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Ziggy587
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My IBM 300PL & eBay Woes

by Ziggy587 Sat Jan 21, 2023 8:07 pm

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My junior high and high school had a zillion of these 300PL systems. This was the model found in all computer labs, and pretty much any where else there was a PC (random classrooms, the library, etc). I always wanted to get one, for no particular reason other than nostalgia (and because I like old computer). So recently I came across one on eBay. I wasn't even searching for it, just one of those deals where eBay is like, "here's some items from a seller you've purchased from before." I didn't recall the seller by name, but I also didn't recall any major issues with a seller either. I'm not going to mention the seller by name, but let's just say they have over 100k feedback ratings and are 99.8% positive. They also exclusively deal in old electronics (so you'd expect them to know what they're doing here).

The seller ended up making me an offer for the desktop that also came with the keyboard and mouse. It was a good enough deal, so I accepted. They also had listed a few matching IBM monitors. After I already purchased the desktop, but before receiving it, they sent me an offer for a monitor and I also accepted.

The desktop comes with a Pentium 3 667 Mhz CPU, 128 MB RAM, a 20 GB HDD, an S3 Savage 4 AGP card, and it has onboard ES1930S sound chip. So as-is it's a decent Windows 98 gaming machine. But since it has an AGP and PCI slots, and takes full size cards, it's easily upgradable. But I think I'll leave it stock (since I already have more souped up machines). IIRC, the HDD is Maxtor, the optical drive is IBM branded (and is whisper quiet) and the FDD is also a decent name brand that I cannot recall.

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I've had a similar IBM keyboard, but not this exact model. The keyboard that came with this desktop is weighted, which is always a nice thing to have. I've always liked the way these felt to type on, for membrane keyboard they are very nice.

So I get the computer in, and... They didn't do a good job packaging it to protect against damage. I've seen worse (like when I got my Xbox 360). It was shipped FedEx Ground, which along with UPS is known to just toss boxes around without any consideration for damage. Now here's the part that's frustrating, the box was way bigger than it needed to be and they used an insane amount of bubble wrap. I mean, they definitely had enough bubble wrap to package it properly, they just didn't. Instead of wrapping the computer, keyboard and mouse in bubble wrap, they just sandwiched them between layers of bubble wrap. So during shipping, the computer, being a heavy object, slide to one side of the box and had NO protection on two sides (since they were now right up against the cardboard). Luckily the keyboard was fine. The mouse took a few scuffs but looks OK. And the top of the computer has a few scuffs (because the mouse and keyboard were on top of it) but nothing too bad. Overall, the case looks undamaged. OK, no big deal.

Or so I thought. I go to open the computer and notice one of the thumbscrews is bent pretty significantly. So now removing and reinstalling that thumbscrew is a pain, and it'll eventually destroy the threads unless I can bend it back into the correct shape (not easy). The case keys, which are clipped onto the rear of the case, were also knocked off so I had to find them inside the oversize box. So I open the case and look inside, and surprisingly there was actually some damage inside. I guess from getting knocked around during transit, and possibly from it being cold outside, some plastic components broke. These Slot 1 CPUs commonly have these stupid plastic clips that hold the heatsink on. Well, those plastic clips broke which caused the heatsink to be flopping around. The heatsink broke a clip on the plastic fan shroud, and broke a capacitor off form the CPU board. Luckily the capacitor was at least dangling from one side, and not completely lost. But now I can't even test the damn computer unless I can find a way to reattach the heatsink!

At this point, I'm now regretting ordering the monitor from them. After purchasing the monitor, I realized I should have waited to get the desktop in so I could see how well they packed it. Now I'm worrying about the monitor getting damaged too!

About the CPU, the capacitor was an easy fix and luckily there was no other damage to the board. I decided to reattach the heatsink with nuts and bolts, but I didn't have any the correct size on hand so I had to come up with a quick fix, even if it was just temporary. So I came up with this: I used some 14 gauge Romex wire to fix through the holes and twist down to tighten the heatsink to the CPU die. The Romex is solid strand, and once twisted it will hold tight and not come undone. So as long as I don't twist it too much and overtighten the heatsink against the CPU die, it should be OK. And, it was! At least, OK enough to test the PC with. The CPU seems to work fine, as does the rest of the computer. But strangely, the included IBM mouse doesn't work.

Here's some pics I took of the damage so I could show the seller...

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And here's my temp heatsink fix -

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So then I get the monitor in. I open the box and at least they appeared to have tried a little harder to package it. There was tons of bubble wrap all around the monitor, and rolls of bubble wrap taped to the screen so it wouldn't move during shipping. But still, there was a crack to the casing on the back. I don't know if that crack was there pre shipping, but it wasn't mentioned in the listing. The bubble wrap appears to have protected the screen, it didn't appear to have been punctured or anything. But after I unpack it all, I noticed there's some bad scratched dead center on the screen. Fuck! I think they were there BEFORE shipping. So I proceed with testing the monitor out, and right away I notice the picture is too dark. OK, so I do a factory default settings restore and now the picture is even darker. Someone turned the brightness all the way up to compensate for the dark picture. The problem is, even with the brightness all the way up it's still too dark and also that blows out the image. Now, this monitor was listed as in good condition. And looking at the pictures in the listing, it's hard to tell if there are scratches there (they don't show up easily in pics). So I'm kind of pissed at this point, and I have to message the seller about both the desktop and the monitor.

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Now, I'm posting this mostly for a laugh at this point. Just for how inept some sellers can be, even with 100k feedback score. They seem like a big enough company to have multiple employees, it's not just one dude selling things from their garage. They're a full scale electronics recycle center or whatever. So I send off two message to the seller, one from each listing that I purchased. I include the above pics pointing out the damage, as well as a thorough explanation of the damage to each item. For the desktop, I specify all of the damage that I spoke of, and what steps I took to repair it on my own, but the mouse is not working. I ask if they have any more of that model mouse that they can send me as a replacement. I also state that I have also purchased a monitor from them, and I'm sending a separate message regarding that item. I did this because I didn't want someone to see two messages back to back from the same purchaser and mistakenly think they were duplicates. So I sent a second message about the monitor. And again included the above pictures and pointed out all of the issues with it. The monitor listing had multiple quantities of it, so I asked for a replacement that's in better condition or a refund.

A few hours after sending both messages, I get a reply to the message regarding the desktop. It simply says, "Unfortunately, we do not." That's all it says! They replied to me asking if they have any more of that model mouse to send me as a replacement, and completely ignored everything else I said about how it was damaged. Not even a hollow "I'm sorry to hear that" or any attempt at an apology to a customer that just purchased two items from them! So I figure before I reply to this, let me wait for a response to the message I sent about the monitor. But no reply ever came! I waited two days, and then sent another message from the monitor listing. I explained that I already sent a message regarding the issue with the item, but did not get a response, so I'm sending another. I again included the pics and description of damaged, and asked for a replacement or a refund. The next day, I get a refund and am told I can keep the monitor. Which is kind of annoying because they still have more quantity from the listing I purchased... Why can't they send me a replacement?

So now I have this IBM monitor that I got for free, and I'm not sure what I should do with it. I don't know if it's more trouble than it's worth to try and fix it up. I Googled about CRT screen scratches, and a few people have apparently had some success hiding the scratches using various methods. But I have no idea what to do about the dark picture. Recap? Or is it just a bad tube? I don't really know anything about CRT repair. At the end of the day, it isn't an amazing monitor or anything. It's just that it matches the desktop, and that's the only reason I wanted it.

I still haven't replied back to the seller about the desktop listing. The condition I received the desktop in, the average person wouldn't have been able to do those repairs. They're lucky all I'm inquiring about is the mouse, but they seem to not really care. I was hoping they would offer me a partial refund or something. Their customer service rep seems to be a complete idiot. They disregarded all of the issues from one message, and failed to respond to the other. I'm not sure if I want to subject myself to more of this treatment.

The mouse is actually weird. It's a matching IBM mouse for this desktop, but when I plug it in I get that error message posted above. Windows 98 also reports that no mouse is attached. But if I plug it into another computer, it seems to work fine. I have no explanation for that, and since it actually works I don't know how to even go about solving the problem.

I wanted to try and attached the heatsink with bolts, nuts and springs. Where the spring would be keeping the tension. But I couldn't find any springs locally, and I don't feel like buying them online since I can't tell how strong or weak they are. So I decided to just get some #4 machine bolts and nuts (I had #6 on hand but they're too large for it). Tightening the nuts is a little bit of a delicate thing, since you want the heatsink nice and tight up against the die but overtightening it will damage the CPU. So I just took my best guess, and tightened them in an X pattern. I tried to put a dab of thread lock on them, but that was too difficult, so I didn't for now. I'll have to check them after some time to make sure they didn't loosen at all.

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A lucky coincidence, the nuts that I got are a perfect fit for that slot in the heatsink so I can tighten them simply by spinning the screw.
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opa
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Re: My IBM 300PL & eBay Woes

by opa Wed Jan 25, 2023 8:20 am

Wow, that sucks. I always hesitate ordering large, delicate items off of ebay just because of seller stupidity.
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Ziggy587
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Re: My IBM 300PL & eBay Woes

by Ziggy587 Sat Jan 28, 2023 12:16 pm

It isn't all bad. I got a full refund on the monitor, so I guess no harm no foul. And outside of the weird mouse issue, the computer is working perfectly (after the repairs I had to do).

But yeah, I agree, it's been a while since I've ordered something like this from eBay due to not being able to trust sellers. But in the case of this model PC, I'd have no hope of ever finding one outside of eBay. I never find any retro computers in my local thrift stores (they either don't accept them or they're already gone by the time I browse). And a computer such as this model is very unlikely to be found in a thrift store anyway. Computers such as this one had a heavy focus on commercial customers, not regular consumer retail. So they end up being sold in quantities to business, schools, etc. And when they are taking out of use, they all go to e-cycling or a reseller. Whereas the typical household computer might end up in a thrift store. So eBay was my only real choice to get one.

It would have been nice to have a matching monitor though. :wink:
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My Sale Thread - I am selling around three quarters of my video game collection as well as some other odds and ends!
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