2006-02-25 1539 Linux: == Way back machines == I pulled a computer out of my ex-wife's attic the other day in the hope . . .

Way back machines

I pulled a computer out of my ex-wife’s attic the other day in the hope of being able to use some of the parts for spares. My main Linux box has a fan than sounds more like a jet taking off in a high storm. One of the fan fins is broken so it’s wobbling as it spins. If you’ve ever had that happen, it ain’t a pretty sound at all.

What I found on that computer was pure gold though, and goes right back to my early serious history with computers.
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My first DOS based ‘puter was an Olivetti PC1 (click on the link for a photo), an XT-class machine with 512K memory, two 720k 3.5” floppy drives and no hard disk. That computer took me most of the way through University handling the complexities of accountancy, law, economics and programming without flaw. It gave me my first taste of computer power. I gave that away after “upgrading” through a succession of machines including an original IBM-XT, a few 286s and 386s before settling on the computer I pulled from the attic.

It’s nothing much to look at, just Yet Another Beige Box, but it was my first computer in that format. It is a 486dx2/66. In it’s final incarnation it had two hard drives – 850Mb and 1Gb, had 64Mb RAM and ran Linux.

It’s name was Medusae and along with two other similarly spec’d machines (called Hydra and Chimera) I ran my own computer consultancy. This was around 1994 – 1998. I was also a lecturer and contributor to a few Linux magazines at the time as well. These computers handled it all, but this box was the first.

As I remember Medusae had just 32Mb RAM and a 300-sh Mb drive but this was slowly improved upon as finances and availability permitted. Throughout it’s life it was 100% Linux all the way, and primarily text-only. This was the early age of Linux when Slackware and Yddgrasil Linux ruled the waves. Fresh from the attic, Medusae has a copy of Red Hat 4.1 installed, and it’s still in good working order.

I cut my teeth on Perl on this machine. I coded C and assembler apps until 3am on this box. I wrote a writer’s ‘zine called Silent Echoes that had a print circulation of over 500 in it’s heyday. And it’s all here, sat on these drives.

I’ve pulled the 1Gb drive out to burn it’s contents onto CD before it dies of old age. Look at the computer though, there’s still a few trick in the old Beige Box yet.

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