slots, which make it interesting for multi-user work – five 16-bit AT and three eight-bit XT. Slot speed is 8/12MHz. The display adapter supports Super VGA and beyond to 1024 x 768 interlaced high resolution graphics. A 33MHz model is also available. This has a 64K memory cache and a 128K version can be supplied. With both models the processor can be slowed to 8MHz using a case-mounted switch, and sockets are provided for 80387 and Weitek math coprocessors.

Tulip AT Compact 3

Something of a pioneer in small footprint desktop machines, this latest generation is very compact, though this puts some limitations on expansion. Intended for less demanding applications, and makes a good, unobtrusive network station. The 12.5MHz 286 processor can be slowed to 7.15MHz using hot keys. Socket provided for 287 math coprocessor. Standard memory is 1Mb with one wait state, expandable to 3Mb on the motherboard. Capable of using shadow RAM to increase performance. Supports two floppy and one hard disk drive (20Mb and 40Mb options available, both 28ms devices). A 40Mb, 50K/sec tape streamer is available. Password software provided. Has five full-length expansion slots: four 16-bit AT and one eight-bit XT. Four are left free in typical configuration. Two serial ports provided have 9-pin sockets, but a 9-to-25 pin adapter cable is provided. Moveable magnetic feet are provided so that box can be tipped on its side. Basic Dual Graphics Adapter supports Hercules and mono CGA modes. Standard VGA adapter also available with monochrome and colour monitors. Supplied with Windows 286 and two applications – MS-Write and MS-Paint. Optional mouse is badged version of Microsoft model.

Tulip SX Compact 2

Excellent corporate entry-level, network or single user machine. Largely replaces the firm’s AT Compact 3 as the corporate machine due to use of 386 architecture. Has a small footprint and low noise. Clock speed of 16MHz can be slowed to 8MHz from the keyboard. Standard memory is 1Mb, 1 wait state, with space for up to 3Mb on the motherboard. Support provided for use of shadow RAM to speed operations. LIM 4 expanded memory support also supplied. Minimum hard disk is a 20Mb, 30ms device: 40Mb, 28ms and 100Mb, 21ms devices also available. Has one internal hard disk bay and two externally accessible drive bays. Five expansion slots are provided – four 16-bit AT and one eight-bit XT. Two are occupied, leaving three free. All slots accept full-length, XT-height cards. Dual graphics adapter supplies standard VGA modes in colour and monochrome. Mouse interface uses dedicated port compatible with the Microsoft inport standard. Optional mouse is Microsoft version 6 compatible. Uses C-MOS memory with battery back-up for system configuration. Supplied with Windows 386, rather than the more popular Windows 3, MS-Write (word processor) and MS-Paint (graphics) software.

Tulip tr 486e

A tower-format machine based on the EISA bus and developed from the firm’s successful 386 model. Clock speed of 25MHz can be slowed to 8MHz from the keyboard. Standard memory is 8Mb of burst-mode RAM expandable to 16Mb on the motherboard using 1Mb SIMMs. Use of 4MB SIMMs allows expansion to 64Mb. RAM is interleaved to speed both read and write operations. A special memory controller also speeds write operations (normally not helped by cache devices). Minimum hard disk is 100Mb, but 160Mb, 330Mb and 660Mb options are available, though larger sizes require separate controller board. This occupies one of the eight 32-bit EISA expansion slots, which otherwise are all free. VGA graphics are provided direct from the motherboard. Built-in security systems require a password to use, switch off or reboot the machine. Other functions include mouse lock, keyboard lock and video blanking. A 16- character LCD screen on the main system unit is used for many security features. Three power supplies are used: one for motherboard and processor board and two for the disk drives, giving a high degree of fault tolerance and security. Seven device bays are provided, four of them internal, three accessible from the outside.

Unisys PW2 800 486/25A

Although part of the Personal Workstation series, this is more a departmental or network machine and is geared towards Unix applications. A floor-standing tower system using an ISA bus. Seven expansion slots are provided: one eight-bit XT slot, three 16-bit AT slots and four 32-bit slots designed mainly for fast memory. At least one of the latter will be occupied by a memory board: standard memory is 8Mb, expandable to 32Mb. Hard disk controller and display adapter boards also occupy slots, leaving five free in a typical configuration. Five half-height drive bays are provided, three accessible from the outside. Standar controller supports up to two floppy and two hard disks, the latter including 80Mb, 140Mb and 320Mb SCSI devices. Internal 40Mb and 135Mb tape back-up drives also available. Three display options are provided: VGA, Super VGA and Ergonomic. Also a choice of three keyboards – the conventional 102 key UK model and OFISlink and OFIS Deskset keyboards. The two-button mouse is Microsoft compatible. Standard network interfaces and an eight-port terminal adapter are available from Unisys.

Victor V386 MX

The micro-tower format of this very compact machine means it won’t take up much space on your desk, but if space is really at a premium it can be put on the floor. Can be supplied with two 1.44Mb floppy disk drives or one floppy and a hard disk, with a choice of 40Mb, 80Mb, 120Mb or 210Mb. Case limits the drives to 3.5-inch versions, but it’s possible to add an external 5.25-inch, 1.2Mb floppy drive. External tape streamer also available. Possible to fit Add-Pak removable hard disk in 40Mb, 80Mb or 120Mb capacities. This is useful where large amounts of data need to be moved between machines, or for security purposes, as the hard disk can be removed and locked in a safe. SIMM sockets allow basic 1Mb of memory to be expanded to 8Mb on the motherboard. All three free expansion slots are 16-bit AT versions. VGA output provided direct from the motherboard: supports standard VGA modes (640 x 480). The 14-inch analogue monitors available are mono, amber screen supporting 256-level grey scales and colour which is switchable to green or amber mono. Special clip-on back cover to hide cabling.

Viglen Genie 1

An interesting entry-level business machine that is modest in both size and price while offering impressive performance. The system box is low-profile and small-footprint, and can be flipped on its side for greater space saving – ideal for cluttered desks though it does limit expansion a little. The machine has just two drive bays: a 1.44Mb, 3.5-inch floppy and fairly slow 20Mb hard disk are supplied with the base model. However, faster hard disks are available including 40Mb, 28ms and 100Mb and 200Mb, 18ms devices. External 360K and 1.2Mb 5.25-inch floppy disk drives are offered, plus an external 120Mb tape streamer. The supplied mouse is Microsoft compatible and uses one of the two serial ports. The motherboard has space to expand the standard 1Mb of RAM to 5Mb. Maximum memory is 16Mb. Of the six, full-length expansion slots, three are 16-bit AT and three eight-bit XT devices. The VGA graphics card occupies one eight-bit slot, but a faster 16-bit model is available. A mono monitor is standard, but colour is an option. For more demanding tasks, that perhaps need the 386 architecture, 386sx mono and colour models are available.

Wyse Decision 386sx/16s

A low-profile, small-footprint machine particularly geared towards the network market. The 1Mb of memory is page interleaved, zero wait state RAM, expandable to 8Mb on the motherboard using SIMMs and 16Mb using normal memory cards. Most ports and adapters are integrated on the system board. These include the serial, parallel and PS/2-type mouse sockets, and Super VGA adapter with 256K video RAM. An upgrade is available for the video adapter to support 1024 x 768 resolution modes. Two, full-length, 16-bit AT expansion slots are included, both free. The basic version (Model 0) is a diskless workstation model, though it includes the IDE hard disk and floppy disk controller adapter built in to the motherboard. The Model 3 adds a single 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive and the Model 40 further adds a 40Mb IDE hard disk. The 40Mb hard disk is available separately as an upgrade, as is a 110Mb hard disk and a 3.5-inch, 1.44Mb floppy disk drive. System box supports a maximum of two 3.5-inch size disk drives (typically one hard disk and one floppy disk). Several proprietary extensions are provided to the supplied MS-Dos 4.01, including menu-driven installation, a graphical user interface, on-line help, system diagnostics and software-based security. Also has support for LIM EMS 4.0 expanded memory.


1 thought on “From the archives: Good Hardware Guide – Macs and Desktop PCs

  1. David Pennington

    Nice historical detail. It’s the only place that I’ve found a reference to the Epson El3s. All other information has now gone from the internet, even from Epson. Sadly the loss of internet pages and information is a global tragedy, so much has been lost.


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