Victory over a cantankerous Pentium-75

Yes, the cantankerous Pentium-75 finally realized that resistance is futile, because I have more stamina than most computers. The problems when we started: sound was flaky, CD audio didn’t work, the modem didn’t work, and the system didn’t always boot properly. Once I got my mitts on it, things quickly got worse and the system wouldn’t boot at all except in safe mode, and of course nothing works in safe mode.
After borrowing some hardware from Gatermann (I don’t know where all my AT stuff went but I sure can’t find it) and spending some serious time with it (writing about NFS and flipping back and forth between my writing station and the P75), it works. Very nicely, in fact. It blows away most Pentium-233s I’ve seen. Seriously. It boots in 30 seconds. Word loads in 10-12. That’s hardly a cause for celebration when a system with a K6-2/500 and a modern hard drive boots Windows in 20 seconds and Word 97 in 4, but consider this: This is a 75 MHz Pentium with 256K L2 cache, a SiS 5500 chipset, a mere 32 megs of RAM, a #9 Vision 330 video card (with an S3 764 chipset), an ISA ESS688-based sound card, and a very old 850 MB Maxtor hard disk. Vintage 1995 all around. Cast in that light, this machine kicks some serious butt.

I suspect some of the problems were hardware-related. After reinstalling Windows, I went and grabbed an audio CD (the always-cheerful Still, by Joy Division), dropped it in, and it indicated it was playing. But I didn’t hear anything. So I stopped the CD and checked the hardware. The CD-ROM drive was set up alone on the secondary channel (good), as a slave device (not good). The audio cable looked like it was seated properly but I wasn’t sure. I took the drive out, gave it a once-over, triple-checked all cable connections, and let it go. I powered up, grabbed another CD (Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes this time), and by the time I got the speakers plugged into the right jack, Tori Amos was asking why we always crucify ourselves. I didn’t have an answer to that question, but I had sound. Good. Either this computer doesn’t like Joy Division, or what I did fixed it.

I did a few more tweaks (OK, a lot more tweaks, because I’m a bloody perfectionist) and soon I had an overachieving P75 sitting atop the now-infamous Tower of Power. I think I’m going to keep an eye on it for one more day, then deliver it.

There are a large number of P233s at work that won’t launch Word in 10 seconds, and they certainly won’t boot Windows in 30.

So, the owner should be happy with it. I’m pretty happy with it. And I’m very glad to have some tangible numbers about what’s possible with the tricks in my book.

If this Pentium-75 is putting your system to shame, you can put an end to that.

Finishing touches: I let RAM Stress Test, by Ultra-X (trust me, you want to go to www.ultra-x.com, not any of the similar addresses–BIG mistake) run for about 20 hours straight. After 100 cycles without a failure, I restarted, booted into Windows, installed Juno (yuck), cleaned up the network settings, then installed Netscape and defragged the drive. The system is still pretty darn fast for what it is.

And, having run RAM Stress Test on the memory (it has commodity memory in it), I have reasonable confidence in the memory, and thanks to SpinRite, I have the utmost confidence in the drive (a Maxtor).

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