Amethyst's Computers, Now and Then

My first computer was an unnamed Franklin Ace 500. For those of you possessing no experience with computer systems which were already obsolete by the time they were designed (in the mid-eighties), this is an Apple //c clone. I have no idea why I never threw it out a window. I received this computer on the Christmas before my seventh birthday (Dec. 25, 1987).

Fred was my first real computer. He was a 386sx-20 laptop, with 4MB of RAM. He was already headed for the scrap heap when I got him in November, 1992. Worse than that, he was an IBM (PS/2 L40-SX). I would never buy something like that, of course; he was a gift :) One day in 1994 or so, I decided to test my newfound knowledge of CMOS programming by writing a program to display the contents of the CMOS. I goofed, and overwrote the entire CMOS. This wouldn't have been so bad, but I could not find the specs to the hard drive. Opening up the computer and looking at the hard drive specs didn't work; apparently, the drive was formatted in some weird fashion. Of course, I didn't have backups of my CMOS (``backups are for wimps who don't know how to use their computer'' :). Hundreds of calls to IBM (well, really about 10) were made in vain. Finally, I gave up and traded Fred to my friend Wendell Wilson for my next computer, Grumblebuny. A few weeks after Wendell got him, Fred completely died. Wendell didn't mind, though---he needed the spare parts. Someone out there now owns a rebuilt PS/2 L40-SX, half of the parts of which were once in Fred. If you know who you are, mail me!

Miko wasn't actually my computer. He belonged to my school, and was an IBM PS/Valuepoint 433DX (486DX-33 with 8MB of RAM). I took him home one summer to experiment with Autocad and 3D-Studio (yes, I did have a 3D-Studio hardware key---the school wasn't going to be using it over the summer). He ended up also running a Microsoft C 6.00ax compiler, as well as the Windows 3.1 SDK. Before you question all this: yes, everything was completely legit. He is still in use, running Autocad and Microsoft Works for Windows. I'm sure he would go ahead and commit suicide if he could (hey, he's an IBM; chances are, he will one day :)

Grumblebuny (no, I didn't name him) was a 386sx-25 with 4MB of RAM. He was a desktop computer, and the first I owned which was not from a major company. He used to be the backup computer for one of the local BBSes (which shut down a long time ago). He was built by Michael Chaney (the ex-sysop of the aforementioned ex-BBS) and Wendell. He was much more stable than Fred could have ever hoped to be (part of this was most definitely due to the fact that he never, ever ran Windows). For a short time in August-September 1995, he ran Controlled by Hatred, my BBS (I got over that a long time ago). I think Wendell currently has him, although bugger if I can find him.

Maxwell is my current computer. He is a Pentium-133, with 32MB of memory. He ran Windows for a little while, but that was only because it was a lot easier to get Trumpet Winsock and a Windows FTP client than the equivalents for DOS. As soon as possible, I changed to Linux. I began with Slackware (I don't know what version; it was relatively old), back in mid-May, 1996. It took me until the end of May to get around to upgrading the kernel to 2.0.0 and to get PPP and networking set up. After a fatal disk crash (it sounded like it went farming), I installed Red Hat 4.1 from CD. I later got a 2.5GB drive, and copied the system over to that. For more information on maxwell, see his page.

I also have a 286 around here somewhere, nomine Zippo. E's an NCR, and pretty good for a 286. The only problem is that I tried plugging in a broken keyboard, and now no keyboards will work. Wendell and I think it's a blown fuse, but we've never bothered looking at it and trying to fix it. Zippo has a 20MB MFM drive; there's an on-board IDE controller, but Wendell didn't have any spare IDE drives.

One of these days, I plan on getting an Alpha. I would like at least 128MB, and 8 gigs or more of high-speed SCSI storage. Of course, I'm a bit low on money, so that day will be quite a ways off, and I'll probably want a better system by then.

Valjean is a Linux (Slackware 3.1) server I run at my former high school. E is an AMD 586-133 (my school is cheap) with 16MB of RAM and a 2GB hard drive. In case you are wondering, e is using a 3com Tokenlink III 16/4 card. Don't ask me why my school uses Token Ring instead of ethernet; it's an IBM thing :( Eir IP(v4) address is Eir hostname is, although and also work. Since I am off to college now, I'm maintaining em remotely, along with the help of Wendell and Michael Slone.

Fred got his name due to an in-joke between Wendell and myself regarding so-called technical columns in so-called computer magazines; we wrote a spoof called `Ask Doctor Fred', in which staggeringly technical questions such as, ``What will happen to my computer if I pick it up and drop it repeatedly because Windows keeps crashing?''; were asked. I'm not sure how Grumblebuny got his name; I'm also not sure I want to know how. Valjean got his name from Les Misérables. The character of that name was known in prison only by a number: 24601; valjean (the computer) ran for a month or so with only an IP address (no hostname in DNSs anywhere). Zippo got eir name because of eir great speed. A (magic) cookie and a virtual pat on the back go to the first person to figure out where Miko and Maxwell got their names (they are from different places).

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