Amptron....

kohl

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 5, 2004
Messages
289
amptron.jpg


Does anyone remember these motherboards from back in the day? A friend and I were talking about hardware we dealt with decades ago. We both worked from this 'hole in the wall' distributer and the only thing he would stock would be Amptron boards, usually paired with those awful Cyrix processors. I remember some of them coming with these cache modules you would plug into the motherboard as well.
 

GiGaBiTe

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 26, 2013
Messages
1,551
Oh yeah, I remember their cheap junk knockoff boards, with their fake cache chips and proprietary cache modules. If you used the real cache module, you had to flash a special BIOS on some of their boards because the boards with fake cache were hacked to always show some predetermined amount of cache was installed.

These boards were favorites of sleazy computer shops back in the day because the shop owner could get them super cheap and heavily mark them up for a good profit. It often came back to bite them in the ass with high failure rates from too many corners being cut causing the board to be unstable or die, or having worse performance than a good brand name board due to the fake cache. Cyrix CPUs exacerbated the problem with their love for weird bus speeds like 75 and 83 MHz that caused instability from parts running out of spec, as well as being power hungry and the board couldn't supply the necessary power so it would get more unstable.

Amptron, PC-Chips, ECS - they were all in bed with each other making garbage.
 

kohl

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 5, 2004
Messages
289
Haha yeah I am glad someone else remembers them. I tried building a system with one of their motherboards using a Cyrix PR166 CPU and could never get it to be stable. I ended up just going to one of our local computer shows (remember those???) and buying a name brand motherboard and Intel P200.
 

OFaceSIG

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
Messages
2,557
I had one from a super generic brand once, Eurone. If you didn't have a cache stick installed it said "W/B Cache On" instead of reporting any cache. It was a total scam.
 

auntjemima

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Mar 1, 2014
Messages
7,466
Oh yeah, I remember their cheap junk knockoff boards, with their fake cache chips and proprietary cache modules. If you used the real cache module, you had to flash a special BIOS on some of their boards because the boards with fake cache were hacked to always show some predetermined amount of cache was installed.

These boards were favorites of sleazy computer shops back in the day because the shop owner could get them super cheap and heavily mark them up for a good profit. It often came back to bite them in the ass with high failure rates from too many corners being cut causing the board to be unstable or die, or having worse performance than a good brand name board due to the fake cache. Cyrix CPUs exacerbated the problem with their love for weird bus speeds like 75 and 83 MHz that caused instability from parts running out of spec, as well as being power hungry and the board couldn't supply the necessary power so it would get more unstable.

Amptron, PC-Chips, ECS - they were all in bed with each other making garbage.
I always see people lump ECS into the group of crap, but I had one of those K7S5A (bad) boards for my 1.4ghz tbird and I loved it. Overclocked well, allowed overclocking within windows as well. Never had an issue.

I guess a single case doesn't make for a good board.
 

Dan_D

Extremely [H]
Joined
Feb 9, 2002
Messages
57,922
View attachment 346104

Does anyone remember these motherboards from back in the day? A friend and I were talking about hardware we dealt with decades ago. We both worked from this 'hole in the wall' distributer and the only thing he would stock would be Amptron boards, usually paired with those awful Cyrix processors. I remember some of them coming with these cache modules you would plug into the motherboard as well.

Those were called COAST modules or "Cache on a stick." (Yes, that's what it really stands for.) It was standard on all motherboards of the type that were compatible with P54c Pentium CPU's and other chips like the AMD K5 (trash) and the Cyrix/IBM 6x86 CPU's. The Cyrix CPU's weren't as bad as the K5's and they were fine so long as you didn't want to play Quake or a few other titles that made heavy use of the Pentium's FPU. Beyond that, Amptron was junk.
 

magnetik

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jun 6, 2000
Messages
5,818
Didn't some of those cache modules have fake chips? I always had some weird issues with Amptron boards. We had a saying back then to never buy boards that rhyme with Voltron.
 

GiGaBiTe

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 26, 2013
Messages
1,551
I always see people lump ECS into the group of crap, but I had one of those K7S5A (bad) boards for my 1.4ghz tbird and I loved it. Overclocked well, allowed overclocking within windows as well. Never had an issue.

I guess a single case doesn't make for a good board.

ECS did have a few boards that were *ok*, but they had far more crap than actual good products. Stability and BIOS issues were always a big problem with them.

Those were called COAST modules or "Cache on a stick." (Yes, that's what it really stands for.) It was standard on all motherboards of the type that were compatible with P54c Pentium CPU's and other chips like the AMD K5 (trash) and the Cyrix/IBM 6x86 CPU's. The Cyrix CPU's weren't as bad as the K5's and they were fine so long as you didn't want to play Quake or a few other titles that made heavy use of the Pentium's FPU. Beyond that, Amptron was junk.

No, they weren't COAST modules. While the Amptron M919 had the exact same cache slot that the COAST module used, it was not pin compatible. If you install a COAST module in the slot, the board won't boot and likely will damage the COAST module. Amptron made their own proprietary module that looked like a COAST module, but only worked in their motherboards. I wouldn't recommend plugging one into a normal COAST slot for the same reason, damage to the module or motherboard may result. Not that it's a very likely scenario, these modules are exceedingly rare.

Didn't some of those cache modules have fake chips? I always had some weird issues with Amptron boards. We had a saying back then to never buy boards that rhyme with Voltron.

While the motherboard usually had fake cache chips, I don't think the cache modules ever did. I've only seen 2-3 of those special cache modules and they used legit memory on them.
 

kohl

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 5, 2004
Messages
289
I actually still have one of the Amptron cache modules. I had it stashed away in some memorabilia; I think I was going to maybe make it into a keychain at one point.
 

Attachments

  • cache1.JPG
    cache1.JPG
    479.9 KB · Views: 0
  • cache2.JPG
    cache2.JPG
    474.6 KB · Views: 0

cpufrost

n00b
Joined
Sep 28, 2020
Messages
53
I remember them for sure.
Back in the 90s before the internet came to life for the mainstream folk, they had things like computer shopper magazine and "computer shows" which were like swap meets. I'm on the east coast and one such thing was Market Pro. They hosted these events in ballrooms, convention centers, fairgrounds, et al. It was quite big back then and if you knew what you were looking for you could get some decent deals. Amptron was a name that kept coming up in premade boxes with that race to the bottom nomenclature. ;-) I do remember building a few and they weren't anywhere near the caliber (performance and stability) of the Intel parts (TX/VX/HX socket 7 chipsets) of the time. I also had a fair share of Pentium Pro systems and multiple socket systems too!
 

kohl

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 5, 2004
Messages
289
I remember them for sure.
Back in the 90s before the internet came to life for the mainstream folk, they had things like computer shopper magazine and "computer shows" which were like swap meets. I'm on the east coast and one such thing was Market Pro. They hosted these events in ballrooms, convention centers, fairgrounds, et al. It was quite big back then and if you knew what you were looking for you could get some decent deals. Amptron was a name that kept coming up in premade boxes with that race to the bottom nomenclature. ;-) I do remember building a few and they weren't anywhere near the caliber (performance and stability) of the Intel parts (TX/VX/HX socket 7 chipsets) of the time. I also had a fair share of Pentium Pro systems and multiple socket systems too!

Just curious; what did you use your Pentium Pro for? I remember when the CPU was released, it seemed like a very niche market. I seem to recall the main use case was if you ran NT or other 32bit OS, as performance in DOS games and such was lackluster compared to a Pentium. I vividly remember the shop I worked for, we had a customer who wanted us to build them a Pentium Pro system and I couldn't get over how gigantic the CPU was.
 

toast0

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 26, 2010
Messages
1,146
Back in the 90s before the internet came to life for the mainstream folk, they had things like computer shopper magazine and "computer shows" which were like swap meets.
There was one by my place (Orange County, CA) that was huge. Found all sorts of weird stuff there. I think they were still going before COVID, not sure if they're still there; I moved away years ago.

Just curious; what did you use your Pentium Pro for?
An ISP, I worked for got a PPro for web and email serving. I seem to recall it was pretty speedy, not 100% sure if it was SMP or not though, it's been a _long_ time. We were barely an ISP though, I think a T1 for internet and a T1 for modems; used MegaPath for out of area dial-up became MegaPath for everyone when our dial-up T1 stopped working, we tried to sell some DSL, but it was a hard sell because there would be at least three companies between us and the user.
 

kohl

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 5, 2004
Messages
289
There was one by my place (Orange County, CA) that was huge. Found all sorts of weird stuff there. I think they were still going before COVID, not sure if they're still there; I moved away years ago.


An ISP, I worked for got a PPro for web and email serving. I seem to recall it was pretty speedy, not 100% sure if it was SMP or not though, it's been a _long_ time. We were barely an ISP though, I think a T1 for internet and a T1 for modems; used MegaPath for out of area dial-up became MegaPath for everyone when our dial-up T1 stopped working, we tried to sell some DSL, but it was a hard sell because there would be at least three companies between us and the user.

Haha yeah I remember that time well. You used to go to a mall or computer store and it was mostly Mom & Pop ISPs all over the place... like some guy running a rack of modems with a few hundred customers. The first ISP I signed up for was while living off campus at college. The guy included a disk that had TCP/IP on it since it wasn't included in the earlier versions of Windows. Then came the consolidation. I often wondered if any of these small ISPs made out well selling their business to larger ISPs.
 

GiGaBiTe

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 26, 2013
Messages
1,551
Haha yeah I remember that time well. You used to go to a mall or computer store and it was mostly Mom & Pop ISPs all over the place... like some guy running a rack of modems with a few hundred customers. The first ISP I signed up for was while living off campus at college. The guy included a disk that had TCP/IP on it since it wasn't included in the earlier versions of Windows. Then came the consolidation. I often wondered if any of these small ISPs made out well selling their business to larger ISPs.

I knew the owner of the ISP I used in the late 90s. He sold out to Grande in the early 2000s for a "comfortable" amount of money as he told me. He had several thousand customers, which is probably why he got a bigger payout. I'm sure it varied by region and who was buying who as to how much money independent ISPs got.
 

cpufrost

n00b
Joined
Sep 28, 2020
Messages
53
Just curious; what did you use your Pentium Pro for? I remember when the CPU was released, it seemed like a very niche market. I seem to recall the main use case was if you ran NT or other 32bit OS, as performance in DOS games and such was lackluster compared to a Pentium. I vividly remember the shop I worked for, we had a customer who wanted us to build them a Pentium Pro system and I couldn't get over how gigantic the CPU was.
We were on NT 4.0 and it was used for a workstation running Autodesk Studio. It was an experiment to see if it was viable replacement for the SGI MIPS R10000 workstations that cost a small fortune at the time. The chips were quite large indeed! When we did migrate to all Wintel the Dell Precision workstations had the slot Xeons and were the absolute biggest CPUs ever. I still have one somewhere around here. I also saved the Pentium Pro chips and understand they have decent salvage value due to gold content.
 

toast0

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 26, 2010
Messages
1,146
We were on NT 4.0 and it was used for a workstation running Autodesk Studio. It was an experiment to see if it was viable replacement for the SGI MIPS R10000 workstations that cost a small fortune at the time. The chips were quite large indeed! When we did migrate to all Wintel the Dell Precision workstations had the slot Xeons and were the absolute biggest CPUs ever. I still have one somewhere around here. I also saved the Pentium Pro chips and understand they have decent salvage value due to gold content.
Oh man, the slot 2 Xeons were enormous. Compaq put a heatsink with heatpipes coming out the top so they were that much longer.
 
Top