Psion II LZ Repair



I thought I would post this sooner than later, as this is something I’m presently working on.

For those who might not be familiar, the Psion II was an early form of pocket organiser produced and sold by the British firm Psion. During its lifespan the organiser went through several versions. Beginning with the CM, a very basic unit with just 8kb of memory and ending with the top end LZ64, which has a 20 column 4 row display as well as whopping 64kb ram.

As part of an ongoing series of pocket computer reviews I’m writing, I have covered several models of the Psion II. Sadly the LZ64 suffers from a persistent and quite irritating whistle, which I believe comes from aging capacitor.

Today I removed all but two of the nine electrolytic caps inside my LZ in a bid to rid my unit of the blasted whistling. Here you will find some info on the capacitors I removed and their location on the PCB. If you own an LZ or LZ64, this information should be useful. As always the same rules apply, you repair your own gear at your own risk. If you set your shirt sleeve on fire, pour hot coffee on the cat or fall out with the postman, you can’t blame me! I’m simply providing this information as is. Hopefully it will result in a silent LZ, except for the for the odd beep and click of course!


Fig.1 A single screw holds the top PCB in place

After you’ve removed the screws and popped open your Organiser, you’ll find the motherboard screwed to the front half of the case. Laying the device face down, unscrew the top board which is held in place by a single screw (see fig1).

The main logic board is still connected to the keyboard via a ribbon cable just behind the pins for the ROM slots. This cable is pretty stiff and will take some gentle persuasion so as to bend the logic board up enough to remove the screws holding the keyboard PCB to the front case.

Once you have the boards removed turn them over so you can view the logical board the right way up. Remember to handle the two PCB’s with care, after all they are 30 years old and tend to be delicate.


You should now see something similar to fig.2. Note the already exposed pins below the cluster of caps, this is because one of the 25v 10uF capacitors has already been removed from the board.

Using an already warm soldering iron, I removed each cap, recording their values as I went along.

Of the seven radial electrolytic caps, the LZ has;

5x 25v 10uF
1x 50v 1.0uF
1x 6.3v 100uF

For now I’m leaving the two large axial caps in situ, as I want to try the LX with radial caps replaced but the axial caps remaining. If the whistling persists this might indicate which caps are the culprit.

Until the new caps arrive there isn’t much more I can do, so I shall leave you with this pretty diagram, which shows the values and orientation of each cap.

-Keep on geeking!



S9920 Star Alps Update

The procedure described below could cause unrecoverable damage to the s9920, by proceeding you are accepting full responsibility for any damage, loss of limbs, exploding sheep that might occur. In other words don’t blame me if it doesn’t work!


S9920 Repair Update

A while ago I wrote an article regarding S9920 handset, covering some of the short comings of the S3 Mini clone. I have to say since I writing that article, I have received messages from several of you. Many asking if I had figured out how to fix the phone and where to source spare parts. Sadly I wasn’t able to offer much help. Aside from a few threads regarding rom’s, there isn’t all that much on-line covering this device.

After writing the article, not much has happened. The phone has sat in my desk drawer awaiting its fate.

So what has changed you ask? Well recently I did a little on-line research, to find out whether anyone had figured out a way to resolve the problems with the S9920. Namely the ghost touching, which almost renders the device useless as a phone. As it transpires, there might actually now be a fix.

The information I found wasn’t posted one any forum, nor was it that easy to find. In fact when I came to write this article, it took me almost 30 minutes of retracing my steps before I found the original source. So if you’ve been looking recently and not found anything, seriously don’t be kicking yourself, it’s easily done.

The original author of the fix, user “Speedylaci”. Believed the fault with the touch screen resided in the cable connecting it to the logic board. More specifically two solder points, which they believe are weak and causing a bad connection. They suggest disassembling the device and reflowing the two points. Other posts I have read suggest using a small amount of glue to fix the digitisers connector down on to the logic board. After some users observed the connector comes off too easy and could contribute to the digitisers odd behavior.

If you have not performed or read about the fix previously described on ByteMyVdu, now might be as good a time as any to check out the following link and familiarise yourself with it. Needless to say the fix outlined in the aforementioned article did not solve my problems. So reading about another possible means to fix came as welcome news. Better still that it is a very easy repair to perform.



Following the instructions from my previous article, unscrew and remove the back panel of the phone. This should now leave you with the PCB and camera module exposed (see fig 1). Above the power button you should see a small cable connected to the motherboard, this is the connector for the LCD which needs securing in place. It is up to you how you do this, some people have used glue, others adhesive tape. If you decide to use glue, keep in mind that too much could irreparably damage the phone. The last thing you want to do is gum up the connector and prevent it from making a circuit. A little glue on the outside between the connector and the cable should be fine. Leave it to dry before re-assembling the device.

With a little luck this might improve the digitisers performance, it certainly can’t make it any worse. My handset had been sitting in my desk drawer for over 6 months, so I didn’t care whether it worked or broke the phone even more. The fact is I’d written off the S9920 long ago, so bricking the phone really didn’t worry me. If this is something you’d rather avoid, then I suggest you don’t perform the procedure above. Having performed the fix on my handset, I sadly can’t tell you if it solved my problems or not. The screen has not acted up since doing the repair, but given that the fault occurs randomly, only time will tell.


Keep on Geeking!



Is your G4 iBook getting hot under the collar?


It’s a good question and one that as an iBook owner I can answer with a definite yes. The chances are we have the late Steve Jobs to thank, his reputation for sacrificing good cooling for aesthetics’ is well documented. Anyone who owned a Macintosh in the 80’s will be aware of the hazards of passive heating. Eventually something has to give and usually it’s a component, stressed from excessive heat. The G3 and G4 iBook both share a common hereditary illness, GPU failure. The situation began in 2003, when a group of G3 owners banded together to file a class action suit against Apple. Who would initiate an “iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program “ the following year.

The G4 also suffers from a similar issue, however some models appear more prone to failing then others. It is generally held that the 1.3Ghz & 1.4Ghz models the more reliable of the G4 range with less reports of screen failures


Signs that your iBook may have a video problem are if the screen freezes or if touching the screen causing it to flicker or if when powering on the laptop, the screen remains blank, but still outputs video from the external video port.

If you experience any of these issues, chances are that your white G3 iBook has suffered a GPU failure. The G4 suffers a similar ailment, but this is due to the Intersil ISL 6225CA power controller chip, which over time looses connection to the logic board. g3 extreme
The only way to fix the G3 iBook is by sending the logic board away for a reball / reflow, tho there are some extreme home brew alternatives. These hacks attempt to warm the solder beneath the GPU, enough to reflow the ball grid array (BGA) that connects the chip to the board. I would only suggest this if you have no other alternative. Given the price of the G3 iBook, it is understandable why some people choose the cheaper DIY route.

Reballing involves removal of the GPU chip, so it can be re-seated with new solder. However this fix is not permanent as the cause for the gpu to fail will still be present.

This is down to a fabrication flaw and compounded by poor ventilation. The temperatures for the iBook’s fan to kick in are set to high to be of any use. The G4’s can be revived, if the Intersil chip has it’s pins retouched with a soldering iron. However mileage varies at to how long this fix lasts. One thing for certain is that both models of white iBook suffer with excess heat issues.

The G3 GPU uses a ball grid array similar to this to connect to the motherboard.

The G3 GPU uses a ball grid array similar to this to connect to the motherboard.

Using an program called G4fancontrol via the OS X console, reveals the settings are set at 56 for the Northbridge, 75 for the CPU, and 85 for GPU. These settings are very high, possibly to avoid the fan kicking except for rare occasions. While this does keep your lovely iBook nice and silent, it also has a detrimental effect on components, which are being baked every time you use your machine. After your turn the machine off, the components will cool, until the next time you use your laptop. Anyone with an elementary understanding of metals, will know that exposing metal to heat, causes it to expand and cold causes it to contract. So the continuous cycle of hot and cold eventually causes fractures in the solder which link certain chips to the logic board. The fractures might be microscopic to the naked eye but the gaps are wide enough to disrupt the iBook’s video display, resulting in no picture.


So if your still reading, I’ll assume you either have a working iBook or your have a faulty one and your thinking about the road to recovery. If you have found someone to reflow your logic board and now your wanting to fend off the GPU failing again, then read on, it might just save your machine.

To address the heat problem the first thing you need to do is lower the preset fan settings. 85 degrees is way to high for your GPU, it really isn’t a surprise it fails. You need to drop this down somehow to 65 degrees at least, tho I would recommend 55. Luckily there are ways to tell your iBook to engage the internal fan earlier.


This application was once freeware but the developer has since decided to ask people to pay for it. I’m running version 0.5 which was the last freeware version before it became commercial. Earlier version of G4FanControl can be found online, should you prefer not to pay. However I should suggest buying the software, at the very least your supporting the developer as well as getting the most up to date version of the applications, with all the bug fixes since the freeware version.

Coming as a Terminal program and OS X application, G4FanControl allows you real time control over the presets that tell your laptop when it should engage the fan. I would recommend setting all three sliders to 55, my iBook G4 1.33 settles at around 44-46 during normal use, which is running Word and listening to iTunes. Watching movies and playing games are area’s where the temperatures a likely to raise rapidly.

Depending on your version, you should have a tick box at the bottom of the screen, which says something like “Remember and set at boot”. This means G4FanControl will remember your settings for every time your computer boots. You need to tick this for your alteration to be permanent.

While I can’t guarantee this will permanently prevent your iBook from failing, it will most certainly reduce the level of stress the logic board is normally subjected to. One thing I do know for certain is that the factory shipped temperature settings are set way to high to be of any use. If you like playing games or watching movies on your iBook, you’ll be use to the left palm rest being rather warm, enough to cook an egg on it. If it’s too warm to rest your hand on, then it surely must be too warm for the computer as well. After installing G4FanControl and adjusting my fan settings, the left palm rest still got warm but nowhere near as bad a before.

If you have a working white, you couldn’t go wrong installing G4FanControl on your laptop. As proven by the Danish Consumer Complaints Board, the G4 has an inherent design flaw, so it’s not a question of whether yours will suffer it, more a question of when. So if your still rocking a G3/G4 iBook in 2014, my guess is you would like to make it to 2015 problem free.

For further reading, please check out the following links:


News Article regarding the Danish investigation

Lab Report highlighting the fault with the G4 iBook

Breaking News


Dear readers, as some of you will be aware, I’m something of an avid fan of old Apple Macintosh Computers. My first Apple computer was non other then the might Power Macintosh 8500. A technical power house of it’s day, offering impressive video editing features.

Over the past 2 years, I have on and off been trying to bring back my 8500 from the dead, after it decided one day not to boot. I’ve bought parts, ram, CPU’s and still nothing would bring it back to life. Imagine my joy when today I finally got it to BOOT UP! Has the old Apple “Boing” ever sounded so sweet!

That is all for now, as i return back to working on this beloved computer and getting it back in full working condition!


Star / Alps S9920 Screen Repair

Is Your Phone Acting Up?

s9920A week ago I wrote a review of the Alps / Star S9920, in which I highlighted some of the highs and lows of buying this popular S3 mini clone. Shortly after after writing the article I began receiving messages from fellow S9920 owners, who were also struggling with their devices. While I still don’t have a solution to all the problems that have been put to me (and I did look) there just isn’t that much documented on the S9920. This isn’t much of a surprise, when you think of the number of phones that come out of China. Unlike major brands such as Samsung, HTC or Apple, Alps constitute but a footnote in the Android device market.

In this article, I’ll try to address one of the main issues experienced by users of the S9920: ghost touching. It manifests itself in the form of icons randomly selecting themselves without the screen ever being touched. This fix may also help with some of the other problems associated with the digitizer / screen on the S9920.

Before we begin, I must stress that this is a very tricky fix and requires you have a steady hand for soldering. I would only recommend you attempt this fix after exhausting all other avenues. Make a mistake and you could very well damage your phone beyond repair. Know that you do this at your own risk, and I cannot be held responsible if you kill your phone. With the disclaimer out of the way, let us continue.

The Phone Blues

A month after receiving my phone, the tell tale signs that something wasn’t quite right, began to emerge. Sometimes I would pick up my phone and the screen would not register my finger swiping the screen, while on other occasions the phone would act as if it had been possessed, randomly opening apps, usually located at the bottom right of the screen, close to the back button. The only way I found to make it stop, was to place the phone on a flat surface and run a finger firmly across the screen, directly over where the back button icon is located.
A few minutes doing this and the phone usually would begin to act normally. However these bouts of the ‘crazies’ were becoming ever more frequent, making the phone very unreliable for daily use. After contacting Dracotek, the company I bought the phone from. I explained the problem I was having with the phone and their representative kindly offered to replace the faulty handset. This really is a Chinese company with good customer support, in fact the best I have encountered. Generous as the offer was, after reading all the articles I could about the S9920, I realised that a replacement would only delay the inevitable, as the S9920 clearly has an inherent flaw in regard to the touch screen. After making sure I had a back up phone, I decided to try out a suggestion I found online while reading up on the S9920. This involved carefully disassembling the phone, detaching the screen and removing the motherboard. Then, with a fine tip soldering iron, reflowing several points on the rear of the board. Without any photos to go on, this possible repair was really a shot in the dark, but I decided I to give it a go.

Things you will need:

To perform this fix you will require:

1x 25watt soldering iron

1x Set of Phillips screwdrivers

1x Small flat screw driver or plastic separating tool, as used in opening iPods

Disassembling your S9920

First make sure your phone is turned off, then remove the back cover and the battery, place them to one side. Next using a small Phillips screwdriver, remove the eight screws from the rear of the phone. The bottom right screw is covered with a white sticker. By breaking this you will void the warranty of your device, which means you won’t be able to return your phone, so be certain that you wish to continue.

With the screws removed, pick up the phone and examine the edge. You should see a series of small slots, this is where you will need your small flat headed screwdriver. Start by inserting it into these slots and gently prying the plastic apart.s9920-screwdriver3 The back and front of the phone should gradually come apart. With the back removed, carefully unclip the two connectors indicated in the photo. s9920-connectorsThese are for LCD screen and front facing camera. Before you go lifting out the motherboard, you will need to un-stick the power and volume buttons. First remove the plastic buttons that cover them. Underneath these are the switches, held in place with sticky back tape. Using a flat blade screwdriver, pry them away from the case. Remember be careful, replacement parts for the S9920 are scarce on the ground. Once you have them unstuck, lift the board up and away from the front case. You should now have the three parts of the phone laid out in front of you. s9920-threeparts copyThe black rear shell, logic board and front case, which includes the LCD screen (See picture). Don’t lose the plastic home button, located at the bottom of the front case. Turn the logic board over so it looks like it does in the picture above. Now gently remove the yellow tape covering the solder points. There should be one large square at the top of the board and a smaller one at the bottom for the hardware button.

A steady hand will be needed for the next part. Using a fine tipped soldering iron, heat up the contacts you uncovered from under the tape and ONLY those. Don’t spend too long with the iron on the board, you only need to warm up the solder enough for it to reflow. You should be able to see it happen. The solder will visibly change in appearance, becoming shiny. s9920-contacts copyThe contacts pictured above are very fine and tricky, take your time and try not to rush. Once you have done these, finish off by reflowing the contacts you uncovered on the bottom half of the board.

*Additional note: After I reflowed all the contacts, I took a Stanley knife and scored the board between the tracks, just to eliminate the chances of bridges between the lines. You can do this as well if you wish, simply use a sharp blade and run it down between the contacts your have reflowed. Make sure you do not score the brown ribbon cable, it is fragile and will not react well to sharp blades.

Before you reassemble the phone, take a look at the board containing the hardware buttons (see picture). On my S9920 this narrow board was not sitting level, which meant it was not aligned well with the front case. s9920-hwbuttonsThis could easily have attributed to the problems I was having with the back button. The board is stuck down with double sided tape, but can be lifted off by sliding a something under it. Apply a little pressure with a flat bladed screw driver or Stanley knife, be careful as the board does flex and you do not want to snap it. Once it is unstuck, carefully reposition it and press it down, the tape will keep it in place. You can see how mine was slanted in the photo.

Well done! You have done the fix and hopefully your phone should behave a little better. Now you can carefully begin reassembling your phone. You can do this simply by reversing the process of taking it apart. Remember to be careful of the screen and camera cables as well as the volume and power buttons. Remember to place the home button back in the front case before you replace the motherboard.


So it has now been five days since I took my S9920 apart in a last ditched effort to get the phone performing properly, specifically the screen. I’m happy to report the repair seems to have worked! So if your screen is acting up as described above, this fix might and I must emphasis might! Restore your phone to normality. I was dubious as to whether reflowing the contacts have any effect, but it has. I can only conclude the traces on the board are simply not very good or perhaps scoring the board as I did, isolated the tracks and stopped any bridging that might have been occuring.

That’s all for now folks, keep on geeking!

LAG 33, Keyboards and Laptops

Well LAG 33 was a resounding success, I attended with my trust A3000. The beige box was finally behaving itself on this occasion. With the only real issue being the darn keyboard. Honestly there seems to be running theme with my recent computer
activities, if it is not the keyboard on the Plus, it is the Amiga giving me gripe. Luckily a quickstrip down and cleaning with alcohol wipes and a toothbrush fixed the issue. Unlike the classic Macintosh Keyboard, Commodore took an easier approach using springs instead of Apple’s self sealed key switches, which made my life easier.

Keyboard Repair

(First of all do not attempt
this while your keyboard is connected to the
The A3000 keyboard
comprises of two halves within the outer casing. First you have the
black top portion, containing the keys, below this is the main
keyboard PCB. The two parts are held together by a dozen or so tiny
screw and one large one. Once these are removed the top half should
lift off, be mindful when taking apart the keyboard as the caps
lock LED fell out on to the floor when i took mine apart. Once you
have the black upper half removed, take a close look at the
circImageuit board below. The
chances are it looks very grubby with dust build up, so if you have
a spare toothbrush and some lens cleaner solution, give the PCB a
light scrubbing down. Also gently clean the silicon / rubber feet
that are under each key on your keyboard. If they are dirty, this
well prevent the keys from making proper contact with the PCB and
cause your keyboard to work sporadically.

Once you are
done cleaning, remember to fit the LED back in place, along with
the silicon collar. Make sure you have cleaned this too, as it
passes current from the PCB to the LED. With the two halves
together, carefully flip the keyboard over and screw it back
together. Hopefully when you hook it back up your keyboard should
be working. If you still find it is acting up, give it another
clean. I had to dismantle mine twice, the second time to clean the
silicon parts more thoroughly.

Viglen Laptop

What could be inside?

What could be

If you are sat scratching your head
and wondering who the heck is Viglen, you are most certainly not in
the minority. When my friend Gaz handed me this little beastie at
the last LAG. I was left dumb founded at the brand and that was
even after a quick glance on Google. Which usually comes up with at
least a few bread crumbs to follow. Wikipedia says that Viglen Ltd
was first formed in 1975 by Vigen Boyadjian and later acquired by
none other then Amstrad in 1994. In the 80’s the company apparently
dealt mostly in the Acorn computer market, after Amstrad’s buy out,
the company began to focus mainly on the education and public
sector. Developing desktop and server systems.

This takes me back

This takes me

The Viglen Dossier 486 laptop has even less written
about it, the model I have is the 486 -SK4. A quick glance of the
bios tells me i have roughly 4mb ram and 120mb of internal storage.
Whats betting it is an old Western Digital or Seagate drive in
there? Originally this machine appears to have been used in the
design and production of printed circuit boards as I found several
apps for designing boards, not to mention the laptop originally
booted in to some custom designing software. Lucky for me the
previous owners had installed Windows 3.11 as well as DOS 6.22.
Eventually I intend to use this machine to test my Xircom parallel
ethernet adaptor. I bought the adaptor a little while ago to use on
the Sharp PC7200, but as that system takes up a lot of room. The
Viglen will be a fantastic DOS platform to test the hardware out
on. Internet via DOS anyone?? Well at the very least email! laptopUntil I can find my USB
floppy drive I’m unable to test the laptop as much as I would
usually like to. So expect a follow up article about this obscure
laptop and also the whopping battery that sits beneath the
keyboard! As expected the cells are long dead and a replacement
will probably cost a small fortune. Instead I’m going to hack
something together, which will be an article all to it’s own.

Professor Thomas H, Lee – Keeping The Light On

Apple Macintosh

If you own an Apple Macintosh computer such as the 128k, 512k, Plus or SE, the chances are at some point you have needed to repair it, be it from a faulty power board or seized up floppy drive. The fact is these vintage computers are getting old and were not built that well to begin with, which makes repairs inevitable.

So what do you do when your Macintosh develops a problem? Well, if you search the internet you will discover a wealth of sites and forums dedicated to collecting and maintaining a variety of vintage Apple machines.

The Guide

Something you might encounter whilst you search the net trying to fix your poorly computer, is the classic mac repair guide. This handy PDF has been around since 2000 and is part of every classic mac owners library. For many it is almost the holy grail of computer guides, packed with useful information and guidance. I carry it around on my tablet all the time and use it extensively to repair my Plus.
The golden nuggets held within its pages offers any Macintosh owner the chance to bring back their computer from the jaws of silicon death and if that wasn’t good enough, this guide book is completely free!

In Search Of The Creator

Using this book for reference for well over a year, I came across a fault with my Plus that wasn’t covered. Before breaking in to a full blown panic, I decided I would try to seek out the author for their input. As all I had to go on was a name, Thomas H, Lee, I have to admit, at the time I wasn’t sure how successful I was going to be.

After a few days of searching online, I had a couple of results. Picking the most promising, I shot an email out to a professor working at Stanford University. I admit, I was pretty skeptical that I had the right person and even if I did, whether the Professor would have time to spare on a crazy hobbiest trying to repair an  obsolete Apple computer.

Imagine my surprise when several days later, I found an email waiting for me in my inbox. The email confirmed I had indeed found the same Thomas Lee who had written the repair guide and best of all his passion for these old machines was as strong as ever.

After exchanging several emails, Thomas, was also a little puzzled over the behaviour of my Plus. He recommended I replace the transistor controlling the horizontal voltage, along with the C1 capacitor. This fixed my problem and the Plus fired back up. It was during these emails back and forth, that I decided to ask Thomas if he would care to do an interview for ByteMyVdu. Given how much I’d used his guide over the past year, I felt it was only right to give something back. The author behind this amazing guide certainly deserves a place on BMV. His thorough and tireless work has mostly likely led to the resurrection of more then a few old Macintosh systems around the world, including the one at BMV!
I’m not aware of any other interviews with Professor Lee regarding his passion for classic Macs, so I hope you will all enjoy this little peek at the man behind that fantastic repair guide.

When did your interest in Macintosh computers begin and for what reason?

The Mac’s debut in 1984 was closely watched by my fellow geeks at university. Once an actual Mac showed up for sale at the student center, a group of us spent an afternoon playing with it. It intrigued and baffled us. We argued about whether it was a toy, whether a GUI was an advance or a gimmick, and whether this represented the future of computing or a passing fad. We all complained about Apple’s religious and short-sighted opposition to users upgrading the machine’s hardware. But we all liked the quasi-portability of the little guy. I really wanted one, but its $2495 price was just beyond what I could afford at the time. Luckily, I had richer friends who bought Macs, so I got to play with these marvels from time to time. I was finally able to buy a Plus in late 1988 (at the bargain price of $999) as they were reaching the end of their manufacturing run. I thought I got the deal of the century, and just in time, too, to write my PhD dissertation on that machine.

What caused you to make the repair guide?

Within a fairly short time, my friends started to complain about their Macs failing. Apple was good about providing warranty service, but once the warranty period ended, I started getting a steady stream of friends (and their friends) swinging by for me to “take a quick look” at their dead Macs. For my own use I documented the repairs I did, and after a few years I realized that I had come close to having reverse-engineered the entire analog board. So one weekend I just decided to finish the job. A couple of years later, the Web took the world by storm and Mac fans gathered together to share tips. I noticed the same questions popping up about classic Macs and their problems, so I decided to add some pics and hints to the schematics I’d extracted and write it all up in a document for others to use.

Did you expect it to be so popular and used by so many people?

I didn’t really think that it would get used too much. Classic Macs are long past their prime and I figured that only a few diehards would have the interest and ability to make use of my little repair guide. But the price is right, so I guess that has helped get it in the hands of more people. I’m grateful to the late “Gamba” for having hosted the first picture-less version, and the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army for hosting the second version.

Early macs are only getting older, do you still think computers such as the Plus have their uses in 2013?

I have to admit, sadly, that I power up my Plus less frequently than I used to, and then mainly out of nostalgia. It still works just fine as a writing machine, so that’s what I still use it for from time to time. My undergraduate students are fascinated by how much an 8MHz CPU can accomplish (they are astonished that it can run a browser). It just increases their admiration for all things Apple. It really amazes them to compare the capabilities of a Plus to those of contemporary DOS machines. I also use bits and pieces of the analog board design as lessons in good (and less than good) engineering (“Lesson 1: Why you have to do a bit more than just eliminate a fan”).

How do you feel about Apples decision to class G3/G4 and even some early intel Apple computers as obsolete? Are they as important to preserve as the early 80’s macs, such as the 128k, 512k and Plus?

That’s a tough question, and I suspect that different people would give quite different answers. Those whose work depends on cutting-edge performance probably shed no tears when older gear is consigned to the scrap heap. I am a sentimental type with a deep interest in the history of technology, so I tend to go overboard in preserving older machines. Thanks to the “use and discard” philosophy that prevails in society today, I can pick up interesting and still-useful machines for nothing or next to nothing. Just last month I was given a dead 17″ G4 “iLamp” in beautiful cosmetic condition. Its only problem was a bad stick of RAM. It now spends much of its time converting my CD collection into MP3 files. Its 1GHz single-core CPU is more than capable enough to handle that job with grace. And it meets the all-important spousal acceptance criterion of looking nice.

I would like to thank Thomas for all his help and for also providing so many of us with the tools that keep our beloved computer alive and kicking, and finally for being a good sport and participating in this little interview.

Until next time, keep geeking!

Gaming 90’s style Part I

I’ll begin this post by explaining my background in gaming with handheld consoles. Which began back in 1991, with my first Gameboy. Which was later succeeded with the Gameboy pocket and then Gameboy Colour. I was never a massive fan of the Gameboy Advance. As I always felt Nintendo had once more missed the point. The one thing all Gameboy fans where screaming for was a back-lit screen. Which wouldn’t come until the arrival of the Gameboy Advance SP. By that time, I’d lost my interest in Nintendo handhelds. The appeal of 3D games on the GBA was lost on me. My Sega Game Gear was far more fun to play, ok the screen could induce epileptic seizures, but with titles like Columns, Sonic and Shinobi, it was worth the risk.

I confess when they first came out, I was too busy with my Gameboy to notice. Tho I did drool with envy at the colour screen and it’s wonderfully lit screen. How many play ground standoff’s did this cause I wonder? As many as the Atari vs Amiga debate? Who knows!

Getting in to the Game Gear in 2004, made a refreshing change to gaming on the PC. With it’s simple 2D graphics, I was 13 once again. As my library of games increased, I found myself pretty much sold on the Game Gear. While Sega may have missed me in the 90’s, I was now hooked. Aliens 3, Star Trek Holodeck, Cool Spot and almost every Sonic title are amongst me GG cartridge library.

Sadly tho my trusty GG has been showing it’s age. Having already repaired the failing caps on the sound board twice. I couldn’t help notice that the screen was
becoming increasingly dimmer over time. This is due to the capacitors on the main board wearing out. Slightly apprehensive about replacing all the caps inside the GG. It came as a welcome relief to discovered someone who was offering a refurb service on Ebay. After exchanging emails, I discovered James was no stranger to consoles. With an impressive 400 serviced Game Gears already to his name. I felt happy letting him do the job. Usually I would have undertaken the task myself. However its wise to know when to stand back and bow to experience. I had two repaired sound boards to my credit, compared to James and his 400 fully refurbished consoles.

In all the refurb took only a couple of weeks, when my GG arrived back. It was like a totally different console. I can not begin to describe the difference the
refurb has made. The screen quality is vastly improved. Originally I had assumed that was how all GameGears looked. As it turned out, the failing caps where contributing to the problem. The sound is now at least 3 times louder thanks to James doing a thorough job on the sound board.

He also repairs Atari Lynx consoles and was kind enough to service my Lynx II after it stopped turning on.

James is worth his weight in gold and I recommend any retro gamer with a poorly console to seek his help.  You will find him on ebay via his username “Gearforgames“.