A Pop, a Puff of Smoke, and an Ominous Red Glow… Not Good

When powering up a nearly three decade old computer for the first time I should really have a video camera running…

The loud pop, and the stream of smoke issuing from the side vents was bad enough. It was the ominous orange glow seen for just a couple seconds from the same vent that really sent me the message…

Not good.

Compaq Portable III
A Compaq Portable III personal computer, circa 1987, photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
I yanked the power cord as quickly as I could, then just sat there for a moment considering the implications of disaster. A Compaq Portable III, a design first marketed in 1987. A computer that runs DOS, predating the first versions of windows. This is the computer that holds the software that operates the Keck II dome.

Without this machine it will be very difficult to program the old PLC the dome runs on. I do have a replacement for that PLC controller running in my office, but I face the challenge of verifying the design, I would like to run the old software in the test setup to compare it to the new. I would also like to have a backup in case something goes wrong during the transition, a way of putting the old PLC back into the system and programming it.

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