Now that I completed my Sony VAIO PCV-J120 project – grab and restore a circa 2000 OEM desktop PC and run it under Microsoft Windows 98 SE –, I wanted to use the retro-PC momentum and start a new vintage PC project. Indeed, now that I re-sharpened some of my vintage PC troubleshooter skills, I feel ready to build my IO PC! What’s an IO PC? It is a PC that has a spread of IO devices that I could use to backup obsolete media, copy files between them, and re-create the damaged or lost ones. Examples of such media are 5.25” floppies, ZIP disks or QIC tapes. You may not know, but simply creating a 720 KB 3.5” floppy is impossible with our modern PC, even though one can buy USB 3.5” floppy drives everywhere. The problem in this specific case is that these modern floppy drives work like a charm for the 1.44 MB format, but can’t do anything else. Even if you try from a DOS prompt the format A: /FS:FAT /T:80 /N:9 command, after half an hour or so, that resulting floppy will fail in any legacy drive. You need the real stuff; there is no way around.
I have several old PCs rusting away in the garage, and I decided that I will consolidate their IO devices into one system, to rule them all, muahahaha! As usual, I had to go through a thorough cleaning first of these PCs and then dismounting the donor systems. In addition to the routine cleaning arsenal, I had to remove a few corrosion spots. These often appear on our old PCs’ cheap – and sharp as knives – chassis over the years. Even more, if the system was fading away in a garage or was exposed to the elements. Although I could remove the rust mechanically, I prefer – no need to break out the power tools – the chemical approach. I am successfully using the Loctite rust dissolver Naval Jelly. Apply the pink goo on the rust, let it do its magic for ~20 minutes, and wipe it off, et voila! Beware, the stuff is quite toxic, so handle with care.
This project is all about the IO devices. I have no special requirements for the compute part, nor I need to keep as much vintage component as possible. On the contrary, I will replace as many shaky parts with its modern equivalent. For example, I will use a current power supply in the replacement of the uncertain original PSU.
Not only would I trust it more, but it will be more power-efficient and a modular model will help to control the clutter. Same for the HDD, I will go with a SATA model, and sure I will waste some serious capacity on a 500 GB or 1 TB model, but these are cheap, readily available, and easy to replace!
Now, you will say, but wait! What about the connector, your vintage PC is PATA not SATA!? Well, the solution is quite simple: pick an adapter. For example, I am using the StarTech 40-pin IDE to SATA converter. One of the many available out there. And so on. I am sure this project will have few ah-ha moments and maybe a few fails, but I am confident that I will have my IO PC sooner than later.