Saving the IBM AT desktop

It has been saved! I was asked to write a short story about this very old desktop. The story starts on 1st May 1990 – over twenty nine years ago.

I applied for a computer technician position at NW Kooperasie and easily got the job. Jobs were easy to get in those days. I was a senior technician doing PABX installations and maintenance for Philips telecoms and data systems. I worked from home covering the Northwest province and Bophuthatswana.

After three days I wanted to go back to my old job. This was a disappointment as all I did was drive to the 65 odd branches to do computer maintenance which required blowing out dust and oiling printer shafts. Occasionally I’d build a file server running Novell. Most servers were cheap AT computers and the workstations were cheap XT computers, like the “Bondwell” booting off 360k floppy drives. The servers had 20MB or 40MB hard drives depending on the size of the branch.

This original IBM AT ran at one of the larger branches. It had only 1MB of RAM and a fancy 40MB hard disk

After about three years I requested a transfer to the mainframe section as a systems programmer / database administrator. I got the job but was thrown in the deep end when the mainframe facilities manager passed away just weeks after my transfer. I spent 6 months on IBM MVS doing DBA work on Adabas then became part of the team migrating to IBM’s VSE operating system still running Natural / Adabas. I spent months in Johannesburg building the new mainframe.

Then came the era of Windows 95. and many experiments were done. The IT manager, a rather tough man by the name of Johan Smith would often say I could take my wife out to the Spur for a hamburger saying thank you for my interest and passion getting this new technology working. He even sometimes said I should take my mother in law along as well! You knew where you stood with Johan, he’d never hold a grudge but he’d sort out a problem right there and then. You could trust a man like this.

It was the age of the Pentiums and all the XT, AT, 386’s and 486’s were pulled from the field as the PC’s were upgraded to the new technology. I think this was at the turn of the century. Many were concerned about the date, especially on the mainframe. I stood by as the the clock ticked on old years eve of 1999 and saw no problems as we entered the new century ….

There were heaps of old computer equipment. As a radio ham I needed better PC’s for our radio BBS networks and this hardware became available at R12.00 per item. And so I bought a few cases, power supplies, mother boards, RAM, floppy drives, hard drives, keyboards and mono screens.

This particular IBM AT I kept on a shelf in my back room all these years. I worked for the company for over twenty five years eventually landing up as technology manager. With the influx of new management and new ideas the stress started affecting my health and I opted out only to return as a PHP contract programmer for three and a half years. My contract came to an end and now needed to scale down, survival mode really and all my keepsakes needed to go with plans of renting out parts of my property.

I mentioned to my friends that I was dumping all the things I dearly cherished all the years. Luckily my ham friend Johnathan ZS1ARB in Cape Town halted my dumping plans and so the AT was saved and now on it’s way to a new home, including the software I once loaded on it when I had run a little business, “AGE Leighton Electronics CC”.

The system still booted but I had to find the hard drive type by trial and error. It happened to by type 8!

These were the days!!!!

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