I have to warn you, I've been playing with the insides of my computer again so I'm in a bit of a grump. It's a Compaq and as such is wonderfully built, although while wonderfully built it is still a pain in the butt.
It's a Deskpro 60/M, which was a Compaq experiment in putting the system chipset on a plug-in board that slots into the motherboard. It started out as a great idea, but somehow turned out to be not such a good idea after all. Having lost interest in the add-in system board concept, Compaq decided not to make them, meaning an un-upgradeable, upgradeable PC, and nothing faster than a 60 or 66MHz Pentium.
And then there is memory. Compaq has 'its own special memory', as a journalist chum pointed out when I closed a deal for some very cheap, 'not very special memory'. So I dumped that and waited for some cheap 'special Compaq' memory to come along.
Astonishingly, I managed to get two 16Mb SIMMs for #47 that were supposed to be switchable into 'special Compaq mode'. Duly switched and installed, I powered up the Compaq. 'Does not compute' was my translation of the subsequent obscure error code, plus the not so obscure 'needs to be installed in sets of four', which didn't take much working out.
Great, so I'm now looking for another two 16Mb SIMMs for #47 - is that a squadron of pigs I see flying overhead? A thought dawned on me: Compaq didn't do this deliberately. It was just trying to help - pretty sodding useless help, it has to be said, but it was just trying to do the best for its users.
But Compaq hadn't thought it through. It wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist or, indeed, a computer industry columnist to work out that you were going to leave the punters high and dry if you didn't make plans for these ideas to continue for a couple of years at least.
Which brings me on to the present. Thanks to the Windows 98 standard, all new PCs are going to be built without the regular ISA bus, but hey don't worry, they will have a USB and probably some new 3D graphics chipsets and God knows what else.
But what happens when the punters receive their new Pentium II boxes with Windows 98 pre-installed and reach for their 'cheap 'n' cheerful, like a high-fibre diet we make your network easy to run' local area network card? 'There shouldn't be a problem,' the punters say. 'It's worked on all our previous machines.'
Or what about that whizzo graphics card they don't make any more but I need to run my special software? Or what about the games port adaptor I have to run my favourite joystick from?
At some point soon, the punters are going to arrive on our doorstep in the middle of the night, carrying flaming torches and shouting: 'Remember what we did to Baron Frankenstein when he screwed up? You're up next.' Thanks Compaq.
- Chris Long is a freelance IT journalist.
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