Just another random chip photo passing by on the slideshow. This was the PCB on my first multi-gigabyte hard drive, a 2-gig Seagate Medalist (ST32122A). If memory serves, it came with the Pentium 166 I acquired shortly after the start of my second semester in college (the good old 386 was no longer cutting it).
Googling the numbers on the chip reveal that this is a “high speed CMOS static RAM” chip, though I couldn’t find any further information as to what it was used for. Since it’s a CMOS chip (and there is a battery-looking thing on the PCB) I would guess that it stored drive parameters and that it was programmed at the factory. Most likely the different capacity drives in the same line shared the same PCB, and they just programmed this chip as appropriate. It could also be cache memory, but that guess is just a stab in the dark.
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!
Some chips and things from the PCB of an old Quantum ProDrive LPS hard drive. I believe this 420-megabyte drive came out of the $2,000 Compaq Presario that was our first upgrade from the 386. If I recall correctly, we had to RMA the drive and they gave us a 520-megabyte model. My teenage self was so happy to have an extra 100 megs for free. Alas, they realized their error and sent the tech to install a 420-megabyte replacement instead. As always, enjoy the museum!
Update: I mentioned this drive in the Hard Drive Nostalgia post. Funny how I once again used the price of the 486 to describe it.
I remember coveting this card for a long time back around 2002, even taking advantage of a Circuit City/Amazon price mistake in an effort to procure it (the mistake was caught and the order cancelled). Obviously I was eventually able to procure it, but I no longer remember when or where. I can barely remember that this card was used in the family HTPC outputting via S-Video to a giant Sony WEGA TV, when quality-wise it actually mattered which card was used (it’s so much easier now with HDMI and VGA inputs on TVs). We might have used the TV tuner to record shows, too. It might have come with a purple breakout box that contained all the inputs and outputs.
For a while the card was kept outside of a system inside of a box somewhere. When testing it one time I tried to slow down the fan with my finger and broke it, getting cut in the process. I finally got rid of it as part of moving/downsizing in 2012.
Further reading: All-in-Wonder on Wikipedia
On Monday I posted about my very first CD burner; today I’m going to post my all-time favorite CD burner, the LG GCE-8160B.
I remember buying this burner from a computer show in downtown Oakland. In the previous post, I mentioned sourcing parts from vendors advertising in the old computer magazines MicroTimes and Computer Currents. The other way of sourcing parts back in those days was to go to local computer shows. Before NewEgg and Amazon, this is how I bought computer parts.
The LG was a retail version, meaning it came with actual packaging and an assortment of manuals and accessories (vs. OEM versions which usually just come with the drive wrapped in a plastic bag). I remember this drive coming with one LG-branded CD-RW and one CD-R. In later years, I used the CD-RW for music CDs in our family car (for some reason, it would only play CD-RWs, not CD-Rs).
So, why is this burner my favorite of all time, and how can a person actually have a favorite CD burner? I suppose one reason is that I probably used this burner the most. I think out of all the optical drives that I’ve ever had, I had this one the longest. Physically, the drive was very solid. While some cheaper drives sound like they they will fall apart when the drive tray closes and the disc spins up, the LG tray closed with a solid thunk. Drive access was relatively hushed compared to the high-pitched whine of cheaper drives (I suppose it’s like the debate over how American, German, and Japanese car doors sound when they close). If I remember correctly, this was the first drive that I had that had buffer underrun protection, which meant no more coasters. At 16x, it burned fast, too. Finally, and cosmetically, the face used a smoother plastic that was less grainy and textured than on some other drives. It featured a simple yet elegant printing of the specs and logos and a nice curvature to the tray door (as opposed to a plain old rectangle).
With the advent of DVD burning as well as the transition to black cases, I finally moved on and installed an NEC DVD burner. The LG had served me well for many years and I didn’t want to toss it, so I relegated it to an older system that I left at home and would use when I visited. Still, I probably never used it to burn a CD again. When I moved home in 2012, I consolidated my hardware and finally disposed of this venerable drive, but again not doing so until I had taken a few pictures for the museum. RIP, old friend!
Today’s museum post is of my first-ever CD burner, bought in the summer of 1997. That summer, I started my first summer job at a credit card company in downtown San Francisco doing temp work. Once I had earned enough money, I used it to buy the burner and the required SCSI card.
The web was still in its infancy back then so the main way computer shops (and there were a lot more of them, especially mom and pop ones) advertised was through free magazines. In the Bay Area, the main two were MicroTimes and Computer Currents. I found a place that sold the burner and card, and called them from the lunch room at work to confirm the price (~$500) and make the order.
It was my first time using a SCSI device and I was a bit nervous about setting up the correct termination and whether the terminators would be included. In the end, everything worked and I burned my first CD.
It was also my first time using a CD caddy. I kept the same caddy for the life of the burner. You can see the crack in the pictures.
For a little while after, before CD burners became mainstream, I became the main source of custom CDs for my family and friends. I’d charge them $5 for the CD-R and the labor involved in ripping and compiling the CD. Good times.
I’ve mentioned before about keeping my hardware in hopes of someday rebuilding those systems of yesteryear, but sadly, it never happened and I eventually threw out the burner. Of course, I took these photos beforehand.
As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post. 🙂
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I suppose I could have removed the PCB first, but instead I removed it after I removed the platters:
On the PCB you can see 20+ years of dust formed around the motor. The motor was made in Japan by Nidec.
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. 🙂
For today’s museum post we have my old Sound Blaster 2.0 sound card.
My first PC had only a tiny 2.25-inch speaker, capable of single beeps only. At the memory test during POST, the speaker would make a click sound after each block was checked. If you skipped the memory test, it would click really fast as the memory count sped up. Then, the floppy drives would do their thing. I used to always get a kick out of that.
Games had “music” that was just a bunch of beeps strung together. When I first heard Wing Commander played with a Sound Blaster, I was blown away by the bass and actual music. Computer sound was no longer limited to a little tiny speaker. I wanted a Sound Blaster!
I don’t remember how I got the money to buy one, but I do remember buying it from a store on 3rd Street in downtown San Francisco. There used to be a Software Etc. or Egghead Software there (can’t remember which one, probably Egghead). I was super excited to bring it home and install it in my 386.
Of course, applications were not limited to games. Windows now had sound (some ATMs still use the Windows chimes.wav from that period), and I could download MIDIs and MODs from BBSes to listen to music. The card came with a software suite that included a talking parrot, a piano, and a text-to-speech synthesizer. We had hours of fun playing with Dr. SBAITSO, making him say perverted things and setting up the computer to say things on boot-up.
Although the sound was much improved with the Sound Blaster, sometimes I’d still choose “PC Speaker” when setting up a game. It definitely had its own distinctive style that appealed to me. One of my favorites was 4D Boxing. It actually had voices that you could make out, and after I heard the Sound Blaster version, I realized just what a good approximation the PC Speaker sound was. Some games, like A-Train, used the Sound Blaster to play music and the PC speaker to make little clicks as the trains moved.
Looking back at some of these museum posts, I wonder if my decision in 2012 to throw out a bunch of old things was the wrong one. On one side, it would be nice to be able to pick these up and look at them, to feel and touch them (i.e. I’d like to thumb through the Sound Blaster manual above). On another, would I even think to do so if I hadn’t taken photos that would occasionally pop up on my desktop slideshow? And on yet another, is there a point to storing something for years or decades at a time just to be able to touch it once before putting it back in storage again? At this moment, I feel that the answer is yes. Perhaps I’ll change my mind once again when I go home and find that my closet is full of stuff that I never use. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post.
Further reading: Nerdly Pleasures: The Sound Blaster 2.0 and the C/MS Upgrade