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PC-98 – PC-9801NS/A (98-Note)

This beast was sitting next to another PC-9821 Note (more about that one in the future) at a junk shop in Den Den Town, Osaka. They were cheap. The shopowner gave me a huge WTF?! are you doing when I asked to purchase them. "No return, no refund!" he exclaimed as I told him I just wanted them for decoration.

I don't know what I expected when I brought them home, but the mofos (plural, there's another PC-9821Np/540W) fired straight up, asking for system disks. I used the 3.5" DOS disks I'd previously created.

And I was in DOSS Hell before I knew it! Next up I'd want Windows installed, but I wasn't doing that via floppies... I needed a better file transport mechanism.


I managed to pick up an IODATA PCSC-F PCMCIA SCSI Card from Hard Off in Okayama, which just happens to support the PC-98 Note series.

The drivers are over here and I thought I could just install them and go. Unfortunately, when you try, it exclaims that PC Card Services are not running.

A quick read of the manual tells you that you need PCカードサポートソフトウェア (PC Card Support Software) installed prior to trying to install the driver.

Is this disk available on the Internets? Hellz no. It's unobtanium... unless you google for closed auctions on Yahoo.

Then you see an auction for a SINGLE DISK going (buy-it-now) for well over AUD$60. Isn't it pretty? Anyway, back to the manual above, it notes that we need SSMECIA.SYS loaded in CONFIG.SYS... but this file is also NOT on the internet. All bulletin boards mentioning any of this software just contain people begging for it, asking everyone else to email them a copy!

For fun, I scoured the PC-98 Win3.11 disks, but they don't contain the DOS drivers. Nor do the DOS disks.

I thought I had something after googling for "PCカードサポートソフトウェア". I got here and saw a promising link to the NEC Lavie support site. Unfortunately this is just an ATA HDD driver to be used AFTER loading the support services!

So, back to where we were at with the PK-486 for the PC-9801VX.... drivers lost to time.. or scalpers! But then I realised something.. There's quite a list of laptop models noted in the manual for the SCSI PCMCIA Card, which all use the same driver? Maybe we can find another support disk on Yahoo... Maybe for the NX/C instead of the NS/A?

And shit, there it is, sitting on Yahoo Auctions right now, ready for me to spend money on! A dodgy copy for the bargin-basement price of AUD$65! It's a huge gamble, but let's see what happens when it arrives. The best part is that it's also coming with RAM+CPU for this unit and a new HDD caddy for the other Note. Anyway, in the meantime...

UPDATE: The gamble didn't pay off: The floppy was over-written with other shit.

Can it play A-Train?

A-Train needs two floppy drives.... this unit only has one. I was curious though, as the unit has a very specific RAM Drive activity LED? Oh right! That RAM Drive is specifically designed to act as a second floppy drive. NEAT! But, how do we use it?

PC-98 Machines start lettering from A:\ and just keep going... usually HDDs first and the Floppy Drives. A:\ is the internal HDD and B:\ is the floppy, so does C:\ exist?

Yes, yes it does... let's format it? Ok, sure... and a quick text file with SEDIT persisted after power cycle!

So... let's dump the "DATA" floppy over to C: and then boot the real floppy in B:. Do excuse the LCD refresh vs. my shitty phone camera.

Crisp! The animation was smooth also... what is this magical power from a tiny 486 SX?

Shiitttt.... it works. There was one weird thing though. I initially booted it with no mouse, so I couldn't do anything in-game. I then powered off and booted up with a mouse plugged in. During boot it just presented the "Please insert the system disk and press a mouse button" screen. Even if I clicked the mouse, the screen kept appearing... I'm guessing a RAM issue?

So I disconnected the mouse, rebooted back into the game... then plugged the mouse in after the game had loaded and all was well!

Amazing. (Excuse the dither/blur on the LCD. I ASSURE YOU there's a train in the last shot above!)

Let's try Windows...

You could tell what was going to happen next...

Unfortunately, Windows installer baulked at zero Extended Memory...

I suppose I could disable the RAM drive and start again, but I don't think 1.2mb of RAM will cut it. I'll make another post in the future regarding PCMCIA shennanigans. Actually... regarding MIDI also... if I can do it.

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  1. I was going through the same pain looking for PC-9821NE PCMCIA drivers… So, if the disk works will you be very kind enough to be the 1st one to publish the contents? Many thanks!!!

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