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Old 10-20-2021, 07:49 PM   #1
Topcat
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Default Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

Someone dumped this off on me yesterday; said it's been in their basement over 20yrs and wanted it gone (along with a few other older PC's, but this one was the true relic). The fella said it stopped booting back in the late 90's, and it's been in the basement since.

Two issues I found that were booting killers for it; the Dallas RTC is bad (won't hold BIOS settings, but will keep the time/date...go figure) and the 1.2gb Quantum Fireball (furball) is bad (spins up, seems ok....and then out of the blue will spin down). The floppy is flaky (struggling to read; even after cleaning), and the 4x Mitsumi cdrom has not been tested. The system is otherwise functional. It was originally a Pentium classic @ 133MHz (as per the sub-model # of 5133). Someone tossed a 233MMX in it, but its limited to a multiplier of 3x; so only runs @ 200MHz. It had 8mb onboard RAM, I added a couple 64mb modules I had on hand to give it 128mb. It's weird, it shows the onboard 8mb memory, but when you add the modules, the POST count and the testing software only sees the modules.... Not a big deal really, just kind of strange.

Despite the filth, the case is in excellent condition, but the bezel was horribly yellowed and the 2x 5,25 bay covers are missing. I didn't take any 'before pics'....as I really didn't plan to build this one.....but something kept nagging at me....this is a pretty rare old system....so I started taking pics during testing & disassembly. I have a couple paths; originality or mild upgrading.... It annoys my OCD for there to be a 233MMX in it only running @ 200....the seat of my pants says to find an actual 200mmx or an original 133MHz. Either can be had for ~$10. I did order a new RTC for it. This system would be a fantastic candidate for a Voodoo1 upgrade; keeping it period-specific, and since the games that run on that aren't dependent upon the weaksauce onboard GPU (S3 Trio32 with 1mb dedicated memory). I could also convert it to SCSI, since it needs a HDD anyway. The PCI NIC shown is mine, I added that. Otherwise for communication it had nothing but a 28.8 Rockwell modem.

Anyway, this is what we're looking at:





The case shell cleaned.



Bezel in the 'soup'...



Coming apart and playing with some things; I was actually trying to get the CPU to run at full speed....but there's just no support for the 3.5x multiplier.



Nope....that was all she'd do...



Parts....



Apart and time to wash the case...the first PC case to be washed in the new sink. I did scratch it in a couple places....but that's the beauty of porcelain covered cast iron.....a little scouring powder, scratches come right out.....good as new!



Dried out.





Bezel whitened up nicely. It was horrible before... Flash on.



Flash off



Now for the drive cage.....and some decisions. Since the exterior bay covers were missing, I have to populate these bays with something......





I have these trays leftover from a previous build that didn't need them....but the color match isn't even close.



Flash off:



Then there's a beige supermicro tray; perfect color match....but I only have one remaining, and they're impossible to find in beige....so I'd have to add a second optical or maybe a 5.25 floppy drive (I don't have one).



I'll ponder this a few days.....I can't go any further until the RTC gets here.... With the system assembled, the RTC is difficult to get to....so I'm done until then.....

Stay tuned!
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Old 10-20-2021, 08:43 PM   #2
ratdude747
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

What if you repainted some bay fillers? Just a thought.

I used to have a beige 5.25" floppy but not any more. All of mine are black.
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Old 10-20-2021, 08:57 PM   #3
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

Have you ever tried replacing the battery on a Dallas RTC? It can be done with some skillful Dremel & knife work: https://ardent-tool.com/misc/Dallas_Rework.html
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Old 10-20-2021, 09:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

Quote:
Originally Posted by ratdude747 View Post
What if you repainted some bay fillers? Just a thought.
I too have thought of this, and it hasn't been ruled out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluto View Post
Have you ever tried replacing the battery on a Dallas RTC? It can be done with some skillful Dremel & knife work: https://ardent-tool.com/misc/Dallas_Rework.html
I've done that before....just never liked it....a little too ghetto for my taste, especially considering a brand new fresh Dallas RTC is a mere 10 bucks. If they were no longer available and I had no other choice, then yea....I'd do it and learn to like it.
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Old 10-21-2021, 05:07 AM   #5
stj
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

there are actually 3 generations of dallas modules - some are harder than others.

gen1: a standard chip with a few pins bent up - easy to spot for that reason.
gen2: full size chip with 2 extra contacts at each end of the package for the crystal and battery - these are best
gen3: small pcb with smd parts on it - these are a bitch and you often break them.
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Old 10-21-2021, 07:32 PM   #6
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

If I remember correctly, on some board you have to set the
multiplier to 1.5x to actually get 3.5x.
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Old 10-21-2021, 10:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

Quote:
Originally Posted by noppa View Post
If I remember correctly, on some board you have to set the
multiplier to 1.5x to actually get 3.5x.
Yea, on some that was true. I remember that back in the day....that didn't work on this one, unfortunately...

...and the bay issue has been solved... I dug through my junk and found one more Supermicro tray; I thought I had one more!
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Old 10-22-2021, 04:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) Starion 919 Restoration

The RTC arrived today....which cured the checksum issues of course...and for some reason cured the HDD spin-down/up as well.....but now it holds settings. Passes the testing; of course it had a RTC error before.



Beginning of reassembly....the bay trays.



I mounted the HDD in the tray instead of its usual place (right under the tray). It's just a bit easier to get to here.



Butt shot.



Profile view...



Lo & behold, it boots now.... DEC modded Win95 install.....



I added a 60mm fan into the opening for it...



Went together nicely.





Now for the fun.... I did explore the HDD, nothing exciting on it.....some old school records, bible studies outlines, and kiddie games. I wiped it (something I always do when someone else's data is involved). First OS test is of course NT4, I hate DOS/win9x...it was also a good test for the blazing fast x4 cdrom, which performed flawlessly. Odds are if it ran on DOS/Win9x I could get it to run on NT.... Another key reason is that NT4 will still communicate easily on my LAN. Nothing DOS/win9x based will play nice with the NAS.

Anyway....



CPU_Z...what a screamer!! Yes, there is a L2 cache; the old world "pipeline burst", cache is on the motherboard not the CPU....which is why CPU-Z doesn't detect it.



Firefox v2.0.0.20....Yikes! 128mb was barely enough to load this thread.....not that web browsing on this thing would be any kind of treat....



...and wrapped up for now...I may try Win9x on it later. I actually have the OEM recovery disc for it as well as 98SE and so on.....but for now it's NT4. The lame GPU can do 800x600 in 16bit color....1024x768 in 256k color.... ....but for what I have in mind, it doesn't matter.... I am going to mothball this until I can find the right deal on an old 3DFX voodoo1.... Those old mid-90's glide games would play nice on this with acceleration.





...but until then...still a neato rarer retro rig...
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