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Getting Windows 95 online with partly new hardware

13-09-2019

I have finally decided to get my vintage Windows 95 connected to the internet. The internet of things, you know: the computer indeed is a thing. So now this include that. First I looked around for a used network adapter. But when I at some point wanted to buy a rj45 splitter, I stumbled upon a brand new LogiLink Pc0039 cheaper than any used network card. This sounded too good to be true. I ordered it, but didn't expect much. And then I received it.

My new extremely cheap network adapter

The installation wasn't as difficult as I feared, though I met some bumps along the way. First I placed the card in a free PCI slot (not PCI-express). The front of the card was not in a 90 degree angle, so I had to demount the card again during which a small part of one of the connectors broke off. Wrestling a knife in the socket, I got the piece of plastic out. I bend the front to reduce the angle, and reinserted the card. I almost had to use a hammer. I have never worked with hardware that seemed this cheap regarding build quality. I force screwed the card into place. During first reboot my bios had decided to reset the clock, reactive a broken floppy drive and deactivate the assignment of IRQ addresses to my USB port. I had happily forgotten all about manually IRQ addresses. Windows decided that my card was a printer port. After several reboots I ended up with "unknown Ethernet device". At first I thought that my USB was conflicting with the network card. But just after reinstalling the USB driver, I found that check box for IRQ assignment in the BIOS. I downloaded a supposedly Windows 95 driver for the RealTek chip on the card from driverguide.com. I'm pretty sure it's standard practice to NEVER download drivers off third pary websites. But in this situation: Who cares. Do installing the driver, then adding the TCP/IP - this protocol I had all forgotten existed - and then, honorable gentlefolks of the jury, my old wreck of a computer had access to the internet.

My computer accessing my vintage version of this webpage wwwo.brkmnd.com

I needed to split my connection between my main computer and my old one. So I used the splitter.

Splitter and a connector I thought was needed

But when connecting the second computer, none of the two had internet access. After some thought I reached the conclusion that this might have to do with how IP-addresses are assigned. Something like this might happen: computer1 asks for an IP-address, one is given. Then computer2 asks for one on the same LAN-port, and the router might not know how to deal with this properly and thus just disables the first one given. Or they might ask continuously somehow confusing the router into despair. I can't remember much from the network part of the computer systems course. Anyway I figured the only solution was and is to buy a switch that can handle distributing IP's. So I did:

Switch that actually looks like something I would have back in 1998

And now I have my computer running Windows 95 lurking around the internet. So what can it be used for? I have had this idea for this project for some time now. So now I might execute it. One thing that is a bit risky is the matter of security. My computer has no virus scanner. But then again, are there still any viruses targeting windows 95 out there?

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