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Is it amazing that a 25 year old computer still works?


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#1 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:08 PM

I'm amazed that people are amazed that old computers from 25 and 50 years ago still work today. Well of course they still work. The "crude" & "big" technology of the day has a lot going for it. A lot of substance to it. And that "a lot of substance" will take a long long time to break down and disintegrate and degenerate/corrode to the point of failure.

 

Consider the modern QLC SSD, it uses 10, maybe 20, electrons to account for each bit of data. Once they leak away, poof! Your ohh-so-precious porn is up in smoke. Compare that against the vintage hard disk with bits stored in magnetic domains hundreds of millions or billions of electrons in size. That's permanency my friend, that's permanency.

 

Ohh do please disregard the typical marketing drone's insistence that a clunky old hard drive is ready to fail at any moment. Bullshit! Anything can fail at any time, so, yeh.. having said that, I'll repeat what I've said before, "I got hard disks from the 1980's" that are in top shape and retaining their data just fine."

 

So why are we amazed? Well we're bombarded with repetitive advertising which says "old" is bad.

 

I just finished "restoring" my first PC, an 80486 from the early 1990's. And all I really had to do was clean up some battery corrosion and hit the contacts and connectors with an eraser. In fact I spent more time conducting cable management and blowing the dust out and photographing it than any real repairs. Everything worked, and seems to be in-spec. Over the next week I'm gonna be testing it in detail and playing games on it. Putting it through its paces full bore.

 

---

 

As a side note I'm open to ideas about what sort of diagnostics and tests and other things I can do to the system to prepare it for another 25 years of service. Recently cleaned the drive heads, played some games, farted around with Norton Diagnostics and that sort thing.

 

I did create an off-board battery "system" with Alkaline cells and rechargeable Li-ION coin cells. Actually I moved that stuff off-board where any future leaks won't affect anything. The rig already came equipped with both primary and secondary batteries. Simply soldered in a connector where the Varta Bomb used to be. And most of the time spent "doing battery stuff" was characterizing and verifying things were charging and discharging at the correct rates, or not charging at all when it comes to the Alkaline cells. You know, staring at it and thinking how great I was for doing it all and stuff.

 

So suggestions are welcome and requested!


Edited by Keatah, Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:49 PM.


#2 Swami OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:28 PM

I'd be more amazed if a twelve year old computer worked.



#3 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:35 PM

I use a computer from 2008 every day out in the non climate controlled garage so almost 12 years

#4 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:37 PM

Computer gear from the late 90's on are soooo much more problematic, flaky and unreliable than the stuff from the 70's and 80's. Of course, this goes for just about any consumer electronics, but since we're focusing on computers... I've lost count as to how many power supplies I've had to rebuild on newer gear, yet I can probably count on one hand how many I've had to rebuild on the old stuff. In fact, currently NONE of my classic computers have needed their caps replaced or power supplies rebuilt. Not a single one of them, and I have a small "museum" of equipment here.  lol 

#5 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:57 PM

MY next restore project will be the computer I built myself in 1998. It has an Abit motherboard, which has already been recapped. It needed a new ATX-Molex connector pair. They cost-cut too much on the material used for the conductor pins. And some of it burned up and welded itself together - thus "simulating" reliability! HA!

 

Back then Antec was supposedly a good name. And so was Abit - at least in the overclocking community. Now I hear Abit as being regarded as junk. Well, aside from the junk capacitors it has the right feature set and doesn't show many signs of cost-cutting.

 

---

 

My hero, Steve Gibson of SpinRite fame, says similar. And the reason being is the cost cutting and sales margins. AND that the tech is being pushed too far. My favorite example is the SSD. Fully 45% of the storage array is faulty from the factory.

 

The situation is so bad the manufacturer absolutely HAS to overprovision and develop error-checking and repair routines. Routines so convoluted and beyond anything Rube Goldberg would dream of. Routines which need an embedded quad-core processor to handle in any timely fashion. Routines which have to consider adjacent cell and stacked chip interference.

 

Sometimes I think that just making the array a little bigger would go further toward reliability than 512-bit ECC does. Ughhh..


Edited by Keatah, Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:02 PM.


#6 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:02 PM

On computers and power supplies with fans, I use a real compressor (not canned air) to keep fan blades clean and dust off of everything. Same with disk drives. Gotta keep the dust off and out!

#7 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:04 PM

I'd be more amazed if a twelve year old computer worked.

For sure. The "almost modern" stuff is doing a lot more than the beasts from the 90s. 



#8 Swami OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:46 PM

For sure. The "almost modern" stuff is doing a lot more than the beasts from the 90s. 


I think a bigger difference is that the older ones were generally working or not working. The stuff from the last 15 years spends several years working ever more so-so until you pick it up and throw it out of frustration, or just buy a new one. I have a new laptop, but it has sat in its box for the last week because I was frustrated enough with the old one to buy a new one but not enough to set up the new one and transfer everything.

#9 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:21 PM

And in the olden days, "transferring all your stuff "meant moving a box of floppy disks

#10 RevEng OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:33 PM

To people not in the know, it's amazing that a 25 year old computer works. In their experience, a lot of tech dies not long after the new shiny comes along.

Blame BGA+RoHS, underrated power supply caps, the capacitor plague of the 00's, the non-serviceable device trend, and components hot enough to require moving parts to cool them. Or more generally, blame kaizen philosophy optimizing for device thinness, lightness, shininess, cheapness, but never for longevity beyond the manufacturer's business plan.

There's also the general consumer attitude that old=crap, which naturally dovetails with Moore's defunct Law.

It's not amazing a 25 year old computer works. Neither is it surprising that the general public believes it to be amazing.

#11 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:51 PM

And in the olden days, "transferring all your stuff "meant moving a box of floppy disks

 

And still does.

 

Seagate makes a Zamboni-like robotic data transporter. It roams your data center, collects hard disks, stacks'em & racks'em, and loads them onto a real 18-wheeler for next day transport. Petabytes and Exabytes get to their destination far faster and way cheaper than any hi-speed internet connection could ever dream of.


Edited by Keatah, Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:55 PM.


#12 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:02 PM

"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a FedEx truck full of DLTs"

#13 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:06 PM

https://what-if.xkcd.com/31/

#14 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 8:56 PM

That "permanent" old hard drive will fail if you drop it or even give it a solid knock. The new SSD, not so much. Also, its longevity decreases with write cycles, so if you just want to store stuff it will last forever (except price wise it's still more economical to store on normal HDDs but that's another matter).

 

I really, really hate the modern corporate practices which lead to a need for surreal campaigns such as the "right to fix" one. But that does not inherently mean that the new tech is worse than the old. It's also often a question of trade-offs: you want the newest game to run at 4K/60fps then things will get hot and if you want your phone to be near-weightless it will affect things too.

 

Overall, I'm not that much surprised that something works because of the perceived "quality" of the old tech but because of possible mis-adventures it may have been through. You know what people are like. Perhaps this PC  you picked up comes from a house with 15 cats or that old PSX was used as a crack-chopping surface. You never know. And never mind the ones I rescued during skip-diving expeditions (especially rain-soaked CRTs)...real troopers.


Edited by youxia, Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:01 PM.


#15 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:06 PM

That "permanent" old hard drive will fail if you drop it or even give it a solid knock. The new SSD, not so much.

 

 

I have had hard drives randomly go into stiction mode just sitting in a drawer ... course they were almost 30 years old when doing so ... grease only lasts so long 

 

 Also, its longevity decreases with write cycles, so if you just want to store stuff it will last forever

 

um no, last I checked the general notion on flash memory is if you wrote something to it, and store it in ideal conditions, bit rot would start occuring in 10 years, magnetic media is much longer term storage, which is why you can read shit off of tapes from the 1950's 



#16 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:19 PM

... which is why you can read shit off of tapes from the 1950's 

 

If I'm not mistaken, consumer grade stuff stored magnetically in the 50's was ANALOG, which can give a little bit more leeway in the reading.



#17 zylon OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:20 PM

I still have a working Dell Lattitude w/XP that works, but everything I've had with Win8 or above has died in almost exactly 2yrs. Ironically, it's during an "update" that death occurs mostly, lol.

 



#18 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:36 PM

I believe that effort to attain good backward compatibility was at a high for the PC ecosphere in the late 80's and all the 90's. Today that is not the case with the exception holding for some USB stuff.

 

Whether this is stupidity and accidental dumbing down on the part of industry captains, or the need to march forward and leave behind excess baggage, or conduct planned product failure/obsolescence in order to maintain profits.. I don't really know. The 'sphere is so damned big it will support all three arguments and then some.

 

Every time I have to replace a piece of tech I always wonder whether it will integrate nicely into MY sphere or whether it'll cause undue and unnecessary headaches. Something I didn't have an issue with back in the day.

 

---

 

The 90's were great for PC times though. The dotcom era was getting underway. You could walk down to the local computer shops (that's right S H O P S) and buy a Multi-Function I/O board as easily as a loaf of bread. Awesome indeed. But the industry didn't seem to like that. Only techies and IT pros would be doing that. Soccer mom not so much. And the industry had to kill that model and build the safe walled gardens we have today. There are more soccer moms than gamers/hobbyists/pros/nerds combined. And soccer moms WILL happily spend an afternoon and hundreds of dollars at T-Mobile upgrading on a set yearly schedule. Industry likes that!



#19 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:36 PM

um no, last I checked the general notion on flash memory is if you wrote something to it, and store it in ideal conditions, bit rot would start occuring in 10 years, magnetic media is much longer term storage, which is why you can read shit off of tapes from the 1950's 

 

Bit rot is another matter, but even so I could not find any definitive opinion (apart from outdated "7 days if unpowered!" scare). Got a link?

 

Regarding the OP in general there's also a lot of anecdotal anti-new stuff evidence such as zylon's post above. Well, my anecdotal evidence states that nothing actually has ever died one me, pre or post windows 8. It really has more to do with the way people maintain their gear and who they buy it from than some kill-switch/evil OS theories.

 

It can also further support my (totally anecdotal :P) theory taht buying second hand from trusted sellers is actually less risk prone because the stuff already has been tested and "burned in" and it's the brand-new gear which is most likely to fail during the first few weeks of operation.



#20 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:46 PM

If I'm not mistaken, consumer grade stuff stored magnetically in the 50's was ANALOG, which can give a little bit more leeway in the reading.

 

All hard disks made in the past 25-28 years store their data as an analog sinewave of varying intensity. The flux transitions span an entire range of a variety of peaks and valleys. They are also of different lengths. It isn't clear-cut 0's and 1's like most believe. There is no attempt to do so either. There's tons of signal conditioning and reconstruction going on for every single bit read back. Surprised the heck out of me when I studied mechatronics and how statistics fit in.


Edited by Keatah, Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:49 PM.


#21 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:59 AM

I just had a seagate hard drive die on me, it's less than two years old. First time in my life, a hdd has died. I have an old maxtor hdd, about twenty years old, and still in daily use.

#22 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:00 AM

Do you know the exact mode of failure?



#23 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:16 AM

Not sure. I can say that the drive became really slow, but was not making any unusual noises. I was able to recover almost the entire drive. If anyone ever has a failing hard drive don't use any disk repair or recovery tool other than DDRescue.

#24 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:09 AM

 
If I'm not mistaken, consumer grade stuff stored magnetically in the 50's was ANALOG, which can give a little bit more leeway in the reading.


All magnetic media is ANALOG including a 4tb hard drive manufactured today

#25 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 15, 2019 6:48 AM

Just in case anyone hasn't seen Backblaze's ongoing hard drive reliability tests:

https://www.backblaz...stats-for-2018/




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