Friday, March 28, 2008

An Adventure In Retro Computing

I am a big fan of 'Iron Chef', this is a great series, two chefs battle for 60 minutes to produce a 5 course meal using a 'secret ingredient'. I love the idea of a wild adventure.

The computer world is sometimes like 'Iron Chef', you have no idea what you are going to be asked to do. This weeks challenge sounded simple, move 5 meg of data from one laptop to another. Walk in the park was my first thought. How difficult can it be to transfer 5 meg?

Well, it was a little trickier than I had imagined. The laptop was ancient, it was running Win 95! I should have said "NO", but of course I said "sure I can do this". And then the problems started!

A quick look at this aging laptop revealed that it had limited capabilities. No USB, no Ethernet, oh, and no floppy drive. This makes it more exciting.

Right about now I am considering the idea of getting Jan to just re-type the damn documents and we can get this monkey off our backs.

It did have a modem though. This could be a breakthrough. Alas it was not, the Win 95 installation was a little 'banged up' and while the modem 'modemed', it refused to connect to the ISP that I use. The problem was in the TCP/IP stacks. I am a bit of a pack rat, but search as I did, I could not find a Win 95 CD.

My next plan was to upgrade the pc to Win 98, but the only CD's I had were 'For A New Computer Only' versions. And the last thing I wanted to do was reformat the drive.

Plan 'C' was to install Win 2k, this worked well for about 2 minutes, then I got the 'you don't have enough RAM message.

Hmmm, I thought, actually I was swearing up a storm by this time.

It was time to think outside the box.....

"Go back young man" was the thought that went through my mind.

So it was 'back to the future', way back when, I used to use something called Laplink. Laplink allowed you to copy files between computers using a funky cable connected to the printer port. Being a retro kind of a guy I just happened to have one of those funky cables, and 2 minutes of Googling found some shareware that would do the job.

It didn't exactly work like a charm, there was much wailing and complaining from both laptops, I guess the clocking on the parallel ports was not quite in sync, but it worked!

Sometimes you just have to go backwards to go forward!

1 comment:

Bruce A. Bateman said...

As you know, Simon, I am anything but an expert on things computerese.

When you described your problem the first thing I thought of was installing an external drive, a cd rom or a floppy drive, by hooking to the serial port. Then just transfer the 5 megs of stuff over to the floppy and the rest is easy. Would that work?

Luckily, the data on my old coal fired laptop is easy to get off and on. After all, it is running that vastly newer and better operating system, WIN98. (:-)) It also has cd and floppy drives making data transfer a snap. It even has an infrared port. But I have never figured out what to do with it. I have pointed my CD player remote at it hoping to be able to see a movie or something, but to no avail. Likewise I can’t get it to warm up a hot dog.