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BlueWolf's Howl

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May 21, 2005

Hardware Stuff

I've recently had the opportunity to work on a few 'older' computers for a friend. Both are being used by children and they're so slow, they're virtually unusable. Well...we can't have that, can we? Children have to know that computers are fun and great to use! [Not slow and old and to be avoided...]

It's been an experience. In some ways, I've gotten insight into the typical home user's habits and trends. I'm sure that what I'm seeing here is very typical. The 'older' computers are given to the kids. Let's put Windows 98 on it. Hmmm... Nobody knows to check the RAM to see if Windows 98 is going to run on it. And nobody knows how to install RAM.

The better of the two machines had 64MB of RAM. It was running Win98 (not too well) with tons of proggies on it. The second machine had 24MB of RAM and was running Win98! There was a 3rd 'broken' machine that I was given to cannibalize for parts. Upon bootup, it registered 16MB of RAM. (Win 98 was on that hard drive too) It was quite the adventure to figure out the manufacturer (and layout) of the motherboard, the pinouts of the jumpers on the hard drive, and what RAM was available. And amazingly, from swapping things around, I found two 16MB sticks of RAM.

Okay...do the math. One computer ran 24MB in 4 slots -- 2 sticks of 8MB and 2 sticks of 4MB. The other (spare parts) had 16 MB of RAM -- Must be 4 sticks of 4MB, right? No. When I took two of the sticks and put them in by themselves... voila! 32MB of RAM. Apparently when the user "upgraded" the computer, he put the extra RAM in the open slots. Well...the way computers work, they have to see the big stuff FIRST. If you put two 8MB sticks in front, it only sees 16MB. If you put the 16MB sticks in front, it'll see the 2 sticks of 16MB and then the 2 sticks of 8MB. [Wonder how pissed the user got when they spent all that money on RAM and the computer didn't run any faster?]

The Gateway 2000 with 64MB of RAM was pretty easy. I cleaned it up and put Win95 on it. Then I put only the programs that are going to be used on it. No kid in grammar school is going to need MS Access. So why take up the hard drive space for it? Why take up any processing at all for it? But games...yes, there will be games. And shortcuts on the desktop for each game. The educational software can be reinstalled by the user and I'm sure it'll put a shortcut on the desktop during install. Ah...one down and one to go.

The second computer was the real challenge. It had a 5 1/4 floppy in it. Yeah... it was *that* old. The first thing I did was strip both down to the case. Then I compared motherboards, CDROMs, etc... and took the best of the two. The spare computer was 'extra' because of a little accident. Something happened and it started smoking. The wire for the speaker was totally burned to a crisp. But luckily it didn't fry the motherboard. And it didn't affect the Pentium 166 that was on that motherboard (the original had a Pentium 133). The original also had a 1GB hard drive. The spare had a 2GB hard drive. I put both into the second computer. Interesting note: as I was looking up the jumper settings for the 1GB hard drive, I ran across a site that was selling the same exact hard drive -- for $145!!! How is that possible? You can get a new 80GB hard drive for less than that.

So now that it's whizzing along with 48MB of RAM, I'm going to install Win95 on it. And then it will look like and act like a 'real' computer...

Posted by BlueWolf on May 21, 2005 12:34 PM