First Computer "Challenge"

Early in the morning after quite a colorful night involving tripleshots of strong coffee and finishing the remaining Advent of Code puzzles I thought of computing performance and how far the industry got us since PC popularization of ’80s. And even though the main direction of thoughts wasn’t reminiscing I couldn’t help but remember my very first computer - shiny brand new $600-ish1 midi tower.

Since my plan for the next AoC (one of the previous years or 2022) is full completion on some kind of outdated hardware the performance of solutions is paramount. There are several amazing laptops2 that I (sadly) couldn’t bring with me while relocating but there are some “new” ones on their way from eBay; with all that going on I wondered how painful (or not) would it be to use my first PC to solve puzzles or maybe even do something more.

| CPU         | Socket 370 Intel Celeron 633MHz "Coppermine" |
| Motherboard | Chaintech 6OJV2 (i815 chipset with IGP)      |
| Memory      | 128MB 133MHz SDRAM                           |
| Hard Drive  | 20GB Fujitsu MPG3204AT                       |
| Display     | LG Studioworks 575N                          |

Plain run-off-the-mill setup was a big leap from nothing for me - getting that kind of brand parts when I was 16 was something special. Some of the parts were quite infamous - like the hard drive that died alongside with thousands of others of the same model. Whopping 128MB RAM was quite a lot at the time as well - my friends who had computers at home for a while only had 32 to 64 megabytes.

SIMM memory was still a thing here and there, and bloody unreliable 3.5" diskettes were the most widespread portable storage unit.

Even so the whole things was quite capable - integrated graphics didn’t allow me to play any particularly fancy games but as far as I can remember the main toys among our jolly bunch were Borland Delphi 63 and Turbo Pascal 7 and even Visual Basic at the beginning.

At some point we discovered Linux - hardware support back then was especially lacking for “software” dialup modems and rebooting to Windows 2000 to download stuff was an usual thing.

Nostalgy4 aside the conclusions that I drew from that lazy neural process were that it would be amusing to build the same or the similar-spec computer now and try at least recreational programming there: hopefully iBook G3 Clamshell arrives some time later in January and timespan-wise it is somewhere there in early 2000s. Going back to Windows won’t be much fun after all so I can check out the life on expensive side5.

eBay listings show that it is quite possible to build the very same desktop even now but since I’ve been a slave to x86 past 20 years I’ll try to stick with something else. In my opinion 20 years old hardware should hold quite good even now for aforementioned tasks but to be able to tell for sure I first have to validate that firsthand.

There is a related quite interesting The Old Computer Challenge and even more amazing C Programming on System 6 series from Joshua Stein; both prove that it is possible to use somewhat old hardware to have fun and improve own skills.

  1. In 2002 USD. ↩︎

  2. The most prized possession is ‘94 Gateway Colorbook, the most loved - iBook G4. ↩︎

  3. Of course no one paid for a single digital thing back then - the entire post-soviet area was essentially Tortuga. ↩︎

  4. Cheap emotion that I don’t do that much to be honest - ‘twas fun times back then, and now is quite fun as well. ↩︎

  5. The original price for that laptop was $1000 bigger than my desktop. ↩︎