rsync 14 days ago

PCMCIA has always been my favorite form factor.

One of my favorite deployments of it was to make a router out of a laptop - and use two of the xircom realport "mating" cards to give the laptop two real rj45 ports without any dongles:

... combine that with an already existing rj45 on the laptop and you had a three-port gateway with a built-in KVM and a built-in UPS.

  • jandrese 14 days ago

    I always remember PCMCIA as "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms".

    It's a bit of a shame that ExpressCard never got traction. I've had mixed success with USB Ethernet compared to the old PC-Card Ethernet.

    • iszomer 14 days ago

      The fun days of using the ExpressCard slot to play AAA titles on a beat up Thinkpad or back when EVDO was the new hotness in mobile productivity..

    • poizan42 13 days ago

      > I always remember PCMCIA as "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms".

      To be fair they did change the name of the standard to PC Card - people just kept using the old name anyways.

      • jandrese 12 days ago

        PCMCIA was an ISA bus on a card. PC-Card was PCI on a card. Then came Express Card, and no prize for guessing what the bus used there was.

        Express Card made the mistake of offering multiple form factors which made it harder for laptop manufacturers to support.

    • nicolaslem 12 days ago

      > I've had mixed success with USB Ethernet compared to the old PC-Card Ethernet.

      This may change thanks to USB 4 (and Thunderbolt) being able to directly use PCIe lanes.

    • samstave 14 days ago

      holy goodness I have not even thought about PCMCIA for like ~30 years!!

  • jmrm 14 days ago

    Reading this is pretty funny to me because my first wireless router was a common one with a PCMCIA slot to connect a WiFi card :-)

    • dylan604 14 days ago

      MacBookPro G3 with PCMIA slot, an Orinoco Gold card, a Pringles can made into a Yagi style antenna, and a friend with a car for wardriving sessions. memory lane...

      • rootsudo 14 days ago

        I was thinking what was the gold card and kept thinking of cryix cpu's, but it was Orinoco! Those were worth their weight in gold and hard to find compared to linksys pcmicia.

        And then having to do some ndis wrapper fun with linksys or intel cards. Wow.

        And even then, no packet injection!

        • dylan604 13 days ago

          >I was thinking what was the gold card

          Orinoco was one of those words that just stood out as it wasn't that common of a word in my daily vocabulary. Not needing to talk about rivers in South America, the only familiarity I had was from the Enya song. Everytime I'd insert the card into the slot, I'd sing "Sail away sail away" in my head.

      • jimmySixDOF 14 days ago

        we used to play around with them pre 802.11 as WaveLAN for under the radar point-to-point links back when the max 2Mbps was eye popping fast and eye popping expensive lol

      • samstave 14 days ago

        this is the best sentence I have read on HN in a long time

heisenzombie 14 days ago

I love the ridiculousness of this.

What's faster? The dual-core Cortex M0+ at 133MHz in his "wifi card"? Or the Intel 80486SX at 33MHz in his laptop?

  • dmitrygr 14 days ago

    The C-M0 and by FAR. A 486 would be lucky to hit 0.4 instructions per cycle on a good day with much luck. C-M0 can maintain a IPC of 0.8 for most code (loads and stores are 2 cy, all alu stuffs are one).

    • vardump 14 days ago

      486 ALU stuff is mostly 1 cycles as well (other than shifts, MUL and DIV, and all the weird stuff like AAD), as well as stores and loads. Taken conditional jumps are 3 cycles, non-taken 1 cycle, so loop unrolling helps a lot on 486.

      You can approach 0.8 IPC on 486, assuming you know about AGI stalls and other quirks.

      General 486-era C-compiler produced code, though, would be lucky to hit 0.4 IPC.

      • dmitrygr 13 days ago

        I was taking intel's 80486 promo materials at face value. Plus 486 ALU may be 1-cycle but loads and stores are not 2-cycle like they are for C-M0 so it'll still lose :)

  • tyingq 13 days ago

    Similar for:

    the 1541 disk drive that you would pair with a Commodore 64. It had a 6502 CPU in it, and was clocked a little faster than the 6510 CPU in the C64 itself.

    The Apple LaserWriter'ss 68k cpu was clocked at 12Mhz, intended to be used with Macs having a 68k CPU clocked around 7.8Mhz.

DrewADesign 14 days ago

It bums me out that computers, generally, are becoming more obfuscated and locked down by default, but I begrudgingly admit that there are non-trivial benefits for many users, such as security and interface consistency. These cheap, hackable-by-design little machines gaining momentum as counterpoint really warms my heart.

  • calvinmorrison 14 days ago

    5-10 years ago I was worried about a cliff for 80's car chips. Turns out, we can buy cheap programmable boards and write our own "native" solutions.

    My current project is mapping out 80's HELLA cruise control units. They have just a few inputs and variables. Speed, brake signal, pump, clutch signal, and on mine, an additional signal to the APC to show it is engaged (to limit boost). Really, I think I'll be able to make this work - hopefully smoothly!

    EDIT: these were in Saabs, but also other manufacturers like Land Cruiser and I think BMW as well. HELLA sold these as OES for these vehicles.

    • I_AM_A_SMURF 14 days ago

      ha same! but for game cartridges. I was worried that dumpers would be impossible to find, nowadays I could just build one if I really needed it.

    • DrewADesign 13 days ago

      That's super fucking rad... though I assume there's a hardware override? There are a few hundred open issues on the firmware repo.

      • calvinmorrison 13 days ago

        for t5 suite? It's pretty stable. Not sure what repo you're talking about but essentially they have backwards engineered the ROM on the ECU's to make tweaks and adjustments. It's a very flexible system from what I understand (though I haven't tuned with it at all, I do have one car where the computer is from a 2001 and it's backported into an 80's saab)

        • DrewADesign 13 days ago

          Oh I see. I misunderstood and thought you were saying you were going to control it with a Pi Pico. Read too fast.

          • calvinmorrison 13 days ago

            No, for the cruise control chip? I am thinking a ATtiny85 or similar. It'll need some breadboarding since the inputs and outputs run at 12V, so some voltage stepping is required

    • codepoet80 14 days ago

      Hacking and Saab's just seem to go together!

      • calvinmorrison 14 days ago

        more than you know. For the most part, the entire T5 engine management system has been fully swapped into older 900's, so that should give us another decade before everyone moves over to doing megasquirt or other RYO ECU functions

cestith 13 days ago

This is a cool project, but can someone help be understand the "necessity" to do this to connect older PCs with PCMCIA "without the need to maintain an old linksys router"?

Current wireless APs are backwards compatible to 802.11b and in some cases also 802.11a, usually covering every standard between that and whatever the new standard was when they hit the market. For example, this Netgear AP and router in its spec sheet says specifically "- Backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/ g/n/ac WiFi". It's just not on the main feature list that's shortened for marketing.

So I get the idea of a faster network connection on PCMCIA, up to the point that the 486 can actually use it anyway. I understand the coolness factor and the fun of solving this puzzle. I just don't understand the stated need. It's a lot of work compared to just connecting. The bigger deal for me would be this old laptop and card speaking WEP rather than WPA3.

  • dezgeg 13 days ago

    > The bigger deal for me would be this old laptop and card speaking WEP rather than WPA3.

    As I understood, this is exactly helping with not having to use WEP. The Pico is simulating a NE2000 ethernet card, so any old pre-WPA Windows98 drivers are not used at all, but with the Pico doing ethernet-to-wifi conversion and WPA2 encryption.

rootsudo 14 days ago

Those PCMCIA linksys cards were amazing back in the day, especially since they did come with windows 98 drivers. You literally could grab any old laptop and make it into what a pi is today.

They even had CF/PCMICA wifi cards for PDA's and such. While this thread/topic isn't about that or such, I rushed to recall netsumbler and wardriving.

  • RF_Savage 14 days ago

    I have an SDIO 802.11b wifi card for one of my PDA's. SD card formfactor.

    It's interesting that SDIO has survived to this day as an interface. Just mostly staying on the same board between some SoC and peripherals.

lloydatkinson 14 days ago

This is really cool! Also, I wonder if the author would share the CSS for the 80x25 VGA white on blue style text? Seems pretty much totally accurate!

oso2k 14 days ago

Very cool project. Would love to seem more projects that use PicoW, 02W to bring 20th century HW into the 21st. And I love BIOS font theme!

GekkePrutser 11 days ago

Wow I thought my electronics lab was messy lol.

Still, great work comes out of chaos.

omgwtfusb 14 days ago

how would such a GPIO <-> PCMCIA interface work? the author said the CPLD handles the voltage conversion and “address decoding”, but what I don’t understand is how does the data end up on the Pi?

  • teraflop 14 days ago

    According to the article, the author is using the RP2040's PIO peripheral, which has access to both the GPIO pins and FIFO buffers for communication with the main CPU.

    • verytrivial 14 days ago

      The PIO is magic adjacent given the unit cost. A relative of mine is using it to bit-bang a proprietary ethernet-like protocol to fix some expensive-to-replace surveillance camera networks. He's a 10x (at least) engineer and he's impressed by the capabilities. "And then it's just some C-code, which is of course trivial."