The Era of the 486 has Ended

Pulling the BNC cable connectors off and pulling out the ancient keyboard DIN plug (no mouse needed for DOS) – gave me a feeling of a little sadness. That hardware was more or less what I started with in my early days of PC. Actually it was the “also ran” IBM Microchannel architecture (MCA) that was in the first PC I worked with.  My uncle loaned it to me when it was actually still something. Think there was a massive 20 MB hard drive in there.

But there was a 270 MB hard drive in one of these computers so I guess they were just a bit later in the cycle.  I gazed upon those ISA sockets – I think I still have several ISA cards laying around. Amazingly I think I still have an ISA video card in my video card drawer!

The computer actually looked pretty clean for having been there for 15 years.  Oh sure, the dust gagged me when I took the spray can to it, but it was better than many I’ve seen that are only a few years old.

The 486 was definitely on it’s last legs. It was designed for a whole different type of environment than which we have today. These were the days of having to know what your IRQs were – AND be able to adjust them with the pin connectors, your COM ports and their memory addresses. There were only a few things that seemed to be automatic with these machines. It seems to me that we even had to play with the drive geometry to get the drives to be recognized correctly.  These days, it really is just a plug and play kind of thing – in those day – nope.  You almost had to BE a computer tech to setup much of anything on your computer!

Western Digital Caviar 1270The BNC cable connections. Boy those were the bomb back in the early to mid 90s. They were bayonet mount coax cables that had a little T shape that you would connect to your computer. 1 line in, 1 line out sometimes, and the connect for your computer. IF there were more computers down the aisle in your office, then there was going to be the second cable coming out of your network connection and heading on that way. If not, then you had to make sure that you popped on a terminator. It was a pain when you had people coming and going out of an office. Someone would invariable disconnect the cable when they left and end up screwing up the network 🙂 I was watching these things boot up and using LANtastic. I can’t even TELL you the last time I saw that launch.

And then the hard drive. 270 MB. It was actually enough for the operating system (DOS 6.22 with Win 3.0-3.1 in those days) and MS Office 4.0 or MAYBE that cutting edge product, WordPerfect. This is a vintage 1994 model to the right. Yup, it was definitely a few generations ago.

As I pawed through the documentation to get a handle on some of the disks that were in the software package that accompanied this computer, I noticed and remembered, with amusement, that the OS in those days WOULD fit on floppies – 5 to be exact for Win 3.1.  Now I doubt I could fit any of my normally used applications on that number of floppies. On the new computer, there wasn’t a floppy installed at all.  Their day has definitely passed. I brought all the floppies back to the office, installed a floppy drive as I haven’t had one now for the last few years, and copied and burned all the apps to CD.  I was hoping I wasn’t going to need to actually BUY a floppy drive for this operation, but I checked at TigerDirect/CompUSA just in case. They had 1. Just one. And it was USB oriented. $29.99.  Used to be able to pick ’em up for about $5. Put USB on it – and cut the supply to almost nil and you CAN apparently charge 30 bucks for a floppy drive. My how the times have changed.

Alas poor 486, I knew thee well.

Author: Eric Erickson

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *