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Rediscovering an old IBM PS/2 Model 50
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-15 21:51:11

Today, after sitting in storage for over 20 years, my brother and I dusted off his old IBM PS/2 Model 50 (8550-021), with the goal of cleaning it up and making sure it still works. It was still working when he stored it, so it should still be okay today (barring any unavoidable degradation caused by the slow march of time). As far as he remembers, it's got DOS installed on its 20MB hard drive (and a bunch of games).

I've taken it apart completely so that I can set to cleaning it thoroughly tomorrow. Everything seems to be in relatively pristine condition (save for the case, which is battered in a grungy, industrial kind of way). A visual inspection didn't reveal anything blown or out of the ordinary on the motherboard or HDD/FDD riser cards, and from what I can tell without opening it up, the PSU seems to not feature any blown caps either.

Originally, I was planning on just getting some cheap PS/2 keyboard and mouse somewhere (turns out none of us owns any of those any more), but the more I was awestruck by the industrial beauty and elegance of the PS/2 and its modular internals, I felt overcome by a strong urge to do this machine justice - assuming it still works, I'm buying the original PS/2 mouse and IBM Model M keyboard. It's the least I can do.

I've also been looking at other ways to expand and upgrade the device (which I'll do only after having confirmed it still works, of course). I've found an AST Advantage/2 RAM expansion/SCSI controller 16-bit MCA card (with 4MB of RAM installed) in an online store, which would be a neat way to add some additional memory to the machine. It's a multifunction MCA card that adds 8 RAM slots and a SCSI interface to the PS/2. I'm not entirely sure how these additional RAM slots work (i.e., does any RAM get added to extended memory?), but for its relatively low price, it seems like an interesting exotic piece of hardware to own either way.

There are other, far more substantial upgrades and peripherals I'd like to add to it, such as the IBM 486SLC2-50/25 processor upgrade kit (incredibly rare and prohibitively expensive if you do find one) or a math co-processor (haven't been able to find one, and would be rather useless for running a few DOS games anyway). Additionally, there are rare things like an MCA Sound Blaster or SGI IrisVision (more information) that'd be awesome to have, but I doubt I'll ever find them. I'd also love to get my hands on a matching IBM PS/2-era monitor, but I highly doubt I'll be able to find one that is in relatively good condition, close enough so I wouldn't have to ship it (dangerous), and not incredibly expensive.

This (admittedly modest) project has me quite excited, and I can't wait to see if it still works. This is not some disposable, faceless early 2000s Compaq or whatever - this is an iconic and truly classic machine that deserves care, attention, and continued periodic maintenance, even if it'll only serve as decoration. You don't just throw out or dump an IBM PS/2, and I possess the skills and passion to keep it in working order, so why not do so?

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RE[3]: Ethernet card
By Alfman on 2017-02-17 16:38:33
lproven,

> That is as may be, but those are no help with a PS/2 which lacks both ISA and PCI. :¬)

Yes, you might be able to sell them, but this is not the forum for discussing that.

The Facebook group "Vintage Computer Club" might be a good start.


Ouch, I think this is the first time in all my years on osnews I've been called out for going off topic, haha. I'm certainly guilty of that, but to be fair I wasn't using osnews to sell anything, only mentioning that I have them and anybody else nearby is welcome to them. I think that's acceptable, but if not then I await Thom's reprimand.

Besides, if I'm guilty of offering old PC parts, then as the OP who started it, so are you :)

Is anyone else actually on long island?

Edited 2017-02-17 16:44 UTC
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In a creek near you
By saloonguy on 2017-02-18 02:28:44
Friend of mine worked a computer scrap shop and loved to repeat a tale about a coworker of his who had a pile of old PS/2 tower cases which had filled with concrete and used to dam up a creek behind his house.

For a while, I had a PS/2 luggable, which was a big thing the size of a suitcase and weighed like 30 pounds. Laptops were still very rare in those days so this PS/2 luggable was actually high tech.

Later on in my IT career, the company I was with had a partnership with a government agency I won't name, who had installed one of their machines on our network. The case was all sealed and epoxied shut and welded in places. But it did have VGA, power and network ports. Mostly it didn't show anything but once in a while the agency who owned it would reboot it for some reason and we could see the mystery box was running OS/2 Warp. We assumed the box itself was a PS/2. That machine remained in use until about 2008.

Meanwhile the company I worked for had LONG settled on OS/2 REXX as their scripting language of choice. Everything was in REXX with call outs to other languages when needed. And it ran very well indeed, the result of close to two decades of evolution and updates and tweaks. As far as I know, all the REXX systems have been decommissioned by now. But it really served us well.
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RE: Thrown away
By Lonney on 2017-02-19 22:08:50
My first computer was an PS/2 Model 50 in the early 90s - 10MHz 286 with the FPU (80287), 1MB RAM, 20MB HDD and the matching IBM 12" VGA display. This machine we picked up cheap at an auction - they had come from the New Zealand Refining Company (our only oil refinery).

That system I learned MSDOS, and played a lot of Wolfenstein in a tiny window while other people I knew had 386 and early 486 machines (That could play DOOM!)

I kept the model 50 for over 10 years, but it along with a lot of my early computer hardware got binned when my grandparents purged a lot of stuff stored in their garage in the mid 2000s while I was traveling and moving around a lot.
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RE: Thrown away
By weckart on 2017-02-20 08:26:23
I have that same laptop running OS/2 1.1. They are quite collectable and get snapped up quickly on eBay.

The problem with older IBM machines are faltering parts that are hard to replace. In my case a P70 and a P55SX both with the same failed floppy drive unique to both these models. No chance of finding a spare one anywhere in any working state. All my efforts to adapt a standard floppy to the odd cabling used in these have failed so far.
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Hard drive lubricant
By zlynx on 2017-02-20 18:24:12
I've always heard that old hard drives that have been sitting around for a long time can develop problems with spindle bearings and stiction in the read/write positioning arms.

Has that been a problem at all here?
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