Page from MicroTimes December 9, 1992

Last Friday we had the page from Computer Currents, and today we have a page from MicroTimes. It is so strange that I ripped out single pages from both of these magazines, with no apparent reason. Even stranger is that I kept them in the blue bag for a couple of decades or more.

Page 31 is is an ad for a computer that sold printers. Maybe I was looking to upgrade to a fancy laser printer. Page 32 is an ad from a mom & pop, white-box, brown-box, OEM, clone, whatever-term-you-want-to-use computer store that was so prevalent back then. I’ll take the 486DX-50 with local bus, please!

MicroTimes - December 9, 1992 - Page 31

MicroTimes - December 9, 1992 - Page 32

Page from Bay Area Computer Currents May 19 – June 1, 1992

Here’s a nice artifact from the pre-internet days of computing, from almost exactly 25 years ago: a page from Computer Currents magazine, a free publication that was available from those metal boxes at various street corners.

I don’t remember why I kept this particular page. In May of ’92, I was just finishing my first year of high school, and I certainly did not have the funds for a new computer, but it looks like I saved this page for the Stellar USA ad. Maybe I was already pining for an upgrade to my 386. Maybe there was a game that I wanted to max out settings on. But why a vendor from Berkeley? I’d probably never even been there at that point. I guess it will have to remain a mystery.

It’s fun to see prices from that time period and to see how far we’ve come. The upgrade technology on the second page is interesting as well (more here). Looks like at the end of the day, it always has been and always will be about the balance between cost and performance. Very fascinating indeed.

Bay Area Computer Currents - May 19 to June 1, 1992 - Page 73

Bay Area Computer Currents - May 19 to June 1, 1992 - Page 74

American Software Order Form

Here’s one more museum post before calling it a day: an order form from a shareware company called American Software. I probably got this from a once-ubiquitous computer show either at the Cow Palace or Oakland Convention Center. The additional cost for a 3.5-inch floppy disk suggests that this order form is from the early 90s. Googling the company and address shows almost no trace of American Software. The only matching results are ads from the company in Boys’ Life magazine (now in Google’s scanned archive). Coincidentally, I did read Boys’ Life during that time, though I probably wouldn’t have remembered this if I hadn’t encountered this order form.

Good night!

Order Form, American Software

Instruction Manual – Intra Color Monitor

I’ve made a lot of posts about my first computer, but I don’t think I’ve once mentioned my first monitor, which came with that computer. It was a 14-inch SVGA model, capable of displaying a maximum resolution of 1024×768, though at that time very few programs could make use of it. The 386’s video card was a Paradise with 256k RAM, and I think I somehow convinced my father to buy an extra 256k so that I could make full use of the monitor. The chips came in a plastic tube that you could tilt to slide them out. They weren’t cheap, either.

I don’t remember if the monitor was an interlaced or non-interlaced model. I just know that compared to the one at my aunt’s house, it was darker and the colors less lively, even on the brightest setting. The VGA cord was built into it as well.

Even googling the monitor doesn’t reveal anything at this point. If I ever find a photo of the monitor, I’ll post it here. For now, here’s the manual that I scanned during that big 2012 cleanup. As always, hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

Intra Color Monitor - Instruction Manual

Intra Color Monitor - Instruction Manual

8-Bit ISA 14.4 Modem

8-Bit ISA Modem
Oh 1.3 megapixel Sony CyberShot, I want to say I miss you…

The first modem I ever got was a 2400 baud. I can barely remember lines of text appearing one at a time, from left to right, when dialing into a BBS. Later on, my cousin’s friend’s wife (or maybe girlfriend) lent me her external 14,400 baud that connected via serial port, and it (either the modem or the fact that an older woman lent me her modem) was like the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I have a vague recollection of acquiring the modem above from Costco, or maybe Price Club. It was amazing to finally have my own. I can’t remember if it was an upgrade to a 2400 or 9600.

Googling the 1442F Rev A on the PCB reveals that this is a modem from Best Data, but at the same time I found another image with 1442F Rev A on the PCB that looks nothing like this one. I remember having the manual somewhere and it is indeed Best Data (and may have had a yellow-colored cover), and if I ever find it I’ll confirm. Until then, hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post!

Update: after making this post I googled around some more, and found a photo of the manuals included with the modem. The cover is indeed yellow! The other manual was for a program called Quicklink II. I would not have remembered using this program had I not seen the manual. In later years, I always used Telix. Good night!

Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top O’ Fun

My cousin NVG used to find games in the bargain bin and share them with us, and Fiendish Freddy was one of those games. We played it on the 386 – the only thing I remember is the opening music of the game playing on the internal PC speaker. Good times.

Fiendish Freddy Box Cover
Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top O’ Fun
Fiendish Freddy Box Description
Copyright 1989 – we got it a few years later
Fiendish Freddy System Requirements
I’ve always loved reading system requirements for some reason

One last thing to add: JC just saw this post and asked me what a Tandy was. haha. Took me a second to answer her with two words: “Radio Shack”. Good night.

Insert Floppy

3.5" Floppies
Insert next disk and press any key

Whenever I see photos of my old computer stuff from the 90s, I find myself feeling pangs of regret for getting rid of so much stuff back in 2012 when I decided to turn my life upside-down. And yet, if I hadn’t gone and taken these photos at that time, the stuff probably wouldn’t even show up in my thoughts, let alone my desktop slideshow. If I hadn’t thrown out my things, would I be comforted now knowing they are buried inside a box in my closet halfway across the world? At this moment the answer is yes, but I know that before 2012, I never would have asked this question in the first place. You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind.

80386 Controller Cards

Today’s museum post features a couple of controller cards from my old 386. The first is an I/O controller card that provided the computer’s parallel and serial ports. Our computer came with a dot-matrix printer that connected to the parallel port, and the mouse connected to the 9-pin serial port known as COM-1. Later on, I acquired a gamepad that connected to the game port (although I don’t remember if I connected it to this card or the one on the Sound Blaster).

Parallel and Serial Card (ISA)

If you look closely at the photo above, you might notice the 1980s-logo of a now-ubiquitous brand. That’s right, those chips with the 3-star logos on them are Samsung chips (Samsung means “3 stars” in Korean).

The second card is the drive controller card. Unlike the motherboards of today, the drive and I/O controllers were on separate cards. This card supported the 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch floppy drives and the 40 megabyte Maxtor drive in the beginning, and had room for one more drive later on, the Conner CP3000 that doubled the 386’s storage space.

Hedaka Drive Controller

Similarly, this card contains chips from a Korean company called GoldStar. Of course, today we know it as LG. I wonder if the manufacturing of these chips influenced any of the technology in the phones that we hold in our hands today. Quite fascinating to think about.

This site contains some additional information about the drive controller.

Lastly, it’s interesting to note that both of these cards are labeled as made in Hong Kong. I doubt any cards are made in Hong Kong today.

Maxtor 8051a 40-Meg Hard Drive

The last time I posted about my old hard drives, I mentioned the first one I ever owned, a Maxtor 8051a. Three days later, I took it apart. Tonight, a photo of it showed up in my desktop slideshow.

Maxtor 8051a Hard Drive
The intact drive

From the photo above you can see just how physically large the drive was (the little white plastic piece on the bottom left is the Molex connector). This behemoth could only hold 40 megabytes! My little slim smartphone, in comparison, has 400 times the storage capacity. Amazing.

Compared with modern drives, this drive was still using Phillips-head screws so it was relatively easy to take apart. If I had taken it to the data shredder, they would have pierced a hole in the spindle, and I couldn’t bear for that to happen. No, if my trusty old drive was to die, it was to die by my own hand. The first step was removing the cover and insulating O-ring:

Maxtor 8051a Cover Off

At this point I wondered what would happen if I attempted to power it up.

It’s good to hear those sounds again. They were always the first and last sounds I heard upon powering up and down my old 386. I will always associate the two. That was the last time the drive ever powered up. It’s not in the edited video I uploaded, but later in the unedited version I said “Goodbye, old friend”. How strange it is that we can develop affection for a piece of machinery.

Next, I removed the platters. I decided to keep them and stick them on my wall. My old school papers are probably still magnetically stored on the platters, on my wall.

Maxtor 8051a Read/Write Heads
The heads and actuator after platters have been removed
Maxtor 8051a Spindle
The spindle after the platters have been removed

I suppose I could have removed the PCB first, but instead I removed it after I removed the platters:

Maxtor 8051a PCB

On the PCB you can see 20+ years of dust formed around the motor. The motor was made in Japan by Nidec.

Maxtor 8051a Nidec Motor

I could have gone further but the entire process was too emotionally draining. In the end, I just removed all the main parts. I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post. 🙂

Maxtor 8051a Parts
Goodbye, old friend