Hackaday Retro Edition: 386 Compaqs

compaq [Antoine] recently learned of a little challenge we have in the hinterlands of the Hackaday webosphere – what’s the oldest, or lowest spec hardware you have that can load this our retro edition? He has a pile of old PCs at his work, and with a lot of idle time at work because of summer, he decided to dig into that pile and get a really old computer up on the Internet.

While the pile of PCs didn’t have anything as old as he was expecting, [Antoine] did find an old Compaq from 1992. It has a 386DX running at 25MHz, 4MB of RAM, a 300 MB hard drive, VGA, and an Ethernet NIC. Gathering the requisite CRT monitor, PS/2 keyboard, and an AUI to a more modern Ethernet connector.

When getting these ancient computer on the Internet, the secret sauce is in the software configuration. [Antoine]‘s box is running DOS 6.2, but was previously configured to connect to a Microsoft filesystem server on boot. This server was probably somewhere at the bottom of the same pile the Compaq was salvaged from, so rolling his own modern networking stack was the way to go. A driver for the NIC was downloaded on another computer and transferred via floppy, as was mTCP, the key to getting a lot of old PCs on the Internet. The browser is Arachne, and with the right configurations, everything worked perfectly.

[Antoine]‘s efforts resulted in a computer that can easily handle the stripped down Hackaday retro edition, and can handle light browsing on Wikipedia. The effective download rate is something like a 33k modem; even with a fast (10M!) Ethernet connection, processing all the packets is taxing for this old machine.

Hackaday Links: August 30, 2014

hackaday-links-chain

Adafruit did another Circuit Playground, this time concerning frequency. If you’re reading this, no, it’s probably not for you, which is great because it’s not meant to be. If you have some kids, though, it’s great. Not-muppet robots and oscilloscopes. Just great.

The Hack42 space in Arnhem, Neterhlands recently got an offer: clean out a basement filled with old computer equipment, and it’s yours. Everything in the haul had to fit through an 80cm square door, and there are some very heavy, very rare pieces of equipment here. It’ll be a great (and massive) addition to their museum. There’s a few pics from the cleanout here and here.

[Mike] has been working on a project to convert gerber files into SVGs and it’s great.

[Carl] did a roundup of all the currently available software defined radios available. It’s more than just the RTL-SDR, HackRF, and BladeRF, and there’s also a list of modifications and ones targeted explicitly to the ham crowd.

This is a Facebook video, but it is pretty cool. It’s a DIY well pump made in Mexico. A few rubber disks made out of an old inner tube, a bit of PVC pipe, and a string is all you need to bring water to ground level.

What can you do with a cellphone equipped with a thermal imaging camera? Steal PIN codes, of course. Cue the rest of the blogosphere sensationalizing this to kingdom come. Oh, what’s that? Only Gizmodo took the bait?

About a year ago, we saw a pretty cool board made by [Derek] to listen in on the CAN bus in his Mazda 3. Now it’s a Kickstarter, and a pretty good one at that.

Your connectors will never be this cool. This is a teardown of a mind bogglingly expensive cable assembly, and this thing is amazing. Modular connectors, machined copper shields, machined plastic stress relief, and entire PCBs dedicated to two caps. Does anyone know what this mated to and what the list price was?

 

Hackaday Retro Edition: Browser Wars On Solaris

sunn After seeing an earlier Hackaday post on old, old Unix systems loading up our retro edition, [Eugenio] decided he would play out the late 90s browser wars on a few machines of his own. Yes, it’s Internet Explorer vs. Netscape in a fight to the death. No <blink> or <marquee> tags were involved, but a Sun Ultra 5 was. We’re looking at the peak of the workstation world circa 1999 here, and only one browser would emerge victorious (it’s neither IE nor Netscape, btw).

The Solaris 9 system [Eugenio] has supports both Internet Explorer 5 and shipped with Netscape 4. Compared to the functionality of modern browsers, both IE5 and Netscape 4 are ancient and terrible. Remember kids, even the scroll wheel on a mouse is a relatively new invention.

Our retro edition doesn’t have any CSS, Javascript, or any of the new Web weirdness, so everything loaded as it should. One interesting problem [Eugenio] encountered was an inverse color desktop when the IE5 window was in focus. Bringing another window into focus returned the desktop to the right color. I guess Netscape wins the Solaris browser war.

[Eugenio] also dug out an old VT320 terminal and connected it to a Vaio x505 (the same approximate vintage as the Sun Ultra 5). This worked beautifully in both 80 and 132 column mode.

We’re always looking for new submissions of old computers loading up our retro site. We haven’t had many minicomputers loading the site, so dig out those Vaxxen and send something in.

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Hackaday Retro Edition: The Compaq

Compa

It’s been a while since we’ve had any submissions to the Hackaday retro challenge, but [Philip]‘s latest project more than makes up for it. He rescued the original 28 pound Compaq luggable and turned it into a work of art. He also managed to get it up on the Internet and pointed it at the Hackaday retro edition, making this one of the best retro submissions in recent memory.

[Philip] rescued this old luggable from the trash, and upon plugging it in and turning it on, heard a loud bang and cloud of smoke from the exploded tantalum caps. We’re guessing [Phil] doesn’t have a variac. After replacing all the broken components, fixing the mechanics of the hard drive, and replacing the two old 5 1/4″ floppy drives with a half-height 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 drives, [Phil] had this machine working again.

After a quick shuffle through his ‘obsolete technology box’, [Phil] found an old 3Com Ethernet card. This was a 16-bit card, but with a new driver and a TCP/IP stack for IBM compatibles it was actually pretty easy to get this old box on the Internet. Since [Phil] removed one of the 5 1/4 drives, he slightly modified a Linksys WRT54G router, wired in new front panel lights for the router, and cut a smoked gray acrylic panel. You can see it next to the drives in the picture above; the colored lights make this old luggable look even more retro, despite it being manufactured about 15 years before blue LEDs became commonplace.

You can check out all the repairs and modifications to this Compaq over on [Phil]‘s site, and as always, we’re looking for people to load up the Hackaday retro edition on their old hardware.

Old Laptops, Modems, And The Hackaday Retro Edition

We haven’t been getting very many submissions of extremely old computers loading up the Hackaday Retro Edition in a while. For shame. Thankfully, [alnwlsn] is here to pick up the slack from the rest of you with his latest accomplishment, getting two old laptops on the Internet with some old telecom equipment.

The first is a Toshiba from about 1995, Pentium processor, 12 MB of RAM, and a 10 GB (!) hard drive. [aln] had a PCMICA modem sitting around, and with Windows 95 and IE 5.5, he was able to slowly connect.

Pentium class machines are okay, but the next one – a Zenith Data Systems laptop from about 1987 – is awesome. 80C88 CPU, two 720k floppy drives, and the exact amount of RAM in that quote falsely attributed to [Bill Gates]. [alnwlsn] is connecting with a 28.8k modem, but the serial port only supports up to 9600. It’s a computer so old, even the retro edition’s main page times out. The about page, though, loaded fine.

[alnwlsn] used a modem with both of these laptops, but he doesn’t have dial-up or even a landline. This forced him to make his own line simulator that requires plugging in the phone line at the right time, manually ringing a modem connected to another computer, and letting PPP take it from there. It’s a crude circuit, but it works. slow, but it works. Video below.

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Hackaday Retro Edition: Hackadaying At 300 Baud

SONY DSC

For a bottom of the barrel website like our retro edition, there’s little reason to have a fast Internet connection. Even the fastest hands in the land can barely type faster than 300 baud. The problem with low-speed connections is the overhead involved, as [Pierre] discovered when he dug out an acoustic modem from the ’80s and loaded up our retro site.

While this isn’t the first modem ever made – that’s 1960s tech – but it does operate at the same speed – 300 bits per second, or slower than you reading this sentence. [Pierre] stuck a desk phone into the modem’s cups, plugged it in to a phone line simulator, and connected to a Raspberry Pi equipped with another modem. From there, it was pretty easy to set up a terminal at 300 baud.

A serial connection isn’t a connection to the Internet, however, and at 300 baud, PPP is nearly impossible. The overhead of encapsulating packets is just that high. SLIP is a much better choice to send IP packets over a slow serial connection, but [Pierre]‘s mac doesn’t include the proper tools.

[Pierre] ended up using the serial connection between his Mac and Raspi with Zterm. From there, Lynx and Bob’s your uncle.

There’s an unsurprisingly long video of [Pierre] loading up the retro site below, as well an unsurprisingly long video of speedtest.net running at 56k.

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Hackaday Retro Edition: Parallel Port Ethernet

It’s time once again for a roundup of ancient hardware that has successfully loaded our retro edition. Up this time is a completely random and totally not planned roundup of parallel port to Ethernet adapters.


First up is [Tom Moss] with his IBM 5150 – the first ‘IBM Compatible’ home computer, progenitor of the i7 boxxen warming your ankles as you read this. This machine comes standard with a 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU, 8087 FPU, 512k RAM, two 360k 5.25″ floppy drives, and a few very cool additions: an ISA to CompactFlash card adapter, giving [Tom]‘s box 4GB of storage.

How is [Tom] connecting to the Internet? A Xircom PE3-10BT Network Adapter. This neat device turns any parallel port into an Ethernet. With a Telnet program, [Tom] was able to connect to a Unix system and use Lynx to browse over to the retro site. He’s yet to get a DOS browser working, but FTP is go, allowing him to download ancient software directly onto his huge CF card.

The next one isn’t exactly vintage, but it does carry the spirit of antiquated hardware onto the web. [Valentin] is using a FleaFPGA and a 186 over at OpenCores. The FPGA board gives him VGA output, an SD card, A PS/2 keyboard, but no options for networking. That’s no problem for [Valentin], as he wired up a Xircom PE3 parallel port to Ethernet adapter. Yes, the same adapter as the 5150 above. [Valentin] says his parallel port hack is a bit of a mess with non-bidirectional and no dedicated IRQ hardware support. It works, though, so we can’t fault him for that.

We’re always looking for people who have loaded our retro edition on old hardware. If you have some outdated hardware sitting in the attic, get it out, load up Hackaday Retro, and send it in.

Pics from [Tom] and [Valentin] below.

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