Compaq Deskpro boards/hard drives from the late 1990s

Liam Proven lproven at
Mon Jul 26 06:36:23 CDT 2021

On Sat, 24 Jul 2021 at 01:29, Grant Taylor via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> On 7/23/21 11:23 AM, Liam Proven via cctalk wrote:
> > Win95: 13 disks.
> That's fewer than I remember.
> Though, Windows 3.1 was 6 disks and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 was 8
> disks.  That was on top of MS-DOS 6.22 which was 3 disks.  For a total
> of 9 or 11.  So, 13 isn't that big of a jump.

A fair point.

I had a freelance project in about 1997: PC Pro magazine had obtained
a very early PC SSD. It had 16MB of battery-backed RAM on a PCI card
and a controller that meant the PC could cold-boot from it.

I got the job of benchmarking a PC OS booting from a hard disk versus
the solid-state disk. The snag was that the disk, when formatted, was
only about 15MB, and few complex OSes would fit into that even by
1997. Win95 would not, but I knew it very well, and I could cut it
down _hard_.

(I had ported the PC Pro benchmark suite from 16-bit to 32-bit Windows
for them, a year or two earlier.)

I went through Win95 file by file. I removed all apps except for
Notepad, all fonts except those needed by Explorer and the DOS prompt.
I removed all non-essential binaries, most of the DOS support, all the
online help and docs, all the image files, the diagnostic tools and so

I got it down to 14MB and it would, just barely, boot from the 16MB
SSD, although you could barely do anything as there was almost no free
disk space. It was a vain effort in the end -- being so minimal, it
booted in a few seconds from any medium. It did make the point for the
magazine that an OS would boot from SSD in a fraction of the time of
from hard disk -- and so that in some years, when SSDs were common and
cheap, they would be very desirable.

What _actually_ became doable and desirable never became really
possible with the Windows platform, sadly, although it's trivial with
Linux and quite easy with Mac OS X: to put the core OS and application
binaries on SSD, but keep the home directory on spinning media.

Config files are tiny compared to modern binaries. They are read in
milliseconds, maybe microseconds.

With Linux, you just make /home a separate filesystem. It's trivial.
My OS partitions are typically 16GB, which is plenty for Linux and all
my normal apps. The /home directory is on a separate partition on a
spinning disk, meaning terabytes of inexpensive space and no
perceptible speed decrease. I suspect only people working with huge
data files -- big RAW-format images, video, maybe uncompressed audio
-- would notice the hit.

With OS X you can just move the user's home directory. /home is on the
OS drive but (e.g.) /home/lproven is on an HDD. This works perfectly
but it completely breaks OS X's tools for migrating to a new machine,
so I have reverted to using a Fusion Drive that RAIDs together an SSD
and an HDD into one volume.

There's no easy clean way to do this on Windows. You can't move /Users
without ugly registry hacks that can break compatibility.

Ah well. Terabyte-class SSDs are affordable now; the method is obsolete.

> > Win98: 38 disks.
> Maybe that's what I'm thinking of.


> I have 29 disk images in my collection for NetWare 3.11.

Aha! TFTI!

> > Ha! Trying to google, I found a piece I wrote myself!
> >
> $ReadingList++

It's not very long.

> > I think it was circa 20-25 disks. I remember I had to copy them before
> > installation, in case. And at that time, the DOS 3.3 DISKCOPY command
> > didn't swap to disk or XMS/EMS, and with 640 kB of RAM, copying a 1.4
> > MB floppy could take 3-4 reads and as many writes.
> Oh good $DEITY!
> I would have borrowed a 2nd floppy drive from another system, done the
> copy, and returned the floppy drive.  It would probably have been faster.

You know, that's an excellent idea and I wish I'd thought of it then.
My desktop was an IBM PC-AT and would have made this difficult, and
mostly we used IBM PS/2 boxes, which still made it non-trivial -- no
dangling a drive from the controller cable! But it was doable.

> > It took me over an entire working day to duplicate all the disks, IIRC.
> Ya.  I bet.

I remember it vividly as one of my worst tasks ever.

> > There was, and I think in some markets -- Japan maybe? possibly
> > because of non-adherence to CD standards? -- it was sold on floppies.
> <ASCII shruggie>

Japanese and to an extent Chinese OSes were very instructive,
especially in historical context.

As the DOS PC conquered the industry in the West, it did not in Japan.
DOS could not handle Japanese fonts well enough; VGA is not really
enough for readable kanji, hiragana and katakana. So Japanese PCs
stayed non-IBM-compatible.

GUIs finally broke into that market: soft-rendered scalable fonts
could make good-looking kana.

So, originally, Windows 3.11 (note, *not* Windows for Workgroups 3.11)
was originally Japanese, IIRC, and I think the last ever version of
Win 3.x, Windows 3.2, was Chinese-only.

Geos I believe had Japanese versions. DR-DOS 6 and ViewMax had special
Japanese editions that supported Japanese fonts:

But by the same token the Chinese market especially was not rich and
was slower to adopt expensive peripherals such as optical drives --
thus, OSes sold on floppies long after these had largely disappeared
from the West.

> Ya.  Early Linux, which Slackware in the '90s definitely qualifies as,
> often had a chicken and egg problem.  You could create a new boot disk
> and / or modules for hardware /if/ /only/ you had a functional Linux
> system to do it from.  Bootstraping Linux in the '90s was ... touchy.

Urgh. Yes! :-)

Liam Proven – Profile:
Email: lproven at – gMail/gTalk/gHangouts: lproven at
Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Flickr: lproven – Skype: liamproven
UK: +44 7939-087884 – ČR (+ WhatsApp/Telegram/Signal): +420 702 829 053

More information about the cctech mailing list