This is the first computer I ever bought with my salary from my first professional job. It’s a 66MHz 486 from “Gateway”:http://www.gateway.com, back when they were called “Gateway 2000” and made the best PCs. I bought it in 1992, 16 years ago and it was used every single day until three years ago. We’re doing some much-needed cleaning and I’m finally throwing it away (giving it to a PC recycle place, actually).
I’ve used it to run DOS/Win3.1, OS/2 2.x, WinNT 3.1, 3.5 and 4.0 and, in its old age, Linux. In fact, this is the computer that got me into Linux, which was a godsend because it made my life and business a lot easier (and affordable!). Back when we started Recipezaar, we needed a computer for a mail server and it was the only other PC I had. Windows 2000 refused to install on it because it was too under-powered. Plus, I got sticker shock when I found out that a copy of Microsoft’s Exchange Server cost $5000. We couldn’t afford that to serve mail for two people even if we could afford a new computer to run it on. Having been a mail server “expert” and a Unix developer during my early career as a consultant, I knew mail servers didn’t require much. So I bought a $30 book on Linux which came with a Linux CD and had it running as a mail server in a few hours.
It worked great as a mail server for many months. In contrast, the (Dell) Windows 2000 server that was powering the web site (it used to only require one server!) was constantly going down and I couldn’t figure out why, even with help from the Windows support people at Microsoft — the internal people who actually know something, not the people the riff-raff talk to when they call Microsoft for help. After a few weeks of this, “Jim Allchin”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Allchin himself offered to send someone over to look at it. But by that time, I had been too impressed that the old Linux machine just kept humming along quietly serving mail without a problem. I’m one of those old school developers who appreciate performance, reliability and simplicity (not to mention Unix nerdiness), so Linux looked pretty cool to me. I figured if Linux was that stable on ancient hardware, maybe it could be a good web server too. Wasn’t Apache supposed to be a pretty good web server? If it’s good enough for Amazon and Yahoo, it’d surely be good enough for me.
So I installed Apache and MySQL on it, learned PHP, did some testing and we eventually decided to rebuild the web site to run on Linux. In the first year of Recipezaar’s life, it was built twice, once on Windows + SQL Server + ASP and once on Linux + MySQL + PHP. Good thing this happened early, because I doubt we’d have done that years later. Even better, the performance of Apache and MySQL was a couple of orders of magnitude faster than Windows + SQL Server, so we could run the site on much less hardware. We sold that Dell PC and bought a cheap PC to replace it to use as the web server and database server.
That computer was worth every penny, several times over. It’s sad to see it go.