History of my Computers


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Computer Junkie?


I'll admit, I have far more computers than is normal for a hobby. I don't pretend to know all the inner working nor do I do a lot of programming.  I have a lot of equipment and enjoy making it run together - accomplishing the tasks I want to tackle.

My first "computer" was the Heathkit ET-3400 Microprocessor Trainer.  I wanted to have an understanding of how computers work before I bought on that I could just plug in and load programs.  Next was a Commodore VIC 20 with 5k of RAM.

I sold the VIC 20 to a ham radio neighbor of my parents and bought an Atari 800 with 48K of RAM - now I really had a powerhouse! This became a complete system with 2 disk drives, a tape drive, serial/parallel interface and modem.

I resisted the PC/MAC movements by next purchasing an Atari 1040ST.  This was a powerful computer, ahead of its time with a windows-type operating system. Except for the VIC 20, I still have these computer antiques.

My first laptop was the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100.  Bought (and still have) the complete set up with computer, data recorder, acoustic cups, modem cable, and case.

Finally I broke down and bought a "PC" - a Packard-Bell 386 running Windows 3.1.  Next I added a Gateway P5-60 tower (big mistake) running WFW 3.11 and networked the machines (after upgrading the PB to WFW 3.11). Since then there has been at least 2 machines networked here in the home office.

The Gateway machine was a pain from the day I brought it home.  So when I needed to upgrade, I started building my own computers.  Since then, I've been building new boxes, upgrading old boxes, cascading parts to older machines, and maintaining my own network.  Today that network consists of W2K workstation, W2K server, Red Hat Linux 8 workstation, SUSE Linux 9 server, and Windows XP laptop.

February 2004 update:  With all the snow and cold, I've had time to work on the computers.  Have a WFW311 machine running (WOW - long time since I worked with that operating system) and a Windows 95 machine.  Either or both could be used as print server for dot matrix printer.  I shelved the Red Hat 8 workstation - just too many problems with Red Hat and wanted something a little faster to work with.  Bought an eMachines with Windows XP.  Reworked the machine so that its now a dual boot machine with XP and SuSe Linux.  Moving some of the overload off the W2K workstation over to the new dual boot machine.

March '04:  Decided to take the old Red Hat Linux machine and use it in the basement for ham radio logging.  Installed W2K on the machine.  Bought wireless equipment to extend the home network into the machine in the basement.  Learned an important lesson -- I bought a wireless "router" which cause the lan to need to be on a different subnet than previously.  Nearly nothing worked.  Went out and bought a wireless "access point", disabled its DHCP capabilities, reset all my network parameters and I was in business.

2005-06:  My AMD 1.2MHz was build, used, died and now rebuilt into a Linux SUSE 10.1 box.  The e-Machines box died.  Working on rebuilding with new processor and motherboard (I had heard the mobo on e-Machines die after 2+ years). I built my first AMD 64 box.  I was having problems since I built it.  At the end, I had to disconnect on of the CD drives. Picked up 2 old HP Netserver servers. Have them working, added second processor and playing with. Working with a couple more surplus mid-towers. My HP laptop was out of date (no DVD recorder, small HD, not built for SD cards.  New Gateway laptop added to the network.  Finally, I built my "gamer" with AMD 64 processor, 512 M PCIE video, 1 GB RAM, card reader, and DVD (2 layer) recorder.

Operating Systems


.I don't pretend to be an expert with the various operating systems.  Rather, I consider myself a high end user. I started working to better understand the operating systems with Windows For Workgroups 3.11 and the networking of my 2 computers at home. Next was Windows 95.

My employer had a requirement to run Windows NT 4 on field service laptops.  I became the expert on the particular software installation on these computers.  I completed all the installation and testing of vendor software that was installed on these machines.  

Next came Windows 2000.  I knew from my NT work that W2K was the operating system I wanted on my home network.  It is still my operating system of choice.  My laptop has Windows XP Home Edition which I do not like.  XP tries to be too helpful.

My first experience with Linux was Red Hat 7.2.  I wanted to learn Linux, partially to be more valuable for contract work after retirement.  RH 7.2 had its faults and I upgraded to RH8 - what a mistake.  That operating system has been nothing but problems.  I had it installed on both my Linux workstation and server.  Now Red Hat is dropping support for these "hobby" versions of Linux in favor of their more expensive Enterprise versions.

Because of this, I decided to try a different distribution of Linux.  SuSe has been getting good reviews so I converted my server to SuSe 9.0 Professional.  I'm impressed with this distribution and the ease of set up.  YaST is the best set up tool I've encountered.

Of course, networking Linux boxes with Windows boxes was not an easy task.  Learning the ins and outs of SAMBA became quite a challenge. I now have a pretty good understanding of the basics of SAMBA and a Linux/Windows LAN.

The old e-Machines box has rebuilt and now has Ubuntu linux on it.  


Copyright(c) 2004-07 Tom Winfield. All rights reserved.