This Ancient Laptop/Printer Is How You Recorded Race Car Data In 1990

Screenshot: Racer

Porsche ran one of its last-of-the-oddballs Indy racers at Rennsport Reunion this past weekend, briefly letting the turbo V8 sing in its 1990 March chassis. What I find particularly charming is how the team pulled some data from the car.

I won’t go into too much depth on Porsche’s failed Indy program, a campaign that was originally going to be in an all-carbon car until American officials outlawed it and forced the team to run a standard aluminium chassis, spooked that Porsche would show up and dominate and ultimately destroy the series. Porsche had done it to Can Am, don’t forget.

Teo Fabi in his sadly-aluminium car at the 1990 Indy 500. (Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Again, I don’t want to go too into the weeds also because 8W has an incredible and massively in-depth history of the program that you should block out an evening to read.

Anyway, this running at Laguna Seca was something of a shakedown following a restoration as much as it was a demonstration of some history, and the team pulled some data from the car, and hauled out the vintage computer needed to do the job with the vintage competition car. As Racer put it, “one of the original team members downloaded the data with the same IBM laptop/printer used to speak with the beast in 1990.”

You can watch the thing in action at about 4:18 into the video below. Better, you get to hear that little old printer at work. kewkewkewkewkew brt brt brt brt kewkewkewkewkew:

This is slightly more common than you ever really think about. McLaren has had to use a 1990s Compaq to service all of those $US10 ($14) million F1s on the road. We did an article on these things back in 2016, explaining why McLaren needs to take good care of a Compaq, and why it was busily looking for a more modern replacement:

Why is McLaren spending thousands of pounds on a specific version of the LTE 5280 laptop, a piece of ancient history you could otherwise grab on eBay for a few hundred bucks?

“The reason we need those specific Compaq laptops is that they run a bespoke CA card which installs into them,” a fellow from MSO told me. “The CA card is an interface between the laptop software (which is DOS based) and the car.”

He added: “We are currently working on a new interface which will be compatible with modern laptops as they old Compaqs are getting less and less reliable and harder to find.”

So next time you go to a vintage racing event, keep an eye out. You’ll probably spot some period-correct computing around some of these early-digital cars, done out of necessity and not just to look cool.

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