PCMCIA Pico W Card

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2022-09-22 22:30:11

My fascination with PCMCIA cards was created out of “necessity”. Most of my retro computing interest revolves around networking, and I wanted something that could natively attach to modern Wifi networks without the need to maintain an old linksys router just for my retro computers. There are many ways to do this, I just wanted something as clean and compact as possible. I was also left out of being able to use the various ESP based wifi modems as I mainly use an IBM PC110 and it has no serial port without a dock.

At the start I looked at butchering existing ethernet cards and wiring in a wifi232 module coupling together the ethernet PHYs. This was very sketchy and the module was large, no real hope of scaling it down.

I quickly moved onto attempting to make my own entire card. I used a small GAL for some address decoding, a parallel UART chip and a flash chip along side the esp8266. This worked quite well and depending on the crystal selected, when having the divisor at 0 (usually 115200 baud) it would actually be 460800. It was quite feasible to fit this onto a board in a tiny case, but the speed limitations and it only being a serial interface always had me thinking about an ethernet interface instead of or in addition to the UART. I did play with SLIP and various ways to use the serial interface to get onto the LAN, but it was not fast enough or transparent enough for what I wanted.

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