Today I have permission to share a few pictures from Remy, who has restored an ancient Datamini PA40 and needs suggestions on software for a 286-based machine.
Remy says the insides include a 12Mhz processor, an EGA color display, 655,360 bytes of memory (that’s 640K, if you’ve forgotten the conversion), with no extended memory and a 44Mb hard drive using some sort of compression. DOS 5 is apparently on board, and uses only 88 bytes while running. ( Now that’s lightweight.)
The photos show Hack (not NetHack — Hack) for DOS running, and Remy said he also found Adventure, Tetris, Rogue and a Boulder Dash game, but the last one didn’t seem to recognize the arrow key input. An editing program called (not surprisingly) EDIT is apparently also available.
I love projects like this. The best part is this photo diary showing the disassembly, scrubbing (literally) and reassembly. It might be amusing to think of scouring circuit boards and casings in your bathtub, but trust me on that point: It’s usually the easiest way. If you have a machine and you’re wondering how to rehab it, this is a fairly good tutorial on ripping one apart and putting it back together, too.
Remy said Slackware 3.3 boots from floppy but hangs at LILO, FreeDOS/Balder hangs at start too, and Minix 2 also fails. PocketLinux prints a message asking for a 386 or higher CPU, and a few other generally-recognized-as-low-end distros seem to draw the line at the 386. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I am sure Remy would be thankful, and I would be curious too.
In the mean time I’ll be kicking myself for turning down a leftover 286 machine about a year ago, mostly because I wasn’t sure I could get anything done with it. I don’t know why, but apparently I forgot that the point isn’t always to get something done. Sometimes it’s just, as Remy said, that “a modern core2duo does not have the charm of my 286. :P”