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In my last article I covered the Pentium Compaq Prolinea 5120e. This time will be taking a look at the other computer I picked up alongside that one, the ICL Ergolite DT486/66. I had never heard of ICL when I picked up this PC. ICL  from what I can tell was a rather large British computer hardware, software and service company that operated until 2002 before being bought out and absorbed into the Fujitsu company. From those I’ve talked to the DT486/66 seems to of been found mostly in office settings in its day and used primarily in business settings rather then the home market.

icl661

You can see right away that the case isn’t a standard design and it somewhat resembles in form and function a 90’s Macintosh machine. It’s quickly evident that the case design does not leave much room for expansion, this problem is actually worse once we look inside. We have two bays, one 3 1/2 inch and the other a 5 1/4. I received this machine with a 3.5 inch 1.44MB floppy drive installed. Below the large round power button we have lights for power and hard drive along with another unlabeled led which I have yet to identify. Possibly for a turbo button enabled by a key combination.

icl662

On the rear of the PC we have the power plug on the far left as well as a pass though plug for a monitor. I really like the port label with the various ports and what they are, especially the little mouse for the mouse ps/2 port. So we have two ps/2 ports for keyboard and mouse which is nice for a 486 machine. This is followed by two serial ports a printer port and finally the built in VGA port.

another interesting thing is

icl663

I do believe this is the first time I’ve ever come across anything manufactured in Finland. we also have the date of manufacture as 1993. The case as you can see is screwless. Whatever holds the case top on must of broken off because mine just slides right off. This is very much like the screwless Macintosh PC’s of the 90’s that would become brittle with age and have the various retention tabs snap off. And now a look inside.

icl66f

Here is the machine on the inside. The SB16 card is something I added. As you can see this machine uses a riser card with four 16 bit ISA slots. Two things stand out. The mounting bracket that holds the drives and the power supply.

icl668

Nothing to special about the PSU except that its rather long.

So on to the mounting bracket.

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So as I said before there are no screws so the whole bracket sits in some grooves and just lifts out. This actually works really well except for one thing. On the rear of the bracket there are two 3 1/2 inch mounting points so one could easily install two hard drives. The front on the other hand only has one 3 1/2 mounting point for the 3 1/2 inch 1.44mb floppy drive. The problem is there is no way to mount any 5 1/4 drives which means no 5 1/4 1.2mb floppy drives or more importantly no CD-ROM drive. Therefore going back to what I said about the outside case and that bezel that pops out for a 5 1/4 drive is very misleading and rather pointless. I suppose you might be able to rig up something with twist ties and maybe gluing something to the bottom of the case for the drive to sit and balance on but honestly its not a practical option. Perhaps they use ice troll magic in Finland or something to mount hovering drives but other then that it’s really a downer that you can’t stick a 5 1/4 drive in even when the case allows it.

While were talking about hard drives the one currently installed in this machine had a amusing message on it.

icl667

Damn turbulent supply situation.

Now will get down to the motherboard itself.

icl669

The motherboard all around is an okay design. There is a complete lack of L2 cache memory which hurts things overall but it looks like there is a space in the corner where cache could be an option. There are a lot of jumpers on this board and unfortunately no way to identify what they are for so I did not change this machine from its default configuration.

1) CPU – The CPU is a classic 66mhz DX2 486. The socket is not a ZIF socket but a cheaper LIF socket so there is no handle or easy removal of the CPU. Regardless of the rest of the machine the 66mhz DX2 is possibly the most iconic 486 and is an excellent all around CPU.

2) Speaker – a cheaper Piezo beeper speaker as opposed to a full speaker though if your relying on PC speaker for sound on a 486 you don’t care about quality anyways.

3) RAM – eight 30 pin slots for FPM RAM. This machine came to me with 8MB of RAM but I have no idea what the maximum amount of RAM that can be installed. I would think a safe bet for maximum RAM would be 32MB and 64mb being a less likely max amount.

4) CMOS – I cant be totally sure on the CMOS battery of this machine. There is a DALLAS chip which in my experience is usually a real time clock battery although this one is soldered directly to the board and does not appear to be a clock battery. Next to it is a lithium battery, which happens to be seated in a vertical position rather then a more common horizontal seating. This is the prime suspect for being the CMOS battery.

5) slot for the riser card

6) Video – The on board video chip is a Cirrus Logic CD-GL5422. Not a terrible chip as CL can be pretty good. I don’t think this is running on a local bus but just the ISA bus as Wikipedia states the CD-GL5422 chip was only used on ISA cards but I could be wrong.  My tests reported 512MB of video RAM on board and I assume the sockets next to the chip are for expanding video RAM to 1MB.

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7) Finally we have the standard AT power connection along with a built in IDE and floppy controller.

Finally this PC does have a kind of weird non standard BIOS.

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You can access the BIOS by hitting Control + ALT + Escape on POST. It’s rather limited in what you can do but at least it’s there.

So final word on this PC. It does come off as a rather budget 486 for the office and lacks nice expansion options found in better 486 machines like a VLB bus. the lack of any way to mount a 5 1/4 drive (in the absence of Scandinavian ice troll magic) despite the misleading removable bezel is a major downside in an era of emerging CD drives. On the plus side the small, light weight and screwless case allows fast and easy access to the machines innards and  PS/2 ports for both mouse and keyboard are also very convenient. You also really can’t go wrong with a 66mhz 486 DX2 CPU and in a lack of any more capable machine this PC can make a good DOS machine, provided either that all your games are on 1.44MB floppy or you can attach an external SCSI or parallel port CD-ROM drive.

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Benchmarks (Intel DX2 66mhz 486, No L2 Cache, 8MB FPM RAM, Built in Cirrus Logic CL-GD5422)

3DBENCH – 27

PCPBENCH – 8.0

DOOM -13.93

Quake – N/A

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4 Comments

  1. I think ICL used to be a big mainframe manufacturer at one point. They sold these mostly to British businesses, but had some limited success overseas. I wasn’t aware that they did that much in the PC market either.

    • It was an interesting machine and I got it off a guy that was running some kind of computer related business so again, the office thing checks out. It supposedly was in their storage for some line along with the old Prolinea. The lack of any means to mount a 5 1/4 drive baffled me though especially with the case having a pop off bezel for one. It was worth picking up though as one of the cards inside was very very interesting and something I’ll cover in a future article.

  2. Just wanted to say, that the case is held in place by a big ass screw that is located above the keyboard connector. Your case is missing the screw as can be seen by the hole. Also about Made in Finland, I’m sure you’ve held a Nokia phone at some point… 🙂

    • Thank you for the info. Ah, I always just assumed Nokia was a Japanese or Korean company. good to know!


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