Dumping peripherals

I had a volunteer project with my employer at a local non-profit recycler a couple years ago. our project was disassembling keyboards into component parts (plastic, circuit boards, cables), and while most of the keyboards were cheap, generic membrane-style, one of the volunteers had an LK201 keyboard. She pulled off the Do keycap and everyone had a chuckle while she debated if she was going to keep the “Do key”.

So here we are a few years later, and I’m cleaning out my basement, including a box of keyboards, mice, and audio peripherals. I kept the pieces to re-create workstation setups with the various systems I owned. I started with my Linux PC, went to a DECStation, an Alpha, then a SPARCStation. Ultimately I came full-circle back an x86.

After getting my own computer together in college, I had built a VGA to sync-on-green adapter so I could drive a surplus 19″ monitor from my 5×86 linux box. The monitor was salvaged from a Tektronix X terminal, which already had bad gamma due to aging. These were the days of shadow masks, and as the monitor warmed up, it got progressively blurrier.

I switched to a DEC-branded Hitachi monitor on my DECStation 5000/240 and things were suddenly much brighter and clearer. Most of the applications I needed were available on the DECStation, and I could remotely run Netscape from my Linux box when I needed it. The LK401 and puck mouse were perfectly usable.

After moving, I had a new desk, and set up both an Alpha 3000/400, and a SPARCStation. I ran X-to-X to link the two screens together. I mostly used the DEC head, not being much of a fan of the Sun type 5c keyboard. (I did like the optical mice, though.)

The setup only lasted a few months before it was painfully obvious that the graphics capabilities of an x86 with Xfree86 (later Xorg) completely outstripped the capabilities of decade+ old workstation hardware, and the peripherals got put away, never to be used again.

I saved a DEC LoFi box (and interface card), and a “Digital Ears” DSP box for my NeXT cube, as well as an LK400-series keyboard with a PS/2 interface. But more on those another time…

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