When I came to the US I bought a bunch of old 3.5″ and 5.25″ disks with me. Some of these date back to my first PC, circa 1993/4 which was a 386 DX 40MHz machine running MS DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1. I eventually sold this machine onto my cousin, when I moved up to a Pentium class machine (I guess around 1996) and have no idea what happened to it after that. I really have no desire to go back to windows 3.1, but do want to access and archive these disks. Anything that is of potential interest to others (including some disks that came with electronics magazines or programming books) I plan to add to archive.org.

So I started off bidding on a Compudyne 386 SX25 machine, from a local e-waste recycler-type company and won. The base machine had 4MB RAM and both 3.5″ and 5.25″ floppy drives. It was without a hard drive so have added a 256MB CF card and IDE adapter. Unsure if the BIOS would support this, I added a NE2000 compatible network card from eBay. This was primarily to be able to run XTIDE (also see this series of useful videos on the BIOS addition from Necroware).

As it happens the 256MB card works just fine (although I seemed to have to reformat this exiting from the MS-DOS boot disk, and then install DOS in order for it to boot from the drive). However, the NE2000 card turned out to be super useful since I installed the NE2000 driver, and Brutman’s MTCP tools (tutorial here) so I could get the machine on my network and transfer files to/from using FTP.

Everything worked just great. I was fortunate enough that the PC used an off-board battery so no leakage/damage there. I just hooked up a CR2032 in holder plus a charge blocking diode and 220R resistor in case of shorts. The folppy drives were in remarkably good condition, in fact the inside of the machine was remarkably clean, so think this has been stored somewhere safe/dry for many years.

I added a few extra DOS utilities such as Norton Commander, ImageDisk, NFormat, and CheckIT (I actually still have my original CheckIT disks and loop-back connectors for serial and parallel ports). All seems to be working very well.

Anyway, disks are now being successfully archived with this ancient PC. Here are a few photos of the rig…

I will publish a link to my archive.org collection once there’s some substantial content there.