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Are there companies that sell new computers that support old ISA bus expansion cards? We have an aging computer running DOS that operates some machinery via an ISA interface board. Updated versions of this board (e.g. PCI, USB) are not available, and I am concerned about the long-term reliability of the 8+ year old computers we currently keep around as backups.

If these newer ISA-capable machines exist, are there any general gotchas to be aware of in terms of compatibility with older expansion boards, ability to run DOS, etc.?

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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Placeholder for rob's answer, if he ever gets around to it. Rob, drop me a comment when you post your own version.

Adek Industrial makes ATX mobos with ISA slots. Looks like they only offer one model per CPU/memory generation. Here's the MB-P4BWA Industrial ATX Motherboard for Intel® LGA775 Core 2 Quad/Duo Processors.

alt text

  • Supports Intel Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo & Pentium D LGA775 processors 533/800/1066 FSB
  • 4 x 240-pin DDR2 533/667/800 MHz RAM up to 8 GB
  • Intel Q965 & ICH8DO chipset
  • Built-in Intel Extreme GMA 3000 video (up to 256 MB shared RAM)
  • 6 X SATA II interface with 300 MB/s transfer rate
  • Supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
  • 2 x Intel 82573L Gigabit Ethernet & Realtek ALC888 high defination audio
  • 1 x PCI-Express X16, 1 x PCI-Express X4, 1 x mini-PCI, 4 x PCI & 2-ISA
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports

Other models are available. Contact them for a quote.

As to DOS workability, my best guess is "uh..... try it and see". Since these mobos are designed for newer CPUs, faster (and more) memory, modern USB, etc... it might "just work", minus newer fancy features like USB, and it might not be remotely bootable. I'd love to try it though.

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that's the catch, you spend quite a fortune to get connectivity for some ancient technology and then you realize that it cannot run the required software, often you're better off to grab some old clunker from a yardsale for a few quid and have it refurbished. –  Molly7244 Dec 11 '09 at 20:18
    
Looks like a good option. I've requested a quote. Thanks! –  Kevin Ivarsen Dec 11 '09 at 20:42
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The PRO 700 PCI-to-ISA bus extender kit allows you to attach ISA cards to a PC with a PCI slot.

the $600 price tag is quite a show stopper. :)

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$600 0_0 damn –  Sathya Dec 11 '09 at 19:57
    
i recently sold a 10 yr DELL Optiplex workstation w. a Pentium II and 128 MB RAM and 1 ISA slot, customer needed ISA to control some old piece of machinery via windows 9x. charged him 100 euro. he woulda paid pretty much any price. the problem is not only the lacking ISA slot, you also need an ancient OS to run the software required to control the attached device. same goes for dot-matrix printers, the prices are quite unbelievable. :) –  Molly7244 Dec 11 '09 at 20:09
    
Were you running on Win9x/NT ? Wonder if any of the recent Windows releases have support for ISA –  Sathya Dec 11 '09 at 21:10
    
worse, Windows 95 OSR 2, the original OEM version that came with the computer, keeping it all legal, it was a PII 233 MHz with 32 MB RAM and a 2 GB HDD, replaced the HDD and upgraded the memory from some SDRAM leftovers i found in the farthest corner of my drawer :) one of these dinosaurs: pcarenahungary.com/pricelist/oriaskep/… –  Molly7244 Dec 11 '09 at 21:35
    
It's more expensive than that--you also have to buy the passive backplane and an enclosure. –  Loren Pechtel Dec 11 '09 at 21:54
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I found some bus adapter cards, including a USB to ISA device (no DOS support).

You could always just pick up a couple of P4 boards with everything they need, test them, then put them in a box and say "spares." I found a few companies making modern boards with with ISA slots, but they all has a "ask for quote" link, which I've found means "this board is ~10x what you would pay for a normal motherboard.

Also, how does the ISA card work? Could it be replaced by some software and the RS232 port?

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NixSys sells desktop and rack-mount PCs with ISA slots, with fixed prices (no "ask for a quote" like the other guys).

Even the best processors available are only P4 32-bit or Pentium D 64-bit, though, which are still a bit old, so depending on compatibility, a better choice might be a modern computer with an ISA-to-USB adapter. The adapter definitely doesn't work for some ISA boards, though, leaving the desktops as your only solution. You also have to think about compatibility with 32-bit vs 64-bit, drivers, OS, etc.

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I had a client with a similar issue about a year ago. I was unable to find a supllier at that time. I did hear that some industrial computers MAY be available with an ISA slot but I never found any.

Looks like @quack quixote and @rob had more sucess than I had.

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Here's one: adek.com/ATX-motherboards.htm –  rob Dec 11 '09 at 19:53
    
@rob: post that as your own answer –  quack quixote Dec 11 '09 at 19:58
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