Continuum Concepts

It's All About the Pentiums (Weird Al's PC Specs)

Remember the Song?

It's All About The Pentiums - Weird Al
Watch "It's All About The Pentiums" on YouTube.

"Weird Al" Yankovic is a great entertainer, and you can tell by the lyrics to It's All About the Pentiums[1] that he has real technical knowledge. It's a great song and video.

Weird Al doesn't mess around. He actually gives us some specs. We'll take a look at the lyrics, then we're going to extrapolate and make huge assumptions to render a very super accurate list of parts.

The Relevant Lyrics

It's all about the Pentiums, baby

If it is about the Pentiums, then he's got one, right? Which one? This video came out August 4, 1999[2]. The Coppermine Pentium III was available and ramping up in speed, reaching 733 MHz around when this video released. 1 GHz Pentium IIIs began to sell in Jan 2000.

Weird Al is a connected man, is he not? He probably had friends at Intel and got his hands on a 1 GHz-binned engineering sample. A star would have no less.

My new computer's got the clocks

Clocks, plural. Enthusiasts back then were running dual-CPU motherboards. I was doing this myself (shoutout to anyone that remembers the old forums). So Weird Al was definitely rocking dualies. Final call: Dual Pentium III CPUs @@ 1 GHz.

Defraggin' my hard drive for thrills

Defragmentation was a process for conventional, spindle-based hard disk drives. Solid state storage existed in 1999, but not in the way it exists today as "SSDs". So Weird Al, like the rest of us in 1999, was stuck with the ol' spinny turny kind of hard drive.

Weird Al would have certainly had the best of spindle-based drives available. Seagate sold the 10K RPM SCSI Quantum Atlas in 1999. We know Weird Al buys from the top shelf, so he had at least a 10K RPM drive, but more likely several of them working together. Weird Al surely had 4 10K RPM drives running in RAID 5. In fact, the SCSI controller that manages the array has its own 32-bit processor and 4 GB of RAM that it utilizes for advanced caching and parity computation—without an adverse effect on throughput. It is a truly amazing device, this controller that he definitely has.

I got me a hundred gigabytes of RAM

We're going to need to take the bullshitting to level 11 in order to explain how this was possible in 1999. Here's what we're up against.

  1. 32-bit CPUs can't address more than 4 GB of RAM
  2. Even if Weird Al has PAE-aware apps, he still can't address more than 64 GB of RAM.
  3. There isn't a sane combination of RAM Modules that totals 100 GB.

Are we ready to fake this like I faked having a girlfriend in high school? Let's do this.

He has 64 GB of system memory, which is available to his CPU via PAE-aware kernel extensions[3] that he side-loads[4] into his operating system. He coded those extensions himself. Weird Al "pays the bills with [his] mad programming skills". So, getting PAE up and running would be no sweat.

He has another 32 GB of RAM on a PCI-based RAM drive, managed independently by an on-board PAE-capable CPU. I read that somewhere (may have been here).

The last 4 GB can be found on that SCSI controller we talked about. I was thinking ahead with that one.

Installed a T1 line in my house

That's 1.5 Mbps. Slow by many modern standards, but in 2023 it would probably still be enough for remote office work, at least. It was definitely enough for me to pwn newbs in Quake 2 in the Ripon College Yearbook Club room, so it's enough for you.

Always at my PC, double-clickin' on my mizouse

In 1999 we had a choice of the kind of mouse we'd use. USB or PS/2. All enthusiast motherboards supported both. USB devices were new and flashy. But real nerds knew, PS/2 was the winner. The PS/2 port could be polled at up to 200Hz, compared to just 125Hz in USB-land. That's 75 more Hz. That's more polling. Think of all that polling you can do.

You see me rollin'

This is definitely an indication that he wasn't into that USB optical mouse bullshit[6]. Therefore we know for SURE that Weird Al had a PS/2 Razer Boomslang. Literally Ballin', and you know he'd be disappointed if I misused "literally", but I didn't. The Boomslang was a ball mouse. Among the last of its kind.

To be fair, he does say he's "strictly plug and play" but for the PS/2 mouse he means this literally. He plugs it in to play games.

Got a flat-screen monitor forty inches wide

Strangely enough, "flat" monitors got less cool since then. Now we want CURVED monitors again. But not the OLD way, only the NEW way.

I *think* *maybe* *possibly* the Fujitsu PDS-4201 was available at the time, so that's definitely what he had. 42" diagonal, 40" wide if you count the bezel, which you shouldn't, but you could.

"Your windows boots up, in what a day and a half?", "I'm down with Bill Gates, I call him Money for short" and "I beta tested every operating system"

As an insider, Weird Al is definitely running an advance copy of Windows 2000. His system was surely multi-boot, so he could also use Linux and BeOS.

Weird Al's PC Specs

CPU 2x Pentium III @ 1 GHz
RAM 100 GB
Disk 4x 73.4GB Quantum Atlas 10K RPM (RAID 5)
GPU GeForce 256 DDR[5]
Display 42" Fujitsu PDS-4201 Plasma Flat-Screen
Mouse PS/2 Razer Boomslang
OS Windows 2000 Beta

A killer PC for its time... for someone with really unusual RAM requirements.

How it Stacks Up in 2023

Multicore CPUs are standard, and much faster than a Pentium III at 1 GHz. Today's SSDs mop the floor with spindle-based HDDs in terms of performance. But in 2023 having 100 GB of RAM would still be pretty impressive (though you'll more likely see 128 GB, and probably never see a system with exactly 100GB RAM).

What could someone do with Weird Al's PC in 2023? Sound off in the comments!

(I don't actually have comments but it sounded cool)