I quickly slapped together this website to provide a few details on the current status and workings of my IBM PC/XT 5160 system that I am very fond of. I have been meaning to do this for years, but it wasn't until recently I discovered "Google Sites". I'm kind of a lazy guy, and this seems to be just my kind of thing. No more uploading files to the ftp server, no more messing around with html. I can slap things together on the fly and update information without having to go to much trouble. If you are reading this site right now, I suspect you are probably as big of a dork as I am and might actually appreciate some of my blather. Anyway, while I never had an XT when I was younger, a friend of mine did (I had an Amiga A500 computer at home, and to me the monochrome XT seemed like an ancient piece of junk). Needless to say I gave my friend a rather hard time about it, as it was enormous, couldn't display graphics and always seemed to be making some amusing sounds (this one had a hard drive). Eventually that XT was given away to a relative, but we never forgot the "pleasant" memories of the green screen and BASIC A. Several years later my friend got a second XT for free. After seeing one at the local surplus for $10, I decided to get one for myself to play with too. This lead to a competition to see who could have the best XT. This is yet another example of something that I took way too far. While we stopped competing years ago, I am still somewhat obsessed with upgrading mine. I used to be an XT purist, using mostly IBM parts. As the years have gone by I've relaxed my upgrade guidelines, and it has gotten to the point where I've even replaced the original motherboard. I still play by a set of rules though:

1. Upgrades must be done in a stylish manner which do not take away from the look and feel of the IBM PC/XT
Any motherboard replacements must use a first generation x86 CPU (8088,8086, V20, V30)
When possible, try to use parts with IBM FRUs

I think I've just about gotten to the point where I can't really upgrade anymore. Of course there are a couple of expansions I could get, such as a 3270 PC card, or a PGA adapter, but these components don't really add much to the everyday experience, and I certainly don't have any expansion slots left to do it! A 5161 expansion chassis might take care of the slot problem, but the extra bulk just isn't worth it to me.

Now I am certainly a vintage computer dork, but I am not usually dorky enough to the point where I have to give all of my computers names. Actually, this is the only computer I own that has a name, and I only did so as a way to distinguish it from other XTs on the web. This XT was named after the space probe seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Allow me to explain. Firstly, I figure if the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes used Intel 8085 CPUs, it is only logical that future Voyager probes would have used an 8086. Secondly, Voyager 6 made a lot of clunking sounds that reminded me of the funny noises that came out the disk drives on the XT. Lastly, an alien race expanded Voyager 6 far beyond its original capabilities....and I feel that my XT is headed in that direction as well if I don't stop upgrading it.

And now for some juicy details about the "V'ger" XT...

System Specifications:

Motherboard: NEL Technologies "Juko" Super Turbo w/NEST 2.01 BIOS
NEC V30 10MHz
Intel D8087-1 10MHz FPU
Orchid Ramquest 8/16 LIM 4.0 w/32
re Domain TMC 850M V8.2 SCSI
nd Multi I/O Controller
ATi VGAWonder XL w/1024kb DRAM
Sound Blaster 2.0 w/CMS chips
l EtherExpress 10Mbps NIC +Transceiver
Sandisk Ultra II 2GB via Acard 2270U SCSI Bridge
IBM 360kb 5.25", 1.44mb 3.5"
IBM (Plextor) 8X SCSI
Keyboard: IBM Model M (XT version), AT2XTKBD converter
Mouse: Raritan PS/2 to Serial converter + optical PS/2 mouse

Here are a Few of V'ger XT's Benchmarks:

PC Tools 8 SI:3.6 XTs
 600Kb/sec disk throughput using a SCSI hard disk
 700Kb/sec disk throughput using compact flash
Manifest Timings:
2.2Mb/sec planar memory
1.1Mb/sec UMB/EMS memory
Norton 6 SI:
3.7 XTs
Norton 4.5A SI:
5.4 XTs
LandmarkSpeed600:Comparable to an 9.5MHz AT with 11.5MHz 80287 FPU

What's So Special About the V'ger XT?

-Uses a V30 CPU running at 10MHz on a standard sized system board
-Has an internal 8X SCSI CD-ROM drive
-Has 2GB compact flash card connected to a SCSI controller using a special SCSIDE bridge
-Has a LIM 4.0 EMS board that can accept up to 32mb in 30pin SIMM memory
-Has 144kb in UMB memory available via Quarterdeck QRAM 2.0
-Can load the DOS kernel into UMB memory by stealing files from QEMM 8.0
-618kb conventional free with PC-DOS 2000/DR-DOS 7.01
-Has a Sound Blaster 2.0 with CMS chips installed
-Can accept AT keyboards
-Can accept PS/2 mice

Other Interesting Things V'ger XT Can Do that Many Regular XTs Can't:

-Can use the proprietary CD-ROM interface on the Sound Blaster Pro cards with CR-583B
-Play VGA SCI Sierra games at a tolerable speed
-Read 1.44meg floppy disks without special BIOS support using a software TSR
-Task switching DOS applications under DR-DOS 7.01
-Internet connectivity with Arachne and DOSLynx

The Hardware Used Inside V'ger XT

NEL Technologies "Juko" Super Turbo

Most vintage enthusiasts who are into screwing around with XTs will tell you how important a 4.77MHz 8088 is for playing crappy CGA games. I agree, if you want to play CGA games, don't upgrade to a V20/V30 CPU and don't bother with 8 or 10MHz motherboards (unless turbo switch is available). It will just muck up the software timings, making many old games unplayable. If I wanted to play CGA games, a regular unmodified IBM PC/XT would do the job just fine. The big reason I don't give two craps about CGA games is that most of those titles were also available for my beloved Amiga, which look, play, and sound 10 times better than the DOS versions. If I play those titles, I'll do it on an A500. I am much more interested in performing interesting upgrades, and pushing XT technology to the limits. I find it amusing to be able to run software that wasn't meant to be run on an XT. I prefer not using fancy CPU daughter boards or dropping in a 286+ motherboards. 10MHz XT motherboards seem to be the best all around choice for what I need. While there are supposedly 15 and 16MHz XT systems out there as well, they all seem to be portable devices, and therefore not easy to expand. I also see the occasional 12MHz XT, but I will tell you a few good reasons not to bother. Most 12MHz 808x CPUs are over-clocked 10MHz parts. However, this is not the worst part of the deal. In XT systems, the expansion bus is always run at the same speed as the CPU (as far as I can tell at least). While 8-bit cards are generally said to be more tolerant of 10 or 12MHz operation than 16-bit ISA systems, there are a few types of cards in particular that don't like 12MHz at all: sound cards, SCSI cards, network cards and EMS cards to name a few. If you are prepared to sacrifice all of these interesting upgrades, then by all means run your system at 12MHz. I should also mention there exists no 8087 math coprocessor rated for operation at 12MHz. You could try over-clocking one of course, but as the 8087-1 already runs quite hot at rated speed, 12MHz increases the possibility of overheating (aka system lockups). In case that didn't convince you to avoid 12Mhz machines, at one point I over-clocked V'Ger XT to 11MHz, and sure enough it turned into an unstable pile of trash. To get back to the Juko Super Turbo board specifically, Juko boards are fairly common, and the majority of them are of the 8088 variety. They are not really that special compared to a normal XT board, except that they come with 1mb of memory and have a smaller footprint. Sadly the extra 384kb is not available as conventional or UMB. It can be used as EMS 3.2 or Ramdrive, but this is almost useless if you already have a good EMS card. One small advantage to using the board's built in EMS is that if you are using the 8086 version it will provide roughy twice the throughput of a PC bus EMS card since it is 16-bit planar memory. I highly recommend the 8086 version of the Juko board if it can be obtained. If you have the 8 or 12MHz version of the board, I see no reason at all why it shouldn't be able to work at 10MHz by changing the CPU crystal to a 30MHz part.


In the early 80s when IBM was in the later design stages for the PC 5150, they weren't quite sure whether to use the Intel 8086 or 8088. The 8088 as everyone knows is a stripped down version of an 8086. It is fully software compatible with the 8086, except it uses an 8-bit path to memory and other support devices on the motherboard, rather than the full 16-bit path of the 8086. This provided tremendous cost savings, as it allowed IBM use an 8-bit logic board instead. By today's standards that seems trivial, but back in the early 80s 16-bit boards were damn expensive. Even with cost reductions, the original PC still cost many thousand dollars. Now the story goes that the 8088 provided most of processing power of the 8086 while significantly reducing overall cost. That is half true. The reality is that XT systems based on 8086 are up to 50% faster than those based on 8088s running at the same frequency. However, I have heard rumours that suggest many of the earlier XT clone boards based on 8086 are not full 16-bit implementations and are still using an 8-bit path to memory. In such a configuration, 8086 would provide no advantage over 8088 at all...and was possibly just done as a marketing gimmick. There are of course 8086 machines out there that are in fact true 16-bit systems, such as the very common IBM PS/2 models 25 and 30. Overall though, I would say that 8088 systems are 10 times more common than 8086s. I am lucky enough to have an 8086 board from a Hong Kong company called "Juko Super Turbo" which is not only a true 16-bit design, but is also a standard sized board, and can be mounted into any baby-AT case. I am using mine as a replacement planar for an IBM PC/XT 5160. The NEC V20/V30 CPUs are designed to be drop in replacements for the 8088/8086 respectively. Note that 8086 and 8088 are NOT pin compatible, nor are the V20 and V30 interchangeable. In theory, under certain conditions the NEC V20/V30 chips can provide a 30% improvement over their 808x counterparts, but under typical operating conditions it is closer to 10-15%. Using a special TSR called FASTV20.COM you can get perhaps another 10% boost by altering memory refresh times (though gurus recommend against it). If you do all the math, a V30 at 10MHz is around 3.5x to 4x faster than an 8088 @ 4.77MHz, or roughly comparable to an 8Mhz 80286. The V20/V30 CPUs also include the 80186 instruction set, which will allow most 80286 software to run as long as it does not require protected mode or extended memory (most 286 software does not use either). I find that the extra power of the 10MHz V30 allows me to play many SCI VGA Sierra games at a fairly reasonable speed, especially when using VGA graphics. Quite a feat for an XT I must say! By today's standards, all of this seems quite meaningless...and understandably so. But if you're a vintage PC freak like me, then it's pretty darn cool! Now I must admit that finding a 10MHz V30 system is not easy. I was lucky and didn't pay too dearly for mine. My two fall back options would be either the 8MHz V30 or 10MHz V20. There's no excuse not to be able to have either of these, as they are both pretty common. 10MHz 8088 boards are everywhere, and can easily be upgraded to V20. Those are about 2.5x the speed of a standard XT. PS/2 models 25 and 30 use 8086 at 8MHz and can be upgraded to V30. The big downside to going with the PS/2 is that you don't have the freedom of choosing your own chassis.

Intel 8087 Math Coprocessor

It is commonly assumed with those unfamiliar with math coprocessors that simply having one installed with give you a performance boost. This is not true. If the software you are using is not specifically programmed to use an FPU, then it is simply acting as a space heater. Sadly most applications are not written to take advantage of FPUs, but the ones that are benefit immensely. At the time, one of the most common uses for FPUs was CAD. Though, you can certainly find other types of software that use it as well. I have to be pretty honest, lacking an 8087 is not going to break the XT experience. The only programs I have that can use the FPU are FRACTINT, Sim City and TORUS.BAS. However, if you don't get an FPU, you're going to feel bad when somebody points out the empty socket on your board. If you decide to spring for an 8087, you will need to get one that is rated at least as fast as your CPU. Here's what's available:

Intel 8087-4  (4 MHz)
Intel 8087     (5 MHz)
Intel 8087 -3 (5 MHz)
Intel 8087 -6 (6 MHz)
Intel 8087 -2 (8 MHz)
Intel 8087- 1 (10MHz)

I have never seen an 8087 that wasn't made by Intel, though there are rumours that Cyrix was the first company to clone the 8087. I have never seen a Cyrix 8087 in the flesh, any datasheets, much less even a photo of one. Looking at my short list above, the most obvious solution is to get the 10MHz 8087-1. The 10MHz part will work in all 808x systems not operating faster than 10MHz. Sadly, the 8087-1 can be VERY difficult to find. The 8087 and 8087-3 are by far the most common parts, and every now and then you can find an 8MHz 8087-2.  In most cases you will not be able to over-clock an 8087-3 to 8MHz or an 8087-2 to 10MHz, even with a heat sink...so don't waste too much time on it. Lastly, the 8087-4 and 8087-6 chips are quite rare, and not very useful to XT users, but they seem to be valuable to CPU collectors. Infact, I was only able to obtain an 8087-1 by trading away my prize 8087-6.

Orchid RamQuest 8/16 LIM 4.0 EMS Memory Expansion

The Orchid RamQuest 8/16 is a 16-bit ISA memory expansion card that came out in the late 80s. It is capable of providing backfilled conventional memory, extended memory (requires an 80286, 16-bit ISA), or LIM 4.0 hardware compliant expanded memory. Unlike most 16-bit memory expansion cards, this one is also designed to work in an 8-bit XT slot. It is possibly also the only one capable of providing 32mb using standard 30-pin SIMMs! There are very few (probably not any) applications that could actually use that much EMS, but it's nice to have for bragging rights. Who would believe you if you claimed you had 32mb of RAM installed in your XT? I currently have 32mb installed in mine, but configured as 8mb, since waiting for the software driver to count to 32mb is like watching a kettle boil. While I doubt it would be easy to find another one of these cards, any LIM 4.0 hardware compliant EMS memory board is a major benefit to anyone with an XT. Using a nifty program from Quaterdeck called "QRAM" (pronounced "cram") allows LIM 4.0 memory to be mapped into the unused UMB area (regions C through E), freeing up as much as 176kb of memory for loading all your DOS drivers. This will come in especially handy if you run Windows 3.0 in real mode where every extra byte counts. If you happen to use an AST EEMS memory board, you can gain an additional 32kb of UMB memory from the B region for up to 176kb total UMB memory. With a normal LIM4.0 card, your limit will be 144kb. I have desperately tried to free up the the B region memory using the Orchid, but it seems that it is incapable of using segmented page frames effectively as AST cards. Another interesting feature of LIM 4.0 memory is something called "Large Page Frame" mode. In this mode, you must disable a large portion of the conventional memory on your motherboard and allow the EMS card to backfill that area. The more you backfill, the better. Typically you want to disable all but 256kb of your system board memory. I am not sure what would happen on an older 64k-256k XT motherboard where you can configure the memory for 64k, but I assume the EMS card would probably backfill down to 64kb as well. It's not something I'd been able to test yet, but in theory that would be even more ideal! My Juko XT board can disable ALL of its on-board memory, but unfortunately my Orchid card cannot be configured to start at memory address 0000h. Having the largest page frame possible  will *supposedly* make for a superiour "multi-tasking" environment. In small page frame mode (standard operating mode), and EMS 3.X board can swap memory chunks around in a 64kb window typically in the D region. LPF merely increases the size of the window, but in theory should be quite a bit more effective. Unfortunately there aren't too many apps out there that support LPF mode, but Windows 3.0 does, and Compaq Desqview does as well. I've heard that Windows 3.0 in LPF mode is borderline useless, but that Desqview might actually be worth checking out. One big disadvantage to using large page frame mode would be if you were using a LIM 4.0 card on an 8086 type system with 16-bit access to memory (like mine). Memory on a 16-bit planar will have twice the bandwidth of an 8-bit XT expansion slot. By backfilling conventional memory with a LIM 4.0 board, you might see system performance decrease by as much as 50% when doing memory intensive tasks.

ATi VGA Wonder Basic 16

The ATi VGA Wonder Basic 16 is a really great card for XT systems. This is yet another 16-bit card designed to work in an XT slot. In fact, I believe most if not all 16-bit ATi cards will work in an XT slot. However, the VGAwonder is the ideal choice since it includes a 9-pin EGA/TTL connector in addition to the 15-pin VGA connector. VGA Wonder is capable of interfacing with just about any display that might be used on a standard PC, including CGA, EGA and MDA. It is capable of displaying full resolution EGA graphics on both CGA and MDA monitors. When using using an MDA display such as 5151, you will see EGA graphics represented in 16 shades of green. Using a CGA display like the 5153, you will be able to see 16 colours in the resolutions you would normally only be able to see just four, including 640x350 which is achieved by interlacing. I normally just keep my VGA display connected to this machine in order to keep my vintage tubes from blowing out, but it's very nice to be able to hook up the old displays on the fly for demonstrations. While there are several other cards out there that are equally capable of supporting all these different displays, what makes the ATi VGA Wonder really stand out from the competition is the ability to do it without changing DIP switches. It is capable of auto-sensing the connected display, and adjusting accordingly. Another convenient feature present on some (but not all) of the VGA wonder cards is the inclusion of a Micro$hit bus mouse port. I am lucky to own a very nice bus mouse, but I admit they are not easy to find these days, and therefore this feature might be useless to a lot of people. There is also an "8-bit only" version of this card available (ATi VGA Wonder [sans "Basic 16"]) that is nearly identical except it cannot be expanded to 512kb DRAM, which is possibly a useless feature to have on an XT anyway. Assuming you can't snag an ATi, keep your eyes peeled for "dual display port" cards based on Tseng ET3000AX or OAK chipsets.

*UPDATE* - I upgraded this card to an ATi VGA Wonder XL 24 card which uses the updated 28000-6 chipset. This provides a substantial speed boost to VGA graphics. It also fixes some bugs and has much clearer image quality.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster 1.5 (with DSP v2.00)

The SoundBlaster 1.5 is in my opinion the best all around sound card for an XT, though the Adlib, Sound Blaster 2.0 and Sound Blaster Pro cards would be close seconds. Compared to the original SoundBlaster, the 1.5 version offers an improved DSP and much less distortion. However, Unlike the 1.0 which includes the CMS chips as standard, on the 1.5 they are optional. The SoundBlaster 2.0 is essentially a cost reduced version of the 1.5, which decreases the size of the PCB and the component count. The Sound Blaster 2.0 is still a good choice, but it is very difficult to do the CMS upgrade as Creative Labs got sneaky by requiring a PAL chip that is nearly impossible to copy. While the CMS chips were off the shelf components from from Philips, the PAL chip could only be ordered from Creative Labs. Creative Labs no longer sells this part obviously, so if you have an SB 2.0 and want the CMS upgrade, you are SOL! . However, if you were lucky enough to already have the CMS chips for the Sound Blaster 2.0, then there is no reason to lust after an SB 1.5. For those wondering what the hell CMS is, Creative Music System (aka Game Blaster) was a card from Creative Labs that preceded the Sound Blaster 1.0. It was their first sound card for the PC actually. The CMS produced sounds similar to the Tandy/PCjr. It's said to be like having multiple pc speakers playing at once. There are about 100 or so games which support CMS. Most games supporting CMS also support Adlib/Soundblaster, so for many people CMS will not be such a big deal. But to me, I really enjoy replaying all the old Sierra titles with a sound more fitting to an XT, even if it is rather crude. The CMS cards are generally highly sought after by people who are into vintage PC games.
The Sound Blaster Pro cards (1.0 and 2.0) also work very well in an XT. I used the SB Pro 2.0 (pictured at the right) until I got a SB 1.5. The main advantage to SB Pro would be stereo sound. They also come with proprietary Matsushita, Sony or Mitsumi CD-ROM interface connectors, but those are far less desireable than a SCSI or parallel port CD-ROM...so it's another near useless feature. The main disadvantage to using the Sound Blaster Pro is the inability to add CMS chips, as there is no provision whatsoever. Adlib cards would be a good choice for game compatibilty, though Adlib lacks support for digitised sound effects. Finally, several at vintage-computer.com have confirmed that the early versions of SB16 will work in an XT, but I would only recommend this route when older SB models are in short supply.

*UPDATE* - I am now using a Sound Blaster 2.0 with CMS chips after Chuck(g) and VOGONS members were able to reverse engineer Creative's PAL chip. Apparently SB 2.0 supports higher recording and playback frequencies with the DSP v2.01, but it's probably not worth much on an XT.

High Density Floppy Controller

1.44meg drives are probably one of the most frequently requested upgrades to XTs. However, in this modern age 1.44meg drives are quite obsolete, so this upgrade is now much less necessary than before. But of course that didn't stop me from doing it anyway! I still happen to use 1.44meg disks on a regular basis, and it can be quite convenient when you're stuck in a shitty situation. I had actually been trying to get a 1.44meg drive into my XT for many years, but I was never able to procure one of those magic "high density floppy controllers" that everybody talks about. Sometimes you can find them on eBay for a pretty penny, but it's really not worth it. An HD floppy controller with its own BIOS is probably your best choice if you want to be able to boot off a 1.44meg or 1.2 meg disk, but if all you need to do is to be able to read and write these disks, there is another option available. A long time ago some very smart person wrote a great little program called "2M". This software was mostly used for stuffing up to 2MB of data onto a standard 1.44MB disk, hence the name "2M". However there are a few other interesting features that come with this software package, notably the little known (and seldom used) BIOS extensions for AT and XT systems that allow you to run high density drives without the need for special card with a dedicated BIOS. There is only one requirement: you must use a floppy controller that supports the faster spindle speeds of high density drives...99% of XTs do not meet this requirement. Thankfully these cards are a dime a dozen, and can be frequently pulled from 386 and 486 class machines. You will find that many 16-bit IDE multi I/O" cards of 386/486 systems will work just fine (minus IDE functionality) in an 8-bit XT slot. In this way you can have serial, parallel and floppy (and sometimes a game port) all on a single card. Many XTs require THREE separate cards to supply all these features! And of course you also get the benefit of having a 1.44mb or 1.2mb floppy drive in your XT by loading a small 3.9kb TSR. One of the advantages of using a TSR rather than having the physical floppy BIOS is that the TSR can be loaded and unloaded as needed. An HD floppy controller with a dedicated BIOS will occupy a small chunk of your UMB memory, which can be annoying if you run a UMB manager like QRAM to make that space available for drivers. QRAM allocates UMBs in 16kb blocks, so you risk losing a precious 16kb of memory. If anyone is interested in running a 1.44meg drive in their XT using 2M, I highly recommend a generic floppy controller running the Winbond chipset as shown.

Compact Flash

Compact flash is the ideal storage medium for many older computers as traditional winchester harddrives begin to bite the dust, and as replacement parts are becoming less available. These days you can find CF in all kinds of vintage machines using special third party adapters, but there has been surprisingly little effort to bring CF to the original IBM PC an XT. At the time of writing, there is currently a project underway to clone an Accologic SIDE/1 card with extended support for compact flash and large ATA drives, though I am not quite sure when it will be finalized. Compact Flash natively supports ATA inferface, and therefore is no problem to connect with machines that use an IDE controller. The biggest obstacle is that ATA controllers are somewhat rare for XT machines. ATA is a 16-bit hard disk interface, and XTs use 8-bit expansion buses. In order to make the two work together some extra "glue" is required. The Accologic SIDE/1 is one of the few ATA cards available that has this "glue", but unfortunately it does not support drives larger than 528mb. There is indeed an 8-bit version of IDE for XTs that is called "XTA", but XTA (XT IDE) controllers are generally not capable of communicating with ATA drives (not unless said drive has an ATA/XTA switch), and supposedly also not compatible with the 8-bit transfer modes of CF cards. Most people wanting to add CF to their XT will face a dilemma. Either shell out the $$$ for an Acculogic card, or wait for its expanded clone to become available. There is another option however. It is not pretty.  It is probaby not cheaper than the Acculogic, and it is kind of half baked...but it does work! It's called SCSI. 8-bit SCSI cards are not exactly easy to get for the XT either, but they were FAR more common than 8-bit ATA cards. I have tried several different kinds of SCSI cards in V'ger XT, but the one I like best is the Future Domain TMC-850M which has exceptional software support. Though there is still a slight problem. Compact flash uses IDE, and if you want to connect it to SCSI you will need an additional adapter. There actually exist adapters to convert IDE devices to work in a SCSI chain. These were mainly designed to compensate for the lack of good SCSI CD and DVD-ROM drives, but some models support hard disks as well. The one I use is from a company called "ACARD" and the model is AEC-2270U. These adapters require no software configuration under DOS. There' s one more piece you will need, but it's cheap. Just a simple CF to IDE adaptor, which can be found on ebay for as little as one dollar. With all this hardware, your job is almost done, but there's one more requirement to get it all to work. The CF card must be set to "fixed disk mode". A majority of CF cards are set to "removable" by default, though generally the more expensive industrial type default to "fixed disk" mode. If your card is set to "removable", you will need to find the manufacturer's software utility to set it to "fixed disk". The card I use is a SanDisk Ultra II. The utility is not easy to find, as it was never made available for public use. If you need it, just ask somebody who knows what they're doing, and I'm sure they'll point you in the right direction.
Whether or not you choose to take this half baked route or use an ATA controller, you will probably also want your CF card to be externally accessable so that you easily transfer files to it from a modern PC. It can either be done from a 3.5" drive bay, or an ISA slot panel. As you can see in the photo, I went with the ISA slot panel (it cost me a whole 99 cents). Connecting the CF reader to an ATA card is a no brainer, just use a regular IDE cable and connect. The SCSIDE setup requires more thought. With a quick visual inspection it seems you can just plug the SCSIDE adapter directly into the IDE-CF adapter without using a cable. Infact you can, and it works great. But if you are using the ISA slot adapter as I am, you will find the SCSIDE is too tall to stand vertically. This requires an extra cable, but as the SCSIDE is a timing sensitive device, the length of the cable does matter. Not only that, you you cannot use a standard IDE cable. It's hard to tell at first glance, but running an IDE cable between SCSIDE and IDE-CF adapter effectively swaps the row of pins around (like plugging it in backwards). I ended up having to crimp my own cable by hand. I made mine 3 inches long, and I haven't had a problem with it. I don't recommend to go any longer though. 


I was originally not very interested in installing a CD-ROM drive in the XT. Not only because I was an IBM "purist", but also because I had just seen so many half assed CD-ROM upgrades. I think most people struggle with the fact that it's quite difficult to properly mount two half height drives into a full height slot with a real IBM 5160 chassis...even using the official IBM XT half height mounting kits. The mounting kits really only work properly in the 640k 1985/1986 XTs that come with the half height floppy drives as standard. These XTs have an extra mounting point accessed by a round hole in the bottom of the case. Without this extra mounting point it is very difficult to secure the drives properly. Another issue with CD-ROM upgrades is purely cosmetic; finding a drive with a matching bezel. These days it is quite easy to get black CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, but they were quite uncommon until after the late 90s. Most of the internal CD-ROM drive jobs I have seen use a mismatched grey or beige unit. If you're going to go to all the trouble of a CD-ROM upgrade, you might as well do it with a  little style (go all out and get one with a matching black bezel). Finally, when doing this upgrade you should use the right hardware for the right job. Having a unit that can read CD-R and CD-RW media is pretty important. Infact, not being able to do so pretty much defeats the whole purpose of the upgrade: being able to move large files to your XT with ease. Thankfully most modern units can do this, but many early CD-ROM drives could not. However one of the disadvantages to using a modern drive is that they are all variable speed (CLV). This often translates into a very noisy drive. To avoid variable speed drives would require one with a spindle speed of no more than 8 or 10X. Most of those drives were manufactured in the mid to late 90s. With all of these things to take into consideration, you are probably left wondering if there is a CD-ROM drive out there that meets all of these specifications with no compromises. The answer is yes, and it happens to be a Plextor drive manufactured specifically for the IBM AS/400 systems. Plextor made the best CD-ROM drives at the time. They are fast, quiet and reliable. Not only does it often come with a black bezel (but sometimes beige), the texture of the bezel also matches that of the original IBM 360kb floppy drives. As far as I know these drives are only available with SCSI interface, but that's a problem that can easily fixed with an 8-bit SCSI controller. There are also Toshiba drives made for the AS/400 that might work well too, but they often come as 20X and 32X models. Doing a proper internal CD-ROM drive installation like this can be quite frustrating, but I am quite happy with the finished product. Though for others I would probably have to recommend an external drive that uses the parallel port or SCSI interface. 

AT Keyboard and PS/2 Optical Mouse

These days it's getting harder and harder to track down an XT keyboard or a clean (and working) serial mouse. PS/2 mice and AT keyboards are still plentiful however. Most people would probably assume that it must not be a big deal to get some kind of converter or adapter to connect these devices to an XT. Actually, such devices do exist but they are really not common. Some AT keyboards also also capable of working in XT mode too. Most of these keyboards have some DIP switches on the bottom to toggle between XT and AT mode, however the IBM Model M has "auto sensing". The clone XT/AT keyboards are all easy to get working, but they just don't have the look and feel of the model M. Unfortunately the Model M can be a real pain in the ass to get it to work with an XT. It was only really designed to work properly with the 640k IBM XT motherboards which had an updated BIOS to support it. I have found it to be troublesome on my 5150 and V'ger XT. The auto-sensing doesn't work properly and I get jibberish when I type. The only way I know how to fix this is by using the "AT2XTKBD" keyboard converter developed by chuck(g) in the vintage computer forums. This converts XT to AT scan codes and tricks the Model M into thinking it's being connected to an AT.
Getting a PS/2 Optical mouse working on an XT is another challenge. While you will frequently see cheap ps/2 to serial "converters" on eBay, these will only work with PS/2 mice that support serial mode. They are just pieces of plastic with no logic whatsoever. These days I highly doubt there are many USB or PS/2 mice on the market that still support RS232 serial. The only solution is *real* PS/2 to serial converter. These do exist, but in my experience they are quite uncommon. I was lucky enough to find one after getting a tip from a VOGONS forum member. The model I have is made by a company called "Raritan". Rare indeed. Many optical USB mice still support PS/2 protocol, so this is probably your best bet for getting an optical mouse on an XT. 

Possible Upgrades/Modifications

NEC V33 socket adaptor: The V33 is reportedly a "super version" of a V30 chip with speeds exceeding that of an 80286 at the same clock rate. Unfortunately V33 is not pin compatible with the 8086, mainly due to its separated address and data buses. However, with some glue logic it should be possible to build an adapter board to get this to work. I don't consider this modification to be trivial, and as far as I can tell has never been attempted before.
Clock Doubling Circuit (like PC SPRINT?)
A BIOS with support for 101 keyboards and HD floppy drives: There exist versions of AWARD and Phoenix BIOS that apparently can do this. Assuming I can get a copy of one of them it should be pretty straight forward.
Turbo and Reset Button: Requires a dremel, spare ISA back plate and a couple of minutes. A very easy mod.
SRAM memory replacement: This will require fabrication of a special PCB that plugs directly into the RAM slots on my motherboard. On an 8088 system it may be possible to build a card that plugs into the ISA bus.
Real time clock that understands dates past year 2000: There apparently exist DALLAS chips that can plug into the empty ROM sockets on the 8088/86 motherboards. I have seen this done to PCjrs. Should be a fairly easy modication to do.

VGA Games Tested on V'Ger XT:

Quest for Glory 3 - Seems to Work!
Kings Quest V - Seems to Work!
Inca - Seems to Work!
EcoQuest - Does not Run!
Rise of the Dragon - Seems to Work!
Gateway - Seems to Work!
Gods - Seems to Work!
Companions of Xanth - Seems to Work!
Legend of Kyrandia - Does not Run!
Freddy Pharkus - Does not Run!
Frontier: Elite II - Does not Run!
Super Mario - Seems to Work!
Conquests of the Longbow - Seems to Work!
Wolfenstein 3d - Works, but needs to be patched!
Flashback - Does not Run! (but intro does)
Indiana Jones And the Last Crusade - Seems to Work!
Quest for Glory 1 VGA - Seems to Work!
Betrayal at Krondor - Does not Run!
SkyRoads - Does not Run!
Scorched Earth - Seems to Work!