atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#270: I bit the bullet.

Sitting next to me I have a new Intel DG965ss motherboard, an Intel Pentium D 945 processor, and 2 GB of RAM.

Why are they next to me and not in my computer?

Because the board is so new that it doesn't support any version of Windows below XP. This machine currently runs Windows ME; the drivers for the new motherboard are written for XP (it does also include drivers for Vista).

Not being the kind of masochist who enjoys spending hours and hours fiddling and tweaking drivers in order to make things work, I am going to take the path of least resistance. I'm going to upgrade to XP first; then install the new hardware.

The guy at Fry's who wrote up the order for the processor and memory--not surprisingly, things like that are kept in a cage up front--told me that I would have "a skyrocket" once it was all together. Well, a dual-core processor running at 3.4 GHz, combined with two gigabytes of memory--it damn well ought to be fast.

My biggest complaint is that the system board only has one IDE port. It's got four serial ATA (SATA) ports, but I have no SATA devices. Still, it has an approximate assload of USB ports--USB 2.0, of course!--and since it's got all kinds of other on-board goodness I'm hoping I won't need more PCI slots than the two it has.


  • two firewire ports
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 5.1 audio
  • integrated video
  • TEN USB 2.0 ports


It does have a PCI Express x16 slot and a PCI express x1 "connector". If I understand this correctly, that x1 "connector" is twice as fast as a PCI slot, using a duplex serial data bus rather than parallel. Wow. And the x16 slot is 16 times as "wide" as the x1 slot. Since the x1 slot has a theoretical transfer rate of 250 MB/second, that means the x16 slot can transfer...carry the three...4 GB per second. Oof.

4 GB per second is twice the theoretical maximum throughput of AGP, too.

The motherboard can handle up to 8 GB of RAM, which is just stupid huge--at least for someone who cut his teeth on computers with 32 kB of "available" RAM.

I can see that in order to take advantage of all this power I'm going to be upgrading to SATA hard drives, and I'll probably bump the memory to 4 GB, eventually. But that can wait; having somehow managed to get along with a P3 1GHz with 512 MB of RAM for the past six years, I expect this new hardware to keep me properly "blown away" for a while.

The first thing to do will be to get a copy of XP and some kind of IDE card so I can keep using two IDE hard drives and my two optical drives. I need to be able to support a minimum of three IDE devices without making any major changes to my system or reinstalling any software--and if I can support three, I can support four.

Back up the C drive, install XP, then do the brain transplant.

I plan to spend at least a few hours on making everything work correctly. Having gone with an Intel motherboard and processor I am hoping I won't have to, but the long and painful lessons of my career's early days is that computer stuff is a pain in the ass and it doesn't ever get any better.

The memory sticks have RFI shielding on them. I have only seen that once before; back when I worked in the hardware support department at Rockwell-Collins, someone found a machine which had RFI-shielded RAM in it and we never did figure out why. This was Pentium Pro (P6) stuff, which had a RAM bus that ran somewhere south of 100 MHz. (66 MHz is the figure which comes to mind. This was 1998 and it was in a then-older machine, so 66 MHz is not an unreasonable guess.)

This stuff runs just a bit faster--it's 800 MHz dual channel DRAM--and the RFI shielding is perforated and chrome-plated and really pretty.

Thumbs up for I-pass

Fry's Electronics is located in Lombard, which is about an hour's drive from here. Mom and I went to my nephew's birthday party in Arlington Heights; and on the way home we went to Fry's.

I had thought of ordering a motherboard, CPU, and memory on-line, but I didn't really want to. I've had fair luck buying new components from on-line vendors, but poor luck when buying "clearance" stuff--and the deals I saw really weren't all that compelling, anyway.

We spent a mind-boggling hour on the tollway system. It's mind-boggling because it was only an hour. Well, thanks to the Open Road Tolling (ORT) initiative it's possible for cars equipped with an I-pass transponder to drive through the ORT toll lanes at speed--so, no slowing down, no stopping, no slinging change around: you just drive through and the toll is automatically deducted from your account.

The transponders cost something like $50 and mount to your windshield above the rearview mirror. When it runs out of money, the Tollway takes $40 from your credit card and "refills" the transponder. (You can set it to fill the transponder with as much as $500.)

Driving home we passed through one of the ORT arches and I thought, "I just paid a toll without even having to slow down!" And I realized what a wonderful thing the 21st century is.

21st Century Man

...is the title of a song by ELO from their Time album, circa 1981; and back then the 21st century seemed like it was still a long way away. But we are only 8 years from 2015, and if we're going to have the 2015 that Marty McFly and Doc got to explore, there are going to have to be some serious leaps in technology:


  • flying cars
  • hoverboards
  • commercially viable holograms
  • robots
  • dehydrated pizza
  • Mr. Fusion


But even without that--and without the relatively cheap space travel of Clarke's 2001--our daily lives are enhanced with technology we barely even dreamed of in 1981.

In 1981:

  • there were no cellular telephones.
  • the most powerful personal computer you could buy had 64 k of RAM and ran at a bit under 5 MHz.
  • a 5 MB hard drive cost $5,000.
  • a typical VCR cost $600 (or more).
  • there were no CDs. Music came out on vinyl records and cassettes and was 100% analog.

three bulleted lists in one post...

If you were away from home and needed to make a phone call, you had to find a phone booth. There was just one phone company, too--one for the entire United States--and you didn't own the phone in your home; it was the property of the phone company and you leased it. It was part of your monthly bill.

Cars polluted more than they do today. Part of it was fuel efficiency--they were bigger and heavier--but fuel injection was a rarity. In order to clean up exhaust emissions, car engines were a nightmare of vacuum tubing and the smog system almost always went out of whack after only a few years. Factory and power plants were no better, and the air was not as clear as it is now.

If you wanted to order something from a catalog, you actually had to write out the order, enclose payment, and mail it in--and you would then wait "four to six weeks" for delivery via parcel post.

If you needed cash, you had to visit your bank when it was open and cash a check; there were no ATMs. (At least, not here in the Midwest. Maybe in Chicago; not out here in the suburbs.)

The World Wide Web and HTML did not exist. The Internet existed but it was still text-based and you had to be a computer wizard in order use it. You also had to either have access through work or a university--because if you wanted to access it from home, you had to have a dial-up account with an on-line service like CompuServe...and they charged somthing like $10 per hour.

The World Wide Web as we know it would never have worked then, anyway. 300 baud, acoustically-coupled modems were the most common type then, and at 300 baud it would take almost four minutes to download the 6k "atomic fungus" logo at the top of this page....

Wow.
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