My first PC… R.I.P.

I just couldn’t resist.  I suppose I wasn’t being honest when I said “I don’t have the desire to troubleshoot it.”

After initially failing to get a response from my 13-year-old PC, I planned to just disassemble it and give away or dispose of the parts.  But when I found a barely-connected wire on the switch, I thought, “what if that’s all it was?”

“What if I could’ve suffered with that system for another year or two if only I had found and re-connected that one wire?”  Hmmm…

So I put the power supply back together, re-connected all the power cords, the 16GB Fujitsu hard drive, and the speaker so I could listen for that beep at power on.

I was not disappointed.  The PSU fan spun up, the speaker reported a friendly single beep, the monitor displayed the American Megatrends boot screen, components were recognized one at a time, and then…

“DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER”

Oh well.  At least I know that I could recover this system if I really wanted to, right?

So that really is it.  The dismantling had to recommence.  It is now done.  All that is left of this first PC of mine is a pile of parts.  As I mentioned in my last post, there’s nothing to swoon over here.  But a couple of you requested that I go ahead and post pics, so here goes.

The first shot is the front of the box.  You just can’t beat a golf ball power button or a case badge with three shooting stars that says “Computer” in Gigi font.  Don’t pretend you’re not impressed.  I’ll start taking bids for this case straightaway, starting at $100.

Shots of the Pentium 133 and the Hungtech PSU (which surely makes Doug Dodson facepalm for not trademarking that brand name first) are pictured in my previous post.

Ahhh… the M Technology R533.  She’s a beauty, ain’t she?  Ahhemm… well, it still boots.  How can you argue with that?

What if your port cluster isn’t a cluster at all?  What if it’s just one AT (5-pin DIN) port, and the rest of the ports are on the case waiting to be connected to unlabeled headers, connectors and slots on the motherboard?  Ugh, that could turn out to be a cluster after all.

Are those really just 4MB sticks?  Seems like I had more than 8MB of RAM, but I honestly don’t remember now.  The retention mechanism that held these puppies in their slots (near the top center of the previous motherboard photo) was quite nifty… release the levers and the little guys lean over and almost ask to be lifted out just as smoothly as can be.  Much more elegant than how today’s DIMMS feel like they’re going to crack the motherboard’s PCB when they’re inserted.

I don’t think the Union Trident TD9680P would have fared too well in even one of our low-end graphics cards roundups.

I haven’t kept up with the Creative hating that persists among many PC enthusiasts… is the Sound Blaster 16 CT2940 worthy of scorn or did it pre-date their evil ways?

The Zoltrix dial-up modem… 33.6 or 56k, I honestly don’t remember.  Gotta love the mic in, mic out and speaker ports to make your PC a speaker phone.  If only I had looked at those and been hit with the same epiphany that struck Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.

No, it’s not an IBM Model M, but it does have those oh-so-satisfying buckling springs beneath each key.  And isn’t that mouse design just nostalgic?  Not quite ergonomic, but certainly classic—two buttons, one ball, and a cord.

Alright, this post is already long, so I’ll just end it with a moment of silence for the PC that was.

Edit: As bhtooefr speculated in the comments, that is not a buckling-spring keyboard. Upon further study, they’re probably Alps switches, which have a great tactile feel and that nice clicky sound, but not quite the real deal.

 

Comments closed
    • DLHM
    • 11 years ago

    My first “real” PC was a Hyundai Super 286/AT with 2 meg of ram and a 40 meg HD. I had a VGA card in it and ran a CTX .28 VGA Monitor. I remember getting a Sound Blaster for it and my friend gave me Brass Monkey MIDI on a 5.25″ disk.. I was blown away by the awesome sound that this miracle device could do. I was used to PC speaker sounds coming from Kings Quest 1 and Police Quest, Space Quest.. Still the best games ever made.. oh yeah and dig-dug..

    I also had a 2400 Baud modem that Me and my friends would transfer Save game files back and forth, using X-modem at first, then y-Modem, and Finally Z-modem. Unfortuanalty my friend only had a 1200 Baud.

    -edit It may have been 1 meg of RAM, I’m trying to remember the post but that was ~17 years ago and my memory is fuzzy.

    • cheerful hamster
    • 11 years ago

    I was recently called to fix an old 386. There are an amazing number of these old computers still chugging away, usually doing one task. This one was used for printing invoices. The BIOS wouldn’t hold any settings, so I guessed it would be a simple matter of replacing a dead CMOS battery to enable another 20 years of faithful service.

    I started out building digital audio workstations in 1998, before that I was a studio geek who didn’t have much interest in computers. I picked a good time to start, since the hardware had been greatly simplified by Plug & Play by that time. So it was humbling to be confronted by ribbon cable fettuccine when I opened the case. ISA cards as long as your arm! Even after clearing away the dust -[

    • Cuhulin
    • 11 years ago

    My first PC was a dual floppy IBM-PC. I splurged and got 128KB of RAM for it, and the next year I bought a 10MB hard disk for $1K so that it could actually store programs.

    Personally, I preferred the config.sys, autoexec.bat setups, along with the later individual program data files of various windows programs to the modern monstrosity we call the registry.

    • Synchromesh
    • 11 years ago

    Heh, I remember when my parents bought the first PC in 1993: 386SX-33, 1MB RAM, 40MB hard disk and 3.5in floppy drive. My first upgrade after about 1 year was 1MB of RAM I bought for $100 in a hardware store. Next was 1MB videocard in place of 256K one so I could play SimCity 2000 on that thing.

    I upgraded the same tower through 486DLC-33, 486SX-33, 486SLC-33 and P1-120 all the way up to P1-166. At one point the CPU broke and I gave it away to a friend who underclocked it and it worked for him for a while after that. I moved on to PII 350 after that.

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 11 years ago

    Thanks for the blog post and pics! My first actual PC after abandoning the Atari 8-bit and 520ST computers was a store-built 386SX-16 in the early summer of 1991 which had 1MB RAM, 40MB hard drive, 3.5″ and 5.25″ high density floppy drives, a generic 256K VGA video card, and a big desktop case. I had a bus mouse with it, and my monitor was a 13″ GoldStar VGA color. Due to budget constraints, I almost had to go with a monochrome display! And I did not even have a sound card, they were still something of a novelty back then.

    This PC was upgraded bit by bit over time and eventually was turned into a 486SX-33 just before the original Doom came out. The last piece of hardware from that original 386 that I got rid of was the desktop case itself when I went with a tower in early 1996.

    • Clint Torres
    • 11 years ago

    List your computers!

    Here’s my list:

    1) 1986 Apple Mac SE w/ 2-800K floppies, 8Mhz Motorola 6800, 1MB RAM, (Mac System 1.1) I had such a hard-on for Macs for a decade until…

    2) 1996 Zeos 486DX2-66 with Trident Vidcard (Windows 3.11) – Zeos was bought out by Micron Computers which later quit the PC business to concentrate on Memory ==> Crucial. This hand-me-down computer turned me on to PCs and I never looked back.

    3) 1997 AMD K6 266Mhz – Socket 7, baby! One could put a Cyrix, Intel Pentium or AMD K6 proc in this badboy (Windows 95) – first computer I built

    4) 1999 Celeron 300A @ 450Mhz on Abit BH6 with nVidia Riva TNT (Windows 98SE) All legends in their time.

    5) 2002 Athlon ?? on Shuttle AK31 with GeForce2 (Win200 & WinXP) Remember when VIA chipsets were a viable desktop option?

    6) 2004 Pentium4 3GHz on Asus P4-? with GeForce 4400 (WinXP) OC’d to 3.2GHz and figured it just wasn’t worth it.

    7) 2006 Core2Duo 1.8Ghz @ 3.0Ghz on Asus P5B Deluxe with GeForce 6800GT (WinXp) >50%OC! The legendary Celeron 300A has fallen.

    8) 2008 Core2Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz @ 3.0Ghz on Asus P5Q with 8800GT (Vista x64) Curiously, the most stable system I’ve ever owned.

    • rechicero
    • 11 years ago

    I’m feeling so old with my ZX81 memories… After that I jumped directly to a 286 :-). That was a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away :-D)

    • absinthexl
    • 11 years ago

    C=64. I wasted so much time on that thing.

    • ihira
    • 11 years ago

    My first build is a Core 2 Duo so I’m not really in the nostalgia crowd but it sure reminds me we’ve come a long way.

    First I kinda laughed at those specs, but realized my current machine would probably be just as bad from 10 years from now.

    • ClickClick5
    • 11 years ago

    My Missing Byte Intel 486 rig:

    -Intel 486 (33Mhz turbo, 16Mhz standard)
    -8MB RAM (SIMM-33) ($100 for 1MB)
    -200MB Maxtor HDD
    -512KB Matrox GPU (Top of the line then, lol)
    -2x CD reader ($540)
    -5.25 and 3.5 floppy drives.
    -Soundblaster 16
    -Win 3.1

    Total price: $4500

    I though it would be cool to change the power switch to the security key. When I was done, to turn on the comp, you started it like a car!

    I miss that thing.

      • Meadows
      • 11 years ago

      Did it sound like a car too?

        • ClickClick5
        • 11 years ago

        The PSU did.

        Remember starting these things at the beginning:

        CHK Sys RAM:
        click-click-click….all the way to 8MB.
        Ah…

          • Usacomp2k3
          • 11 years ago

          And pressing escape changed that from 30 seconds to 15. I remember I setup a system with Win3.11 FWG in ~1999. The reason being that we had an old 21″ monochrome CRT that had a specific video card (BNC connections) and we only had drivers for it for win3.11 (it was my dad’s old desktop-publishing screen). So we took an old board (I don’t remember what cpu) and put 16 2mb chips in it. That computer literally took longer to count the memory than it did to boot. It was great. I believe this computer also had a bigfoot in it, so it did sound like a freight train.

            • nerdrage
            • 11 years ago

            Bigfoot… man, I spent many an hour swapping those out at my old job. It was definitely well over 50% failure rate.

            They made excellent killer-frisbees though.

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 11 years ago

    Heehee, if you don’t count the Commodore 64 that I still have, our first PC was a Packard Bell 486SX 33MHz w/4MB RAM and a 250MB hard drive. We later added another 4MB of memory for $200, and a Pentium Overdrive processor.

    • wingless
    • 11 years ago

    I miss my 8088-2 Turbo XT IBM Clone PC we got in 1987. When I first opened it up, I knew there was a problem since there was a full socket devoid of any chip. I researched that thing when I was 6 years old (the instruction manual) and found out I needed an 8087 math co-processor. I begged my dad for 5 years but he never upgraded.

    My mother once bought me and my brother a 2400 baud modem, but once again my dad was too short sighted and stingy to let us keep it and pay for internet service. I didn’t get a newer computer until 1997. I missed out on IRC, the formative years of the internet, Doom, Duke Nukem, etc! To top it off I could only program in MS Basic on that 8mhz computer. When I saw Windows 95 I realized how much I missed out on and never quite caught up on the software side.

    One good thing that came out of it was I learned to game at under 5fps. I appreciate 3D accelerators more than any human being alive.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 11 years ago

      I played Pools of Radiance on exactly that hardware. 🙂

        • wingless
        • 11 years ago

        Did you ever get a math co-processor?

    • dustyjamessutton
    • 11 years ago

    My first toy was an Altair 8800 that my uncle gave me when I was a kid. Little did he know how rare it would become. I still have it and it still works. 🙂

    • srg86
    • 11 years ago

    In my experience, DIMMs are vastly nicer to install and remove than the old SIMMs, especially as on one of my machines, it’s right next to part of the case so it’s difficult to get the fingers in!

      • bthylafh
      • 11 years ago

      Yeah, if the SIMM slots are right by the power supply they’re a major pain. Other designs aren’t so bad, though.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 11 years ago

      I might disagree. Once you got used to them, they were a snap to put in and out. I still have trouble with DDR not getting seated all the way. I’m sure I’ll fry a chip at some point. The slanted one’s were great because if it wasn’t lined up just right, then the pins wouldn’t connect and it was obvious that something wasn’t right.

        • eofpi
        • 11 years ago

        SODIMMs are a lot nicer in that regard. They use mostly the same insertion technique as SIMMs. Now if only there were DIMMs that worked the same way….

      • [TR]
      • 11 years ago

      I don’t know about installing SIMMs, but I’ve been using one as a key-chain for over ten years and I’m really happy with it! Would never use DIMMs, though. Too long.

      • Krogoth
      • 11 years ago

      SIMMs are a PITA, mostly because of the AT form factors.

      The first generation of DIMM slot were also a PITA to seat. The later verisons did fix this, unless you are trying to plug-in DIMMs with large heatspreaders.

    • Prototyped
    • 11 years ago

    I am currently sitting next to two baby AT cases, the upper one of which has the unipanels off. 430VX board (FIC 586IPVG), K6-2 450 downclocked to 400 MHz (because the 430VX couldn’t do a 100 MHz system bus), 128 MiB in four FPM (not EDO) RAM 72-pin SIMMs, a 4.3 GB Seagate U8, a 6.4 GB Quantum Bigfoot (5.25″ 3600 rpm, anyone?), a pre-PnP ISA SB16 Pro with an empty socket for the CSP (CT2290), a PROLiNK 1456VH PnP ISA modem (with a honest-to-goodness hardware Rockwell chipset with UART), an ATi 3D Rage II or similar and a generic RTL8139C based Fast Ethernet card.

    Oh, and a floppy drive and a 48x CD-ROM drive that can’t read CD-RWs any more.

    Just last week I attached a 20-year old (1989) XT-era hard disk to it. 41 *[

      • Meadows
      • 11 years ago

      You’d better dispose of electronics properly.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 11 years ago

        Speaking of disposing of electronics, what’s the best way to get rid of dead boards and junk? I’ve freecycled a few old monitors but they still worked, I don’t feel like paying to dispose of dead stuff though. I know BB takes some things, I’ll check on that, otherwise the only thing I know of around my parts is a hazardous e-waste pickup but you have to pay for it :/

          • Meadows
          • 11 years ago

          Well, for me the easiest way is dumping stuff in the nearby small PC store where I’m frequent. The city has a landfill (among other things), but a different sort of truck comes by that shop once a month to take those electronics elsewhere. You should snoop around BB or find special waste disposal sites or services.

        • reactorfuel
        • 11 years ago

        Unfortunately, there’s no good way to get rid of electronics. Pretty much all “recycling” operations ship them out to China and Africa, where they’re burned to recover copper, gold, and other metals. The stuff is burned out in the open, often by child laborers. Once the “recycler” has recovered the metal content, they bury the waste in unlined, uncapped landfills that often leach into water supplies.

        The whole thing is an environmental nightmare; while they “recycle” some of the metal content, it creates a toxic disaster area. Burning insulation, printed circuits, and random components makes horrific smoke. Stuff like dioxin and heavy metal vapors are dangerous as all hell, and even if the people working around it don’t get their tickets punched in the cancer and birth-defect lotteries, they get another shot when all the crap that didn’t go up in smoke ends up in their drinking water. These operations make Chinese coal power plants look like air cleaners.

        Ultimately, there’s no good solution right now. If you’ve got something reasonably modern, you can give it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or whatever and hope somebody gets some use out of it, but older stuff and specialty items are kind of hopeless. Second-hand retailers will give your stuff a shot at a new home, but they’ll typically pass it off to a “recycler” if they can’t sell it. Ultimately, I hang on to what I can if I’ve got the room, but otherwise, it’ll go into an American landfill. They’re not designed to hold toxic waste, but they’ll do a decent job at keeping the nastier stuff separate from the earth and water table. At least, I hope it’ll be better than contributing to some kid in Africa getting systemic cancer at the ripe old age of thirteen. 🙁

          • MadManOriginal
          • 11 years ago

          Yeah I know all that, although supposedly there are some places that e-cycle properly. I figure trading the Chinese some poisonous electronics for poisonous toys is fair.

        • Prototyped
        • 11 years ago

        I’m in the Middle East. There’s no “proper” means of getting rid of electronic equipment out here.

      • odizzido
      • 11 years ago

      That quantum is still working fine I imagine.

    • bhtooefr
    • 11 years ago

    My first computer was an Apple //c. I dare not take pics of it.

    The first PC that my family had was an IBM PS/1 with a 386SX, 1 MiB RAM, and a 40 MB HDD.

    My first PC was… oh, hell, I forget. It was either a 486DX/33 (that I only have the graphics card and (somewhere) the CPU (without the pins) out of) or a 386SX laptop (that I no longer have.)

      • bthylafh
      • 11 years ago

      My first was a //c as well. It’s been long-since disposed of, and so has my first IBM-compat, which was a Tandy Sensation. Had a 486SX-25 (later upgraded to 486DX2-50), 4MB of 80ns FPM DRAM (one 72-pin SIMM), 106MB Seagate hard drive, single-speed CD-ROM drive on proprietary interface, integrated AdLib sound, integrated Paradise SVGA with 512K of video RAM (upgradable to 1MB! Compatible with VESA BIOS 1.01!), 2400bps internal fax/modem, and 14″ CRT. Came with MS-DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1.

      Lots of good memories with old DOS games on that guy. Heh, but it was slow enough that Doom would sometimes freeze the machine for a few minutes until it caught up.

    • crazybus
    • 11 years ago

    I’ve got an Asus Baby AT Intel 430VX board like that one with a 133MHz Pentium in it. Interestingly, that chipset could handle both EDO and SDRAM at the same time.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      it wasn’t at the same time, it was one or the other…at least, on my Shuttle on the same chipset it was.

        • crazybus
        • 11 years ago

        That’s the thing, my Asus P55TVP4 could run both simultaneously, mixed voltages even. Performance was right in between running straight EDO or SDRAM.

    • bhtooefr
    • 11 years ago

    I actually doubt that the keyboard has buckling springs. I’m thinking it’s got Alps switches. Pull a keycap, take a photo.

      • Inkling
      • 11 years ago

      You may be right. I used a Model M at work for a couple years at the same time that I was using that Everex at home. While they seemed very similar, I’ll admit that it wasn’t an identical feel. But it’s the sound that made me think that my Everex had the springs — it was practically indistinguishable.

      I’ll pop one off and check it out later.

        • Inkling
        • 11 years ago

        bhtooefr is correct. Those are NOT buckling-spring keys. They are, however, mechanical switches with a great tactile feel and clicky sound. Probably ALPS, as bhtooefr said.

        I stand corrected.

    • FireGryphon
    • 11 years ago

    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing the rest of the nostalgia!

    Looking at all this old hardware gave me an idea. Modern companies should make new hardware that looks like old hardware, sort of like how clothing companies make ‘vintage’ clothing.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      as far as the innards go, parts of the hardware are going to by necessity not look retro, unless you want to go back to ISA and PCI slots.

      But on the outside, I could see a niche for that kind of product. Not my bag, but certainly someone’s.

        • FireGryphon
        • 11 years ago

        I meant more in line with the colors and simplicity of older hardware.

    • Meadows
    • 11 years ago

    That keyboard sure has seen some days, its colour is becoming /[

      • Inkling
      • 11 years ago

      Yeah, for a couple years this system was at a desk by a window that got sun in the afternoon. The sun slowly turned the beige keyboard case yellow.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 11 years ago

    oh, duh, that’s a Socket 7 and a cache slot, not one of those dually socket 370/slot 1 boards. I’m such a dolt.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 11 years ago

    I had to move last summer and don’t have the room to unpack, but I kept all my old mb’s and add-in cards. Some of them predate me and I just kept them around for histories sake.

    But very nice. Surely TR has some extra bandwidth for you to put more pictures up!

    • radix
    • 11 years ago

    This brings back a lot of memories. My first PC was a 386 DX40 MHz with 4MB of RAM in 4 sticks and a HD of 170MB (I actually had a MSX before, but it is not a PC). The modem was a no-name 2400bps one. Those were the fun days of BBS when the web didn’t even exist! I remember the pain it was to copy games over using a bunch of floppy disks and split ARJ files. We would pray that the extraction worked until the last disk finished. The config.sys/autoexec.bat custom menus were fun too and sometimes very necessary as we needed the most of those 640kb of memory available for loading games.

      • Naito
      • 11 years ago

      ah BBSs…..it’s sad that there are a number of computer students and staff that don’t even know what BBSs are anymore =(

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This