The Embedded PC’s ISA Bus: Firmware, Gadgets, and Practical Tricks — Unleashed

ISA Bus Book - Front Cover

ISA Bus Book - Front Cover

A long time ago, in a universe far away, I wrote a book that (barely) catapulted me into the ranks of the thousandaires. Time passes, companies get sold / fail / merge / get bought, and eventually the final owners decided to remainder the book; the last royalty check I recall was for $2.88.

Anyhow, now that it’s discontinued and just as dead as the ISA bus, I own the copyright again and can do this:

They’re both ZIP files, disguised as ODT files so WordPress will handle them. Just rename them to get rid of the ODT extension, unzip, and you’re good to go. Note, however, that I do retain the copyright, so if you (intend to) make money off them, be sure to tell me how that works for you.

The big ZIP has the original pages laid out for printing, crop marks and all, so this is not as wonderful a deal as it might first appear. The little ZIP has the files from the diskette, which was unreadable right from the start.

Words cannot begin to describe how ugly that front cover really is, but Steve’s encomium still makes me smile.

The text and layout is firmly locked inside Adobe Framemaker files, where it may sleep soundly forever. The only way I can imagine to get it back into editable form would be to install Windows 98 in a VM, install Framemaker, load up the original files, and export them into some non-proprietary format. Yeah, like that would work, even if I had the motivation.

If you prefer a dead-tree version, they’re dirt cheap from the usual used-book sources. Search for ISBN 1-57398-017-X (yes, X) and you’ll get pretty close.

Or, seeing as how I just touched the carton of books I’ve been toting all these years, send me $25 (I’m easy to find; if all else fails, look up my amateur callsign in the FCC database) and get an autographed copy direct from the source. Who knows? It might be worth something some day…

The back cover has some useful info:

ISA Bus Book - Back Cover

ISA Bus Book - Back Cover

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  1. #1 by Steve Ciciora on 3-October-2011 - 08:09

    Thanks, I look forward to reading it! I remember a while back, you had a book/pamphlet sold through Pure Unobtainium, I think it was something on the subject of 8032 debugging tips. Now _that_ was very useful! I picked up a lot of neat tricks reading that…. If you ever stumble across a zip file of that, I’m sure it will benefit quite a few if you spread that file around.
    Thanks,
    – Steve

    • #2 by Ed on 3-October-2011 - 09:18

      If you ever stumble across a zip file of that

      Wow. That would probably be in Describe format, from the days when I ran OS/2. Recovering that file format will be a challenge…

  2. #3 by Jason Doege on 3-October-2011 - 09:21

    Being a national treasure, do you expect to someday be stuffed and mounted and presented in a Smithsonian museum?

    Thanks muchly for the book. I think industrial single-board PCs may still use that bus, only called PC-104 instead of ISA due to using a different connector.

    • #4 by Ed on 3-October-2011 - 09:52

      do you expect to someday be stuffed and mounted and presented in a Smithsonian museum?

      There are those who would argue I’m already stuffed…

  3. #5 by Aki on 3-October-2011 - 09:36

    The PS/2 connector is still alive, but how long? I’m a picky old curmudgeon, just a mobo equipped with the PS/2 keyboard- / mouseport can be installed into my PC.

    • #6 by Ed on 3-October-2011 - 09:54

      The PS/2 connector is still alive

      But fading fast; the last few PCs around here haven’t had any of those “legacy” connectors on the back panel. The days of PC hacking have faded away; all that energy has moved to Arduinos and suchlike, leaving PCs as commodities. So it goes…

  4. #7 by George Martin on 3-October-2011 - 18:16

    I have one of the original books authored by a fellow named Bode. He worked for Bell Labs I believe.
    It’s too complicated for me to understand much of what’s written. The simulators do all the work now.
    If only I had him sign it; I might even want to be buried with it.

    Or haw about a book of jokes for engineers…..Real engineering jokes!!!

    • #8 by Ed on 3-October-2011 - 18:49

      It’s too complicated for me to understand much of what’s written.

      Our Larval Engineer will start getting into that stuff in a year or so, at which point I hope she won’t ask for any advice… perhaps the best advice I can give is that you never know what you’ll need to know, so learn all of it and sort it out later!

  5. #9 by John Rehwinkel on 6-October-2011 - 08:21

    Even though this doesn’t seem likely to be something I’ll be using, I quite agree that “never know what you’ll need to know, so learn all of it and sort it out later”, and I was curious as to the format, so I downloaded it.

    Ooh, PDFs! I can read this on my phone on the bus! Yay for open standards.

    I’ll just take a quick look at the Test Document. Hmm, the tops of some lines are cut off! That’s weird, I’m sure Ed would have eyeballed the test document most carefully for such issues. Oho, it’s not a problem with the PDF, it seems to be a glitch in MacOS X’s Preview program.

    • #10 by Ed on 6-October-2011 - 10:58

      it seems to be a glitch in MacOS X’s Preview program.

      And that is why I did the test document: everybody had a simple, short, unambiguous testcase. Saved us some crazy, it really did.

  6. #11 by BrianS on 8-October-2011 - 22:09

    Thanks for the memories. Seems like you should advise your shegineer to get the math and materials down pat. Then expect to search a lot and have to forget a lot for the new to fit in. .

    Awe,OS/2. What an awesome OS. Year was 93 for Warp and just now is MS getting close. IMHO

    • #12 by Ed on 9-October-2011 - 07:39

      get the math and materials down pat.

      Her AP Calculus score boosted her into the second semester course. She reports the prof will either teach her a lot or kill her trying. I remember my prof using the old line about looking at the guy on either side of you and that only one of you would emerge unscathed: it’s always been that way.

      advise your shegineer

      She says that, unless otherwise noted, everybody she meets is male. It’s a new experience for her… we hope the Society for Women Engineers can pull her through.

  7. #13 by ax25 on 22-January-2012 - 23:52

    Thought your writing looked familiar. Glad to have helped get you on your way to thousandaire back when I picked up a copy. Good info that saved me much time.

    • #14 by Ed on 23-January-2012 - 07:51

      Thought your writing looked familiar.

      Comes from using the same brain for everything, I suppose.

      Glad it was useful; creating the book taught me a lot about some other topics, too…

  8. #15 by Steve Ciciora on 23-January-2012 - 08:13

    When you talk about your your shegineer and “Our Larval Engineer” it reminds me of a new product announcement you had in a Pure Unobtainium flyer, oh, maybe 18 or so years ago… sure wish I could remember it. Something about a carbon-based neural network? I don’t think genetic algorithms were mainstay back then… I wonder how you programmed it?

    • #16 by Ed on 23-January-2012 - 10:50

      a carbon-based neural network?

      It was a long-leadtime project that still hasn’t quite cleared the gantry, but I have high hopes…