Down with Legacy

Every time I look inside my PCs (or even my Mac, but not as much) i get really irritated? Why? Because my PCs are riddled with legacy crap. I have been thinking about the legacy stuff (ports, etc.) in my computer and have come up with this list.

It seems to me that just about every connector on the back of a modern PC can be replaced with USB and/or Firewire. I haven’t used half the ports on my computer in ages, and i’m a geek. Most people have absolutely no use whatsoever for these ports and I would love to see motherboard manufacturers start to recognize this. I’d love to be able to buy a motherboard that replaces all these legacy ports with a shitload of USB and a few Firewire connections.

I’m sure some people will disagree (some strongly) with my opinions, and I’d like to hear from them..

  • Parallel Port – The last thing I used a parallel port for was a printer. The last time I had a printer was my freshman year at RIT. In that time just about every printer either comes with a USB and Parallel port or has completely moved over to USB. The only thing I can think of using my parallel port for in the past 10 years was a Parallel Port Zip drive (which was slow as hell and would be better served by USB anyway, if I actually needed a Zip drive anymore) and a Laplink cable (I originally wrote Parnet cable but then realized that I was a geeze).
  • Serial Port – Sure, there’s going to be a few geeks who disagree with me on this one, but I really feel that this one needs to go as well. I can think of a single use for Serial Ports, and that’s for connecting to or programming embedded devices (including network hardware) or for connecting to headless servers. You know what? If you are one of the 1 percent of the computer-using population that needs a Serial Port, just use a USB to RS232 adapter. Christ, they could at least throw me a bone and switch to something smaller than a D-SUB (my Tivo uses a headphone-style jack).
  • ATAPI and their 40-pin headers – I know Serial ATA is on it’s way to save us from old-school ATA, but it still isn’t quite mainstream. I’ll be satisfied when all motherboards REPLACE the 40-pin headers with SATA ones. If I have a legacy ATA device I will buy the SATA to legacy adapter.
  • Floppy Drive/Controller – I hate the floppy. You want a floppy? Hook one up using USB. You want one internal? Replace the floppy controller header with some USB ports for use inside the machine. You probably already have some of these, my past two motherboards have had 4-pin USB headers for connecting front-panel USB connectors. Add a few more of these, and you’re all set. Or “they” could make a Serial ATA floppy drive, and all your internal drives would use the same interface. Either way, it has to go.
  • Game Port – Do they even make new Game Port joysticks anymore? I am sure you can buy old product, but every joystick I have seen in the past 4 years has been USB.
  • ISA Slots – ’nuff said. Fortunately, it seems that most motherboards in the past few years have ditched this slot. The only use I can think of for ISA anymore is hardware hackers wanting to make/test on the cheap. ISA is a no-brainer to work with, maps right into the address space, and PCI or USB controllers are expensive. Again, the majority should win (and by all obvious signs, have in this case).
  • PS/2 style Keyboard and Mouse connectors – Pretty much every mouse these days is USB, and pretty much every keyboard SHOULD be if it isn’t. Remember how annoying PS/2 mice were? If they became disconnected after the computer was booted you usually had to reboot to bring your mouse back to life. What the fuck were they thinking?

10 thoughts on “Down with Legacy

  1. I know it’s very niche, but I use my parallel port on my pc laptop to connect to my Eprom burner.

    Agreed on everything else… I guess that’s one of the reasons I like Apple.. THey’re not afraid to ditch old tech for new tech.

  2. Good list! I want to build a new system this summer (currently using the PIII 600e proc w/ 256MB of RAM). I want to build a dual proc system sans the legacy shit. Serial ATA is the best, I usually stuff my case w/ 7-8 IDE/SCSI devices. Ribbon cables make it a nightmare, almost like a organizational puzzle. Trying to map out the lengths of each cable and making sure each drive could be reached w/o other ribbon cables getting in the way. AND considering the heat output of each drive so the hottest drives are nearest the fans. LOL maybe that’s why my box is nicknamed Borg.

    When the PS2 mouse got disconnected I always went to the device manager and scanned for changes on the mice/other pointing divices item. That did the trick nicely.

  3. serial port

    I know your comments about the serial port were probably directed at me. :P On a desktop I wouldn’t mind using a usb to serial adapter, but on a laptop, the last thing I want to be doing is carrying adatpers around too. When I got that other laptop a while back, I was very frustrated that they did not include a serial port on there (yet there is a parallel port). Perhaps there aren’t many people who use a serial port anymore, but whatever, it pisses me off that they took them away.

    1. Re: serial port

      It wasn’t just directed at you, but you definitely came to mind. You could convince me to keep a Serial Port on my computer if they would simply get rid of the D-SUB connector and replace it with a headphone-style 1/8″ jack or even an RJ-* jack.

      But really, I think you should just suck it up and use a USB adapter. I mean, really, it isn’t that big of a deal. You are going to have a case for your laptop anyway, just toss in the damn adapter.

  4. If only SATA didn’t also mandate yet another power connector…

    I’ll go USB only if I get to keep my keyboard. Even if USB did destroy my desktop PC. (How many people can say a USB joystick blew up their computer)

    And the floppy should just die. It’s useful life ended about 10 years ago. This coming from the man who still has a 360K floppy drive in his computer.

    1. You can probably find a PS2 to USB adapter. Those old BS keyboards rule… There is some company who bought the rights from IBM awhile ago and sells them.. They should make a USB version… That’d be rad.

      The only thing I used Floppys for in the past 10 years is booting a machine, and nowadays I find it’s equally convienient to burn a CD-R(W) and I can stash a bunch of extra data on there as well.

  5. My laptop lacks a serial connector, and there are times when I really wish it had one (mostly for Unix-type stuff, which isn’t very mainstream). A USB-to-serial converter isn’t enough because you still need to have a USB stack running on the machine in order to spit the bits out the port, so that sort of limits it usefulness for debugging purposes. BIOS-based USB support is getting better, but until it’s as easy to write to the USB port as it is to write to the serial port, I think it’s still nice to have the legacy RS-232 available.

    Besides, it would probably be too expensive to teach IT majors how to wire USB connectors by hand. =)

    1. A USB-to-serial converter isn’t enough because you still need to have a USB stack running on the machine in order to spit the bits out the port, so that sort of limits it usefulness for debugging purposes. BIOS-based USB support is getting better, but until it’s as easy to write to the USB port as it is to write to the serial port, I think it’s still nice to have the legacy RS-232 available.

      It seems to me an adapter would work fine in your situation unless the laptop itself is what you were trying to debug, and now you are talking REALLY special case. I would think that more often than not you are going to be doing the debugging FROM a laptop, and that laptop can easily be running a OS that has USB support.

      If I can run a telnet server in OpenFirmware, it isn’t a stretch to provide a basic USB stack in the BIOS/Firmware.

      If you build a box to be a fileserver, and you really want serial console, you can always throw in a PCI card. But for the majority of the population, the serial connector is completely unnecessary and is just confusing to the novice computer user.

      1. It seems to me an adapter would work fine in your situation unless the laptop itself is what you were trying to debug, and now you are talking REALLY special case. I would think that more often than not you are going to be doing the debugging FROM a laptop, and that laptop can easily be running a OS that has USB support.

        I was mainly after serial console debugger support for the OS running on the laptop. FreeBSD didn’t want to boot on my Toshiba laptop for quite a while, and I couldn’t capture any useful debug output from the boot sequence. I eventually figured out that the SCSI subsystem was wrecking havoc some part of the system, but that was only through trial and error.

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