Blackbird started its life as an "ordinary" IBM PS/2 Server 95, a
9595-AMT to be precise. It has a Type 3 processor platform with a 50MHz 486DX
CPU - a real 50 MHz, not this clock-doubler DX2-25/50. So it was a
pretty fast 486-class machine back then, when it was new.
The first five years of its life the machine spent as an OS/2 Server in a
bank in Germany distributing data to and from Automated Teller Machines. Then
in mid-1999 - in the beginning hysteria about potential
Year 2000 problems it was turned down and
replaced by something else. I bought it for the small contribution of 50 DM
(about 25 US$ at that time) to the banks "IT-department coffee box". It came
with a slightly aged 1GB IBM 0662 harddisk and a network adapter plus 16MB ECC
The machines' case was pretty much scratched - obviously it had been
"booted" quite often by the crew. Not because it did not run, but because of
the fact that it was placed a bit oddly under the admins' desk. So the left
sidewall showed a lot smears and stripes from shoes. I tried to clean it as
good as possible - but in vain. So I thought "What the heck ...!" and took it
totally apart ... and I mean totally - not only open it to get the
collected dust bunnies out. This would be a good occasion to do what I always
wanted to do: painting a Mod. 95 in raven-black - like the actual series of IBM
The case was entirely stripped, fully taken apart (e.g. rear wall off and
HD-bay carrier out), washed and cleaned with a distilled water / alcohol mix to
get the case surfaces de-fatted. After that I painted all outer surfaces,
bezels and frames with an "airforce grey" zinc-chromate primer to give the
follow-up paint a good surface. Then letting it dry for several hours. Then I
repeated the step with a raven-black, silk matte color from spray-cans. Sadly
the color coverage was not ideal - and I had underestimated the amount of paint
that would have been used to entirely paint the whole machine. It was
not enough to paint the right sidewall too. (Can be seen on the pictures
I was pretty much convinced that Blackbird would become a nice
machine and didn't want to wait - so I decided that I could as well paint the
right sidecover and "other missing parts" later. So - after a one-day drying
period - I started to re-assemble the machine again. It was - of course -
totally black, though several parts were still missing, like one blank bezel
and a CD-ROM.
However: it looked a bit too black for my taste. All the symbols on the
machine were covered with paint as well - so I took a razor blade and freed the
molded symbols from the paint and they showed up in bright white
The interface section at the rear. The machine nicely matches the
black IBM Netfinity keyboard. The monitor is a 9507 10.4" LCD TFT.
If you look closely you will notice that the paint coverage is a little "cloudy".
Sigh. I think I will have to paint over at least the plain surfaces once again.
Even the IBM PS/2 Logo and the slot-numbers are freed from paint...
...and so are the case lock symbols. Quite nice, isn't it?
As you can see, the CD-ROM and the blank bezel are still missing.
But I have a black mouse and a black keyboard from the Netfinity Servers.
Of course the LED-display shows the machines name.
The two round holes are the "sin" of the previous owners.
They had the audio-jacks from the CD-ROM put there.
The power-switch has been reworked in the meantime for a better (blacker) look.
Visible in this picture: the "airforce grey" sidewall only painted with the zinc-chromate primer.
Also visible (for the experts): the machine runs XF86 with KDE under S.u.S.E. Linux 6.1 on the 9507 LCD screen.
This is a much wider angle shot of the 95 standing on top of my workbench in "The Lab".
That picture was taken before I installed the internal CD-ROM - therefore the box atop the machine.
After the installation with SuSE Linux 6.1 went quite nice I planned to
really use this machine as Intranet server with Linux and the Apache
Webserver. Sort of "prooving ground" for my internet pages - how they look and
if they run at all from off a real Unix box.
From that point on Blackbird is no longer Blackbird: it has
changed its name to IRONGATE.
IRONGATE then got 2 x 2 GB and 1 x 1.05
GB drives, an additional 3Com 3C523 Ethernet adapter and - much more important
- a new CPU.
The DX-50 was quite good, but not good enough. The tides of fortune (with
bidding at www.ebay.de at the right time - and winning !) washed an AMD
Am5x86-133ADZ and an appropriate Voltage Regulator / Interposer to my shores.
In "3x clocking" position the AMD runs at internal 150 MHz clockspeed on the 50
MHz baseboard ... and makes IRONGATE one of the fastest 486-class
machines, which runs stable and reliable on a 24 hours / 7 days basis.
Linux shows 75 bogoMIPS for the CPU. Not bad for a 486, eh ?
Above you see the double-decker Type 3 "M" platform with the processor in
the upper deck. Between processor and card there is this regulator /
interposer. The heatsink atop the AMD 5x86 is a halved Pentium-II heatsink.
With a digital thermo probe the temperatur on the heatsink never exceeded 45°C
- so the chip temperature will surely below 70°C ... The two chips with the
grey heatsinks to the right of the CPU get warmer.
The machine got 64MB Parity memory, which is easier to get and cheaper than
ECC and an internal CD-ROM. I got a black tray-loaded Sony CDU625S 20x drive.
It looks a lot better and I avoided the hassle and pain with taking any other
standard drive apart and paint it. Just recently I added an Exabyte EXB-8505
8mm tape streamer, which I happen to get on Ebay rather cheap and which - to my
surprise - turned out to be entirely black. Another nice fit.
To show the actuality of that machine: it is running Linux 7.3 with a
home-made MCA kernel version 2.4.16, along with the Apache Webserver version
1.3.19, proFTPd 1.2.0.rc3 and SAMBA 2.0.7. The 2.4.16 kernel had been compiled
entirely on IRONGATE, which is another proof for the reliability of the
AMD 5x86 CPU. Sometimes overclocked processors tend to come out with very funny
behaviour - but not on this machine. The software running on IRONGATE is
pretty much decent - and that is more you could (normally) await from a machine
made back in the early 90s.
Yet - the right sidewall is still in "airforce grey". I simply
haven't found the time to do the painting.
The tape streamer bezel also
needs some "fine tuning".
The importance of IRONGATE is documented by the fact that it is
placed side by side to the 9595-S30 (Non-Array) with the name AOL-GATE -
which is my main machine for Internet / AOL / Webdesign and suchlike. The both
make a nice "mirror image" standing together and on top of them sits a Compaq
DeskPro 590 with the CD-ROM burner stuff.
So the two 9595s are -not only figuratively - a fundamental part of my "Lab"
© 2000 by Peter H. Wendt / pw software productions