Friday, April 09, 2010

Old Cow, New Cow


An unusual set of circumstances found me needing to ressurect a VERY OLD computer that has been in storage for 5 years. And it was already too old 5 years ago! The brief and simplified story: there is a very special (expensive) circuit card in this computer that I need to use, and it won't work in a modern computer. Let me introduce the Gateway 2000 DX2

(well, the CASE of the computer - it's still dismantled). I wouldn't have remembered it was from 1992, except for the date code stamped on the case:

From the press release announcing it:

Personal computer mass marketeer Gateway 2000 Inc of North Sioux City, South Dakota, has introduced a new local bus system based on Intel Corp's 66MHz 80486 DX2: the 4DX2-66V is the first AT-compatible personal computer to use AT&T Co's custom-designed Ultra local bus video board: the system, which is scheduled to ship in mid-September, has the company's first implementation of the VESA VL-Bus local bus specification which uses a 32-bit data path running at processor speed; the computer comes with two VESA-compatible slots at $3,000.
Well, after vacuuming 5 years of dust from the inside and outside of the computer, I tried to make it boot up. No dice. Finally, after a MUCH more thorough cleaning (which involved removing many circuit cards and even chips), I was able to get it to finally boot up. Alas, the two ancient hard disks in the computer were a bit flaky, and I had lost some data (cause unknown). So, gave up on the hard disks, and replaced two hard disks witha single 2GB compact flash card.

Yes, that purple thing is a floppy disk, for you young readers. If you zoom in, you will also see a 5-1/4 in floppy drive!

It has a whopping 16MB of RAM. The date on the BIOS is later than 1992, because at some point in time I upgraded the BIOS for some reason.

Well, end of geek post (I am an engineer, after all). Now I have a vintage DOS computer with almost no moving parts (only the power supply fan). Yeeeeee-ha!

EDIT: Okay, the floppy disks and CD have moving parts, but now that the computer is working, I could unplug them if I really wanted to.


The Stumbling Mom said...

OK, I get the no moving parts bit, but why do you want a computer with no moving parts exactly?

ZenKimchi said...

Man, I remember when that was cutting edge. You could really run a King's Quest game on that system.

Chris said...

Mom: Well, it's just that items with moving parts tend to break sooner. Things like a spinning hard disk, the cooling fans, etc. That's not to say that the non-moving electronics parts will never break, but they tend to last a long time. Especially for a laptop or netbook, no moving parts means a much higher tolerance of rough handling.

Zen- interesting point. I read online as I was repairing this, that this particular motherboard hit a marketing "sweet spot" of sorts. It was one of the longest running DOS computers, and was especially popular with gamers! Guess I need to search for some old DOS games...