April 13, 2009

From the dawn of time it came...

At some time everyone has read something, gone someplace or done something that opens up a floodgate of memories of things from their past. This past weekend I had one of those experiences.

My re-enacting friend, Smokepoles, bought a ten manufacturing business and is working to get it up and running. With the purchase of the business came a computer that hasn’t been made since around 1992. It was a Leading Edge WinPro 486sx/33. For those of you that are computer illiterate, a really old computer from a company that doesn’t exist anymore. The kicker is that the CMOS battery was dead so if you had to reboot it, you had to setup all of the hardware each time. Fun, Fun! Now before I go any further, I knew the previous owner of the business, and he is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He is an older gentlemen, and from looking at the computer program, the notes that went with it and the program he was using, not very computer savvy. I'm not speaking ill of him, just acknowledging he may not have known better.

Graumagus came with me to help Smokepoles get the essential data off of this computer. What we thought would be an easy transition turned into a hellacious headache. First off we had to crack the case open to get the info for the hard drive, because we didn’t have the necessary information to set it up in CMOS. Then once we had it going it would auto start into what we dubbed “Bob’s program” because it was nothing we had ever seen before and it looks like it was written specifically for the previous owner. In which we spent some time trying to figure out. It was running MS-DOS V6. (Pre-windows, and thank god all of our DOS jockey days came flooding back to our memories.) The file organization on this computer was horrible. It looked like the thought of using directories and sub-directories never crossed anyone’s mind as a lot of programs were loaded right into the main C:\ directory.

We opened up the Autoexec file to find the .BAT was being run so we could find Bob’s Program. Which Grau found, but opening it up, it was about useless. It really didn’t look like it was running anything. Finally we were able to find the name of file that starts Bob’s Program, there were two of them. Main.exe and Menu.exe. Both of them started Bob’s Program. Once we got in there, we tried to find the data files, but the programs just did not cooperate. We even tried to get the program to save files on a blank floppy so we could try to open it on another computer, but that wouldn’t work. When we did find a text file associated with Bob’s Program, we couldn’t find ANYTHING on the modern computers that would even open it up. Even a generic wordpad opening just produced symbols and junk.

While Grau worked on trying to find the data, I worked on trying to get the program to run on Smokepoles' new computer… with no luck. The new system, even in a dos shell, wouldn’t let the older program run properly. Even when I finally had a break through and was able to get the program to open up, the program wouldn’t open any of the data files. Which cause me to cheer out in joy when I finally got the program to run, and scream “F#CK!!!!!” when the files wouldn’t open. That wouldn’t be so funny, but Smokepoles’ in-laws were in town for the weekend for Easter. They don’t like him too much. He had asked that we be on our best behavior while there, and I had warned Grau a couple of times about it. Of course right as I screamed my expletive, was when his father in law walked into the computer room. I didn’t see the look on his in-law’s face, but according to Smokepoles the look on his face was classic.

Over all we could not get the program to run on the new computer, we could not locate the files specifically needed off of the old computer to try to read them. So we ended up printing out the data so Smokepoles could manually enter it into the new computer. This of course required getting a 17 year old bubble jet printer to work. We didn’t have the proper cables to hook up a modern printer to it. Luckily, the 17 year old printer not only worked, but there was some ink in the cartridge. When that cartridge died, the local Cartridge World actually had a replacement in stock!

The only problem with printing is that Bob’s program either saved all the data together into one giant Word Processing style document or the previous owner never though of created separate ones for each template. The contact list was HUGE, every vendor had an entry, every person he ever sold to had an entry and organization he worked with had an entry… and they were all mixed together. Needless to say Smokepoles was printing for over 3 hours.

Out of the hell of working on this computer, trying to reclaim much needed information, Grau and I kept joking around on how we felt like we were back in High School again. It was like back when I first started getting into computers. The old 2400 baud modems, and using dial-ups to get to a Bulletin Board System (BBS). How if you wanted to check your e-mail, you had to log onto the system it was sent on. Alternate means of getting data from California with out paying for it. Programs we used to use; games, word processing, file viewers, etc. Memories I had long forgotten, or suppressed in some cases, came flooding back.

Seriously, at one point I wanted to see if I could find an ’83 Pontiac Phoenix to go cruising around in.

Posted by Contagion in Stories about me. at April 13, 2009 06:25 PM | TrackBack

O jeez.

Knowing the former owner of said company, I guess this doesn't surprise me too much.

But deep down, weren't you and Grau having a hayday?

Posted by: Petey at April 13, 2009 10:31 PM

Kinda, yeah :)
What really brought back memories is how stable the old Seagate hard drives used to be. That sucker was 15+ years old and didn't even have a hint of platter rattle.

Posted by: Graumagus at April 14, 2009 10:41 AM

Was this written in English?

Posted by: T1G at April 14, 2009 07:35 PM