saying goodbye to an old friend…

right side viewBack in my college days (seems like ages ago now), I assembled my first PC. Ah, the memories. I hand-picked my components, trying to achieve the perfect balance of cheap, good, and fast. I had selected a motherboard and CPU combo with a 486 DX2-66MHZ processor, and 2 VLB slots and 6 ISA slots. I put in my 4 MB RAM from my first computer and lived with that for a while until I bit the bullet and added 4 MB and then another 4MB, eventually having 12MB RAM. I got a SoundBlaster AWE-32 which, at the time, was *the* top-of-the-line sound card. I also got a 2X Sony CDROM drive so I could play Myst. For the graphics card, I selected a 1MB VRAM STB Powergraph 24. 640×480@24-bit color, baby (my 14″ IBM monitor couldn’t handle resolutions above 640×480). For the communications (had to get on the ‘net!) I chose a Zoltrix 14400 model. This was a *huge* step up from my measly 2400baud modem that came with my PS/1.

I also purchased a 1GB Seagate ST31220A Enhanced IDE hard drive. A mere 3 months before, it debuted at $1000. I picked up that bad-boy for a mere $500 and change. What a deal! With it, I had to get a VLB disk controller, since the mobo didn’t have a built-in HDD controller. The last piece I needed was a case to stuff all these totally ‘leet components into.

On the way home from a somewhat long night of revelling, I stumbled past the local computer shop and beheld the most interesting case I’d seen to date. The design was interesting, but not overdone, and it seemed large enough to house the many upgrades I envisioned for my perfect machine.

3/4 front view

This case lasted me several years and many fun upgrades. And, many sleepless nights fearing that I’d completely screwed something up. I remember playing Doom with an audio CD playing in the background (Usually Smashing Pumpkins). This required a TSR (terminate and stay resident) driver for the CDROM drive. Oh yes, did I mention the not-so-leet Labtec speakers? “Tiny and Tinny” was their claim to fame but for the college dorm, they were enough.

Its first rejuvenation was the move to a Pentium 100 on an Asus P/I-P55TP4XE with upgradeable pipeline burst cache (which I bumped from 256KB to 512KB). This beast had 24MB of RAM, an MPEG-1 Decoder card (the docs were all in Korean, but hey, it was free). I also splurged on a 17″ Sony CPD-17SF-II Trinitron monitor which was driven by the amazing, all-powerful Number9 Imagine 128 4MB VRAM PCI graphics engine. 24-bit color at 1152×864. I also decided to get into digital artwork and purchased a Wacom 4″x5″ tablet. Sweet. I decided to upgrade the mouse to a Logitech Mouseman Serial 3-button mouse. Count ’em and weep! I also bumped up my keyboard to a Microsoft Natural (the big honkin’ original, not the Elite). It was on this machine that I first installed Solaris x86 and Linux (Redhat, then Slackware).

left side viewEventually, I upgraded, as the case had the worst arrangement for the drive cage. Any maintenance required disassembling the entire drive subsystem, which was a lot of work back in those days. I kept the old case lying around, and eventually revived it with old parts salvaged from discarded PCs (I believe it was a Pentium in the 150MHz range), and finally, I purchased overstock components and it lived out its last days as a 1GHz Celeron with 256MB RAM on an Epox baby AT motherboard (they actually made baby AT motherboards after the turn of the century!) The mobo/CPU/RAM live on in my current linux box, but that’s another story. As you can see, it also acquired a mass of stickers. The kana on the left side is the hiragana for my english name. I lovingly glued, X-acto knife’d out the excess, and taped over it with clear packing tape to preserve it for all time.

So, It is with misty eyes and a heart swelling with emotion that I bid a fond farewell to a trusty but finicky old friend. You will be missed.