Power play

They’re redefining ‘power user.’

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

It’s the late 1980s and this pilot fish is getting his first lessons in PCs and PC architecture. In fact, the first desktop computer that his company buys is quite interesting.

Not unusually for the time, it runs on a pair of floppy drives, but it’s upgradable: You can add a hard disk later.

The employee using this PC spends about a year filling dozens of floppies with his programs and data before getting the OK from his boss to purchase a hard disk. Capacity: 10MG. Cost: nearly $1,000.

When the disk arrives, fish and friends open the PC’s case and follow the upgrade instructions to install it. The first step is to remove a perforated metal box that takes up the space where the disk will go. It’s about the size of five or six decks of playing cards, has lots of holes for air circulation — and is plugged into the PC’s power supply.
Inside the box is a large, heavy power resistor with gold-colored fins. Its purpose is to use as much power as a hard disk would draw, apparently to keep the PC’s underdesigned power supply from getting unbalanced by too small a load when no hard disk is present.

All these years later, fish is still amazed: “Every unit sold of this particular model of PC contained one of these heavy, expensive, power-wasting monstrosities just to save the effort of designing a better power supply, and its selling price had to cover it.”
But he’s happy to report that the hardware vendor in question got drummed out of the market years ago.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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