It took me way longer than I thought! In my quest to build the ultimate IO PC, I had to jump through dozens of hoops. Between failing parts, hard to source parts, incompatible parts, not enough this or that parts or there is not enough room here situations, I genuinely enjoyed this build. No, I am serious, even if it doesn’t sound like it. As you may recall, for this IO PC, I decided to pick new parts when possible and focus all my attention on the IO devices instead. But even using modern components can be problematic, especially in a vintage case.
Indeed, the biggest issue I faced was that old PC cases are not like our modern, spacious ones, able to host several ventirads, water reservoirs, pumps, and a subtle selection of RGB puke! They lake space! And they are quite sharp as well, so they tend to slice and dice your hands when you try to reach the unreachable connector hiding in the dark with that too short of a cable, for the hundred times. So, to reduce clutter – and have an embryonic form to cable management – I’ve replaced the octopus (that’s how I name vintage PSUs) with a modular modern power supply (EVGA Supernova 650 G5 80Plus). This way I only used the 24 pins connector for the motherboard and two peripheral cables. All good, right? Not really. Although you can use a 24 pins cable with a 20 pins connector (yeah, vintage mobos needed fewer power lanes), a reluctant capacitor will block you. No problem, you have now to source a converted with some extra cable length. And it goes on, and on, and on for every component. A true delight! Then comes the failing devices. As expected, it is the one device you wanted, needed, that dies on you as soon as you power it up. Like the 5.25”/3.5” combo floppy drive. OK, maybe it was its way to make me pay for my rookie mistake that you likely spotted in last post’s pictures: I mounted it inverted… I must have lost a few electrons there ;).
Overall, the problem you need to solve with such build is to maximize the number of slots – including the ones on the mobo –, and the variety of media you want for your IO PC. In my case, I ended with the following configuration. The mobo is an Azza PT-6IB built around the excellent Intel 440BX chipset. It hosts a modest Intel Celeron @ 350 MHz (Covington) with 32 KB of L1 cache, support for MMX instructions, and a whopping 200 MB of RAM. The chipset is neat as it allows for many configurations with its support for AGP 2X (1.0 – 1 slot), PCI (2.1 – 5 slots) and ISA (2 slots). I quickly used them up with the following expansion cards: a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5465 AGP 2.0 graphics card, an Ultra-60 SCSI controller by Adaptec (29160LP), an IEEE 1394 multi-port controller, a Gigabit NIC (AirLINK), a PCI-to-PCMCIA controller (16-bit by Sedna), an Adaptec Dual Channel Ultra IDE PATA ATA/133 PCI controller (ASH-1233, to add two more IDE channels).
To top this hefty list, I have on order a Hewlett-Packard HP 82335A ISA HP-IB controller! These controllers are driving a Seagate ST500DM002 SATA HDD (connected via a StarTech 40-pin IDE to SATA converter), a Mitsumi CD-ROM FX54++, a TEAC FD-55GFR 5.25” floppy drive, a Sony FA P1 PCMCIA floppy disk adapter and drive, a Iomega Jaz 1GB SCSI, a Iomega ZIP 100MB IDE, and an Imation SuperDisk LS-120. Note that the ZIP-100 and the LS-120 are floptical devices, meaning that they are using a laser beam to drive a super-small magnetic read/write head. Unfortunately, I couldn’t install my Hewlett-Packard Colorado T1000 streamer by lack of space…
To connect all these devices to all these controllers, I used round cables that require less space than the traditional flat ones. Only the 5.25” floppy and the Ultra SCSI chain are using flat wires. This experience reminded me that building PCs 20 or 30 years ago was challenging! Just fitting all these components, in that case, was a real pain. And I won’t comment on the cable management. True, this is a notion that simply didn’t exist back then (and now I know why). But, in the end, TADA! The HW of my ultimate IO PC is now complete, and ready to receive its OS. For this build, I decided to pick Windows XP SP3 to simplify driver hunting. Stay tuned for part III (but this time I will not give you an ETA that I certainly won’t be able to respect :)).