386 DX 25 motherboard and CPU
#1 – 386 motherboard and CPU
I have especially fond memories of the 386 CPU and motherboard because my first computer that I built from the motherboard up was a 386-based unit. This particular model is missing the math co-processor, used for advanced floating point operations. After the 386 most math co-processors got built-in to the CPU. The motherboard had a 5 din large connector for a keyboard and the nickel cadmium battery was soldered right on to the motherboard. This motherboard has 6 EISA slots and 2 ISA slots. How many motherboards these days come with 8 expansion slots? This model took 30-pin RAM.
There’s a funny story around my build. At the time I ran a bulletin board system and was attending Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (it wasn’t Ryerson University then). I didn’t have extra cash to buy RAM (1MB was around $100). A fellow bulletin board operator (Sysop – system operator) gave me 2MB of RAM. We met in the Toronto subway. He had the RAM all rolled up in paper towel – it looked like a shady deal.
The 386 was the first system I considered to run a multi-line BBS system. Multi-line didn’t work out so well because the 2MB of RAM wasn’t quite enough for multi-tasking. I used Desqview software to do task switching. What would happen was one person would be online on one phone line and when another person tried calling in on the other line Desqview would croak a bit and kick the person off the first line.
#2 – Atari Portfolio
Until someone donated this to Computer Recycling I had never seen an Atari Portfolio. Released in June of 1989 the Portfolio had a CPU that was almost 5MHz. The XT IBM-compatible I had was about double the processing power at 10MHz. According to Wikipedia the Portfolio ran DIP Operating System 2.11, a MS-DOS 2.xx-compatible operating system (minus a few features).
What makes the Portfolio really neat is that it can run on 3 AA alkaline batteries. We powered this unit on and it works!
The next time you’re watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day look for the Atari Portfolio in the scene where John Connor tries to bypass an ATM with a ribbon cable and Portfolio.
The Portfolio was the first palm-top computer to be mass-marketed, a pretty neat Atari first!
External ZIP drive
#3 – External ZIP Drive
The Iomega ZIP drive was a wildly popular alternative to the floppy drive until the advent of CD-RW drives. The ZIP drive stored up to 100MB (early versions) on a larger than floppy-size disk. The ZIP drive wasn’t compatible with regular floppy disks. Around the same time Matsushita came out with a floppy-compatible LS-120 drive. I bought one of the LS-120 drives and wished I’d bought a ZIP drive. In my experience the LS-120 drives, also known as SuperDisks, were largely defective. I bought 2, both of which failed within 3 months.
We still see ZIP disks and the odd ZIP drive come in. We see the odd 250MB ZIP disk come in from time to time. There were a few larger capacity ZIP disks, but CD-R media was so inexpensive compared to ZIP disks that there was no great reason to keep buying the ZIP disks.
This particular model pictured is a parallel (slow) version of the external ZIP drive. We’ve seen parallel, SCSI and USB external ZIP drives as well as internal PATA ZIP drives come in. Our USB and SCSI versions are long gone, but we still get requests for them for people looking to remove files off their ancient media.
#4 – RDRAM, sometimes known as RIMM RAM or RAMBUS RAM
We see RDRAM and RDRAM-based systems from time to time. These memory modules were incredibly costly compared to DDR and there was a big fiasco around licensing of RDRAM and DDR. By 2001 RDRAM had lost the memory war to DDR, which was a lot more economical and had caught up speed wise. RDRAM was designed to operate in sets of 2 (or more) which made it even more expensive to buy. If you had a motherboard with 4 slots all 4 needed to have something in the slot (usually 2 continuity modules – we used to call them blanks and 2 matched RDRAM modules, or 4 matched RDRAM modules).
We still see the odd system come in with RDRAM and very occasionally we get someone looking for RDRAM modules. We no longer test RDRAM, but we’re happy to help out anyone who needs RDRAM provided we have some on hand.
The two modules I’m holding up in the photograph are 128MB each, marketed as 800 (400MHz modules). One of the defining differences between RDRAM and DDR is the placement of the two notches on the RAM, both are close together near the centre of the memory module. Every RDRAM stick we’ve seen, other than blanks/continuity modules has had a heat spreader on it (adding to the cost of the modules). Most commonly we see these in servers, though we’ve worked on a few desktop systems that used RDRAM.
#5 – Commodore 64
It seems that everyone from my generation either had a Commodore 64 or knew what one was. The Commodore 64 was a wildly popular computer from the early eighties (we bought one late 1982). The computer portion of the C64 was built right below the keyboard. Peripherals such as an external floppy disk drive (1541), printer, and joysticks could all be purchased separately. You could either connect the C64 to your television (using an adapter) or connect it to a Commodore branded squarish monitor, the 1702 if memory serves me correctly (a lot of which were used for other purposes).
The C64 was really a gaming machine with a keyboard. It could be used for tasks such as desktop publishing (on a dot-matrix printer), but with thousands of games, gaming was the most popular use. I wrote a couple of games for the C64 – a Pole Position like game called All-Night-Road Race (it was never commercial, just passed along our local computer user group – BUG), and the beginning of a Ghostbusters-inspired game in Assembler.
The C64 sold over 10 million units, a record number of units at the time. No other gaming system had sold so much. Games ranged in title from Attack of the Mutant Camels to Zaxxon. Role Playing Games included Epyx’s Temple of Apashai, and the famous “Lord British” Ultima series.
The Commodore 64 ran at around 1MHz and had 64k of onboard RAM. It ran Commodore BASIC as an OS. People tend to think of the C64 as an ancient beast long dead, but consider that most software loaded in less than 5 seconds. Today we have multi-gigahertz CPUs, enormous storage and RAM and we complain about how slow our systems are. There’s something to be said for old tech.
The Apple Newton eMate 300
#6 – Apple Newton eMate 300
What was probably one of the shortest-lived Apple products, the Apple Newton eMate 300 was introduced in 1997 and discontinued in February 1998. It inspired early iBook designs (remember the clam-shell iBooks?). It was really a notebook-ish personal digital assistant (PDA) designed to run the Newton operating system. Despite sporting a 25MHz ARM processor it had less RAM than some of the Newtons around at the time. The screen was 480×320 grayscale.
Thanks again for all your donations. Technology like the equipment I’ve listed above makes reuse and recycling a lot more interesting.