A twenty-foot-long computer

Raymond Chen

Back in the days of Windows 95, when Plug and Play was in its infancy, one of the things the Plug and Play team did was push the PCI specification to an absurd extreme.

They took a computer and put it at one end of a hallway. They then built a chain of PCI bridge cards that ran down the hallway, and at the end of the chain, plugged in a video card.

And then they turned it on.

Amazingly, it actually worked. The machine booted and used a video card twenty feet away. (I’m guessing at the distance. It was a long time ago.) It took two people to operate this computer, one to move the mouse and type, and another to watch the monitor at the other end and report where the pointer was and what was happening on the screen.

And the latency was insane.

But it did work and thereby validated the original design.

Other Plug and Play trivia: The phrase “Plug and Play” had already been trademarked at the time, and Microsoft had to obtain the rights to the phrase from the original owners.


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