Thursday, March 05, 2009

Obsolescence is a pain in the neck...

I'm trying to clean out some of the unused/unloved technology around the house. An interesting case that I'm currently working on is Yvette's old laptop. She used this thing back in her college days, and it'd be nice to be able to get the data off it (for nostalgic purposes), then send it to the great computer graveyard.

It's an approximately 20-year old NEC DOS-based laptop, with a black-and-white LCD screen, and a massive 20 MB hard drive. It boots and seems to run just fine, a bit of a miracle in itself, but I haven't yet figured out how to get the data off of it.

You'd think that it'd be relatively easy to copy the data off this thing, but:

1. Accessing the floppy drive causes the computer to reboot.

2. Neither the serial port nor the modem are recognized by the communications software installed on the thing, so I can't transfer data that way.

3. This computer is old enough that those (and the printer port) are only external I/O ports - there's no USB, no network port, and no wireless network ability.

I took the thing apart, and discovered that the hard drive in it is actually an IDE drive. Wow - that's almost a current-generation drive technology. I figured I could just get an adapter, and connect the old hard drive directly to a new system. Piece of cake, right? I've already got a Firewire-to-IDE external drive case, so it ought to be just a matter of hooking things up.

Not so fast. They do make a 44-pin to 40 pin adaptor just for connecting laptop 40-pin drives to an IDE connector, and I can connect that adapter to my Firewire-to-IDE external drive enclosure, and the drive spins up on power-up and everything. However, it isn't recognized properly. Apparently the firewire-IDE adapter doesn't work correctly with this drive. If I had to take a guess, I'd guess that the adapter doesn't support IDE drives which don't do DMA transfers.

It's a bit frustrating to have a drive that I know is readable, and have no way to get the data off of it. I'll probably try another IDE bridge and see if it works with this drive, but if that's a bust, I may be in the market for an OLD PC that I can connect the drive to, copy the data off of it, and then recycle.

There may be a trip to Weird Stuff Warehouse in my near future...

3 comments:

steph said...

Like, uh, HOW old? Is 1998 too new? P-II & NT.

Subrata Sircar said...

In the corner of my office at work sits an old, dusty PowerMac G3. It runs Mac OS 9.1 (I don't think I ever updated it to 9.2). Behind it, there's a keyboard with the right adaptor for it, and it has a monitor plug adaptor so it can be used with the last tube-based monitor I have left. I haven't turned it on in years.

Why is it still there, you ask? It has an Ethernet port, a Zip drive, a 3.5" floppy drive, and a CD drive, and barring bit-rot, they all work :)

If it would be of help to you, let me know; we can work something out.

She Fights Like a Girl said...

My vote goes to hand-transcription. Then you'll never have this problem again. Human-readable is the future, my man!