Hackaday Retro Edition: Parallel Port Ethernet

It’s time once again for a roundup of ancient hardware that has successfully loaded our retro edition. Up this time is a completely random and totally not planned roundup of parallel port to Ethernet adapters.

First up is [Tom Moss] with his IBM 5150 – the first ‘IBM Compatible’ home computer, progenitor of the i7 boxxen warming your ankles as you read this. This machine comes standard with a 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU, 8087 FPU, 512k RAM, two 360k 5.25″ floppy drives, and a few very cool additions: an ISA to CompactFlash card adapter, giving [Tom]‘s box 4GB of storage.

How is [Tom] connecting to the Internet? A Xircom PE3-10BT Network Adapter. This neat device turns any parallel port into an Ethernet. With a Telnet program, [Tom] was able to connect to a Unix system and use Lynx to browse over to the retro site. He’s yet to get a DOS browser working, but FTP is go, allowing him to download ancient software directly onto his huge CF card.

The next one isn’t exactly vintage, but it does carry the spirit of antiquated hardware onto the web. [Valentin] is using a FleaFPGA and a 186 over at OpenCores. The FPGA board gives him VGA output, an SD card, A PS/2 keyboard, but no options for networking. That’s no problem for [Valentin], as he wired up a Xircom PE3 parallel port to Ethernet adapter. Yes, the same adapter as the 5150 above. [Valentin] says his parallel port hack is a bit of a mess with non-bidirectional and no dedicated IRQ hardware support. It works, though, so we can’t fault him for that.

We’re always looking for people who have loaded our retro edition on old hardware. If you have some outdated hardware sitting in the attic, get it out, load up Hackaday Retro, and send it in.

Pics from [Tom] and [Valentin] below.




  1. DainBramage1991 says:

    Wow, memories. That IBM looks almost exactly like my first x86 machine, circa 1991. The only visible difference is that mine had a full-height 10 megabyte MFM hard drive instead of the second floppy. I had almost as much fun taking that thing apart and putting it back together as I did running programs on it.

    I ended up stuffing a 386DX motherboard into the case a couple of years later and used it to run a BBS for several years.

  2. cak says:

    I recently recycled all of my old PC parallel port hardware, because it littered my lab, and nobody wanted it anymore. I don’t even own a single machine with parallel port anymore.

    The only thing I have left over is a USB to parallel adapter. But I’m sure that I’ll threw this also away in ten years, without having it used a single time.

    • FrankTheCat says:

      throw that stuff on fleabay. more likely than not there’s some idiot like me doing something daft like trying to get an IBM PS/2 L40SX on the internet.

  3. k says:

    Awesome, now John Titor can get back on the internet!

  4. xeon says:

    I love old machines like these… “gets all fuzzy thinking about it”

  5. xeon says:
  6. kt says:

    i have one of those xircom parallel port stuff, but with the coax cable conection, so probably useless now.

  7. Lwatcdr says:

    I am surprised that he could not find an ISA ethernet card.

    • Tom says:

      I could, but I would have to sacrifice my dual monitor setup as there’s not enough ISA slots.
      There’s an ATi VGA wonder as well as the original MDA adaptor. For some reason the ATi card won’t drive a 5151 display on this PC, but it does work on an XT.

      • Lwatcdr says:

        That makes sense. We used to us one of those at work to hook up to the machine that ran our BBS. I think it is a DLink that ran so hot that the voltage regulator made a brown spot on the case.

      • rj says:

        ATi VGA, not ATi EGA? If the former, how could it be compatible with the 16MHz pixel clock the 5151 usually takes?

        I’ve had this stupid project where I want to try building an adapter cable from VGA→an MDA monitor, but I can’t find a monitor even remotely cheaply, and I know I won’t have a use for one after I finish the project.

        • Tom says:

          Yeah it’s one of these http://www.vgamuseum.info/index.php/component/content/article/315-ati-18800-1-vga-wonder

          It only supports VGA output over the DE-15 port with the proper analog signal. All other modes can be displayed on this port and over the DE-9 for MDA/CGA/EGA monitors.

          As the 5151 is a TTL device you can’t simply make a passive VGA adaptor. What sort of computer were you planning on using this with?

          • rj says:

            What a funny card… obviously useful at the time, though.

            The schematic for the IBM 5151 indicates a BJT inverter on the main VIDEO line, so once the input voltage exceeds a diode drop—and a full brightness not-impedance-matched signal from a VGA card probably will. Can’t get DUAL for the reasons you’ve outlined.

            If that doesn’t work, modern VGA cards provides +5V on pin 9, so one could power a 7404 or some comparator from it.

  8. Jude says:

    Wow… I remember installing them! Now I’m retro old….

  9. vonskippy says:

    with his IBM 5150 – the first ‘IBM Compatible’

    So his real IBM 5150 is considered a “IBM Compatible” – interesting, I would think that’s either redundant to the extreme or some type of retro geeky joke I’m not getting.

  10. Gwendolyn says:

    I remember using one of those adapters on laptop I had. The surprising thing was that it really wasn’t that bad. I was able to transfer files at about 10-20% the speed of 10Mb/s ethernet.

    • Nate B says:

      Your comment makes me realize I never really noticed the speed of mine, I was mostly just doing telnet and lynx. Turned my old ZWL-183 into a portable terminal.

      The ethernet cable coming out of mine was only a few inches long, joining the PE3 to an 802.11b client-bridge, which I had velcroed to the laptop’s lid. Both powered from the laptop’s external-keyboard port, I was able to get an 8088 on the wifi network well after Pentium-class machines were de rigeur. :)

      And oh, god, the Crynwyr packet drivers took a week to incant properly. I made copies of those boot floppies once they worked, that’s for sure!

  11. Goja says:

    Anyone know’s, if the Xircom PE3-10BT uses the PLIP Protocoll?

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