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patriot56
February 12th, 2013, 04:49 AM
Greetings forum.
Please forgive me if this thread is in the wrong area. To be honest, I'm not sure it even has an appropriate area.:)

As the title implies, I have some very, very old computers. These machines came out of a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) kiosk in a shopping mall in a city where I used to live.

If memory serves, they are Intel 80386 machines; they could even be "286's".
I mean, after all, they still have the old magnetic 5-1/4" floppies. :roll: Seriously!! And they still work!

They came with CRT (of course) Touch Screen monitors and dial-up modems.

I haven't opened the cases on them yet so I am not real sure about the MB, MEM. or Video cards that are installed in these machines but they do power up and there is video.

My question is, is there anything that these old machines can be used for?
I have been testing a distribution of Linux called Linux Lite, on another machine that is just a couple of years newer than the ones I've mentioned here. So far, Linux Lite has exceeded my expectations on the machine I installed it on.

I have heard of computers as old as these being used for things like programmable LED displays,
I'm afraid that I don't have much of an imagination for computers this old so - I'm looking for some advise.

I can provide more information on these old machines if necessary; of course that assumes I don't get feedback like...."They're boat anchors, sink 'em, or Recycling is your friend", etc. etc. :lolflag:
I mean, after all, these are exceptionally old computers as "computers" go. Please understand, I don't mean any disrespect with the comment about feedback. To be honest, I'm not really sure how I would respond if presented with this question. :)

It just seems like a waste to dispose of something that someone could put to use somehow.

I know a great number of people that would love to have a computer but cannot afford a new one. And for years now, I have wanted to be able to build old machines that I can donate or sell at a very low price to someone that otherwise, may never have had the opportunity to experience the wonders of computing.

So, if anyone has any suggestions for these antiques, i.e., recommended OS's, use for the computer, hardware upgrades, etc. I would love to hear from you.

Thank you in advance.

P.S. As I said earlier, I apologize if this is in the wrong area. Moderators/Administrators of this site, please feel free to move it to a more appropriate area if needed. ;)

lykwydchykyn
February 12th, 2013, 05:08 AM
It just seems like a waste to dispose of something that someone could put to use somehow.


I know what you mean, I have a lot of late-90's computers I feel the same way about. I blogged about some different operating system choices for this era of machines (http://www.alandmoore.com/blog/2012/12/14/replacing-windows-98-and-other-seemingly-impossible-tasks/), but what you've got is nearly a decade before that even.

I think DOS is about your option here. Even Windows 3.1 only barely ran on the 386. Newer Linux kernels won't run on a 386, and I don't think Linux ever ran on a 286. Even the REALLY small compact distros only promise to run on a 486 (and not usably, either).

But really, you can find Pentium II and III machines sitting at the curbside these days, so I don't see much point in fussing over a 286.

drawkcab
February 12th, 2013, 07:22 AM
recycle

there's far too much e-waste not being recycled properly in an era where metals are becoming increasingly rare

mastablasta
February 12th, 2013, 10:48 AM
aside from recycling you would need to go with something like DSL (has old kernel) or Tiny Core (might still work on 386).

also it seems 3.5 kernel still has support for 386 so perhaps with enough ram something like Slitaz or Puppy might also run.

mastablasta
February 12th, 2013, 10:51 AM
aside from recycling you would need to go with something like DSL (has old kernel) or Tiny Core (might still work on 386).

also it seems 3.5 kernel still has support for 386 so perhaps with enough ram something like Slitaz or Puppy might also run.


Scratch Tiny core as it needs 486 DX minimum

edit: also DSL needs 486. so recycling might be best option. unless you have 486 maschines.

interestingly intel was making 386 CPU until 2007

mips
February 12th, 2013, 11:31 AM
Send them to recycling, the best thing you could do imho.

sdowney717
February 12th, 2013, 03:33 PM
This is where a lot of your e-waste goes when you recycle.

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804/video/video_index.html

It gives an income to the poor Africans. Most life in seriously poor nations is very rough and American sensibilities cant handle what life is like for the poor around the world.

mrgs
February 12th, 2013, 03:59 PM
No doubt: Recycle, and that is also my advice for everything up to and including Pentium 3.

If you happen to get an operative system running, next question is which applications? I believe Chromium takes at least 32 MB of memory for each tab open (please correct me if I'm wrong) - that is, showing a short plain HTML page without Javascript, applets...

My first 486 had 4 MB, later upgraded to 8. Your hardware might have even less...

llanitedave
February 12th, 2013, 04:03 PM
You could probably separate out the cpu's, and using assembly language set them up as the avionics system in your own home-built orbital rocket.

Remember, the Saturn V got away with a lot less.

Of course, there's always that problem getting hold of the rocket fuel and LOX...

stalkingwolf
February 12th, 2013, 05:32 PM
check ebay. they have a specific area for legacy equipment. some even collect it.
this may be a situation where the parts are worth more than the whole.

Paqman
February 12th, 2013, 08:11 PM
this may be a situation where the parts are worth more than the whole.

Generally is with old machines. Parts like RAM tend to hold their value better than whole machines. I often raid our WEEE skip at work and pull out anything useful like RAM from old machines to flog on Ebay. No point trying to sell the whole machine, or even CPUs really. People will only pay for stuff they can upgrade an old machine with.

patriot56
February 12th, 2013, 08:52 PM
I would just like to take a second to say thanks to all of you that have responded so far.
Your comments and suggestions have given me some food for thought.
But I really wanted to single out one of the posts at this time...


I know what you mean, I have a lot of late-90's computers I feel the same way about. I blogged about some different operating system choices for this era of machines (http://www.alandmoore.com/blog/2012/12/14/replacing-windows-98-and-other-seemingly-impossible-tasks/), but what you've got is nearly a decade before that even.

I think DOS is about your option here. Even Windows 3.1 only barely ran on the 386. Newer Linux kernels won't run on a 386, and I don't think Linux ever ran on a 286. Even the REALLY small compact distros only promise to run on a 486 (and not usably, either).

But really, you can find Pentium II and III machines sitting at the curbside these days, so I don't see much point in fussing over a 286.
....and I wanted to offer a special Thank You! for the link that you provided.
I read through that page last night and got a well needed laugh.

My recommendation, to anyone with a "funny bone" is, take a moment to visit this site. I promise, it will be worth your time.

I am still not convinced that I should recycle these machines just yet.

Something that I didn't consider was what stalkingwolf and Paqman suggested.
I have to admit, I don't spend much time on ebay. Maybe that will change-at least for the short term.

Regarding the recycling option: This has been a consideration from the beginning, but as I said in my OP, I am working on trying to create usable systems for people that can't afford to buy a new computer and for this reason sdowney717's suggestion is very intriguing.

I am pretty confident however, that these machines are just too old for that to happen, in whole perhaps, but maybe not if parted out?

However, like llanitedave said, there's always the rocket idea. :o

I will continue to read through this thread for a while and consider my options.
I am of the opinion that as long as a computer powers up and functions, it has a use.

Keep the ideas coming....

SeijiSensei
February 12th, 2013, 09:05 PM
You should still be able to run a text-mode version of Linux on those machines. I was building firewalls and web servers on 386 devices in the mid-1990s.

I have CentOS 5.8 running on a P4 with 256 MB of memory. Makes a great server. I've run CentOS on machines with as little as 64 MB of memory.

I went looking to see if you could still download really old distributions like RedHat 1.0.9 without much success. But I'd give CentOS 6 and try and see how you do. You can also browse older versions of CentOS in its "vault (http://vault.centos.org/)."

No version of Linux will run on a 286-class processor as it did not support multitasking. When the 386 appeared in the mid-1980's I spent $5K for a machine with one of those processors and a whopping 2 MB of memory so I could use the late departed Desqview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DESQview) and run multiple DOS programs in separate windows. It was the first processor that supported true multitasking.

patriot56
February 12th, 2013, 10:34 PM
You should still be able to run a text-mode version of Linux on those machines. I was building firewalls and web servers on 386 devices in the mid-1990s.

I have CentOS 5.8 running on a P4 with 256 MB of memory. Makes a great server. I've run CentOS on machines with as little as 64 MB of memory.

I went looking to see if you could still download really old distributions like RedHat 1.0.9 without much success. But I'd give CentOS 6 and try and see how you do. You can also browse older versions of CentOS in its "vault (http://vault.centos.org/)."

No version of Linux will run on a 286-class processor as it did not support multitasking. When the 386 appeared in the mid-1980's I spent $5K for a machine with one of those processors and a whopping 2 MB of memory so I could use the late departed Desqview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DESQview) and run multiple DOS programs in separate windows. It was the first processor that supported true multitasking.
Thank you so much for your response.
This is exactly what I was hoping to hear.
I understand that these computers are very old and I respect others comments about recycling them. I'm just not there yet.

Although I am still a relatively new user to Linux, I was pretty sure that I could get some version to run on computers this old. Like you suggested, perhaps a text only version. I know that these are never going to be fast machines, heck, maybe they won't amount to anything more than a glorified word processor, but at least they're not in a landfill either.

Perhaps, with a little upgrading, they can be used as small servers or firewalls, as you suggested.

Thank you again SeijiSensei.
I am downloading CentOS 6.0 right now.
I will load it onto one of the HDD's and post back with the results.:p

P.S. Somewhere around here I have a stack of 3.5" floppies with Winderz 3.11 on them (yes, they are the originals) but, even if they are still viable, I would rather recycle these old boxes than to put Winderz on them. They deserve better. IMHO;)

lykwydchykyn
February 12th, 2013, 10:58 PM
....and I wanted to offer a special Thank You! for the link that you provided.
I read through that page last night and got a well needed laugh.

My recommendation, to anyone with a "funny bone" is, take a moment to visit this site. I promise, it will be worth your time.


Glad you enjoyed :) I try to keep the information entertaining.

Do these machines have CD-Rom drives or is it strictly floppies?


PS -- you might want to read through some of KMandla's old blog at http://kmandla.wordpress.com/. KMandla was the king of reviving old computers with Linux for a while. He's got a new blog now too, dedicated to console-based applications (http://inconsolation.wordpress.com/). Great info for us "dumpster-diver" types.

mrgs
February 12th, 2013, 11:04 PM
http://www.zdnet.com/upcycled-tech-24-new-uses-for-your-old-hardware-7000009172/

If you for some reason need a VERY strong magnet you can find one in each hard drive.

Dry Lips
February 12th, 2013, 11:10 PM
You should still be able to run a text-mode version of Linux on those machines. I was building firewalls and web servers on 386 devices in the mid-1990s.

I have CentOS 5.8 running on a P4 with 256 MB of memory. Makes a great server. I've run CentOS on machines with as little as 64 MB of memory.

I went looking to see if you could still download really old distributions like RedHat 1.0.9 without much success. But I'd give CentOS 6 and try and see how you do. You can also browse older versions of CentOS in its "vault (http://vault.centos.org/)."

No version of Linux will run on a 286-class processor as it did not support multitasking. When the 386 appeared in the mid-1980's I spent $5K for a machine with one of those processors and a whopping 2 MB of memory so I could use the late departed Desqview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DESQview) and run multiple DOS programs in separate windows. It was the first processor that supported true multitasking.

I remember running Ubuntu server 8.04 on a computer with 64 MB ram and 6 GB HDD a couple of years back... I think the CPU ran on 300 Mhz or something. (Don't remember which CPU it was.)

Using it as a LAMP server to display static HTML pages was possible without a problem. I also managed to install phpBB in it, but for some reason Joomla was too heavy for it. Note: This was for web development only!

Bottom line is, even if you manage to install an old version of a server OS on such a machine, it'll still be limited what you actually can do with it.

Dry Lips
February 12th, 2013, 11:11 PM
I blogged about some different operating system choices for this era of machines (http://www.alandmoore.com/blog/2012/12/14/replacing-windows-98-and-other-seemingly-impossible-tasks/), but what you've got is nearly a decade before that even.


Another +1 for that blog post of yours. Very informative and entertaining to read! :D

lykwydchykyn
February 12th, 2013, 11:12 PM
http://www.zdnet.com/upcycled-tech-24-new-uses-for-your-old-hardware-7000009172/

If you for some reason need a VERY strong magnet you can find one in each hard drive.

LOL. I actually have a few hard drive magnets around the house. They're quite useful for certain things (like getting jar lids out of the hot water when I can veggies).

Just keep them away from your old floppy drive collection and the screens of those CRTs...

alphacrucis2
February 12th, 2013, 11:25 PM
You could probably separate out the cpu's, and using assembly language set them up as the avionics system in your own home-built orbital rocket.

Remember, the Saturn V got away with a lot less.

Of course, there's always that problem getting hold of the rocket fuel and LOX...

Both are easy to obtain. The Saturn V stage I fuel was kerosene. LOX can also be easily obtain from local suppliers pretty much any country as it has many industrial uses.

Paqman
February 13th, 2013, 01:14 AM
LOX can also be easily obtain from local suppliers pretty much any country as it has many industrial uses.

Super, super dangerous stuff that though.

CharlesA
February 13th, 2013, 01:19 AM
LOL. I actually have a few hard drive magnets around the house. They're quite useful for certain things (like getting jar lids out of the hot water when I can veggies).

Just keep them away from your old floppy drive collection and the screens of those CRTs...

I have a set of canning tools that has a "lid lifter" for that - all it is is a magnet on a stick. O_o

@OP Recycling them is probably the best thing to do with them. I remember trying to donate an older Pentium Pro and they wouldn't take it because it was older than a Pentium 4. That was more than few years ago, though.

patriot56
February 13th, 2013, 06:15 PM
Glad you enjoyed :) I try to keep the information entertaining.

Do these machines have CD-Rom drives or is it strictly floppies?


PS -- you might want to read through some of KMandla's old blog at http://kmandla.wordpress.com/. KMandla was the king of reviving old computers with Linux for a while. He's got a new blog now too, dedicated to console-based applications (http://inconsolation.wordpress.com/). Great info for us "dumpster-diver" types.
Nope, no CD ROM's. Strictly floppies.:(

And, thanks for the blog link. I checked it out and I am intrigued.
I wish I would have learned about his blog a couple of years ago.
It would have helped with some of the support tasks I had back then. ;)

I agree with you, he really seems to know his stuff with old machines.

patriot56
February 13th, 2013, 06:38 PM
I had a thought.

SeijiSensei suggested CentOS 6 in his post and I have since downloaded it but haven't had a free moment to install it yet but, I started thinking. He mentioned....

You should still be able to run a text-mode version of Linux on those machines. I was building firewalls and web servers on 386 devices in the mid-1990s.
.....and I remembered, back in the early/mid '90s I worked for an ISP and the rage in the office then was FreeBSD.

I never got involved in that click at that time but I remember something about some competition among the group experimenting with installing BSD on as old a machine as possible.
I don't remember how it turned out but I do remember there were some pretty dusty old boxes there.

And since I don't know much about FreeBSD, isn't BSD built on a different Kernel than Linux? Or are they basically the same Kernel?

Just a passing thought....:idea:

snowpine
February 13th, 2013, 07:06 PM
I agree with the "recycle it" comments (in fact, I bet the DMV was thrilled when you took their junk for free; many municipalities now charge a $10 or $15 per-computer recycling fee).

KMandla's blog was always a good read. Here is my all-time favorite article, which is particularly relevant to this situation: http://kmandla.wordpress.com/2007/09/14/things-to-do-with-an-old-computer/

lykwydchykyn
February 13th, 2013, 09:37 PM
Nope, no CD ROM's. Strictly floppies.:(


That's probably going to rule out any modern linux. You might get toms rootboot to boot via the floppy, but I don't know what you'd do with it after that.

You *might* be able to get an IDE CDROM to work with one of these, but it's doubtful. IIRC the CDROM drives in that day actually plugged in to the sound card or a special ISA card rather than the IDE bus (I had one that did, on my 286). But even if you did, the BIOS most likely wouldn't support booting to it.

I don't know how FreeDOS compares with MSDOS on "period hardware", but it might be fun to try. There's a freedos boot floppy available, I think it's called Balder or Odin or somesuch.

I love me some old hardware, but even I tend to draw the line at Pentium II.

llanitedave
February 14th, 2013, 04:47 AM
Both are easy to obtain. The Saturn V stage I fuel was kerosene. LOX can also be easily obtain from local suppliers pretty much any country as it has many industrial uses.

Heck, then what are we waiting for? I can build the launch pad in my back yard out of 2 x 4s and plywood...

mips
February 14th, 2013, 06:07 AM
I don't know how FreeDOS compares with MSDOS on "period hardware", but it might be fun to try.

Nothing 'fun' about DOS :)

Lucradia
February 14th, 2013, 01:58 PM
For the topic title:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLPVCJjTNgk

Asatru9
February 14th, 2013, 06:19 PM
Recycling it would have to be the best choice in our current age. When computer technology breakthroughs slow down significantly then you can reasonably reuse a PC from 15-20 years prior and get something done. Now? Not so much.

lykwydchykyn
February 15th, 2013, 05:54 AM
Nothing 'fun' about DOS :)

You clearly never spent much time playing "Indycar Racing".

forrestcupp
February 15th, 2013, 04:35 PM
I'll bet the Smithsonian would pay a lot of money for these for an exhibit. :)

If not, you could always have your friends over and use them for shot put contests in the back yard.

patriot56
February 15th, 2013, 08:45 PM
That's probably going to rule out any modern linux. You might get toms rootboot to boot via the floppy, but I don't know what you'd do with it after that.

You *might* be able to get an IDE CDROM to work with one of these, but it's doubtful. IIRC the CDROM drives in that day actually plugged in to the sound card or a special ISA card rather than the IDE bus (I had one that did, on my 286). But even if you did, the BIOS most likely wouldn't support booting to it.

I don't know how FreeDOS compares with MSDOS on "period hardware", but it might be fun to try. There's a freedos boot floppy available, I think it's called Balder or Odin or somesuch.

I love me some old hardware, but even I tend to draw the line at Pentium II.Sorry that I haven't responded before now. Busy, busy times this whole week. Appointments, dead-lines, etc.

I have to agree with you though. I believe in a line of demarcation when it comes to, well, just about everything. But especially when it comes to really old computers.

Nothing is made to last forever, especially computer stuff, though I am certain that we might get an argument from Skynet and Cyberdyne Systems about the validity of that claim; Still, we do have to face the fact that everything does have an end. :wink: Lol.

I don't have a clue what the difference is between FreeDOS and MSDOS. MSDOS I've used and know, but I have never used FreeDOS.

I cut my teeth on MSDOS and looking back, I find myself being carried away on a cloud of very fond memories.
In fact, the very first image that comes to mind from those ancient times is a Tandy CoCo (a Radio Shack computer marketed as the TRS-80) with that extraordinary external cassette drive that had all those cool DOS games and applications on cassette (though we didn't call it external back then). My favorite game on the ROM cartridge though was Dungeons of Daggorath (http://www.users.on.net/~belles/software/daggorath/). I remember sitting and playing that game until my butt was numb.

And all of this under the power of a mind blowing, wallet depleting, 64 meg.s of RAM.

Now That Was Power, woohoo!!! ----- Well, ok; back then that was pretty strong stuff.

I learned a lot on that computer (mostly how to outsmart scary monsters in a dark cave).;)

patriot56
February 15th, 2013, 08:49 PM
I'll bet the Smithsonian would pay a lot of money for these for an exhibit. :)

If not, you could always have your friends over and use them for shot put contests in the back yard.
That's a fun idea, though I can't think of any friend that is big (strong) enough to chuck one of these monsters. ;)