USING classic machines

From: Tony Duell <>
Date: Sat Jun 28 19:31:17 1997

In message <> writes:
> At 08:59 AM 6/27/97 BST, you wrote:
> >> I do use my old machines now and then, but if anyone here has never ran a
> >> modern MAC or PC, they have NO idea what is bieng missed. web pages in full
> >> photo quality color, realistic games, PPP connections, Realaudio etc. I am
> >
> >I have used 'modern' PC's (well, at least pentiums with 16 MBytes RAM,
> >SVGA card, etc), and I know I'm not missing _anything_ by sticking to
> >classic computers. Let's go through your points.
> >
> What I mean is that we must realize that there is only so much you can do
> with classic computers. after all, if they were the best than why we have
> faster and better?

And there's only so much you can do with PC's :-)

Seriously, It's obvious that the _real_ top end today is faster than the top
end 10 years ago. It's also obvious that the 'home computer' of today (which
is probably a pentium PC) is better than the home computer of 10 eyars ago
(say a Commodore 64). But it's not at all obvious that the home computer of
today is any better than a 10 year old top-end personal workstation or a
minicomputer, or a number of other things. And those are turning up very
cheaply if you know where to look.

> >'Web pages in full photo quality colour'. Well, I access the web to get
> >information, not look at pretty pictures. Most of the information I want
> >is _text_, or at least monochrome graphics (things like IC data sheets).
> >So I don't need 'photo quality colour'. And if I did, I could easily find
> well at the moment you dont need it, but its nice to know that you can see
> it when you need it.

I don't necessarily buy hardware on the grounds that I _might_ need the
facilities one day. As what I already have does all I need, then I see no
reason to upgrade (downgrade?)

And if I did ever need to display a 'photo-quality' image, I can find a few
systems around here (all over 10 years old) that could do it trivially.

> >a classic system that could display them. Evans and Sutherland, Grinnell,
> >Ramtek, I2S, PPL, etc all made high-res colour displays that make most
> >PC's look like toys. And you can pick one up second-hand for less than an
> >SVGA card + monitor.
> SVGA a toy? I used many an apple ][ + and C=64 with 80 col RGB monitors, and

Compared to the machines I've named, SVGA is a toy...

> I can take only so much eyestrain. sharp graphics make your eyes feel good...

This, alas shows how little you know about the state of graphics 10 years ago
Give me a break. I am _NOT_ talking about home micros. I am talking about
professional graphics displays with hardware anti-alliasing of displayed
objects. I am talking about 512*512*30 bit images. I am talking about
broadcast-quality TV images (if you should need to go to such a low scan
rate). I am talking about 3D displays with LCD spectacles. Etc, Etc, Etc.

I've had more than my fair share of eyestrain from impossible-to-converge
SVGA monitors. I've battled with the service manuals for _hours_ on some of
them and not been able to get the convergence right. I'm then pleased that
Barco, Fimi, Sony (the older ones at least), Philips, Moniterm, KNE, etc, etc,
etc did make decent, easy-to-set-up monitors 10 years ago or more.


> >we had good quality audio on PDP11's (thanks to a little board from 3RCC)
> >in 1976. It's not exactly hard to add a DAC and a DMA engine or even a DSP
> >to a lot of classic computers (and classic computer != cheap home micro so
> >there's easily enough RAM space for a reasonable length sample).
> to me, a PDP11 is WORLDS apart from classic HOME computers, If I had the
> fortune of actually owing a PDP11, I would use it extensively..... :)

AFAIK, this is a classic computers list, and not a classic home computers list

Anyway the PDP11 is a home computer now. I know dozens of people who run
one or more at home.

I've payed a lot less for any of my PDP11's that you'd pay for a pentium
motherboard + CPU. That's complete PDP11's with disks, realtime I/O,
terminals, graphics options, SCSI interfaces, etc, etc, etc.

> >for most modern machines
> >Repairability. I can fix classic computers with no problem at all. Just
> I have never had any hardware failures in ANY of my machines so far (knock
> on silicon), with the exception that I accidentally cooked a 6526.

Maybe I've been unlucky, but I have had hardware failures.

> >try getting a custom chip for a PC motherboard. And don't tell me to
> >replace the motherboard - if the PC is a few years old I'd probably have
> >to replace the CPU and memory as well.
> that is just the ticket. A brand new 486 motherboard cost $90. with it you
> get real functionality.

Wait a second. ISA graphics cards are already getting hard to find. So,
presumably, if I have a not-too-old PC with an ISA graphics card and some
custom chip dies, I have to buy a PCI graphics card, a new motherboard,
a new processor, and either new memory or some SIMM converters. No thanks -
I'll stick to my classics where repairing consists of picking up the service
manual, finding the dead chip in about 10 minutes, and replacing it with one
from either my junk box of the local electronics shop.

> actually, you can get a decent modern PC together just by scrounging
> computer shows and bargaining for parts. assembling a system from scratch
> with old parts is very fun and rewarding. and the reliablity rate for modern
> chips is very high. in fact the monitor or hard disk probably will die

I've had modern custom chips fail for 'no good reason'.

> before the motherboard will.

Monitors can often be repaired for a lot less than the cost of a new one.

Yes, the motherboard will probably outlast the hard disk, but that's
(IMHO) because modern hard disks are darn unreliable (I've had several
die on me, and without a clean room there's not a lot I can do). That doesn't
mean the motherboard won't fail, though.

Received on Sat Jun 28 1997 - 19:31:17 BST

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