The 386 project – Part I: The beginning

I got my hands on a complete Olivetti PCS-33 setup: Computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse. It’s a 386SX running at 33MHz. It’s a very compact form factor and has quite modern interfaces for a 386 computer, such as two PS/2 style connectors for the keyboard and mouse and a C2032 battery on the motherboard. I got this computer as a throwback to my first IBM PC compatible, which had a Cyrix 486SLC processor. I only later found out that was essentially a 386, and not even a fully DX at that. Nevertheless, after I was over the first disappointment of not having a computer that was leagues ahead of my beloved Amiga 500, it served me a long time and facilitated many fantastic gaming hours.

My old computer definitely had a VGA card in it, but I doubt the Olivetti has one. The monitor connector is missing a few pins, so it could be only a EGA. But it has two ISA slots, so it can easily be expanded. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack and a volume control wheel at the front, so I wonder what sound it can generate. Lastly, it has a 5.25 inch expansion bay at the front, so maybe I will deck it out with a 5.25 inch floppy drive, or better yet, a CD-ROM drive. Although it will almost be a shame to remove the beutiful front bezel. The floppy drive is of the slim variety, so this makes it difficult to replace it with a Gotek drive. The harddisk is only 40MB and it’s fully loaded with applications and simple games. It makes a lot of noise and so does the PSU. It will be nice to fit it with a solid state storage solution and maybe I can replace the fan of the PSU for a quieter one.

Due to it’s small form factor it would be a nice computer to sit underneath my monitor as a machine to run those early DOS games on.

To conclude for now, I want to make the following changes:

  • Replace the harddisk with a IDE-CF adapter or a IDE flash module, although that apparently has trouble recognizing a second device like a CD-ROM on the same bus.
  • Add a soundcard and a videocard.
  • Replace the fan of the PSU.


  1. The onboard video is indeed VGA, but if I remember rightly is only 256KB. There are DIP-20 sockets for an additional 2 DRAM chips, but I can’t remember what spec these need to be.

    The AMD 386 SX is also a 25MHz part, not a 33MHz.

    • Thanks for the comment. Sadly I have bricked the machine after adding a video and sound card. It won’t boot anymore and gives a keyboard error.

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