koko: prolonging JAWS

“Genghis Khan and his brother Don
Could not keep on keepin’ on”
(1971) “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” – Bob Dylan

video clip, Charlie with
Andy Grove, Comdex 1991

The JAWS machine will always have special sentimental value to me because of the Andy Grove experiences, the Steve Jobs experiences, demoing JAWS on Computer Chronicles, etc. My instance of that machine has also been of practical value for my testimony at a hearing in a patent matter, and in preparing Windows 3.11 machines for other patent matters.

One of the features of PC-Limited machines was SmartVU, a four character LCD on the front panel, useful for various diagnostic and status information. After the company was rebranded Dell, SmartVU disappeared. SmartVU was resurrected in the ill-fated “Olympic” machines and carried forward in subsequent 486 machines that reused the Olympic mechanical designs.

After discovering the missing SVR4 binaries, etc. I turned on the JAWS machine and was dismayed to see a blank screen and “CRT?” on SmartVU. Dell SVR4 would boot and be useful on the network without the console, but the apparent display failure was terribly disappointing.

I went on to eBay looking for replacement parts and was stunned to find that ctesales had a bunch of appropriate system boards. I contacted Brian at ctesales about processor cards, thinking that the processor card might be the real problem. He asked for the Dell part number of the card. After I pulled out the card, found the part number and put the card back in place, the display started working again! I suspect dirty contacts on the system board end of the VGA passthrough ribbon cable (for the VGA “feature connector”). I went ahead and bought one of the system boards from ctesales, and with help from Brian, have ordered almost enough spare parts for a second machine, from eBay sellers from Vietnam to the UK.

However, about this time I discovered that the 2G Conner SCSI drive that had been my primary JAWS drive for roughly 15 years, had failed.

Fortunately, another 4G drive I’d used in the JAWS machine would still boot Windows for Workgroups 3.11, NT 4, and Red Hat 5.2. And the 9G drive out of the Optiplex would also boot Dell UNIX on the JAWS machine.

One Response to “koko: prolonging JAWS”

  1. Technologists Notes » Blog Archive » koko: exploring NEXTSTEP 486 Says:

    […] Working with the JAWS machine brought me back to thinking about NEXTSTEP 486 being developed on that machine. I only know part of the story first hand. Andy Groves and Steve Jobs were friends. Between the two of them, it was decided that NeXT should create a 486 version of NEXTSTEP and that JAWS would be the best development platform. If I recall correctly, it was late December 1991 that Steve, Avie Tevanian and a few other NeXT folks came to Michael’s conference room and told Michael, Glenn Henry, probably Dennis Jolly, some other Dell folks and me about their plans. Glenn and I went to hear Steve announce NEXTSTEP 486 and demo on JAWS at NeXTWorld in January 1992. Dennis was the primary sales VP providing impetus for joint Dell/NeXT efforts — Dennis and I would routinely go to the (in)famous NeXT headquarters in Redwood City to discuss our joint plans. […]