DOS Days

AST Research

Before AST became one of the largest PC-compatible manufacturers in the world, they created graphics cards, memory expansion cards, processor upgrade boards and multi I/O cards for IBM's PC range (PC, XT and AT).

To jump directly to a section, click below:

Graphics Cards

AST-3G Model 1 and AST-3G Plus

Introduced: 1986
Interface: 8-bit ISA
Chipset: Chips & Technologies CS8420
Memory: 64 KB or 256 KB
Part Number: 202104-001

The AST-3G Model 1 was AST's third-generation graphics card, featuring resolutions up to 640 x 350 in 16 colours or 720 x 348 in monochrome. The card was also backward-compatible with IBM MDA and CGA standards.

Memory could be expanded to 256 KB with the purchase of the "AST-3G Memory Enhancement Kit" (part #500319-010). You could also fit a parallel port to the card with the "AST-3G Parallel Port Enhancement Kit" (part #500319-009).

The AST-3G Plus was an "Option Enhancement Kit" (part #500319-011) for the AST-3G Model 1. The "Plus" features performed the functions of the HGC or the AST Preview! adapter. Compatible with HGCIPreview! hardware (mode registers). Using HGC capabilities, the AST-3G Plus option provided 720 x 348 pixel resolution monochrome graphics and a 9 x 14 pixel character box for high-quality text characters (256 KB of on-board graphics memory required). It added compatibility with software designed for the IBM CGA and MDA. In addition to EGA BIOS-level compatibility, the Plus option added CGA and MDA hardware compatibility (mode and color registers). (256 KB of on-board graphics memory required).

It came with one 9-pin EGA D-SUB port, two RCA video outputs, a lightpen socket, and an optional parallel port which required a cable to be connected to one of the headers on the board.

The card was designed for use with the IBM 5151 Monochrome Display (MD), IBM 5153 Color Display (CD), or the IBM 5154 Enhanced Color Display (ECD).

Click here for the user manual from March 1986.

More Images

AST-3G Plus II

Introduced: 1987
Interface: 8-bit ISA
Chipset: Chips & Technologies 82C435
Memory: 256 KB
Part Number: 500454-001

The AST-3G Plus II was an enhanced EGA card released in 1987. Designed to work with the AST Premium/286 PC, it succeeded the AST-3G with Plus option by adding support for the NEC Multisync monitor (or equivalent) and AST Premium Display.

The graphics resolution could be pushed as high as 640 x 400 is a multisync monitor was used.

Click here for the user manual.

More Images


Introduced: 1987
Interface: 8-bit ISA
Memory: 256 KB
Part Number: 202249-001

Another VGA card from AST, supporting MDA, HGC, CGA, EGA, and VGA, all on an analogue monitor via its 15-pin DSUB.
The card has a single jumper in the lower-right corner to configure the monitor type that is connected. The left pair of pins tells the card it is connected to a PS/2 or other analogue monitor. The right pair of pins tells the card it's connected to a multisync monitor.

More Images


Launched: 1987
Memory: 256 KB (8 x MT4067-10)
Bus: 16-bit ISA
Chipset: Paradise PVGA-1A
Part Number: 202262-001

Despite being a 16-bit ISA card, the VGA Plus could operate in an 8-bit slot (see switch settings below).

The memory could be expanded to 512 KB by installing 8 additional DRAM ICs into the leftmost memory bank.

SW1  ON - Monitor attached is a multisynch operating in analog mode.
    OFF - Monitor attached is a PS/2 or other analog display.
SW2  ON - Data transfer rate is 16-bit (board must be in 16-bit slot).
    OFF - Data transfer rate is 8-bit.
SW3  ON - Adds one wait state to bus speed.
    OFF - Board operates at speed of bus.

More Images


Processor Boards

AST also produced CPU cards that would replace the motherboard's CPU completely, providing a cost-effective upgrade path for those looking to get better performance from their PC for a cheaper price than replacing the entire computer.

AST HotShot/286

Introduced: 1987
Interface: 8-bit ISA
Cost When New: $645 (Nov 1987)
Part Number: 202160
Board Revisions: 202160-001, 202160-002

The HotShot/286 was a CPU upgrade board for the IBM PC or PC/XT computer. It contained an Intel 80286-10 CPU and cache memory. It also provided a socket for an 80287 math coprocessor.

The expansion card came with a ribbon cable which connected it to a small CPU daughtercard that plugged into the motherboard's CPU socket after you removed the original CPU from the motherboard and put it on this daughtercard instead.

A set of 8 DIP switches on the card's backplate could be used to define the areas of the 1 MB address space to be cached. A jumper, JP1, was used to set the default boot-up mode of the card (either 80286 mode or 8088/8086 mode).

Actual performance improvements were limited to the 80286 CPU being able to process instructions faster/more efficiently than the original CPU, though given that it was on an 8-bit expansion card, communication with the motherboard was still limited to the slower 8-bit speed. This is where the card's onboard cache came into play. By caching the memory, the card was able to counter what would otherwise seriously limit the performance gains of the card.

The card came with a drivers & utilities disk that included HOTSHOT.EXE to switch between the 8088 and 80286 CPU. One of the main reasons for this capability to switch between the original CPU and the HotShot/286's onboard 80286 CPU without the need for a reboot was to get around potential problems with old device drivers that didn't play well with the 286. The 80286 does not allow an OUT instruction to be followed by another I/O instruction unless the OUT is immediately followed by a JMP SHORT $+2 instruction to introduce an I/O wait state. Many of the 8088/86 device drivers were written before the 80286 was introduced and do not contain correct 80286 coding technique, which may cause system hangs if running the system in 286 mode. If you come across any system hangs or other problems using such device drivers, run the HotShot/286 in 8088/8086 mode.

Cached Memory Settings for Base (0-640K):

SW1  SW2  SW3  Cached Area
---  ---  ---  --------------
OFF  OFF  OFF  Cache Disabled *
ON   ON   OFF  0-256 KB
ON   OFF  ON   0-512 KB
ON   ON   ON   0-640 KB
 * = Default Setting

Cached Memory Settings for Extended (640KB-1024KB):

SW4  SW5  SW6  SW7  Cached Area
---  ---  ---  ---  ---------------
OFF  OFF  OFF  OFF  Cached Disabled *
ON   ON   OFF  OFF  0C4000-0D3FFFH
OFF  ON   OFF  OFF  0C8000-0D7000H
ON   OFF  ON   OFF  0D4000-0E3FFFH
ON   ON   ON   OFF  0D8000-0E7FFFH
ON   ON   ON   ON   0DC000-0EBFFFH
OFF  ON   ON   ON   0E0000-0EFFFFH
ON   OFF  ON   ON   0A0000-0AFFFFH
ON   OFF  OFF  ON   0A0000-0B7FFFH
ON   ON   OFF  ON   0CC000-0DBFFFH and 0A0000-0AFFFFH
OFF  ON   OFF  ON   0CC000-0DBFFFH and 0A0000-0B7FFFH
OFF  OFF  OFF  ON   0D0000-0DFFFFH and 0A0000-0B7FFFH
 * = Default Setting

More Images

AST Xformer/286

Introduced: 1987
Chipset: Chips & Technologies P82C211 NEAT
CPU: 80286 10 MHz
Memory: 512 KB (expandable to 1 MB)
Expansion Slots: 4 x 16-bit ISA, 4 x 8-bit ISA
Part Number:

This motherboard was designed as a direct swap for PC and XT-class computers, and came with an Intel 80286 running at 10 MHz, and 512 KB of RAM which was expandable up to 1 MB. It came with four 16-bit ISA and four 8-bit ISA expansion slots.

The Xformer/286 came with a utility diskette that allowed you to configure the card. You would simply run 'ASTUTE' from the floppy disk. The CPU speed could be switched from 6, 8 or 10 MHz using Ctrl-Alt-Up and Ctrl-Alt-Down, all at zero wait states.


AST 386 Daughterboard

Part Number: 202347-002

Don't be fooled by this one - it's not a 286 CPU upgrade card like Intel's InBoard 386/PC or 386/AT. Its actually the main daughterboard in the AST Premium 386 desktop computer range. For the Premium 386 launched in 1989, AST attempted to innovate the internal layout of a desktop PC, by having a mainboard which consisted almost entirely of just the usual ISA expansion slots, but two of these slots had a proprietary extension into which would be installed this "386 CPU" daughterboard. On the daughterboard was a 386DX CPU running at either 25 or 33 MHz, 387 coprocessor, and main memory via four SIMM slots. The second ISA slot that also had this proprietary extension could be used for other AST cards, such as a FastRAM memory expansion card.

Strangely, and unlike almost all other ISA slot cards, the 386 daughterboard had its components on the rear side of the card. Also quite a rare choice, the board supported only the Weitek 3167 math coprocessor, not the more common Intel 80387 series or compatibles.

More Images

AST 486 Daughterboard

Part Number: 202397-003

As with the 386 Daughterboard, the 486 Daughterboard is *not* a CPU upgrade card that can be put into a 386 machine. Instead, AST used these cards in their PCs as the main CPU, memory, and cache subsystem - the motherboard itself in these PCs was really nothing more than a backplane.

More Images



Memory Expansion and Multi I/O Cards


Introduced: 1983
Part Number: 201177
Board Revisions: 201177-001, 201177-002, 201177-003, 201177-004

The AST SixPakPlus was a memory expansion board for the IBM PC or PC/XT computer. It came with anywhere from 64 KB to 384 KB of onboard memory using 64 KB DRAM ICs that were 200ns speed, and also provided a realtime clock, serial port, and parallel port. Some cards also featured a game port.

An advert for the SixPakPlus from May 1984

The maximum memory upgrade for the original SixPakPlus could bring your PC up to 640 KB. There was no support for EMS memory or AST's Enhanced EMS.

Click here for the user manual.

More Images


Introduced: 1986
Part Number: 202094-001
Board Revisions: ?

The AST SixPakPremium supported between 256 KB and 1024 KB of onboard memory using 256 KB 150ns DRAM ICs. Like the SixPakPlus, the Premium also provided a realtime clock, serial port, and parallel port. Some cards also featured a game port and a second serial port.

An advert for the SixPakPremium from July 1986

Any memory above 640 KB was configured as EMS, compatible with the LIM EMS 3.2, 4.0, or AST's EEMS standard.

SixPak 286

Introduced: 1985?
Part Number: 202344-001
Board Revisions: ?

Designed for their Bravo/286, Premium/286, Premium Workstation, as well as other IBM PC/AT compatibles, the AST SixPak 286 supported up to 4 MB of onboard RAM via its 30-pin SIMM slots. These were configured in two banks, Bank 0 at the far left of the board, and Bank 1 further in.

In addition, daughterboards called the I/O Pak 286 (part #500560-002) could be added to the SixPak 286 to provide a serial port or parallel port. Unlike earlier memory configuration cards from AST, the SixPak 286 was fully configurable through software instead of jumpers.

More Images