Vintage Computers — 3

In late 1997 the next office system was an ASUS TXP4 mainboard with a 200 MHz Pentium I MMX CPU, 64 MB of RAM, Maxtor 83201A6 4480 rpm 3.2 GB PATA hard disk, Diamond Stealth 3D 3000 PCI S3 ViRGE/VX video card with 4 MB VRAM, Creative Labs Sound Blaster AWE64 ISA Plug and Play sound card, 3COM Fast EtherLink XL 10/100 PCI network controller, Creative Labs (MATSHITA CR-585 ZU17) 24x CD-ROM, 3.5 inch floppy drive, internal 33.6K modem, and Windows NT4.

With two computers in the office I added an SMC EtherCard Plus Elite16T 8013WC 10 Mbps network controller to the 486 system, obtained a crossover Ethernet cable to connect the two computers, and configured the NT4 system as a network gateway. This was my introduction to networking. Connecting to the web was still through a dial-up modem.

As I acclimated to NT4, which initially I did not like, I migrated software and data files from the 486 system to the new system. I partitioned the new system with the same C:, D:, and E: partition scheme. With the two computers connected by an Ethernet cable, transferring files was fun. I felt “all growed up.”

Later I updated the Pentium system to the maximum supported 256 MB of RAM and swapped the CPU with a 400 MHz K6-III+. The new CPU required patching the BIOS (thank you Jan Steunebrink). I installed a 56K modem.

About the turn of the century I began tinkering with Linux distros. I wanted a larger hard disk to support this new endeavor.

I replaced the Maxtor 83201A6 3.2 GB hard disk with a Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A ATA/100 7200 RPM PATA 40 GB hard disk. At that time the Seagate line of disks were the most silent available. I still remember the first time I booted the system. I thought the disk was dead because there was no noise. The output spew on the monitor told me otherwise. I was speechless.

I installed a removable PATA hard drive bay. I shifted my backups from tape cartridge to an external hard disk.

I replaced the Viewsonic 17 inch CRT with a Samsung SyncMaster 712N monitor supporting a 1280x1024 resolution.

I contemplated that soon I should retire the 486 system. With the new hard disk I expanded the partition scheme. I copied the 486 C: partition of DOS and Windows for Workgroups (WFWG), copied the NT4 C: partition, created an alternate NT4 C: partition intended to be an emergency recovery boot partition, added my D: application and E: data partitions, added a FAT16 partition for shuffling files among operating systems, and had room for several distros. In those days 40 GB was a lot of storage space.

Moving DOS/WFWG to a different computer with a different monitor and resolution required reconfiguring the video. Moving NT4 from the first to the second partition required hacking the registry. Likewise with the alternate NT4 partition.

I learned about multi-booting. I had about a half dozen different operating systems installed. For professional reasons Windows NT4 remained the primary operating system.

A few years later with the help of the Sysinternals Windows NT4 FAT32 driver I converted the FAT16 partition to FAT32.

For many years in Windows I had been using the MS-DOS doskey utility to create a command line history and command aliases. I expanded that configuration with Linux command aliases and vice-versa in Linux bash configurations. That way while I learned Linux commands I could slide into absent-mindedness and use the commands of either operating system. Eventually I found myself only using Linux commands even when using DOS or NT4.

During that time I managed a web site for another person and launched my first personal web site.

I was learning much. I think I was having fun.

The last time I checked the K6-III+ system used about 40 to 55 watts.

More to come.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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