How to use those old Workstation Monitors

As time goes on, more and more of the old high-priced high-quality, but increasingly low relative performance workstations are being thrown out (or just sold at rock-bottom prices). These systems generally have some useful parts such as SCSI devices (CDROM's, Hard-drives or Tape units). Some use standard SIMM memory. Some even have usable expansion cards.

Most importantly are the 19" or larger monitors often found with this equipment. These monitors are often quite high quality and are probably the single most useful component to salvage. The problem is that these monitors are designed to be used with the specialized hardware in the workstation.

Types of monitors:

Standard PC monitors nowdays are almost always multi-sync (cheap ones can be multiple frequency) and have Separate syncs. Workstation monitors are generally Fixed Frequency (those that are multiple frequency will use frequencies that VGA wouldnt use) and often Sync on green, though the type of sync signals used are more variable than the type of frequencies used. It is this difference from the PC standard that makes the use of these monitors hard to use.

Hardware Solutions

There are several PC video cards produced that generate the correct signals for using workstation monitors. This is a very integrated solution and will allow you to use your system like normal. The drawback is that those cards are generally quite high priced. (see the links page for some old links to these solutions)

Hack Solutions

This is probably what you are looking for - the solutions that will use a standard PC video card, along with some cheap cables and possibly an easy to make conversion circuit.

There are some problems with doing this - you will not be able to see anything on the workstation monitor until the PC has booted up and set the correct video mode. This means that you cannot use the BIOS config screens, you cannot use DOS boot disks, you cannot use games that set arbitrary video modes and so on.

One way to make this process work nicer is to get a dual-head video card and setup the workstation monitor as the second head. Some dual-head driver software makes it quite easy to specify the monitor settings, so you may not even need to fiddle with the software much.

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