A long time ago, way back when I built my first PC, I experienced something that I have since wrote about will never happen. My computer blew up. Literally.
It was 1986. I had purchased an old IBM PC, the original model 5150, from my employer.
The PC was barebones. It had a floppy drive, but no hard drive. I also had a cassette tape port, because that was the PC’s original storage device. In fact, I tested that computer using it’s cassette tape interface.
The computer was sold with 64K of RAM, which wasn’t the bare minimum; you could buy a PC with only 16K of RAM installed.
My first task with the new computer was to upgrade it.
I bought a 384K memory expansion card, which included a clock battery, printer and serial ports, plus whatever else I forget.
I also bought a whopping 20MB hard drive.
For a monitor, I purchased a very nice Amdek Amber 13″ monitor. I was a thing of beauty. And I bought a Hercules Graphics card to do monochrome graphics.
I was set.
The one thing I didn’t upgrade was the PC’s power supply.
The PC originally shipped with a puny 63W power supply. That was enough for the single floppy drive, the 64K of RAM, and perhaps a peripheral card or two. It was not enough for all the power I packed into my PC.
Well, yeah: “power.” But back in the day, that was a pretty nice system.
One night I was playing around and I heard a pop. It was loud, like a firecracker.
Then I saw a puff of smoke rise up from behind the PC. I was blue, I swear! Blue smoke curling up behind the computer.
Instantly, I knew that I had blown the power supply. I phoned up a PC-savvy friend and described to him my PC’s hardware stats. Then I asked, “Can a 63W power supply handle all that?”
He laughed. “Blue smoke?” he asked. I laughed and told him, Yes, I’d seen the blue smoke.
My friend gave me the name of an outfit that sold PC power supplies. I drove by and picked up a 250W job the next day. Installed it. And my PC ran normally every since then.
Eventually I added a second hard drive and a CGA graphics adapter so that I could play Load Runner in beautiful four-bit color. The power supply never blew up again.