3Com EtherLink III 3C589 Series Network Card
Chris Tilley | Editor-in-Chief
with mobile computing simplicity - and the reliability afforded by that simplicity
- can be more practical and be the most cost effective way about a problem.
Quite simply the 3C589 has been around for what in the rigmarole of IT can
only be described as an eternity.
Of course since that primordial dawn things have moved on somewhat. PCMCIA
was jazzed up in 1998 becoming the somewhat confusing "PC Card".
All in all, peel off the efforts of marketing departments the world over and
the 3C589 is really rather simple at heart.
Each generation of the NIC is based around industry standard 5.0v PCMCIA Type II (PC Card) specification, which means that it is a 16-bit Class 2 PCMCIA card. Which, in case you didn't know. Happens to be the exact same specification as exists in the Handheld PC that undoubtedly sits before you right now.
The 3C589 is very simple in its construction and operation. You just plug in the cable adapter or "dongle", push is in and off you go. Unlike some cards there days that ensue the use of a technology known as XJack (Where the cable connected directly to the PC Card itself, meaning no dongle is required) the 3Com does have an interchangeable dongle, of several different types.
I personally prefer this type of interface to XJack simply because if you move
the device around while fully wired up you place a strain on the PC Card housing
inside your Handheld PC and also on the XJack mechanism. While having a dongle
may mean something extra to carry around. The flexibility afforded by a load-tested
dongle removes this problem.
There are several types of dongle available for the 3C589x. These are:
All three dongles are equipped with Activation LED's, useful for ensuring the
Windows CE driver has kicked in.
Being a standard 5.0 volt NIC. For users who will require a lot of network
use while on battery. This may not be the optimal NIC for your needs. You would
be better looking for a 3.3v NIC specially designed for use on Mobile Devices,
such as those by Socket Communications.
As the 3C589x is now regarded as legacy - and don't be put off by my use of this term - it supports virtually everything that you can slot it into. From MS-DOS 3.1+, Windows 3.1 and NT3 right through all the Windows 9x's and up to XP / 2003. Of course what really counts is the Handheld PC support. Alas here a spanner is thrown into the works... somewhat.
3Com finalised their driver set for the device some time back, with drivers
being provided in Windows versions from 98 onwards as well as Linux there was
no need to continue development.
Unfortunately Windows CE support was also an afterthought for the developers.
There is no on-line support or Windows CE specific documentation provided for
the NIC by 3Com themselves. That said the procedure for installing and getting
the NIC to work is very straight forward and with a 36KB Driver footprint you
To download drivers for the 3C589x Series see the HPC:Factor downloads section
So why; you may wonder. Would I be eager to suggest you learn to live with
these quirks. Well that's simple.
If you are into the eBay auction wave, I have seen on numerous occasions 25
fully working 3C589x's go for less than £10. Not that you'd need 25, but
you get the idea. We are talking pennies.
In conclusion. If you're on a budget. Are curious as to how your Handheld PC can help you by operating on a wired network (but aren't sure if you really need it). Or even if you are simply new to networking. Then you could do far worse than giving one of these little gem's a good home.
The EtherLink III 3C589 can be found at the following URL.
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