Computers are Fun?
by Roland Hechtenberg
Monday, April 8:
Trying to save a file during work, I get the friendly message that drive C: is not accessible or not present. Fortunately I can save my work to drive F:, the SyQuest. Shutting down, I get a few more messages that drive C: is absent.
When I pull the removable hard disk from the computer, it feels hot enough to fry eggs on it. OK, so I pop in another hard disk and get the message: Optimizing hard disk, this can take from 10 to 20 minutes. The hard disk lamp is flashing impressively and things look normal, except for the progress indicator on the screen, which isn't moving. After 30 minutes, I decide to interrupt the process and try to have the hard disk auto-detected. The report that the (new 540 MB) hard disk has 0 MB, 0 cyls., 0 heads, and 0 sectors is not very encouraging.
By now the other hard disk has cooled down, and I try them both on the children's computer upstairs. Both disks are recognized without problems, which indicates to me that the E-IDE controller is out of kilter. After another 30 hectic minutes, the children's computer has been reconfigured as my main computer, so that I can continue work, while the children have to use their Famicon.
This gives me a sufficient excuse to upgrade to a Pentium. I already have been studying DOS/V magazine for a few months, so I know what I want: A Pentium 150 with a 1.2 GB Western Digital hard disk, 32 MB memory (which I already have), a combined 3.5 and 5" floppy (also already present), an internal Nakamichi 4-changer (present), an N606 case with three open 5" and 3.5" bays each, a keyboard connector at the front, and a construction with a swivel joint at the rear top, so that you can swing the top and front upwards for better access to the motherboard and the drives.
Thursday, April 11:
Before the TPC meeting, I normally do my Akihabara shuffle, and today I come well equipped with one large bag, one medium bag, a small backpack, and two wallets.
After two hours of checking various shops, I am ready to buy. One P54TS, one Pentium 150, one removable hard disk drawer, one N606 case (to be sent by Takkyubin), an external SCSI connector, and one sound card as the required parts for my new computer. I also buy a new 486 motherboard and a Cyrix 120 for my spare computer, two SIMM savers, a 4-speed 3-disk changer (15,000 Yen), and CleanSweep.
Saturday, April 13:
After careful study of the various manuals, I begin the assembly.
First I format and prepare the hard disk on my work computer.
Then I install the CPU on the motherboard and motherboard in the case. So far, there are no problems, but the motherboard manual indicates that a Pentium 150 needs a VRM (Voltage Regulator Module), and I have no such thing. On the other hand, I seem to remember that VRMs went out of fashion before ever coming into use. So I say a short prayer and hope for the best. The motherboard comes with a musical fan cooler clamped to the CPU socket and with its own connector close to the CPU socket.
The SIMM savers I bought can't be installed in bank 0 because of space restrictions, but they can be installed in bank 1.
The floppy installation and the hard disk rack also present no problems, and the video card fits well into the PCI slot.
Of the various cables belonging to the case, I can figure out where to connect the reset switch, the HDD busy indicator, and the speaker cable, but I can't find the connector for the power indicator, and I am not sure how to connect the key lock or if I should connect the turbo switch and the Turbo LED, so I bunch these cables together and decide to forget about them.
The on-board connectors for hard disks, floppies, COM ports, and printer all have an enclosure around them, which makes connection of the cables easier.
I decide to test the computer in this mini-configuration, because if it doesn't work, any additional installation work will be just a waste of time anyway.
I connect the display, the keyboard, and the power cables, say a short prayer, and switch on the main power switch. I hear no beeping or strange noises and see no sparks, so after one second of joy, I realize that I have made a serious mistake, and after checking that the hard disk is not being accessed, I immediately switch off the main switch and connect the power connector of the cooling fan.
Switching the power on, I get a gratifying short blast of the musical warning before the fan reaches normal speed. The screen indicates a Pentium 150, 32 MB of memory, and a 1.2 GB hard disk, and Scandisk shows no problems. By now it is half past one in the morning, and I decide to call it a day.
Sunday, April 14:
I install the Nakamichi 4-changer and the soundboard, as well as the external SCSI connector, all without a hitch, and extensive testing, especially of the SCSI-drives, shows only one problem. The motherboard has a PS2 connector for a mouse, and although diagnostics show that the connector is there, no mouse can be found when connected there, while all of them are recognized easily on COM1. Perhaps I have not connected the internal mouse connector correctly, but as this is no problem, and as my work is starting to stack up, I decide not to worry about it.
The SCSI part of the motherboard works like a dream. The Nakamichi 7-disk changer, the Nakamichi 4-disk changer, and the PD-drive are recognized as 7 drives, 4 drives, and 2 drives respectively, without any need for special drivers, and I add the SyQuest driver only to be on the safe side.
For the time being, I am rather happy with my new computer, although it can be disconcerting when you want to access the hard disk after typing for an hour or two and nothing happens, until you realize that the "green" features have been activated and your hard disk has to wake up first.
The next time I have some time at my hands, I'll try to install the 486 motherboard and the 3-disk changer (unless one of the computers decides to act up again).
Aren't computers fun!?
When I wrote the article, I had searched for my receipts, but couldn't find them, but thanks to Mike's request, I searched again (and again) and found them, which is also good for tax purposes. I'll try it first the easy way and give you a list of the shops, the parts, and the prices.
Motherboard P54TS 35,800 486 motherboard (used) 9,800 1.2 GB Western Digital 25,500 Cyrix 120 12,800 Sound card 8,600 Tax 2,775 - 5 Total ¥95,270
Pentium 150 MHz 49,800 Case N606 11,800 Takkyubin 1,500 External SCSI connector 3,900 4-speed 3-disc changer 14,800 Tax 2,454 Total ¥84,254
CleanSweep 95 3,600 Tax 108 Total ¥3,708
SIMM savers (2) 5,600 Hard disk drawer 2,980 Tax 257 Total ¥8,837 Grand total ¥193,069
I could have saved a few thousand yen by spending another few hours with price comparisons, but then my time costs more than I save.
32MB 60 ns EDO RAM, bought at Overtop for 49,600 Yen + 3% tax = ¥51,088.
Publisher's note: remember that these prices are circa April 1996, and many of the components have dropped substantially in price since then.
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