Sergey Kiselev's Open-Hardware 8-Bit ISA NIC Gets Your IBM PC, XT, or Other Vintage System Online
Maker Sergey Kiselev has begun selling an open-hardware add-in board designed to get your classic IBM PC/XT and compatible computers talking to modern networks: an 8-bit ISA Ethernet card.
Introduced in 1981 by IBM, the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus marked the birth of open-architecture computing which would lead to the "IBM Compatible" becoming the dominant computing paradigm. Even at the time, though, it was fragmented: There are eight-bit and 16-bit ISA buses, and 16-bit devices won't necessarily work on eight-bit systems like the original IBM PC.
Kiselev's open-hardware ISA network card, though, has no such trouble: It's designed to adhere to the eight-bit version of the standard, meaning it's compatible with devices going all the way back to the IBM PC — and can even run in 16-bit slots, though Kiselev notes that it "will be slower than 16-bit Ethernet cards."
The board, designed in KiCad, is based on the Realtek RTL8019 Ethernet chip and operates with Novell NE2000 drivers — readily accessible on vintage computing hardware. The configuration can be set using on-board DIP switches or a software utility, and there's a socket for a boot ROM — though the required ROM to enable a pre-boot execution environment is not included.
Kiselev has released the design for the board, including the KiCad project files and Gerber production files, on GitHub under the CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 — Strongly Reciprocal. Full-assembled boards, meanwhile, are available on the Weird Electronics Tindie store at $40, including a 3D-printed ISA bracket and mounting screws.