atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#6093: Finally, old computers

Finally got in some tinker-time in the basement.

First up, the Amiga 500, because it's dead simple and I wanted to start out easy. All I wanted to do with it is to crack it open and get a look at the logic board. I wanted to see if there might just happen to be an IDE interface on it, and also to get a look at the overall condition of the thing. There wasn't a built-in IDE interface, but the board looks fantastic, and the caps all look okay. The only problem I really had with it was the orientation of the floppy power plug, but it turns out to work in either orientation, so that's fine.

Next up, the Macintosh SE.

If memory serves, I bought the Mac in the summer of 1993. At the time it was only just barely obsolete; it was still plenty useful, particularly since the place I worked (Kangaroo Computer Services, now defunct) had only me as its resident DOS, Windows, Mac, Unix, and AS/400 guru. No one else there could do the latter three (though I couldn't do much on the AS/400, let me tell you, beyond starting it up and shutting it down and running diagnostics). I bought my SE because that would let me improve my Mac chops, and also because it had Hypercard.

Hypercard was the reason I wanted a Mac in the first place. My original intention had been to build a Hypercard stack around my SF universe, putting everything on its own card and linking them. It would have been very cool.

But I was working 32 hours a week and attending school as well; I didn't have time, and that nonsense fell by the wayside. I don't know when I last turned the Mac on, but it had been in storage for some time when I moved to Iowa in late July of 1996.

It has not been turned on since.

I had to search for the keyboard and mouse, but found them pretty quickly. Plugged it in, powered it the old "question mark in the floppy drive" icon, which is not-good for a system with a hard drive.

Mrs. Fungus called me upstairs, thinking Gotham had taped, but it was just a teaser for the series resumption on 3/1, so we watched an ep of Electric Dreams on Amazon Prime. Then I went back downstairs.

Back to the Mac--now, I used to have a SCSI ZIP drive, bought as a graduation present for myself in June of 1996. I selected the SCSI version for two reasons: at the time, I'd gone to a great deal of trouble to have a CD-ROM drive, and got one a mere couple of months before IDE CD-ROM drives appeared on the scene. Since I already had a SCSI adapter in my computer, for the CD-ROM, it only made sense to get the SCSI ZIP drive, which would naturally be a crapton faster than the parallel port version which (in June of 1996) was my only other option. And as a bonus, it would connect to my Mac! I only had to crack the case open and remove the terminating resistors from the drive, and the ZIP drive would handle the termination. No problem.

Recalling all this, I worried about what had happened to the terminating resistors for the hard drive in the Mac. It used SIP resistor packs, eight pins in a row, three of them--and God alone knew what had happened to them in the intervening decades.

Oh well; I knew where the ZIP drive was, so I dug it out--only, the DB25 cable wasn't in there. The SCSI-2 cable was, the one that connected to old Escaflowne; but not the one which would connect to the Mac. But, hey, there was a box of cables I put there...and there it was. Plugged it in, fired up Mac, same result, so I powered up the ZIP drive too, to no avail.

Looks like I gotta crack this mother open. I have (used to have) a Torx screwdriver that I bought specifically for Macs, because it was long enough to reach the screws in the handle. That one was nowhere in evidence in my old toolbox; the other two from that set were there. Crap.

The set of precision screwdrivers I bought from Best Buy when I worked there had one, and mirabile visu the extension fit in the screw holes, so I was able to get the case open.

...and when I cracked open the case, it turned out that I had done the smart thing: right after taking them out of the drive, I'd popped them into a Kangaroo Computer Systems envelope, labeled it "SCSI DRIVE TERMINATING RESISTORS", and then folded it in half and put it inside the case of the Mac!

Had a deuce of a time on both disassembly and reassembly from there. This thing was not made to be user-servicable, so you have to pull cables off the motherboard to get it out, only there's maybe an inch or two of room to maneuver in under the CRT neck. Argh. But patience and perserverance won out. I got the drive out, I got the motherboard out so I could retrieve the screw and washer that had dropped onto it.

I reinstalled the resistor packs--the resistors are labeled as to what is pin 1 and so is the drive--but couldn't remember if there were any jumper settings that needed changing, so I came upstairs to do a search. Found the info; the drive just needed the terminating resistors and it was good to go, so off I went back downstairs.

Reassembly was the reverse of disassembly, requiring a lot more patience and perserverance; and I ended up putting the hard drive in three times. First I put it in, then realized it ought to be mounted more securely; put it in again and found the reason it had been mounted the way it was--it hit the back of the CRT--so the third time ended up being the charm.

Struggled to plug the SCSI cable in, but got it on the third try, and then powered it up.

Same thing.

Listened closely to the hard drive; and then I picked up my trusty old red and blue Craftsman philips head screwdriver, which has helped me fix many a computer, and I rapped the side of the drive with its handle. And--sure enough!--wrrrr the drive spun up. Twenty years of inactivity had led to "stiction", where the static friction of the spindle was too high for the spindle motor to overcome. I'd bet I could go down there tomorrow and fire that computer up and have the drive spin right up now that it's been jarred loose.

And no, that doesn't hurt it at all. I hit it gently; I've had drives that I had to hammer with the handle of that screwdriver to get them to turn--and they didn't lose so much a bit of information; I was able to copy all the data off them and onto a new drive without any trouble whatsoever.

...but I'm still left with a computer that won't boot, and I haven't the faintest idea where my Macintosh system disks are. Tossing a diagnostic disk in would let me see if the hard drive's working at all. But facts is facts: that computer has been sitting in that basement for more than two decades, and there's no telling what could be wrong with the hard drive. Heck, for all I know, the hard drive is fine and the computer has died.

As I recall, though, that computer had (like all computers) configuration memory, and after 20 years that configuration memory is going to be blank. The battery didn't die a horrid death and leak everywhere (it's a lithium battery, soldered to the mobo) but after 20 years it's dead. $5 says that because that parameter RAM is cold, that is why the computer can't boot.

In any case, the solution to my problem here is "get an 800k Mac boot disk". I expect I can find one somewhere--somehow--but it's not happening tonight.

The funny thing is, I backed up the entire hard drive to ZIP if I can find that disk, I might have a way to get her going again. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

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