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View Full Version : Younger Members with new vintage computers - what to do, and what not to do.....



Lorne
February 14th, 2010, 03:47 PM
I've come across a younger member (I'm not singling anyone out) who came across some IBM 5150s, 5160s, 5150s and 5153s.

The member just plugged a 5151 into a CGA card in a 5150.
I can't remember which way the toasting goes, monochrome to a CGA card, or color to a monochrome card, but one of them isn't good. (and I've got to check my mono monitor soon because I made the same damn mistake the other day).

What the younger members need to know is that this vintage stuff is not plug and play like today's stuff is.

When you get yourself a new vintage computer, there are some things you need to do before just hooking it up, and switching it on.

I'm going to start the list, and I'm sure others will add stuff.

I think we could "bump" this thread every six months or so, so that everyone sees it. (I could even use reminding once in a while.


TO DO LIST:

- If you have the equipment (a voltmeter) you should check the voltages from the power supply preferably with the board disconnected.

- For IBM 5150s and 5160s, you should inventory the cards that are installled, and check the switch settings on SW1 and SW2 to make sure they match what is installed (type of video card, amount of RAM, # of disk drives, etc) in the unit.

- If you have a hard disk drive (HDD) in the unit, don't be moving it around, until you are sure that the heads have been parked.



That's my bit.
I'm sure there's a ton of other things that should be done before flicking the power switch from off to on, so add your knowledge here, and maybe we'll save someone some grief, and some vintage computers/monitors/accesories from their death.

tezza
February 14th, 2010, 04:49 PM
Reminds me of this Youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=981AIZzlZag)where someone was trying to boot a Kaypro 2 with a disk out of PC magazine??!!!

Sometime we take it for granted that younger people know what we know.

Tez

Ole Juul
February 14th, 2010, 08:47 PM
Even something as simple as clarifying the difference between a character display and VGA. Someone posted here a couple of days ago wanting to hook a mono monitor to a VGA adaptor and it wasn't until much later that I realized that the poster probably didn't realize that they were really different.

In the same vein, we all look at the back of an old computer and recognize the typical outputs. 9 or 25 pin serial, 9 or 15 pin video etc. A short primer on the likely meanings of these things might be good.

The OP suggested warnings about certain things. Another one there would be regarding controllers and drives and how everything doesn't fit with everything. Pre IDE is a mystery to some people.

My own personal first learning experience with computers was understanding the twist in the floppy cable. That information is something thats not thought about much any more since we rarely see one, let alone two, floppies in a computer any more.

Oh, Oh, ... and the thing about track width and media coercivity difference between 360s and 1.2s. I don't think the basic document needs to include the details - a link for that is better.

digger
February 14th, 2010, 10:34 PM
You can't really blame those inexperienced whippersnappers. This generation has been pampered by all that easy "Plug & Play", "Fire & Forget", "jumperless", "zero-configuration", and "It Just Works™" stuff.

And most importantly, they were all born after Ghostbusters came out, so unfortunately they are not familiar with the golden rule: "Don't cross the streams!" ;)

Mr.Amiga500
February 15th, 2010, 06:11 AM
You can't really blame those inexperienced whippersnappers. This generation has been pampered by all that easy "Plug & Play", "Fire & Forget", "jumperless", "zero-configuration", and "It Just Works™" stuff.

Although I occasionally like to blame young whippersnappers, I too would usually assume I could just plug in a card and it would work. But that's because I got used to "zero configuration" on Amigas - long before that sort of thing was available on most other computers.

NsMn
February 15th, 2010, 06:52 AM
I'd really like to know what you consider "young"... or, actually, how old these guys were who roasted their machines (That one YT video is blocked for my location unfortunately).
After all, I would consider myself a young collector (if you count underage as young - which you probably do since that means vintage computers are usually older than me).

linuxlove
February 15th, 2010, 07:12 AM
Yeah I'm a young member. What I learned? If the computer is older than you, ask questions about it, don't answer questions about it, unless you know for certain.

Lorne
February 15th, 2010, 08:08 AM
I'd really like to know what you consider "young"... or, actually, how old these guys were who roasted their machines (That one YT video is blocked for my location unfortunately).
After all, I would consider myself a young collector (if you count underage as young - which you probably do since that means vintage computers are usually older than me).

Not young. Younger. And I should probably have used the term "new" collector.
(If an admin wants to change the title to "New collectors with new......" that would be more appropriate).

If you didn't grow up with these machines, you probably won't know all the intricacies when you first start out collecting or using them.
If the computer is older than you, that would probably fit the bill of what I consider a younger collector, but there are others who are not younger but are new collectors.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a younger collector. I didn't start the thread to pigeon hole anyone or any group. More just to point out mistakes that I've made in the past (and I grew up with the machines) so that others hopefully, don't make the same mistakes (even though we usually learn from our own mistakes, rather than others mistakes).

tezza
February 15th, 2010, 08:23 AM
If you didn't grow up with these machines, you probably won't know all the intricacies when you first start out collecting or using them.

Yes, and there are a lot of these intricacies. One that comes to mind is the common DB 25 pin female connector. In the vintage PC world these were used for the parallel printer port. However, in most other machines around the late 70s-early 80s these were serial (usually RS-232) connectors. Plug the wrong device in and.....

If you are not familiar with a particular vintage machine, never assume anything!

Tez

Yzzerdd
February 16th, 2010, 05:36 AM
I tell you what, I sure was used to just plug and play when I got into vintage computers 5 years ago(joined the forum 4 years ago, previous to that I was just farting around). But, when I got my first load of vintage computers, I had the convenience of an entire library of user manuals, tech manuals, debugging information, etc. I also had a few DOS for dummies books. Those came in handy as well. Being the cautious person I am, I took the time to read every single manual and paper that I had reguarding my AT&T PC 6300 before so much as poking it with a stick.

I unfortunately didn't have much on the MFM hard drive, so that was something I at first figured out on my own by trial and error, and later actually understood why it worked. Things were so much different back in the 80s, which is when most of the machines we work with were built. Heck, computers today compared to just 15...or 10 years ago are almost unrecognisably changed.

We all take for granted the plug and play capabilities of our operating systems. But, when you spend 2 days straight getting one expansion card to work on your IBM 5150, Apple ][, Macintosh, or whatever computer it is you are working on, it is then that you truly are grateful for the wonderful technology that has been bestowed upon you.

Although, personally, if it weren't for these forums, I'd be sticking with my Macintosh SE or one of my IBM machines. Blasted Internet with its incredible information.....

--Ryan
BTW, I've always been very careful to park my MFM drives...But is it necessary to park a SCSI drive? I've never seen it in the manual to do so, or any program that might do it. I figure they autopark, but it never hurts to ask. I have a Seagate ST-something in WV that autoparks when shut down. Ha, thing was ridiculously loud though.

donutty
February 16th, 2010, 06:18 AM
The one golden rule I always abide by is take the cover off and have a good look inside before powering up. Not only do you learn what sort of thing you are dealing with, but you have the opportunity to remove large chunks of fluff, critters etc. and check for damage, corrosion and other storage / age induced damage. Of course, be wary of high voltages, but since you will be opening up a machine after it likely spending 10+ years in storage, that isn't usually a problem.
Oh, and earth yourself, naturally...

Lawrence Woodman
February 17th, 2010, 10:39 PM
I think it's also worth looking out for other people's repairs and alterations, at best these can lead to unexpected results at worst they can be lethal. I rememeber accidentaly brushing my finger against the power supply in a pc while I was trying to work out what was wrong with it, only to find that the power supply casing was live!

GADFRAN
February 18th, 2010, 07:05 PM
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - I thought I posted this then, unless it got deleted or posted someplace else by moderators


Wow ! Tez, where do you find all these things !!!

Shows just how strong Kaypros were – all he did and what was the result?

You can stand on them even !!! I have many times.

What if the same was done to our computers of today ?

Sad to see a Kaypro destroyed, however. Is some “anger management” needed
there ?

Yes, all 5.25” disks do not work in Kaypros, even some Kaypro disks, as many of the new people find out. Kaypro had about 20 different CP/M machines after about 6 years of operation and many used different versions of CP/M. That is what probably contributed to their downfall as the draft of my Kaypro book notes.

I was just helping someone on that off line as PM’s.

Yes, we all have so much to learn – young and old – but how do you define young and old today – age, mentality, personality, maturity, etc.

So many think things are so “simple” and cannot be that complex!

At least for vintage computing, this web site is so invaluable – such a treasure of so much diverse information to help so many and all seem so willing to share it all, as opposed to so many areas of society today.

I worked for a very famous Fortune 500 company for a few years. Upper management just did not appreciate what we “bottom feeders” knew, which was the essence of why the company could run on a day to day basis. They learned, but many lost their jobs, because of their ignorance, but mostly us “bottom feeders” lost our jobs ! Upper management just got “transferred !”

So sad, but so common.

But on a humorous note, to end this post –

Our local electronic repair place got an old VCR player / recorder in many years ago, before DVD’s, since it was not working.

When the owner came in when he was told it was repaired, he noticed many smiles on the faces of the repair people.

He asked did you fix it. They said yes. But no charge ! It was too funny to charge for it.

Apparently, his young child had place a sandwich in the VCR slot. It just fit and they guessed he felt that that is where you put sandwiches !

So much to learn in one lifetime!

At least ask, if any uncertainty !

The patterns of such issues are the same, just different circumstances.

All the best !

Frank

P.S.

"LINUXLOVE" - looks like you have quite a career in computing ahead of you !

All the best - you are the future !!!

Ole Juul
February 18th, 2010, 08:27 PM
GADFRAN: At least ask, if any uncertainty !
The problem is that often there isn't. :) That is why I was recommending a list of things to be uncertain about.

TandyMan100
February 19th, 2010, 06:58 AM
I'm a really young member as well (youngest, I think). I haven't killed a machine due to ignorance, and I always take to cover off of something before powering it up. My family, however, wears flannel pants around naked minitowers, and now may my Windows 95 AMD K6-2/300 R.I.P due to ESD killing the CMOS and bricking it. This is the first computer in my possession that has been killed. The rest have just developed weird issues with the motherboard/processor that cause the currently-running OS to freeze a lot.

The only computer I've turned on without looking inside is my laptops, two TRS-80 Model 100s and a Tandy 1100FD.

Ole Juul
February 19th, 2010, 12:39 PM
My family, however, wears flannel pants around naked minitowers, and now may my Windows 95 AMD K6-2/300 R.I.P due to ESD killing the CMOS and bricking it.
OK, so I guess we should put flannel pants on the list of things to ask about. :)

donutty
February 19th, 2010, 01:11 PM
o TRS-80 Model 100s.

Mainly fresh air in there :)

sombunall
February 20th, 2010, 04:36 PM
BTW, I've always been very careful to park my MFM drives...But is it necessary to park a SCSI drive? I've never seen it in the manual to do so, or any program that might do it. I figure they autopark, but it never hurts to ask. I have a Seagate ST-something in WV that autoparks when shut down. Ha, thing was ridiculously loud though.

Ridiculously loud seagate? I have one. It is ST-225 revision 2 (20 megs). The rev 2 is so loud it could be used as an alarm system. I call it the joke drive. My other ST-225 drives are much higher revisions and much quieter.

I have plugged a monochrome monitor into an ega card and gotten away with it (I just did it yesterday). I never plugged an ega monitor into an MDA card.

Oh and one more thing. If you accidentally plug a MFM/RLL drive into an ESDI controller the drive should survive. If you try to format it in disk manager you will see the low level format complete in a few seconds. This is the tip off that you F*cked up. I do not know if an ESDI drive connected to MFM/RLL controller will survive. MFM/RLL and ESDI connectors look exactly the same so be very careful! The signals are completely different and in no way compatible. Fortunately ESDI is very rare.

Yes this is my first post. I have lots of vintage stuff and experience to match. (Thanks to you guys I found out I could plug a monochrome monitor into a paradise ega with special jumper/DIP settings to get black brown and gold text. Haven't tested it yet but I have 2 paradise cards like that. I think I will try it on a pentium TX chipset router that rejected an old MDA card. MDA worked on a pentium FX or VX I forget. OK I'll stop hijacking the thread now.)

GADFRAN
February 20th, 2010, 04:54 PM
"ole Juul" -

Totally agree !!!

As so many have said, it is what you "do not know" that can really hurt you !

Always ask even if not only if you "think" you know the answer, but the "uncertainties" as you mention !

Many stories as many have about working even for some large companies that have the big
resources to try to get things right.

So much to learn in just one lifetime.

Frank

sombunall
February 20th, 2010, 05:12 PM
If you are working with an XT or AT power supply (XT to pentium I era) the connectors have 2 parts. Notice one side of each has black wires. The black always goes in the middle! If you screw this up the power supply with fry and possibly the motherboard.

Square processors like 486 can be inserted the wrong way. Always look for the diagonal edge corner on the proc and line it up with the white trapezoid corner painted on the motherboard. Once this guy screwed that up and heard a high pitched scream for about 1 second and then the processor fried.

Mad-Mike
February 21st, 2010, 09:58 PM
For god sakes, if you are combing thrift shops for 486 and older hardware, be aware that some of these computers can yield Pentium+ era hardware inside. AT class hardware runs as late as 2000-2001. I once bought a 386 tower just to find an AMD K-6II 300 lurking in there with an 8GB HDD, when I thought I had a 1989-1990ish tower 386 system on my hands.

sombunall
February 25th, 2010, 03:48 PM
Once upon a time monitors did not turn themselves off. I think this technology appeared around 1993 with the appearance of the 17 inch VGA monitor.

When you unplug or plug a monitor into a computer, both of them should NOT be on at the same time. One of them can be on or both of them can be off (like a NAND logic gate). I am 95% sure it is hard on the monitor to plug it in the computer when they are both on, if anybody thinks this is not true then correct me.

tezza
February 25th, 2010, 05:35 PM
Yes, the rule of thumb I've always used (unless explicity stated otherwise in a user manual) is to turn all peripherals on FIRST, then the computer on LAST. The reverse of this when switching off.

Tez

MikeS
February 25th, 2010, 05:45 PM
Once upon a time monitors did not turn themselves off. I think this technology appeared around 1993 with the appearance of the 17 inch VGA monitor.

When you unplug or plug a monitor into a computer, both of them should NOT be on at the same time. One of them can be on or both of them can be off (like a NAND logic gate). I am 95% sure it is hard on the monitor to plug it in the computer when they are both on, if anybody thinks this is not true then correct me.No reason why it should be hard on the monitor, but it's usually good practice to turn everything off when plugging or unplugging cables. Of course the monitor on a modern system has to be plugged in and turned on when you start up the computer in order to be correctly identified.

sombunall
February 25th, 2010, 05:52 PM
Tell that to IBM; several of their systems (like that XT in front of you IIRC) turned the monitor on with the system unit switch.

That was a hack. It only happened because some monitors had an AC connector that could only be plugged into the power supply.

vwestlife
February 25th, 2010, 05:58 PM
Tell that to IBM; several of their systems (like that XT in front of you IIRC) turned the monitor on with the system unit switch.
Up until the late '90s it was common for computers (even some Macs!) to have an accessory outlet on the back to power a monitor and switch it on an off with the PC.

The only problem I can think of with turning on the monitor after you turn on the PC are with some older VGA cards that try to autodetect what kind of monitor you have attached when you turn on the PC. Not having the monitor powered on at boot-up may cause these cards to assume you have a monochrome monitor when you actually have a color one, or vice-versa.

Speaking of which, I used to have an early optical mouse which required you to hold both mouse buttons down while turning on the computer in order for the mouse to work in Microsoft mode. Otherwise it would only work in Mouse Systems mode.

carlsson
February 25th, 2010, 10:08 PM
Up until the late '90s it was common for computers (even some Macs!) to have an accessory outlet on the back to power a monitor and switch it on an off with the PC.
I believe some contemporary power supplies still may have the power through connection? As a side note, the BBC Master Compact also has this outlet, but it remains active even when the computer is powered off. It means you can power a monitor or other device independently of having the computer turned on, but you still only use one wall outlet. Out of all the PC compatibles I've tried, none lets through electricity as long as the power supply/computer itself is powered off.

vwestlife
February 25th, 2010, 10:19 PM
I believe some contemporary power supplies still may have the power through connection? As a side note, the BBC Master Compact also has this outlet, but it remains active even when the computer is powered off. It means you can power a monitor or other device independently of having the computer turned on, but you still only use one wall outlet. Out of all the PC compatibles I've tried, none lets through electricity as long as the power supply/computer itself is powered off.

I had a Wang 286 PC whose accessory outlet remained on all the time. With the IBM 5151 green-screen monitor, this had the interesting effect of keeping the picture tube's heater glowing all the time, but with no video signal coming to it, the 5151 shuts down its sync circuits and HV flyback and doesn't display a picture. So as soon as I turned on the computer, the monitor would "warm up" instantly. IBM actually warned that having the 5151 powered up with no video signal coming to it could damage the monitor -- which is the reason why they designed it to only work with the accessory outlet -- but in this case that did not prove true. Still, I powered the Wang through a switched power strip, so that it wouldn't leave the monitor warmed up all the time even when the computer was not in use.

donutty
February 26th, 2010, 09:14 AM
In the 90s, 'power through' connectors on the PSU were all the rage, and were really handy... then they disappeared (in the UK at least). From what I remember recently whilse browsing new power supplies... they are back again!

per
February 26th, 2010, 10:37 AM
Ridiculously loud seagate? I have one. It is ST-225 revision 2 (20 megs). The rev 2 is so loud it could be used as an alarm system. I call it the joke drive. My other ST-225 drives are much higher revisions and much quieter.

Only rev 2? My rev 3 sounds like a factory.

As for PSUs I really hope the AC-output is returning. It's indeed really handy if you have the correct cables to go with it.

donutty
February 26th, 2010, 02:16 PM
Recently, in the UK I've noticed a lot have them. From what I was told (and that's all I'm basing it on), they were not used in the 00's because of some sort of safety problem. Again, thats what I was told... anybody know any more about this?

kishy
February 26th, 2010, 02:39 PM
Recently, in the UK I've noticed a lot have them. From what I was told (and that's all I'm basing it on), they were not used in the 00's because of some sort of safety problem. Again, thats what I was told... anybody know any more about this?

If your power cord is of a low grade (and most are...chop open a typical power cord and look at how thin the actual copper wires are. it's quite scary and explains why even low-draw computers can heat up a cord with a sticker that says "10A") then you're putting an unsafe load on the cord that goes from the computer to the wall. It's a ridiculously bad idea.

Now, had there been a small cable from monitors to PSUs that was essentially a power switch in addition to the monitor's own power switch (simple way would be to have them in series with each other), that'd be a different story. Monitor stays on its own dedicated dangerously thin power cord, computer stays on its own dedicated dangerously thin power cord, and monitor can still be turned on/off in synch with the computer itself.

MikeS
February 26th, 2010, 06:43 PM
If your power cord is of a low grade (and most are...chop open a typical power cord and look at how thin the actual copper wires are. it's quite scary and explains why even low-draw computers can heat up a cord with a sticker that says "10A") then you're putting an unsafe load on the cord that goes from the computer to the wall. It's a ridiculously bad idea.

Now, had there been a small cable from monitors to PSUs that was essentially a power switch in addition to the monitor's own power switch (simple way would be to have them in series with each other), that'd be a different story. Monitor stays on its own dedicated dangerously thin power cord, computer stays on its own dedicated dangerously thin power cord, and monitor can still be turned on/off in synch with the computer itself.
If your power cord heats up with your 'low-draw' computer I'd replace it.
But if you're paranoid there are devices like you describe; for example, Pine had a 2+1 power bar called an ECO PAD that was switched on and off with a low voltage cable that connected to the motherboard; there are also power bars where one of the outlets senses when current is drawn from it and turns on the other outlets.

But I've had a CRT monitor and an HP LJ4 plugged into the switched outlet on one of my systems for many years with no problems.

kishy
February 26th, 2010, 08:56 PM
If your power cord heats up with your 'low-draw' computer I'd replace it.
But if you're paranoid there are devices like you describe; for example, Pine had a 2+1 power bar called an ECO PAD that was switched on and off with a low voltage cable that connected to the motherboard; there are also power bars where one of the outlets senses when current is drawn from it and turns on the other outlets.

But I've had a CRT monitor and an HP LJ4 plugged into the switched outlet on one of my systems for many years with no problems.

I've got ~15 IEC C13-ended cables...none of THEM heat up. I've already destroyed and disposed of the bad ones.

Whenever I find a power cord heating up I cut it open and sure enough there's about 1/3mm of actual copper wire each for black/white/ground. For comparison I've also cut open thicker cords that ran cool and found substantially more copper.

Typically the bad cords ship with new computers, new PSUs...new anything. Particularly bad examples (also with a 10A rating stuck to them!) have come with the power supplies for external hard drive enclosures from Hong Kong (via eBay).

The bad ones are almost invariably equipped with a sticker saying they're good for 10 amps...but they're getting hot at less than half that? Research is showing the C13 connector design is spec'd to 10 amps but that doesn't mean the manufacturer should be claiming the whole cable is when it's clearly not.

Edit: forgot to send you a PM, I did mail your envelope today.

geoffm3
March 2nd, 2010, 05:52 AM
While it's certainly not a bad idea to check a power supply unconnected to the computer before powering it up, just be aware that many IBM XT/AT style power supplies may not regulate and/or start up unless they are under load. For this I always used a sacrificial piece of hardware, like a hard disk with too many bad sectors to use as a dummy load. Just bear in mind that if you get strange readings from a disconnected output on a power supply, it may not necessarily indicate that the supply is bad.

Tetrium
March 9th, 2010, 08:26 AM
I'd recommend, before giving power to any 'new' PSU, to open it up and check if theres any damage (leaking caps or burn marks etc) and at the same time clean out all the dust with a paintbrush.
To be on the safe side, keep it on a shelf for a week or so so it doesn't have any stored electricity in it.

Same thing with any 'unknown' hardware. It's best to test these with spare 'fodder'. I've already found a perfectly fine looking harddrive which KILLED 2 mainboards and 1 stick of perfectly fine looking ram which also killed one of my mainboards.

On the other hand, hardware which seems broken sometimes aren't broken atall, it may be somekind of incompatibility. With older hardware, if you find some strange problem with a particular piece of hardware, chances are someone somewhere has had the same problem before and has written about it on the internet somewhere.

If it fits physically, it doesn't mean it'll work

I always read up on any hardware I work with, 1 incorrect jumper can fry something (and it makes your work area smell realy bad for hours :P )


Edit:If you want to use an ATX PSU with an AT computer (using a converter so you can plug the ATX commector into the AT header) be sure to get a not too new PSU.
You'll need -5V for the ISA cards to work and newer ATX PSU's don't support that anymore

Edit2:Maybe someone mentioned this before. If working with hardware from before 1999 then getting a copy of Total Hardware 99 (TH99 in short) is realy a Must Do if you ask me!