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Compaq Deskpro 386s/20n: Parallel Port CD-ROM Drive

Meet the Micro Solutions Backpack. It's an external CD-ROM Drive that plugs into your PC via the Parallel Port. It comes with its own PCMCIA card which offers a Parallel Port cable dongle. I don't have a PCMCIA port on this 386, so I'm going to attempt to plug it directly into the Parallel Port.

I actually bought it to use with my Amiga 1200, but it turns out that the Amiga doesn't support it out of the box. Fortunately, it is made for Windows... even better, the Windows era that I'm tinkering with!

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It actually has quite a nice slim-line form-factor. Two 25-pin parallel ports on the back will allow you to daisy-chain a printer as well? This hasn't been tested. I fortunately had a Parallel cable lying around (from tinkering with the port back here) and plugged the device in. Everything was connected and ready to test in a matter of seconds.


The Software

Scraping the web for old software isn't fun. So I've provided the download for the driver here. There's a few manuals and larger setup files, but everything I needed was in the DOS folder. I copied these to a floppy and took them over to the Compaq. Since I now had a D: drive, I created a folder named CDROM and dropped the files into it.

SETUP.EXE ran without a hitch from D:\CDROM\. Seems that my efforts to copy it over were pointless though, as it asks for a source disk during install. Selecting D: expected the data to be in the root, so I had to leave the floppy in and copy from there.

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I then crossed my fingers and rebooted. Unfortuantely I was met with a locked up boot. The CDROM driver was trying to load, but freezing. Disabling it allowed my machine to boot. Long-story-short, this driver was conflicting with EMM386! Make sure you load the driver before you start your extended memory manager.

Note that in the folder, there's also a port test application. Use this to find out information about your Parallel port incase things aren't going to plan.


You can find more drivers and information here at minuszerodegrees.

The Result

Back in good old File Manager, we get a new drive (with a new icon!) on the drive bar!


As you can see, the first CD I found was an 'old shit' disk with numerous versions of DOS and WINDOWS. I'll be rebuilding C:\ with this shortly. Time to start from a fresh drive and play games!