Blast from the past!

I was going through some old photos and came across a set from back in 1999!

Apologies for the sub-par pictures, some of them were taken with my first ever digital camera (an old Kodak camera. 2MP with a tiny LCD screen. The 4x AA batteries it used would barely last however long it took to fill my 2MB CF card!).

So this project was conceived by a friend of mine who helped me build it. We began design in 1999 and finally completed the project in 2000.
The first iteration of the project included the below specs (remember, back in 1999 these specs were impressive!):

  • Cyrix 6×86 CPU 133MHz
  • There was 32MB of RAM, later bumped up to 128MB
  • DOS 6.22 running a software called MPXF, which output to an LCD screen via the parallel port
  • 6.4GB HDD, mounted on a plate with rubber ‘springs’ to absorb any impact from bumps in the road
  • ISA audio card (yes, no built in audio back then and I didn’t have a PCI audio card). SoundBlaster 16!
  • The PSU was built from scratch (this was designed by my friend). It provided +/- 12v and +/- 5v (no need for +3.3v yet as this wasn’t an ATX PSU)
  • 2 line x 16 character LCD screen. No backlight so an array of LED’s were made and mounted to create a ‘front-light’
  • AT keyboard. Only a keypad was needed. Later this was modified for custom buttons to be placed around the facia of the LCD screen. These buttons created keyboard key presses
  • Custom made case (which was pretty much sheet metal bent to shape!)

The rig boasted an amazing <1minute boot time and a capacity to hold ~2,000 songs! The MP3 format was still fairly new (no iPods yet!) so this beast was able to play a number of songs at the press of a button. Incredible for a time when cassette tapes were still common and Mini-Disc’s were set to rock the world! A CD player was too expensive so back then I never owned one.

The below pictures show you the first and second iterations of the rig. You can tell the first one by the full-sized keypad being used and the 2×16 LCD frontlit screen. The second iteration has 4×20 LCD backlit screen, and custom keyboard buttons.

Since then, I have created 2 more Car PC’s. I currently have Car PC v4 in the works. But today, you can quite literally buy an entire Car PC set up from eBay for a few hundred dollars. But I ask you, where is the fun in installing that? Go ahead and make it a challenge, make it yourself! 🙂

[21 pictures]