Passing of an old computer

I’m reporting here the passing of an old computer. It’s a desktop 40Mhz 80386 machine that has been running QNX 2 in my basement for decades, 2 almost 3. It was a little unusual in that it supported EISA (Extended ISA) cards. This bus did not last long. IBM came out with their PS2 bus and later PCI. The machine had a 4 port Dialogic card and a fax card. The machine implemented a simple answer machine and a fax machine. I wrote all the application code and drivers. A few years ago I let go of my fax number and so the fax card went dormant. A while ago I updated the hard drive to a Compact Flash card.

The end came a few days ago when the system rebooted and I found that the battery backup had failed. I don’t think this can be repaired, and I probably won’t try.

I could be wrong, but I think this may have been the oldest known continuously running QNX machine. I’m happy to be corrected on this issue.

I remember EISA bus. My 486/66 had it (cira 1993) because it was slightly faster than ISA for graphics and PCI was in its infancy.

Sorry to hear your old machine died. But I am not sure what you mean when you write the battery backup failed. You mean the BIOS battery on the motherboard or something else.

As for oldest known QNX machine, you may indeed be correct. However from time to time we see someone post in the QNX 2 form about ancient factory machines still being run by QNX 2 so it’s possible some old machine someplace is still running QNX 2 (possibly on different hardware than from 20 years ago I suppose)


Well, I haven’t given up all hope quite yet, but things are not looking good.

You mean the BIOS battery on the motherboard or something else.

The item in question is called a DS (DALLAS) 1387.
It was a combination Clock/CMOS/battery-backup all in one. The web tells me they are no longer manufactured and there is no replacement. The chip seems ok other than the battery no longer working.

One small ray of hope is a blog suggesting one might be able to solder a 3v supply in and bring it back to life.

On some such chips, the cap containing the battery is removable. Looking at the datasheet, it looks like this is not the case here.
I see two options :

This site appears to have them for sale?

Your other option is to go on Ebay / used PC parts store and find an old EISA Motherboard for sale cause those are the ones that will have it.


But their battery will be completely drained…

Drained or dead? I would think any battery would be drained before 23 years (time Maschoen owned his machine).

I think the question is whether it’s ‘dead’ and unable to hold a charge if placed in a powered Motherboard.

My other question is can the machine still boot even if you have to manually do a setup every time for the DS1387 chip? In the late 90’s I had a motherboard CMOS battery go bad so that every time my machine powered down it ‘forgot’ everything in the BIOS. However I could still go in and manually set the date/time and other settings in the BIOS that I needed (harddrive configuration). It was a pain to do and so I rarely powered down but it did still function just fine once booted.

It will boot and then the BIOS screen comes up. Yes I would have to enter all the information, especially the disk configuration. Remember when you needed to choose the configurable disk and then type in Head/Cylinder/Sector info?

A curious alternative just occurred to me. This machine has a QNET card. I could boot off the QNET card, but then I need another QNX 2 machine up and running. I have other QNX 2 machines, but no desire to keep them on all the time. Thanks for that link, I may give it a try.

Yup, I remember those days well. It’s why you always wrote the info on a piece of paper and taped it to the machine :slight_smile:

Understandable about not having other machines running. But presumably this machine is on a UPS / rarely shut down so you’d only have to power up another machine infrequently when you needed to re-boot.

Hopefully that link has the parts. It’s dated 2016 so they are in business but may not have stock. Still think getting an old EISA MB might also work.


Drained and dead.
This kind of battery is not rechargeable so when it is completely drained, it is dead.
The battery is supposed to retain information for 10 years when the computer is off. If your computer is on 50% of time (eg 12 hours a day, 7 days a week), the battery will last 20 years.
The battery is drained only when the computer is off.

That fits. The computer is about 25 years old. It has been turned on for the last 15 years almost continually. I think it just ran down.

We build large commercial printing presses, and used Qnx2 on our systems throughout the 1990s. Most that are still operational have had CPU board updates. They are normally powered up continuously. Occassionally our Service Dept will get a call about a system not booting, and they will have to explain the CMOS settings and the need for a new battery.