Use a 386 unix as a home machine?

Piercarlo Grandi pcg at aber-cs.UUCP
Mon Dec 25 11:05:59 AEST 1989

In article <2910 at infmx.UUCP> dror at infmx.UUCP (Dror Matalon) writes:
    	Now that 386 boxes are getting to be really cheap I'm thinking of 
    getting the best of both worlds by buying one running Unix and Dos tasks under 

Great idea. I have done it, and never regretted it. A 386 is a very large

    	I was thinking of buying a no name clone running at 25Mhz with 4
    Megs and a 120M RLL Seagate drive.

Excellent choice. a Couple of caveats: be sure that to upgrade the memory
to 8 megs you can do it on board or on the 32 bit board, *without* throwing
away the existing memory, and without using any 16 bit slot. I would advise
making sure it can be expanded to 8 megs just by pushing in a suitable number
of 1Megabit chips.

Don't use Seagate drives. My current favourites, notwithstanding the
difficulties of the manufacturer, are the Miniscribe 3085 (71 Megs RLL, 22
msec, half height) and the Miniscribe 3180E (160 Megs ESDI, 18 msec, half height),
that you can take home for about $570 and $1200 respectively. The 3085
has excellent odds of working RLL to 110 megs. I would recommend the Adaptec
2372B RLL controller, or even the WD1006 one. ESDI controllers, as long
as they are 1:1 and non caching, are ok.

You also absolutely want a 1/4" tape, either a 60MBytes or a 125 MBytes one
(the higher capacity ones are *expnsive*). Wangtek, Everex and Archive are
pretty good. Get a combo with a QIC-02 interface, not a QIC-36 one, they
tend to be cheaper. And if you lose the controller (I did :->), a QIC-02
one costs half a QIC-36 one.

On the other hand I seriously suggest that you consider using a SCSI
controller.  You surely *need* a cartridge tape backup, and if you
anticipate running out of slots or IRQ lines, etc..., a SCSI controller can
drive as many discs and tapes as you want. The SCSI controllers are also
often (not the Seagate ones, that is) multithreading, and fast.  There is no
question that *the* SCSI controller is the Adaptec 1542A. A SCSI controller
costs more than an RLL or ESDI one, but less than an RLL or ESDI controller
+ a tape controller. If I were to reconfigure my system now, I would go for
a SCSI controller. You have an ample choice of devices. The
Quantum PRO80S seems to be nice, and not too terribly expensive. Apparently
the best SCSI tape is the Archive Viper, but I have no idea of prices.

As to Unixes, get Everex if you have money problems, SCO Unix if you haven't
and want a lot of DOS compatibility, ISC if you want fast X11. Have a look
at SCO's open desktop (even if it has Ingres, which is the competition).
Make sure that the Unix you get can boot off a SCSI controller if you get

As to video board, get an ATI VGA wonder. They usually come with a free bus
mouse (which saves you another slot, and money), and they are 16 bit (faster
in character mode or 256 color mode), and you can get a nice VGA gray scale
monitor to match.

If you can, get *two* discs instead of one with the same capacity. For example,
if you go RLL, get two Mitsubishi MR535 40/60 Megs, 25 msec, instead of
a single 120 Meg disc. If you balance the load, your system, even single user,
will be faster. With SCSI, having two discs is even better, because they
can overlap operations.

You also want to get a modem, because you want to join the net. Get a
Trailblazer, or if you really want, a 9600 baud fax modem.

As to laser printers, get an HP LJ IIP (low cost, low running cost).
Piercarlo "Peter" Grandi           | ARPA: at
Dept of CS, UCW Aberystwyth        | UUCP: ...!mcvax!ukc!aber-cs!pcg
Penglais, Aberystwyth SY23 3BZ, UK | INET: pcg at

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