When you spend a lot of time working on and using retro-computers from the ‘70s – ‘80s, you may forget that time flies by around you. What does it mean? Simply that today’s computer will be vintage in a few decades, and that we should snatch them today when they are available and relatively cheap. To me, this means that I should look closer into desktop computers built during the ‘90s, although they don’t ooze nostalgia. I gave some thought into the problem, and I decided to ignore DIY systems and pick a brand instead. I had the choose one among Compaq, Dell, Gateway 2000, Packard Bell, NEC, Sony, AST, Acer, HP, or IBM. After checking the relevance, availability, and cost, I decided to go with Sony. With its VAIO brand, the Japanese PC manufacturer was a natural choice since I already own several Sony MSX computers (here). The quality and integration level of Sony computers are usually higher than the norm. Sony’s PC division, created in 1996, and sold in 2014, was mainly targeting media-hungry users with deep pockets, which is the promise of a capable and well-equipped device.
Last but not least, in my professional life, I worked very closely with Sony engineers, so it is a form of tribute to those happy years. Now that I picked a brand, which model should I select? I wanted an affordable, compact, and early model that can run Windows 98. I chose the first PCV/Jxxx line. After browsing the web for weeks, I finally found a J120 for ~$70. I took a chance and bought the system on eBay. The previous owner removed all the expansion boards except the network interface, one of the two memory DIMMs, wiped-out the 20 GB hard-drive, and the system didn’t POST. I completely dismounted and thoroughly cleaned the device and fixed the POST issue (a depleted CD2032 battery). To complete the computer, I shopped around for an IEEE 1394, a 56K Modem, a TV-Digitizer board, a 256 MB memory stick, and an additional 20 GB HDD. As these parts flock in January, I will mount and check them. Down the road, I may upgrade the Pentium III @ 700Mhz (100MHz FSB). But as per today, the system works and can boot an OS. I will wait until the HW is complete before attacking the OS/Drivers/configuration challenge. Up to now, this project unfolds as expected. I use the opportunity to wish a fantastic and happy new year 2020 to all of you and your beloved!