VOGONS


First post, by donkom

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I've been a long fan of vintage computing for a long time, but I'm also a professional photographer. Yesterday I decided to take a heat gun to a Pentium Pro that had irreparably damaged pins to pop off the underside of it. Melt the solder, strip as much of it away as possible with a jewelry screwdriver, then tap on the edge and here we go.

pentium-pro.jpg

At first i was a little disappointed by the colours of this CPU compared to Pentium, 486 and 386 CPUs that I had seen in the past. The trick here was to add a custom colorized filter to the flash unit. The filter is based on cross-polarization techniques to generate a birefringence colour pattern from the cover on an old CD case. Complicated physics, but easy to generate rainbows of colour. It could also be the angle I was shooting at, intentionally doing something difficult to shoot it on an angle, bringing it to life. The depth of field (the amount to have in focus) is so narrow at these magnifications that multiple images need to be "stacked" together. A technique I have been most accustomed to in my professional work as a macro photographer.

With an affinity for vintage hardware and professional experience photographing small things, I thought I'd share.

I will update this thread with images of different processors in the future, as I locate beyond-help chips that can leave with a final memory.

Reply 2 of 44, by donkom

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imi wrote on 2020-09-07, 00:36:

gorgeous ^^

as someone into photography myself I appreciate this effort a lot

Thanks! These images are technically very difficult to create, and I have companies that pay me to create modern images of computer components for catalogs etc... but not like this. This is a labour of love. 😀

Reply 3 of 44, by cyclone3d

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This is really cool. I might have to try doing that sometime.

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Reply 5 of 44, by donkom

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Here's a 386 shot (A80386-20), similar technique.

386-A80386-20.jpg

In order to get the die to show off it's colour, the die was illuminated by point light sources from a distance. This created some tough shadows for the cavity, so that was shot separately and composited together for the final image. Yeah, I learned a lesson with this one - pry off the lid from the CORNER. Broke a few bond wires and I'm feeling pretty guilty about it.

Reply 7 of 44, by adalbert

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Nice! After seeing these photos I started to wonder how likely is the CPU to work after exposing the die. Here is one video with 486 that supposedly works, and it's even not in clean environment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L03k21RDhE

I was thinking about using apple watch tempered glass screen protector or something like that to cover the die immediately after removing the cover, and applying some clear epoxy on the edges. It would be best to do that under laminar flow hood 😀 Another idea is to attach extension wires to the CPU pins, so it can be mounted inverted in the socket, with die facing the user... and test how sensitive is exposed silicon to light of different wavelengths 😀

Reply 8 of 44, by Tiido

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Silicon is protected with a glass like layer and the gold bond wires etc. are not going to disintegrate either in a typical atmosphere. The main issue will be physical debris getting in there and knocking together some bond wires or something...

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Reply 9 of 44, by donkom

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Yeah, if the lid is removed very carefully and nothing is damaged, the chip should continue to function just fine. That 386 is toast, but the Pentium Pro likely still works.

Debris could get in there, but I also don't know what long-term effect the atmosphere would have on the silicon. Not sure if anyone knows if the cavity is originally filled with just air or some inert gas - some long-term experiments are easy to do - all you need is time and a machine to leave running in a corner. 😀

Reply 10 of 44, by donkom

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Here's another one, a chip that doesn't usually get a lot of fanfare: the Intel A82497-66 cache controller:

A82497-66.jpg

This one was opened up without any damage, and was able to be illuminated in one sequence - the chip cavity with a ring flash and the die with a point-source light simultaneously.

Reply 15 of 44, by dionb

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True beauty - both in the subject and the process to take it. Thanks for sharing - we are fortunate to have someone willing and able to undertake this particular labour of love 😀

Reply 19 of 44, by H3nrik V!

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kolderman wrote on 2020-09-12, 08:11:

I thought the ppro had a kind of oblong die shape. Nice photo tho.

The package has, as there is actually two dies in it - the CPU and the cache ..

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