Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

In the days before PnP

Occasionally Plug and Play doesn’t work as it should. Sometimes.. you might think it doesn’t work — period. What amazes me, is that it works at all. To those of us who were working on computers “back in the day”, before there was PnP, the idea that you could just plug in a new device and it would work seemed like a Utopian fantasy.

Plug and Play was introduced in Windows with the release of Windows 95 (so we are going back a ways), and was a big selling point. To those of us who built PCs, it seemed an answer to our prayers. Unfortunately, PCs and PC component manufacturers were in a period somewhat akin to the Wild West. Everyone was doing their own thing. There wasn’t much in the way of compliance “standardization”, though people began to try.

We tech-types quickly dubbed Plug and Play “Plug and pray“… and usually our prayers weren’t answered; the new device wouldn’t work, and we’d resort to manual installation methods to try to ‘force’ the thing to function.
This process required the trial-and-error positioning of tiny metal “jumpers“, manually assigning (non-conflicting) IRQs and DMAs, and manually configuring the (software) drivers (anyone remember memory address ranges?)… which would cause some mysterious conflict, and not work… so we’d undo all our work and change one little thing, and try again… which wouldn’t work, and we’d start over again. And again. And again.

Sound cards were the worst, and often would simply refuse to work properly even after several days of labor, trying every possible combination of variables. (A brief aside: it was a common “joke” in my community to refer customers who wanted sound cards installed to competitors [because of our “backlog”] because it was always a money-losing proposition.)

PnP has, painfully and in fits-and-starts, evolved — thanks in large part to the common adoption and use of Standards — into (what we old dogs know is) an amazing ability. It has been a very long time since I’ve installed/plugged in a new device and it did not self-install.
Even more amazing to me is how often this occurs without even having to load device drivers from an Install CD. Windows now automatically goes online and finds, and installs, the drivers. It is, indeed, the “miracle” we tech-types were praying for a decade ago.

For those odd occasions when PnP doesn’t work, I have written several troubleshooting tips. Click here to go directly to the most relevant post, or click on the words “Plug and Play” in my Tag Cloud to read all the PnP-related postings.

Today’s free link: Play music from your thumb drive. If you read my thumb drive article, or are already familiar with Portable Apps, you know about programs-on-a-stick. Add the ability to play music with the portable music player, VLC Media Player Portable.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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September 28, 2007 Posted by | computers, hardware, PC, Plug and Play, tech, Windows | 1 Comment