Storage Box Photo Tour 1

A couple of weeks ago I got all my hard disks out and took photos of them. This made me wonder if any of the disks still worked and what was on them. I keep all my PC expansion cards stored in some storage tubs inside static bags with some desiccant packs to keep them dry, which means I would have to have a look in them to search for a SCSI card to test the drives with. I figured why not take some photos of the cards whilst I am at it.

Basic tech cleaning gear

Basic tech cleaning gear

Firstly I have here a picture of two very useful things every computer technician should have around. A can of isopropyl alcohol in spray form for cleaning slots of various types, you could use contact cleaner as well, but that leaves a residue sometimes. The box is full of isopropyl infused medical wipes which are good for general cleaning and can be used to clean card edges and the like. Very useful for cleaning thermal paste up if you ever need to, they are less messy than other methods. Not pictured but also useful is a tooth brush (not used for teeth anymore!) and cotton buds to aid in the cleaning process.

Tseng Labs ISA VGA Card

Tseng Labs ISA VGA Card

This is a Tseng Labs VGA ISA card that would have been built in the late 80’s to early 90’s. Tseng was famous for a few particular VGA cards that where fast, particularly the ET3000 and later cards. They had better video memory access times than many other cards despite using ordinary DRAM, in this case 4164s. This particular card is an earlier device before they added acceleration features. Note the large amount of discrete logic, maybe this is how they got fast memory access. You can see some connectors for additional memory and a card edge connector which I am unsure of it’s function.

Tseng Labs was eventually bought by ATI.

Voodoo 2 cards

Voodoo 2 cards

These two cards are Voodoo 2 cards that were well know for their performance and ability to link two of them together with SLI. These weren’t quite the first 3D accelerators but certainly played a big part in kicking off the 3D graphics revolution. Many companies were licensed to make these and the original Voodoo cards, but because of some poor business choices ended up being the sole producers for later cards. I unfortunately don’t have an SLI cable, as two of these cards linked together were faster than some newer cards such as the NVIDIA TNT 2.

The second card appears to have had a heat sink attached, looks like an aftermarket job. Perhaps this chip being closest to the bus meant it had higher load as it may have been the main interface chip. Normally these boards didn’t have heat-sinks as with the lower board.

Trident an S3 VGA cards

Trident an S3 VGA cards

Here we have a Trident VGA card (possibly SVGA) and a PCI S3 Trio64v+ card. Both manufacturers built lower priced and lower performing graphics cards and chips. S3 cards are useful to have around as they are very compatible, reliable and usually just work. They unfortunately often had bad drivers in the past that caused crashes or low performance. I had a S3 Trio3d in my PC when I started Uni, of course until I upgraded to the much faster TNT 2. I think the Trident card is a late example of a VGA ISA card as it seems to have an integrated RAMDAC, which didn’t happen until around 1992.

OEM combo card

OEM combo card

This is an interesting card, it is a combo card combining a Rockwell based modem, an Aztech Labs sound card (with gameport), and a FM radio receiver card as a separate card (but attached). I pulled this one from either a IBM or HP machine of Pentium 1 vintage. It was likely produced specifically for the machine, and I think many of the Aztech labs sound cards were sound blaster compatible. As there is little information about this specific card I can’t be sure.

LPT and joysticks

LPT and joysticks

Here we have some basic add-on cards that were common for early PCs. On the left is a basic joystick port card designed for the 8 bit ISA slot, which would make it handy for old XT machines. The other two are 16bit ISA and are parallel port cards. They have identical boards but the top one is missing the second parallel port chip, meaning it likely supported only one port. Looking at the headers I’m guessing the top card supported one port, and the bottom 2. To get the extra port you had to have connectors for it which would occupy another slot in your chassis, but if not needed you could use the jumpers on the cards to disable the extra port.

Sound and Network

Sound and Network

Here we have an ESS Audio drive (1869) and a UK0022 ISA network card. The sound card came out of my older brother machine from the mid-late 90’s. These cards were not known for having great sound, but it’s fine to use when nothing else better is around. This one required special TSR programs to function as a sound blaster compatible card under DOS. The network card is supposedly NE2000 compatible and has a BNC connector for coax as well as the standard RJ45 connector. Cards like this were common when people were transitioning from coax based networks to the newer CAT5 and CAT6 cabling. Strangely 10Mbit coax seemed to run better than the 10Mbit CAT5 cabling using a hub. I think this was because of collisions on a hub being more frequent than with coax.



Here are two Adaptec SCSI cards, one PCI and one ISA, that I’ll be using to test the hard disks from the last post about them, I’ll likely use the PCI card. The Zoran card is a bit strange as it looks like a SCSI card but has what looks like a VGA connector on the back of it. I’m unsure, but perhaps it’s a capture card with a SCSI connector for something like a scanner?

Adaptec cards were and are common for SCSI and RAID setups, and have very good Linux support generally, so I often favour using them. Chips made by Adaptec also often made it onto hard disks. There are a few on the disks I looked at last time. Note the terminator resistor packs on the PCI card, this was how terminators were integrated onto hard drives as well for quite some time. They could be removed to allow a drive to run without a terminator at that point in the cable, or added if required.

The ISA Adaptec card is remarkable as it had a floppy controller on board as well, this could be disabled, but would indicate it’s a card designed to replace the multiple cards often found in earlier PCs.

More Graphics Cards

More Graphics Cards

Here is an assortment of more graphic cards.

To the right is an earlier Trident ISA VGA card, you can tell as it has a separate RAMDAC chip. Again not a great performer, but nice to have around as ISA VGA cards are harder to find, although from my collection you wouldn’t think so.

At the bottom is an ATI Rage PCI graphics card. You’ll notice that this PCI card has the extra notch to allow it to be inserted into the larger 64bit PCI slots. This is because this type of card was very commonly found in servers, often being onboard, but in this case as a separate card. They were used because they were reliable mainly, had excellent driver support and had good 2d performance.

The last two are AGP cards that were very common in the early 2000s. The left is a Geforce 2 MX 200, which was a slower, value version of the performance ones. To the right is a TNT2 which I believe is similarly a budget model. The common way Nvidia and other manufacturers reduced costs was to use slower RAM with a smaller bus, so the main way cards like this are slower is usually memory bandwidth. They often carry the same capabilities in the main GPU. I had a TNT2 card in my older machine for ages, it worked quite well for a long time. Being passively cooled these cards often get very hot, adding a fan often helps with this.

Whew that was a lot of cards and text! Next post about hardware will be about the results with the hard disks, but I will be continuing this series as I have 2 more boxes of cards and numerous mainboards to go yet! I hope this has been interesting, let me know if you have any answers to some of my unknowns in the comments below.

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