Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learning How to Become a Computer Tech in a Week

Lately, I've been on a mad search for a 'real' job. You know, the sort you get so that you can move out of your parents' basement and live in a cute condominium. My expertise mostly lies in the technology fields, so those are the jobs that I apply to. Recently, I've applied to a couple jobs at Intel for computer technician positions. Tearing apart computers and figuring out what's wrong with them isn't my specialty, but it's not something I'm unfamiliar with. I've upgraded hard drives and memory and have done some basic troubleshooting on motherboards. The level of expertise that the first position asked after informed me that the little bit of experience I did have was not sufficient. I suspect that my interviewer rolled his eyes a couple times while talking to me on the phone.

Obviously, working at Intel requires a lot of skill, so I set about to fix my lack of skill. My dad is a computer nerd. He was a computer nerd before computers were accessible to the normal person. He made himself a handheld computer when computers that took up entire floors of a building were still prevalent. This means that my dad has a lot of computers. A LOT of computers. I won't post a picture of our garage. One of the many benefits of this is that my dad can give me a computer practically on a whim. When I talked with him about my interview and what I felt I was lacking, he took me out to the garage and grabbed me the computer he's dubbed 'Flywheel.'

I got to have a lot of fun tearing the computer apart and looking at all it's components. I kept at least three books near me as references while I figured out what each part was, what it did, and why it wasn't working.

Now here's the technical section of this post for those of you that actually are computer techs:

I started the computer up to figure out what operating system is was running under, but it only brought up the BIOS and a 'cannot read disk' error, suggesting that I put a startup disk in the floppy drive. I dug around and found a Win98 boot disk and started the computer on that. I couldn't figure out how to make it take me to the  GUI, so I just plinked around with the DOS commands that I know. I found that I could see what was in the CD drive, the floppy drive, and the C: drive. I don't think that I was seeing the actual C: drive, though. I think it might have been something temporary that the startup disk setup so that I could install Win98.

My dad had seriously overclocked the Intel 80502 CPU to ~100MHz, which may not have normally been a big deal, but this whole computer is a frankenstein made out of frankensteins, with random parts assembled together into a system that works so long as you don't look at it funny. And when you  do look at it funny, the whole thing'll fly apart. Thus the name 'Flywheel.' I had to search around on the board and on the internet for a while, but I found out that there are some mechanical switches on the board to turn down the speed. I had originally looked in the BIOS, but there hadn't been any options for it there. (For those of you that are curious, the BIOS is AMIBIOS. )

I powered the computer back on after taking it down to 90MHz. That got rid of one of the POST code beeps, but brought on another. The beeps were telling me that there was something wrong with the external memory (1 long, 3 short), so I set about to checking each of the little memory sticks.

I still haven't figured out what's wrong with the computer, but I'm suspecting that one of the sticks of RAM is bad.

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