Mainly Neat Stuff --> Vintage Macintosh --> 20 Ways to Misuse an Orange386 NuBus PC Card

20 Ways to Misuse an Orange386 NuBus PC Card

From the Mac's introduction, third party developers have provided ways to run PC software. The first product was the short lived Dayna MacCharlie for the original 128K and 512K compact Macs and this was followed by 8088 and 80286 processor cards for the Mac SE and Mac II from AST. When AST quit the Mac market, development of their cards was passed on to Orange Micro, better known previously for their Apple II expansion boards. John Ruschmeyer (this link broken when last checked) provides a more detailed description of the early PC products.

The Orange386 is the third generation PC card for the Mac. It is a full length NuBus card designed to provide an Intel 386 PC (DOS/Windows environment) for the Mac II series. I have used it for my testing in a Mac II fitted with upgraded ROMs and a 1.44MB Superdrive capable of reading PC disks. Unfortunately, I don't have the oringinal documentation for the card and software so everything here has been found on the internet or has been obtained by my own experimentation.

October 2003 Update: Thanks to John S, I've now obtained a new in box Orange386 card and a new in box peripheral kit. Some additional notes obtained from the documentation can be found on my Update page.

My card has a 386SX processor running at 16MHz and a separate maths co-processor. There are four 30 pin SIMM slots that I have tested with 256Kb, 1MB and 4MB SIMMs; the 386SX processor is limited to 16MB of extended memory, so there is no point in testing larger SIMMs. There are two expansion slots (one 8 bit and 16 bit) for standard PC ISA cards. A bulky 78 pin connector at the back of the card is intended for external expansion; I have found references to an expansion box but more information on this is welcome.

Card detail

In the photo opposite, you can see that the card comprises two circuit boards but it only uses one NuBus slot.

Once fitted with memory, the card provides a very slow, basic PC environment. The Orange386 application supports CGA graphics emulation in a Macintosh window and a Superdrive is used as the standard A: floppy drive. A virtual hard drive is provided on a file on the Mac's hard disk and DOS and Windows drivers are provided for the Mac mouse. For a Mac II owner confronted with a PC environment for the first time, I am sure that the Orange386 came as a severe shock.

Early Days

I located software (version 1.3.2) for the card at the Mac Driver Museum which included a basic hard disk file which booted into DOS 5. The DOS installation was incomplete so I booted from a DOS 5 Upgrade kit on floppy to add the missing components. Floppy access speed is slower than on a real PC and the emulated CGA graphics in a Mac window demand patience. A lot of patience.

DOS 5 install

Oshare on the Mac

A pleasant surprise came from the OSHARE file sharing system that allows the Orange card to map folders on the Mac hard drive to PC drive letters. This is a quick way to transfer files between the Mac and PC environments. It is also possible to use OSHARE to connect to any AppleShare volume that is mounted on the desktop of the Mac. Performance is surprisingly good and much better than using floppy disks. Text on the CGA window can be copied to the Mac clipboard.

Given the age of the card, I opted to install Windows 3.0 in preference to 3.1. Microsoft still list a Knowledge Base article on this so I felt optimistic. Installation from floppy was entirely uneventful (if slow). The Orange mouse driver for Windows was installed by running the standard DOS mode SETUP.EXE from the Windows directory. Unfortunately, Windows 3.0 froze when using the mouse when the Mac was running System 6.0.8 but worked fine with 7.0.1. A great pity as 6.0.8 flies on a Mac II (I'm using it now to type up the first draft of these notes).

Win 3.0 install


I'm sure it is possible to do something useful with Windows 3.0 running in CGA mode (the image opposite shows Solitaire in CGA mode) but, quite frankly, I don't have the imagination to work out what that might be. Maybe Windows 3.10 will be more useful...

Getting Better

Installation of Windows 3.10 was far less straightforward than Win 3.0 installation. Fortunately, I'd already decided not to risk my working Win 3.0 installation and had created a new virtual hard disk for Win 3.10. Too many years of using Windows reminded me that it was time to install the full 16MB of RAM -- even with Win 3.10, this makes a lot of difference.

Windows 3.10 was not designed for a CGA display and, whilst additional drivers exist, the standard installation disks do not include them. Running SETUP.EXE caused the Mac to freeze but running SETUP.EXE /i (to ignore hardware detection) allowed it to proceed. I tried using the Hercules graphics emulation option but this was, unsurprisingly, incompatible and installation failed. Time to dig out a VGA card...

I had to remove the metal support bracket from the VGA card so that it would fit in the Mac II but otherwise installation was straightforward. The card was then plugged in to the switch box that I normally use for sharing a standard multisync VGA display between Macs and PCs. The lid wouldn't fit after doing this because of the bulky monitor cable; in theory it would be possible to make up a cable that is flexible to wrap around and pass through one of the NuBus slot cut outs in the case. The only change when using the Orange386 with a VGA card is to switch the monitor setting on the switch box; the PC environment is then displayed in full screen mode.

SETUP.EXE /i ran without problem during the text mode stages. When setup tried to create the Windows swap file during the graphical stage, installation appeared to freeze. After switching to the Mac monitor on the switch box, it was clear that the Orange386 application was confused by the swap file creation and had displayed its "File Types" dialog box; pressing the Cancel or OK button a couple of times allowed installation to continue. Unlike freezes when using CGA graphics emulation, it is usually possible to flip over to the Mac monitor on the switch box and quit the Orange386 application without rebooting the Mac.

When asked whether to allow setup to modify my CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files, I selected the option to save the suggested models and to make the suggested changes manually myself. After installation, the Orange mouse driver was installed by running the standard DOS mode SETUP.EXE from the Windows directory.

Alas Windows would only boot in Standard mode so I poked around and made a couple of changes to the CONFIG.SYS file. The line for HIMEM.SYS was changed to load the Win 3.10 version of the driver rather than the DOS 5 version. The line for EMM386.EXE was changed to load the Win 3.10 version and to exclude the areas of RAM reserved for the VGA ROM and Orange card ROM (device=c:\windows\emm386.exe /x=c000:c800 /x=f000:f200). Windows 3.10 then ran. Given the setup problems with swap file creation, I disabled the swap file (I shouldn't really need one with 16MB of RAM and if I did, I would configure it to run from a RAM disk).

Windows performance is a lot better than I expected and it seems a lot quicker than many 486s I remember using.

Win 3.1 config

Making Windows Useful

The worst thing in the computer world is a PC that can't communicate over a network. The OSHARE system allows the PC to use AppleShare servers but the PC must be rebooted to give access to a new server. The Orange386 card has two ISA expansion slots but one of these is used for the 16 bit VGA card; the 8 bit slot could be used for something like a Novell NE1000 or 3Com 3C503 ethernet adapter but I own neither. My solution was to fit an ISA riser card (as fitted to low profile PC systems) in my 16 bit slot.

Network and VGA

View from above

I now had five ISA slots but only two are physically accessible. These slots were filled by the VGA card and a 3Com 3C509 network card. However, fitting the lid back on the Mac II was somewhat unlikely.

The easiest networking software for me to install was an old copy of Timbuktu/PhoneNet PC. PhoneNet PC shipped with the drivers for the 3C509 card so installation was a no brainer. After rebooting, I could use the Orange386 to access any AppleShare volume, including the ones on my Mac II hard disk.

Timbuktu Chooser

File Manager

Experimenting with a hard disk

I was interested in seeing how Windows 3.10 would perform if I gave it a real hard disk. I temporarily pulled out the ethernet adapter and replaced it with a standard ISA I/O (serial, parallel, game port, floppy, IDE) card. After playing with the BIOS options and I/O card jumpers, I could boot from a floppy and Fdisk/Format the hard drive. I could even write to the drive but files very quickly became corrupt. After trying a couple of I/O cards and disks, I gave up. My suspicion is that the Orange386 card's BIOS is designed to work only with IDE disks mounted in the special external expansion box.

A quick hunt through the junk box turned up an Adaptec 1542B ISA SCSI card. This is one of the cards with its own BIOS to support booting from a SCSI disk (the drive must have ID 0). A couple of experiments showed that the Orange386 was trying to boot from the SCSI disk but it didn't contain an operating system at this time. An unfortunate side effect of the Adaptec card was that the Orange386 support for the Mac floppy drive was disabled; the 1542B is capable of operating a conventional PC floppy drive but I would need to make up a power lead for the drive in order to test this.

Not expecting a lot of success, I migrated the VGA, ethernet and SCSI cards to an old 486 PC, peformed a low level format on a convenient drive and installed Red Hat Linux 5.2. A few checks confirmed that the Linux installation worked and that I could Telnet into it. So I unplugged all of the kit and reassembled the Orange386 with the VGA and SCSI card/disk.

It worked. I had expected that it would have started to boot, at best, but after a couple of minutes and only a few error messages about the missing network card, it displayed a login prompt. And even more surprisingly, the Mac keyboard worked.

So I logged in and shutdown the system cleanly. Unfortunately, I still need to rig up a cable so that I can use the VGA card in one of the less accessible ISA slots and use more than two ISA card; for now I swapped the VGA for the ethernet adapter and ran the Orange386 with its emulated CGA display. Against the odds again, it worked...

Linux boot

Linux login

ISA riser card

The ISA riser card fitted with the Adaptec SCSI and 3Com ethernet cards.

SCSI card and disk

The SCSI drive and floppy drive (unconnected) are mounted in a cradle. The SCSI drive is powered from the Mac.

Is It Safe?

Not really.

  1. The ISA cards stick up and would act as a magnet to children or pets.
  2. Damage from electrostatic seems likely; the ISA cards would be easy to replace but I've not seen an Orange386 since buying mine.
  3. I'm sure that Orange didn't design their card to be used with three ISA adaptors fitted. I'm also concerned about how much power is being drawn through the NuBus slot.

Notes for Other Orange386 Owners

Please also check the additional notes on my Update page.

My card reports itself as 386SX Modular BIOS v3.11. P/N 119M0001. Earlier and later cards may be different. I have only got version 1.3.2 of the Orange386 software.


The Orange386 does not have a conventional CMOS and BIOS settings are stored in the application preferences file on the Mac system disk. The easiest way to enter the BIOS setup is to hold down any key on startup to generate a keyboard error; then type Ctrl-Alt-Esc to run the BIOS setup program.

When changing the memory configuration, you must type in the amount of memory (the amount found will be reported on screen). Press F10 followed by F5 to save the settings.

Time and date are taken from the Mac system and appear to be Year 2000 compliant.

System 6 versus System 7

The mouse drivers failed to work properly with System 6.0.8 (International English with MultiFinder) when working in Windows 3.0 and the entire Mac froze forcing a reboot. This problem does not occur with System 7.0.1. The software release notes hint that performance is slower in System 7 but System 6 was too unreliable for me to do any serious testing.

DOS Versions

DOS 6.22 did not appear to be reliable when running Windows 3.0. I reverted to DOS 5.0 and ran it happily with Windows 3.0 and 3.1. The Orange software is dated 1992 so it may be too ambitious to use PC systems developed after this date.

HIMEM.SYS, EMM386.EXE, SMARTDRV.EXE are the files most likely to cause problems when using the Orange386. I decided from the start to not use SMARTDRV; hard disk speed with a virtual hard drive on the Mac is acceptable.

The combinations that work for me are:

DOS 5 only: DOS 5 HIMEM and EMM386
DOS 5 and Windows 3.0: DOS 5 HIMEM and EMM386
DOS 5 and Windows 3.1: Win 3.1 HIMEM and EMM386 (freezes occurred when using DOS 5 versions)

Virtual Hard Disk Size

The default with the software I downloaded is 20MB. I still haven't worked out how to make it larger. It is very difficult to fit more than one version of Windows on a 20MB drive.

More information is extremely welcome. Versions of the card? Processor speeds? ROM versions and patches? 

Copyright information: If you wish to use any images on these pages, please contact the author, Phil Beesley on