Hardware Donation

It’s not everyday that someone moves house, and when someone I know moved house recently they found a pile of old computer gear they didn’t want anymore. They asked me if I wanted any of it and of course I said yes! So last weekend I got this rather large box of old computer gear. I just had enough time this weekend to unpack it and take some photos.

First up is this old tower case. It’s an exceptionally large unit with 5 half height slots for CD-ROM drives or 5.25″ floppy drives. Internally there is also plenty of room for hard disks. One of the most striking things for me is that it has exactly the same styling as the first PC I owned myself. Whilst my case was a standard size tower it had the same type of buttons, LEDs, and 3.5″ floppy drive bay. This case will be good for installing a large number of drives, I have a dual Pentium 3 main board that may have to find a home in this machine.

Here I have another 5.25″ floppy disk drive, this time made by TEAC. This model is interesting partly because it seems to lack any serious shielding. The other drives I have are well shielded because of the possibility of electromagnetic noise interfering with their operation. It is possible they were relying on the computer chassis to provide this shielding.

Here’s a photo of the underside of the drive. The main casting shows a date code indicating the 12th week of 1990, but many of the chips on the various boards are dated the next year or in the case of the main controller chip the 5th week of 1992. By this time the 5.25″ floppy was starting to lose favour and was starting to gradually disappear. This may explain the lack of shielding and the wide range of date codes.

Also in the box was three 3.25″ floppy disk drives. The black one in the photo is a modern drive I already had (a Sony made in 2006) and is there for comparison. The three from the box are quite a bit older as you can tell by the extreme yellowing on the bottom left drive.

The three old drives again showing the underside, the top drive being the modern Sony drive.

Two of these floppy drives were made by manufacturers I didn’t realise were in the floppy drive market. The drive which is badly yellowed and has no shielding on the underside was made by a company called Safronic, which I’ve never heard of before. It seems they made a range of drives including 5.25″, but I couldn’t find any information about the company itself. The drive has a red LED which is unusual as most use green ones.

The drive with the dirtier face plate is marked as being made by ALPS electronics, which is much more famous for touchpads in laptops. This drive has a sticker on it suggesting that it once belonged in a computer sold by Osbourne, an Australian computer retailer that got its start selling the Osbourne 1 machine.

The last old floppy drive was made by Mitsumi, a large electronics manufacturer based in Japan. I remember a lot of PC hardware having been made by them, in particular CD/DVD drives.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a small group of older hard disk drives, mostly from the early 1990’s. The left two drives are both made by Fujitsu, the one at the top being the more modern made in 2001 and the older one from 1991. The bottom middle drive is a 120Mb drive made by Connor and looks very similar to some drives I had in my Amstrad Laptops, it even has the three pin power connector required. It was made in mid 1992.

The remaining two drives on the right are made by Maxtor. The upper drive is the earlier of the two and was made in 1993, shortly after Maxtor had some financial trouble and had shut down engineering operations in San José. The other drive was made in 1998 and is 4.3Gb. I don’t remember Maxtor drives having a particularly good reputation for speed or reliability, and I saw many Maxtor drives fail during my time working in IT support, mostly more modern drives than these examples.

I found some useful PCI cards in the box, including a Silicon Image IDE host adapter, a Realtek 8139C network adapter and a sound card I haven’t identified yet. The Realtek NIC is a useful one to have around as this particular model is well supported even on old operating systems such as win98 which I believe has a driver built-in for this card. The Silicon Image card will be handy so I can fit more hard disks into the large tower case. I’ll have to find out what the sound card is before I can decide how useful it is.

Here we have an ISA 3com Etherlink III 10Mbps NIC. It has all three of the major connection types used by Ethernet which are AUI, BNC (coax) and what we use now the RJ45 connector for Cat5 cable. This card notably doesn’t have any activity LEDs at all which I found a bit strange.

3com were one of the driving companies behind Ethernet becoming popular, they competed with IBM and their token ring standard in the 80’s. Ethernet succeeded where the others did not due to being more adaptable and moving to cheaper twisted pair cabling where other standards used more expensive solutions.

Finally we have two AGP graphics cards. The top one is a Trident 3D Image 9750, a cheap and not particularly good 3d accelerator. Trident was trying to enter the 3d accelerator market and the first few chips they made (including this one) weren’t very good. By the time they made a good chip, the Blade3d chips, consumers had lost confidence in them.

The other card is a Hercules 3D Prophet II MX which is based on a NVIDIA Geforce 2 MX chip. Hercules made graphics cards in the early days of the PC that were compatible with the common monochrome MDA cards made by IBM, except theirs included the capability for graphics. They attempted a few more graphics card chips of their own before deciding to license chips from other manufacturers, the first being a Tseng Labs based card. The 3D Prophet cards are among the last ones I remember from Hercules.

I didn’t take any more photos as the rest of the box was filled with cabling and a small pile of DVD/CD drives of various vintage. The cabling is useful as amongst it were a number of 5.25″ floppy drive cables with the edge connector that can be difficult to find.

Once again I’d like to thank the person who gave me this generous pile of parts, now I just need to find somewhere to store it all.


4 Responses to “Hardware Donation”

  1. 1 goughlui
    August 12, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Always love to see the hardware posts. Hardware donation is always the best – never let anything go to waste!

    I’ve never seen a Safronics 3.5″ floppy drive myself either, but I’ve run across many Teac, Sony, Panasonic, Mitsumi, Alps, Citizen 3.5″ drives in the past. I’m sure there are many other names, especially when it comes to 5.25″, such as Tandon which are rare to come by. The unshielded 5.25″ Teac drive is how I find most of my Teac drives – no protection around anything. I suppose computers might have gotten “less” noisy and over-engineered at that stage and it wasn’t a necessity.

    Interesting to see an old Fujitsu drive in the bunch – I know of and still have the 2.1Gb – 8.4Gb MP?****AT series drives sitting around somewhere that still work well (apart from being noisy), and it was really the only series of Fujitsu I’ve ever seen in the consumer market before they abruptly disappeared into 2.5″ only territory, and then altogether. Solid but not fast was my memory of the Fujitsu drives.

    That Maxtor 7131AT might surprise you – I salvaged one late 2012 dated 11-11-1993 and that thing still reads back perfectly (http://goughlui.com/?p=216). The other Maxtor might not be too bad either – I have some similarly built ones that are still workable.

    The Conner on the other hand, might not be as lucky (I’m yet to find any working ones so far). The older Fujitsu, I’m not sure, but that’s an M2611T 45Mb drive. The fact it got a mention on Redhill (http://redhill.net.au/d/137.php) means it’s pretty cool stuff!

    The sound card looks like a half-breed modern/early PCI card – it has a Sigmatel DAC on it, but it seems to have an Opamp amplifier as if to drive older passive speakers, and non PC99 colour coded jacks. It seems like it is a Labway A301-D10 which uses a Yamaha XG controller which doesn’t have any modern support anymore. I have an Xwave with a similar setup but I never bothered to see if I could get it to work based upon the lack of drivers for it.

    The Silicon Image Sil0680 card was quite common, I had many of them, but this one appears to be a particularly old model as the PCB has the CMD branding on it. It was known as the CMD0680 IDE controller until Silicon Image bought them out.

    Interesting observation on the lack of activity LEDs on the 3Com EtherLink III. And definitely a rare find to get a Trident AGP video card – 3D and bad performance was the death of Trident in the graphics space, as they were once very common in the ISA and VLB days despite lackluster performance. Looks like that Hercules card is missing a small 40mm fan – I think I have one much the same, because the bearings get gummed up. Part of my hate for many graphic cards in the AGP era was the manufacturer’s insistence on sleeve bearing fans. Eugh.

    • August 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks for the comment!

      I’ve seen many Sony and Panasonic 3.5″ drives, but never an Alps or Safronic one before. 5.25″ drives weren’t that common by the time I worked in IT support so I’ve only really seen a handful of those, but I understand that there was a great variety of different manufacturers. I had a Canon 5.25″ drive in my original PC that many would think strange due to its slim nature.

      The Hard disks will be fun to investigate, I’d imagine they should be dead but you never know. These Maxtor drives are old enough they may be built before their reliability got shot. The Maxtor drives I remember seeing die the most were of about 20-80Gb capacity so were much more modern than this pair. Almost every time I saw one it was either dead or on its last legs. All the Conner drives I’ve had have actually been in really good condition so far, maybe this one will be the first dead one.

      I agree after looking at the sound card that it’s likely a Labway Yamaha based card. It might be hard to get drivers although driver guide seems to think they have one. It seems the support is mostly for win9x systems.

      I only every saw add-in IDE host adapters in a very few machines, usually ones from people who wanted basic RAID or more storage than the on-board controller could handle. Although I did mostly see Silicon image adapters where they were in use, either that or an Adaptec card. Interestingly Silicon image adapters of all types make it onto mainboards in all sorts of systems, even ones not based on the PC architecture.

      I remember the horrible noises those fans made when they were about to die, luckily my geforce 2 mx was passively cooled instead which made it run quite hot. The previous owner said the fan was removed because it failed, as small ones like that always eventually do. If I ever use this card I’ll fit a larger heatsink on it if I can and a new fan if I can find one.


      • 3 goughlui
        August 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm

        Definitely agree that this is “pre” wonky Maxtor. The ones I’ve seen with the later Diamondmax branding were the ones that developed bad sectors like mad, which definitely concurs with the sizes of the drives you mentioned.

        In fact, my legacy site used to be hosted from my Pentium III desktop in my bedroom on a DiamondMax Plus 8 40Gb single-platter, single-head drive – they claimed it to be quiet and reliable due to its simplicity. One day my webserver came to a grinding halt – bad sectors all over! Luckily only one file was damaged after a long recovery process, and could be repaired from a monthly backup.

        Good luck with the drives! Look forward to hearing more about them :). It’d be pretty exciting if that 45Mb Fujitsu still runs.

        By the way, be careful with the heatsinks – those ones are typically thermal EPOXIED onto the chip, so they don’t have to bother with screw or clip attachment of a heatsink. The fan screws into the metal plate heatsink, and is supported by the chip through the thermal glue! Often there’s no way to undo the thermal epoxy without damaging the chip.

        I have a 32Mb TNT2 with that sort of sink … but it does run okay without the fan, just quite hot.

        – Gough

      • August 12, 2014 at 6:59 pm

        yikes! Lucky you had a backup! The ones I remember were quiet but usually also dead.

        This hercules card has the heatsink attached with two pegs at opposite corners, so I should be able to rig something up if need be. Luckily the passive one I had used has a much larger heatsink, but still ran very hot. I rigged up a fan in my chassis to keep it cooler at the time.


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