Welcome back to the Vault.
Which actually makes no sense, it’s not even a vault.
It’s my basement.
My name is Matt Mutch.
I am a computer enthusiast.
I’d like to tell you a story.
As thanks (or appreciation, or tribute) to those who had once possessed them, typically computers will retain a bit of the previous owner in the form of their name—where applicable, anyway. So, this is the story of Patrick.
In late December, Rega’s computer died.
“Bro, I thought this was the story of Patrick.” Right. Bear with me.
In late December, my friend Rega’s computer died.
He’d had it for a long time and it was his only one, so this was a pretty big deal. Briefly, we identified his needs, and between the Christmas holidays and AMD’s rise in the field of consumer grade parts there were many fine deals to be had on potent, powerful core components. We quickly settled on a very powerful bundle at a fair price and Newegg (not a sponsor) had everything on the way to us faster than quoted. He’d be upgrading from an AMD FX 8150 to an AMD Ryzen 7 2700x which is, to understate things, an upgrade.
The new build was beautiful, powerful, clean, quiet, and I love it and wish it were mine, but that’s not the story I’m here to tell. Because this is the story of Patrick.
I met Patrick in 2003 when a friend of a friend rounded up a handful of college nerds and decided it was long past due to start up a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. While a bit of an introvert myself, I found that retiring to an Honors Student exclusive study room to crack the spine on a fresh Version 3.5 Players Handbook and rolling some dice with significantly more than six sides was quite possibly the best and one of the only ways to make new friends without having anxiety attacks.
Just like being nestled in the stacks of the reference room designated for the privileged overachievers, this is about the journey. Like the journey we took through that haunted box canyon that was literally terrifying enough to scare all of us, even though it was just five dudes in the middle of the night sitting around a table with secondary lives dictated by the scratchings on papers labeled “character sheet.”
Due to a crippling combination of depression and also having picked a college that didn’t actually have a single class I wanted to take, I left after that year and in spite of best intentions, since this was slightly before the Facebook era, I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of those guys. However, later I did manage to rediscover two of them, which is nice! Chalk that up as a win for the internet. Because in late December, Rega’s computer died.
And Rega got a new one.
But I can never leave well enough alone.
Rega’s computer died in one of those special ways that computers can die, and that way is “only just”. It was only just dead. Barely dead. Almost alive! Components would power on and bits would light up, but it no longer functioned. Some vague diagnostic LEDs lit up, but information was scarce and inconclusive. But I have this brutal problem where I need to know what is happening. “CPU problem” wasn’t good enough for me, but this was an AMD machine when I’d had nothing except for Intel based machines for the last ten years.
I couldn’t troubleshoot. Not without spare parts. And my god, did I need to troubleshoot.
Now, forgive me for not going back, because the exchanges are all recorded—since anything on the internet and especially Facebook is never truly gone—but it’s more effort than is necessary to explain this part of the journey.
I set out the call—really more as a joke than anything else. By my fuzzy memory, I put it up on Facebook, writing: “Hey, anyone happen to be sitting on an AM3+ mainboard they’d be willing to part with?”
I mostly asked because the odds were so vanishingly slim that anyone would possibly have one. Then Patrick, my old college D&D buddy, shows up in the replies with something to the effect of, “Yeah I’ve got that. You need that?”
What followed was startled amazement, disbelief, and intense gratitude as Patrick graciously packed up his old, disused AM3+ mainboard and accompanying FX 8350 CPU and shipped it out to me.
While these components are well out of date, and were likely gathering dust somewhere in his dwelling, it still feels tremendous that someone, someone who I don’t even interact with all that often, a) actually saw my post (shakes fist at algorithms) and b) was perfectly willing to part with most of a computer and ship it out of the goodness of his heart to some maniac with a compulsive behavior disorder.
Thanks again, Patrick. Thanks to your generous donation, I was able to test the crap out of every bit of Rega’s computer. I verified what still worked, and what didn’t. What had failed was some portion of the mainboard, some unknowable component; something that the onboard diagnostics interpreted as a bad CPU. The CPU, however, turned out to be perfectly fine and functional, as was the memory, as was everything else, except the mainboard.
Rega’s CPU and RAM were destined for eBay.
But Patrick lives on. Not knowing exactly what to do with it, I did the only thing I could do, given my proclivities. I pulled together enough available spare parts and reassembled Patrick’s core into a complete computer. All that was missing were pieces that are not platform specific—power supply, RAM, storage, even a graphics card—all things I have some of just lying around. All housed inside Rega’s old case.
Patrick is admittedly not in use. In spite of being about nine years old now, 8 core CPU is still strong enough, but not exactly power efficient. With a Passmark score of nearly 9000, I know I have a completely usable computer ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Unless you need this thing back. Do you need this thing back, Pat?
Got an old computer or a new computer that you like or hate or are indifferent to and want to talk about it?
I’m @geekadematt on Twitter and this has been “Into the Vault: Patrick”.
“Patrick” is a system created from an AMD FX 8350 CPU and the goodness of a man’s heart. Both are seated in an Asus M5A99FX Pro R2.0 mainboard based on the AMD 990FX chipset. 24 GB of DDR3-1600 MHz RAM hold active data or would if I ever turned the thing on, and storage is handled by a marvelously value-oriented Inland Professional 240 GB SSD. Graphics are handled by a Zotac Geforce GTX 465 with 1 GB GDDR5 RAM which I used to game on when I still played PC games. An Antec 750 watt power supply is ready to power everything and it’s all mounted in a classic Antec Three Hundred v1 chassis.