Weird Al’s Monster Battlestation is just a pretty fast PC now
Do you want to be hackers? Code crackers? The slackers. If the vintage IT community ever chooses an official anthem, count my vote for Everything is in the Pentium by “Weird Al” Yankovic. More than twenty years after its release, this song and its music video (with Drew Carey!)
In the track, Weird Al stars as the “King of Nerds” with his rock star portrayal of an unnamed personal computing legend, someone who defragments their hard drive “for the thrills” and upgrades his system “at least twice a day”. The lyrics are a real gold mine for anyone who is a fan of ’90s computer science, but what strikes me is the absurd material that Weird Al’s character claims to have.
Absurd by 90s standards, maybe. Not so much. Even with the continuing shortage of chips and other logistical shortcomings, everyone now has the opportunity to start navigating cyberspace like Weird Al and truly become the “King of Spreadsheets.” However, would it have even been possible to achieve these lofty IT goals when the parody was released? Let’s look at these two sons.
Processor and memory
At the time of check-in Everything is in the Pentium, the Intel Pentium III dominated the home computer market, especially the ‘Katmai’ variant, advertised with clock speeds ranging from 450 MHz to 600 MHz. At the same time, the Pentium III Xeon was also available with the “Tanner” core. Even with roughly the same clock speeds, the Xeon Pentium III variants would have stung the home-oriented Pentium III, and it’s safe to assume that Weird Al’s PC-obsessed doppelganger would have gone for the class processor. server. After all, two megabytes of L2 cache doesn’t come cheap! Money is clearly not an obstacle when he calls Bill ‘Money’ Gates for technical support.
Intel still markets Pentium-branded processors, and their existence tentatively dates back to the original Pentium cores and the P6 microarchitecture of the 90s, including the Pentium III. These are budget x86-64 processors with the Pentium label, so they count. The new generation of Pentiums will obviously eclipse their ’90s ancestors due to improvements in clock speed and architecture, as these benchmarks clearly show.
More importantly, these new Pentium-branded processors are able to meet Weird Al’s ever-high needs for one hundred gigabytes of RAM. The original Pentium processors were based on 32-bit computer standards and therefore only supported a maximum of four gigabytes of RAM. The new generation of “Pentium” processors supports 64-bit instructions, and each processor can easily handle up to 128 GB of physical memory.
Physical Address Extension (PAE) was available on Windows 2000 Datacentre Server, which increased the amount of addressable RAM for a 32-bit processor to a gigantic 32GB, but it’s still a long way from the 100 requirement. Go – not to mention that Datacentre Server was only released in 2000 and was only sold to large companies. PAE was introduced in the Linux kernel in 1999, but still could not have supported 100 GB of RAM. Whore.
If Weird Al really wanted more than 4 GB of RAM and need to use Pentium processors, he could have built his own supercomputer. At the time, Cornell’s AC3 Velocity cluster based on Wintel technically supported hundreds of gigabytes of RAM on its dozens of nodes. I feel like Weird Al’s character would absolutely be the type to build their own Pentium-powered computing cluster, so we’ll call that plausible.
As mentioned, the implementation of such a system is now relatively simple, even by “house” standards. There are dozens of possible configurations using a Pentium-class processor, 128GB of RAM, and a compatible motherboard. While pairing such a disappointing processor with a (still) very large amount of RAM would be ludicrous, it is entirely possible. It’s even reasonably affordable.
Weird Al mentions that he “installed a T1 line” at his home. With blazing data rates of 1.554 megabits per second, it was one of the fastest ways to connect to the Internet in the late 1990s, and was available through twisted-pair copper or fiber-optic cabling. . Weird Al wasn’t the only one who understood the virtues of a T1 line – even Comic
Book Guy on the Simpsons knew he had to have it, despite the sky-high costs.
While T1 connections have largely been replaced by modern and much cheaper fixed broadband and wireless, some companies are still opting for the T1 standard because of its renowned reliability. So while it is certainly, probably, maybe still possible to hook up a T1 line at home, you’d be much better off literally using any modern alternative, including cellular.
The lyrics also speak of a “forty inches wide” monitor, which would have been absurdly large for the time. Most CRT monitors of the day were available in sizes up to 21 inches or so. One of the biggest cathode ray tubes ever produced was the Sony PVM-4300, which boasted an incredible 43-inch screen area. However, this immense screen size required a table, if not an equally huge floor. Even the service manual warns “make sure the ground is strong enough” because the 4300 weighs over 440 lbs (over 200 kg).
Released in 1990, it’s entirely possible that Weird Al imported one of those ground-breaking CRTs from Japan for his PC battle station, but its usefulness as a computer screen was probably questionable, given that it was a video monitor built around television standards. It goes without saying that LED and LCD technology has made these large computer screens possible, and there are many examples available today. As a bonus, you don’t need a forklift to move it.
Finally for this section, I think we all know what a ‘mizouse’ is. Let’s all agree to call it a “mizouse” from now on. No? Just me?
Wild computing is on fire
To wrap up this rambling retrospective, I’ll briefly touch on some of the jokes Weird Al deciphers about inferior computing setups during Pentium.
Wax your modem?
What, you’ve never waxed your modem before? As mentioned before, Weird Al is tuned with its T1 line, which leaves the “dumbest newbies” desperately waxing their modems in an attempt to “make it go faster.” I’m pretty sure the wax has no effect on modem speeds. Almost. Be sure to notify Hackaday via the advice line if you’ve heard otherwise.
Are you using a 286? Do not make me laugh. Windows starts in what, a day and a half?
‘Well, Actually, ‘this burn does not really translate. The 80286 processor was more than suitable for running Windows 3.1, however Windows 95 and later were not compatible with the 286 due to processor architecture limitations. If it had been compatible, it might have taken an unreasonable amount of time to boot.
Windows 95 was best associated with Pentium class processors, but it was compatible with the 386SX processor and faster. It was also possible to install Windows 98 on a 386 processor using an undocumented switch during installation, which forced the installer to ignore minimum processor requirements.
So maybe Weird Al just got it wrong, and he should have referred to the more compatible, but still woefully obsolete 386 processor, just to get the punchline to land more firmly. Or is it possible that I am looking at it all too closely?
Back up your entire hard drive to a floppy disk?
This one can be unwrapped a bit. The burn probably referred to the ubiquitous 3.5 ″ 1.44MB floppy disk, so we’ll base our assumptions on that for now. In the 1980s, hard drive sizes were typically in the range of 10MB to 20MB, with capacities steadily increasing in the 1990s and beyond. In 1999, most hard drives would have stored several gigabytes, so it’s hard to imagine a scenario where someone would back up their entire hard drive to a floppy disk at all times.
Where is it? MS-DOS fans were still hanging on throughout the ’90s and even beyond, so it’s not unreasonable to think that some Luddits were still getting by with a rudimentary DOS installation with a few mission-critical applications on their ATs. or XT- classroom computer. Without the overhead of Windows, this burn actually makes a lot of sense – after all, DOS was originally designed to be installed and started from a floppy disk, with user applications typically stored and executed from the second onwards. floppy disk drive. Even Windows 3.1 can be hacked to boot and run entirely from a floppy disk.
Then there’s the LS-120 SuperDisk, which for a while seemed like the ultimate replacement for the traditional floppy disk format. With a capacity of 120MB, you still aren’t going to fit an installation of Windows 95 plus applications on a floppy disk, but earlier versions of Windows plus applications, documents, and games might fit well on the floppy disk. one of these discs.
There are also LS-240 drives and Zip Disk technology. But, let’s not go there, otherwise this article will go on forever.
You are the biggest joke on the internet
Not much to say here, just that it hurts much more in 2021 than in 1999. Leave your friendly comments below!