HP-207 – Part 2: Breakout the Hazmat Suit!

If you glance quickly thru the pictures and videos of the first part, you may think that I had the chance to get a nice and pristine HP 207 (or Integral PC – IPC). Alas, you cannot be more wrong about it! As mentioned in an early post (titled Elbow grease), all vintage system requires some clean-up and repair. Well, this remarkable HP 207 was no exception. Instead, it literally broke all the records! This machine must have spent the last 31 years in a barn (yes, 31 years, see part 3). The system was not working properly and the floppy drive was completely jammed. So I knew that there was some work to be done down the road. What I certainly didn’t expect though is that it was the first time I had to consider biohazards…

From the outside, the machine had several annotations written with a permanent marker and had signs of tear and wear. Nothing to worry about. But as I moved the IPC around, I’ve noticed small animal dropping (poo) falling out. Eeeeeerrrk!! No kidding, I’ve decided to perform a complete overhaul. In fine, the exercise was a great learning opportunity and it raised the appreciation I have for the engineering feat that the IPC is. You know when Jeff Goldblum says “No. I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.” in Jurassic Park, he is right! How in hell could mice reach the inner guts of the IPC to poo in it? See it for yourself in the photos, but I still don’t know how a mouse could relax under the floppy (between the floppy drive and the front panel). There is no passage from the expansion bay (only possible entry point here) and the PSU/motherboards space! It is simply impossible. This mouse’s name must have been Mr. Hunt. One thing is sure though, is that as I progressed in the disassembling, the nausea was growing. When I reached the PSU block, I was expecting to find a carcass…

In addition to animal dropping, spider web, dead insects and some un-identified biological goo, I found the usual heavy dust and rust. The clean-up was methodical and I used bleach, 99% alcohol, Magic Eraser sponges, water, and of course a ton of elbow grease. This ordonnance was delivered methodically and in multiple passes. Oh, I almost forgot: I also used a vacuum cleaner and latex gloves (a lot of them) with additional tools (cotton swabs, hard brush, towels, lubricant, etc.). It took me a couple of weeks to disassemble the computer and document each step (because you need to put it back eventually) and a couple of days to clean the beast (I have to confess; I did a lot of procrastination). Re-assembling the IPC was a great experience. Everything dovetailed smoothly and handling the sanitized components was a pleasure. The floppy drive required extra re-work (full disassembly, de-greasing, and re-greasing) that I will cover in the last and third part. After all this work, I’ve plugged the IPC into the mains and pressed the ON switch. In less than 5 seconds (few of the longest seconds ever), the IPC smoothly booted HP-UX. Victory!!!