Looking for help with a circa 1996 IBM Think Pad
August 20, 2010 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I have acquired an old IBM Thinkpad Type 9547 and I am having a difficult time figuring out it's place in the IBM timeline as well as it's specifications.

This was just a geek purchase and NOT my main system.

It currently boots to an error (see photos), but I believe the hard drive just needs replacing since all other hardware passed the built in diagnostic check.
This technology pre-dates my computer infatuation and I am feeling a bit lost, but want to understand.

When I first received it, it booted successfully to Win98 (video) but would like to see it boot to a Linux OS.
My goal is to learn more about this machine and possibly get it to boot successfully once again.
posted by will wait 4 tanjents to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Best answer: The PSREF site at Lenovo has information about current and withdrawn Lenovo and IBM Personal Systems products back to 1992. The 9547-U4F is described on page 68 of twbook.pdf. It was marketed as the ThinkPad 760EL.
posted by grouse at 10:08 PM on August 20, 2010

Yeah. Looked like a 760 to me. I had a similar model way back in the day.

Here's some more info. Fortunately, the EL didn't have the profoundly bizarre MWave DSP chip that the other 760s had, and might actually be possible to get running under Linux.

(PS. Have fun installing Linux off of floppies. It's....possible, but dear god why?)
posted by schmod at 10:30 PM on August 20, 2010

Best answer: Here's a link to the Hardware Maintenance Manual. That may help you diagnose the issue.

It would have come out in the late 1990s, I'm guessing 1997 or 1998.
posted by zippy at 10:39 PM on August 20, 2010

the EL didn't have the profoundly bizarre MWave DSP chip ...

Hey, that chip was awesome! Except that IBM didn't do a great job supporting it. I worked at IBM at the time, and from the internal forums for the MWAVE and Thinkpads, I got the impression that the MWAVE was a skunkworks/research project with perhaps two people in the whole company who knew how to program it.
posted by zippy at 10:41 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are ThinkPad foruns as well
posted by xammerboy at 10:43 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

First, as others have pointed out your search will go much better if you refer to it as its common model number, 760EL.

I have a ThinkPad 770 which is approximately the same vintage machine, except the 760EL series had Pentium 100/120/133s and the 770 had Pentium 200/233 MMXs. The first thing you want to do is max out the RAM. It takes two 144 pin SO-DIMMs, 70ns, EDO. Note this is not SDRAM that has been standard for some time, but rather good old DRAM. Mine accepted two 128 MB sticks, but according to that PDF it can only support 32 MB modules. This is definitely only going to be found on ebay as no modern computers use this kind.

The second thing you're going to want to do is get a Cardbus PCMCIA Ethernet adapter. You can do a Linux netinstall with either one or two floppies. Make sure your distro supports the Pentium instruction set; most modern distros switched to i686 as the minimum but Debian is still a holdout and I believe can still support 386, 486, and Pentium systems. Forget the CDROM if you don't already have it, forget the battery.

Lastly, I have to mention that unless you're running a computer museum there's not much point to going through all the hoops. I went through all this about five years ago and got it working fine with Windows XP and Linux dual boot, but in today's market with cheap netbooks I don't really see the point.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:06 PM on August 20, 2010

Response by poster: @grouse Thank you very much for deciding it was 760EL niche.
The PDF was lovely and just what I was after

Another (TY @Rhomboid) agreed which makes me happy!
Thank you for solidifying!
You can understand that it was confusing to me in which series to tie it.

@schmod it does not have a floppy drive.
In front there is a cd rom drive-- so I am all set!

@Rhomboid thank you very much for giving me that drilled down info. Not sure what the mem is on this machine. Was amazed at the HD capacity, for its age.
But I will figure out if it is maxed. If it is not I will hit Ebay --
I have a few sellers that I enjoy for this type project that could come through for me on the mem.
posted by will wait 4 tanjents at 1:05 AM on August 21, 2010

Response by poster: @Zippy not ignoring your input.
Checking out the hardware 34manual now. TYVM
posted by will wait 4 tanjents at 1:08 AM on August 21, 2010

Best answer: (You are up way too late and I am way too early!)

I note that your new computer has a PCMCIA slot. I have been successful using Puppy Linux in a CF/PCMCIA adapter to boot klunkers. (I have 9 Thinkpads, some from this general era.)

You can use PLOP to boot from anything. It's a boot manager that boots from a floppy.

Armed with a 2 GB or 4 GM flash, you can make this little guy sing. You'll need more than 64 MB of RAM. Should not be a problem to find some for this thing, but if you have problems, MeMail me and I may have some compatible stuff you can have.

Good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 2:40 AM on August 21, 2010

I ran Peanut Linux on one of these in 1999 by downloading it to a DOS partition. When these came out they were the workhorse for most traveling salesmen that we used to support at the IBM Helpdesk.
posted by furtive at 8:07 AM on August 21, 2010

Searching the IBM/lenovo site goes better if you use the model/type number (then and now). Putting that in will give you whatever resources they have on that device.

Searching google usually works better with the 760-whatever name, but beware that there were often many different hardware configs under the same name.

You should be able to get into the bios by hitting f1. If not, you need to get the setup disk (might be called options diskette) and boot it with that to set up the bios. There is a good chance that the HDD isn't bad, and that the BIOS clock battery is just dead. Those older BIOS chips didnt autoconfigure as well as they do now.

There is a way to net-boot the thing for installs, but I don't know what it is.

If the hdd does need to be replaced, you can probably use a standard pata laptop drive by transplanting the base drive back into that carrier thing. You will, most likely, not be able to use anywhere near the real capacity of the drive. You may have to jumper the thing on the drive that limits it to 32gb. Even then, you might not get more than 8?
posted by gjc at 9:18 AM on August 21, 2010

As xammerboy mentioned, there are ThinkPad forums out there. Here's a link to one of the oldest - the Legacy board at thinkpads.com:


(Disclosure - I am a volunteer admin at TPF.)
posted by JaneL at 10:21 AM on August 21, 2010

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