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This question is based on a previous question I asked (x86 based Retro/Nostalgia PC the size of a Raspberry Pi), and also I guess to some extent it fits in with this question regarding ISA bus on newer computers

I'm still on the hunt for hardware to create a compact x86 based computer, but based on dated technologies such as 486/586 and ISA expansion for use with legacy graphics and sound cards (SB16).

I have researched:

  • SBC (Single Board Computer)
  • Nano-ITX, Pico-ITX
  • ISA/EISA Back Plane

Since these technologies are rather outdated, building a tiny equivalent would not be a realistic investment for any technology company nowadays (except for those in the market where legacy embedded systems are being used).

So one idea I have come up with to build a compact x86 based PC is to use a small ISA backplane (maybe just 2/3 ISA slots).

Slot configuration:

  1. Single Board Computer (Legacy, 486/586, RAM, I/O, maybe graphics)
  2. Graphics card (if the SBC does not have this on-board), or additional I/O (PS/2, RS-232)
  3. Original Sound Blaster 16

My first concern here is that I don't know how ISA backplanes work. I fully understand traditional PC architecture, where the motherboard controls I/O to the expansion slots, however in this configuration, since the motherboard is essentially a card on the backplane, I'm not sure if/how it would be able to communicate with other hardware (graphics card / sound card) which are on separate slots on the backplane.

If anyone is knowledgeable in this area, I basically want to know if the purpose of an ISA backplane is to allow communication with other devices when used in conjunction with a SBC.

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There is a booming industry in micro and all in one x86 computers. See here (xi3.com/news.php?id=781) for one example. Not to mention tablets and netbooks. Not sure what you are trying to accomplish. –  Brad Patton Mar 22 '13 at 15:20
@BradPatton, sure, there is a booming industry in micro/a-i-o computers, but I think finding one based purely on REAL 486 architecture would be as easy as finding hens teeth! –  series0ne Mar 24 '13 at 12:11

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