The Quest For Retro Gaming: Building A Vintage PC (Part 1)

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JasonDT

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Love this article, I have a few "retro gaming pcs" I thought I'd post them for my fellow nerds/geeks.

All are mounted in 4U rack chassis' because my computer desk has rack space for legs =P

My "super up" IBM 5150
Replaced the i8088 with a NEC v20
640k RAM
some random 8-bit VGA card ( I don't want to wear out my pretty green phosphor monitor!)
some random 8-bit SCSI/Floppy Controller with built in ROM (obviously)
SixPak Plus for I/O & more ram
and either an 8-bit sound blaster or 10mbit NIC
Runs DOS 5.something?

386DX-40 w/ 387, either 16MB of ram
ATI Mach32 Video Card
Sound Blaster AWE32 sound card
Intel 10/100 NIC
Adaptec 1542a SCSI/Floppy controller
Runs DOS 6.22

my "ultimate 486"
Intel DX4-100 (or AMD 586-133) I go back and forth...
64MB ram
ATI Mach64 VLB card
Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold
some (adaptec?) vlb multi I/O IDE/Floppy controller
Intel 10/100 NIC
Runs DOS 6.22 7 WFW 3.11

my Socket-7 Rig
Intel 233mhz MMX w/ 128MB RAM
ATI Mach64 PCI Video card (8MB)
Voodoo 1 PCI video card
Sound Blaster 16/32?
onboard IDE/Floppy/IO
Runs Win95c

My other one
Intel P2-450 w/ 128MB RAM
ATI All-In-Wonder Pro 8MB AGP
2x 12MB VooDoo 2's
Diamond MX400 (maybe its the 300)
onboard IDE/Floppy 7 I/O
Runs Win98 SE

Thinking about moving my some of my ancient rigs over to SSDs with a SATA to IDE converter. I have some smaller 32 & 64GB SSDs

I have some other oddball rigs, Dual P2/P3, Dual Socket 8 w/ 200MHZ/1MB Pentium Pros. IBM 5155, 5160 & 5170, I'd love to find an IBM 5162....
 

Vlad Rose

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Has anyone had much experience running OS2 Warp? I had heard that it can run DOS games perfectly inside the OS (even in a window), but never really got a chance to check it out. If that is the case, it'd probably be about perfect for an older machine.
 

Rogue Leader

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LOL

Yes OS2 warp will do that, if you want to make an already frustrating process on old hardware that much more frustration, rage inducing, and hair pulling.

If theres one thing to remember when building a retro system, is find what works best and stick with it. As it is you're dealing with iffy hardware and games that all require a different setup to work right. We are spoiled these days....
 
"I can just see someone trying to setup an old DOS machine and about pulling their hair out trying to configure their config.sys and autoexec.bat to have 634k free of conventional memory while still having a sound card and cd-rom enabled."

i just used a shortcut key during boot to specify what i wanted on or off. the only time i needed to use that for was when i wanted to play wolenstein 3D
 

lordmogul

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I'm running a system for late 90's early 00's Games:
Pentium III 933 MHZ on an Asus CUSL2, 256 MB SDRAM. A 60 and a 80 GB Hard Drive, one with Windows 98 SE the other with XP
Unfortunately it is running with an Radeon 9600 Pro, but I'm looking into switching it for a Voodoo 3 or 5 or maybe an Geforce 2. Everything running on an old CRT monitor I stil had lying around.

Later I like to add another system for DOS games:
486DX2-66 or Pentium 90, 1MB RAM, a Sound Blaster 16 and a Voodoo 1
 

Vlad Rose

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If you switch your video card to one of the voodoo cards, you will lose official driver support for Windows XP. There are some hacked drivers out there, but they don't work perfect.
 

smeezekitty

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"Warcraft II is one of those titles that suffers from having a CPU that performs too fast. Monkey Island Series, Kings Quest V,The 7th Guest, Doom, Quake, Diablo, Age Of Empires II, Warcraft II, Command And Conquer, and Descent: Freespace."

All of these games will work in DOSBOX, are on GoG or are on Steam already.
DOSBOX does a good job. But it still lacks the experience of playing on a retro machine. And every once in a while there is an odd game it doesn't play right with. GoG sucks.
Now that DOSBOX supports Glide emulation, you can get a lot running in there properly and looking fine, including Tomb Raider (also on Steam).
The normal Dosbox release doesn't support Glide. I think there might be a patched version somewhere though.
Any game that works on XP will work on Windows 8.1, with a little tweaking. I'd had people give me lists of games they could only run in XP and I had them all working fine. You might need to shim them a bit (compatibility mode, etc.), but they will go.
Not always true. I know of some games that work on XP and break on Vista or newer.
Remember also that Windows 98 SE has a bug that does not support over 256 MB of RAM, so you are better off with ME if you are getting near 1 GB of RAM. You can get unofficial patches, but it still doesn't really use the RAM.
The RAM bug is a problem between 512-800MB. Not 256
Also, keep in mind ME doesn't have "Restart in MSDOS mode"
I wouldn't bother with Windows 95 because it simply lacks any method of troubleshooting. And you will be doing a lot of troubleshooting on these rigs.
Windows 95 is a little more dated but it still has device manager and such. I suggest 95 more for 486 and Pentium 1 class machines. P2/P3 are fast enough to run 98/ME well.
Another thing I'd mention is that you are dealing with old hardware. Old harddrives, old soundcards, old ram, old videocards.
One option you can use for a hard drive is a CF card to IDE adapter with a 32 or 64 GB CF card. They are faster and last longer. Then again, no vintage drive noise.


ATI still has bad drivers. That's never changed, I wouldn't recommend them because it's difficult to find drivers and they don't support their cards as long as Nvidia has.
AMD drivers are not bad. Both camps have some bugs but nothing too bad.
But it's true ATI's drivers used to suck.

You can't really win with Glide anymore. The Geforce 2 and greater cards will greatly outperform Glide in any game. It was good at the time, but it looks awful and you won't get 1080p out of them. For a "Modern" gaming system, I'd go with anything FX or GT and you'll get old games at 1080p on a new monitor easily.
I agree. The Voodoo series is overhyped
ld Athlon XP Shuttle X system that performs with ME quiet well.
Drivers are a bit difficult too. Some manufactures are not updating the links anymore. ME does give native USB support, so you can plug a USB key and install the drivers, but 98SE does not seem to. You'll need to map a drive over the network or create an FTP site. That could tricky, as newer operating systems tend to reject their connections by default.
[/quote]
I definitely had USB keyboard and mouse working in 98. But I don't remember if I had to install drivers.
 

palladin9479

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Actually it won't. This is because all current virtualization clients only have minimal support for 3D acceleration and only for DX9 programs. Windows 9x days were littered with many old DX6~DX8 games that either required or worked best with hardware acceleration. This is the era of the 8~16MB 3D accelerator cards like RIVA 128 / TNT, RAGE 128, Vodoo and so forth. Games like Mechwarrior 3, Wind Commander IV (Windows version) and Might and Magic 7 immediately come to mind. Due to incompatibility with newer OS's you can't run them stably and get all sorts of random problems if you try. Most things from the DOS era can be run inside dosbox without problems, can even get Windows 3.11 working to run some of the cool games that ran there.
 

Vlad Rose

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That isn't exactly true with virtualization clients having minimal support for 3D. If your motherboard and CPU support VT-d on Intels or AMD-Vi (used to be called IOMMU) on AMDs, some virtual machines can directly access a physical video card instead of using a virtual one through a feature called "PCI Passthrough". Same way with sound cards and other physical devices.
 

brostenen

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Most of the comments AND nearly all of the article is kind of bull-shit.
You can NOT get old stuff like GUS and MT32's and a complete sub 500mhz machine WITH Voodoo2-SLI for 100 dollars. Simply not possible.

I suspect the author of just recently discovering retro pc computing, and trying to be a hipster, using terms and stuff like this, wich he simply has no grasp off.

My recommendation is... Point the browser to: www.vogons.org and ride the full retro-train.
 

palladin9479

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So your new modern system has a PCI slot on it somewhere does it? Maybe an AGP slot you can use? And your running ESXi as your main system, how in the heck are you on the internet then seeing as ESXi doesn't have a graphical interface. Virtualbox has it but only on the linux platform with a kernel patch and it's classified as extremely experimental. These type of implementations are there to pass SAS/FCAL HBA's to a virtual OS for multipathing support on SAN's, direct utilization of 10Gbe NICs or converged networking fabric, they aren't really meant for graphics cards though they technically support them with some hackery.

It's universally better to just scrounge up some old parts off ebay or some you know, throw them together and build a self contained "legacy rig" that contains components from the same time period.
 

palladin9479

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It'll cost you about $200~300 USD depending on how much you already have and what's available. Most times parts for the "old box" are older components from previous computers, typically obsolete by today's standards and thus in attics or some dudes garage. You can find lots of these at flea markets or other non-traditional stores.
 

Vlad Rose

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They do sell motherboards that have PCI connectors still on current hardware.
ESXi- There are options such as KVM and Xen as well;
Biggest thing is you stated " This is because all current virtualization clients only have minimal support for 3D acceleration and only for DX9 programs." and I had mentioned that there are exceptions to that as others have successfully done it:
http://www.overclock.net/t/1205216/guide-create-a-gaming-virtual-machine
https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=162768
http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/1214
 
Most of the comments AND nearly all of the article is kind of bull-shit.
You can NOT get old stuff like GUS and MT32's and a complete sub 500mhz machine WITH Voodoo2-SLI for 100 dollars. Simply not possible...
Always with those negative waves ?
[video="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuStsFW4EmQ"][/video]
I suspect if I went digging I'd find 2 or 3 dozen (each) of floppy drives, 10/10 Ethernet cards, Intel 810E motherboards, s370 HSFs.

A dozen or more AGP video cards, 16-32MB, a few smaller ones. A dozen or more Slot1 and s370 CPUs. Maybe 1/2-dozen Celly-As. A good many 2-socket motherboards - most Slot1 CPUs were 'paired'. A dozen or so IDE CD-ROMs, early DVD-ROMs

Most OEM, new in original packaging. Many with appropriate drivers, or at least, 'burnable' to CD. I've got dozens of packages of 'Retro Gold'. I am the Wiz :lol: I'll even throw in a DOS CD (if it's legal)

Folks get excited about it, and then find out how insanely problematic and aggravating it can be, even for dubious results. The envelop for success can be small and minor successes become victories (Yeah! My USB1 port is working - sorta)

As someone has already pointed out, older 16-bit DOS some games go silly-fast on early '586' stuff, and can exhibit all kinds of other wacky behavior. Then, there are the analog CRTs (I've got more than a few of those, too :lol:) and dealing with those massive 800x600 resolutions. Not so easy to recreate on an HD LCD.

AND :D can you imagine the looks from those bold 'Retro' frontiersmen (and -women) when you utter the simple words com1/IRQ4 - com2/IRQ3 ? You might as well as said, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto."

edit:
Want some SCSI ? I suspect I can go as far back as an ISA-card on some of those :)

My hats off to those who try. It's not that expensive to do so --- but it is a lot more difficult than even 'Plug & Pray"

 

Vlad Rose

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Did you say the words EXACTLY right? :)

But yeah, I remember those days of IRQ/DMA conflicts. Or accidentally assign the wrong one to your Soundblaster Pro and watch the system hard lock? While I miss the games from those days, I certainly don't miss the hardware... lol
What's really ironic about this article is that I had just thrown away a working Pentium 60 about a month ago (was my first IBM based PC) due to lack of use.
 

Rogue Leader

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A simple way to put it was that any time I bought a new game, no matter how good my PC was I needed to clear out at least an evening if not the better part of a Saturday to install it, and get it to work without crashing. And new hardware, forget it., plan on burning a weekend, between installing it and then resetting up all your games and making them work.

I'm nostalgic for playing the games, but the thought of going back to doing it (considering my distinct lack of time to kill these days), makes me think twice and appreciate my Win 7 monster that chews up anything I throw at it.
 

jj463rd

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Most of the comments AND nearly all of the article is kind of bull-shit.
You can NOT get old stuff like GUS and MT32's and a complete sub 500mhz machine WITH Voodoo2-SLI for 100 dollars. Simply not possible.

I suspect the author of just recently discovering retro pc computing, and trying to be a hipster, using terms and stuff like this, wich he simply has no grasp off.

My recommendation is... Point the browser to: www.vogons.org and ride the full retro-train.
Vogons are definitely a great resource.Another site that is really helpful is Erik S Klein's Vintage Computer collection and his excellent forum.I also like the Vintage3D website which compares early graphics accelerator cards.That and old reviews,magazines gives a lot of perspective.There are a lot of other helpful websites for retro-computing too especially for software.
The hardware is useless without the needed software obviously.

It's not impossible to get a free 500 Mhz Pentium III system (or other older components or systems) as there are a lot of people still throwing these away.
Myself I've been given several Pentium II system years ago from neighbours.
O.K. I did have to purchase my 650 mhz and 700 Mhz Pentium III systems for $50 each (both with ASUS motherboards).I could have built them from individual chosen components but both were nice vintage beige coloured case custom tower systems.
I just customized them further like with better graphics cards,sound cards,CD RW and DVD drives of that era with completely new yet 15 year old hard drives etc.
I have a dozen unused new 15 year old hard drives Ha Ha.

You can get a 3Dfx Voodoo 3 sometimes at eBay for around $12 USD to $15 USD occasionally but $20 USD or $30 USD is a more common price.My personal recommendation (and trust me on this) is to custom install a Pentium CPU class fan on a Voodoo 3' or any of the older later 90's era graphics cards as these run burning hot and will fail quickly or show (looks like colour thermographic imaging) artefacts or cause system lock-ups with use.Once I actually put my finger on the 3Dfx V3's heat sink back in 1999 I knew that something was wrong and that it needed a fan adequate to remove that heat.3Dfx screwed up on that omission.Engineering wise what were they thinking?
By doing this (adding the fan) the graphics card will also have much longer life.I did this with my 3Dfx Voodoo 3 card 16 years ago and it's still running great like a champ today.
A Voodoo 3 won't put out nearly as many texels/sec as two V2's in SLI but it's far less expensive in cost.You're right a pair of V2's in SLI alone could set you back $70 USD to $100 USD at eBay right now.So one might have to compromise somewhat.
two V2's are too costly the V3 would work as that compromise.
A very common
AGP GeForce 2 MX400 is a good choice too as it compares favourably with a DDR GeForce256 if your opting for an nVidia card.I obtained two 32mb Diamond Viper v770 graphics cards at eBay for $10 USD.Man those nVidia cards are dirt cheap well except for the uber expensive rare NV1 (collectors item) which was a failure (not a commercial success and a poor performing product for its time).

But really it's up to the author of the article.Let's see what he does.Give him a chance
 

jj463rd

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I guess that Diamond Stealth II S220 (Rendition Verite 2100) graphics card absolutely new unopened in its box from late in the year 1997 or early 1998 at Amazon was not sold but rather re listed again.I was lucky I guess I didn't miss out.
This time I purchased it (it was $54.45 USD a small ouch).
I could resell it at ebay for perhaps $100 USD or so as a collectors item.
Just to have the original box,the card and the bundled software that's so cool.
Maybe I'll keep it for display with my old 90's PC's
Thomas Pabst gave it favourable reviews here in these old articles back in the years 1997 and 1998.Several of them

http://www.tomshardware.com/s/diamond+stealth+ii+s220/

Man I would love to find a Diamond Monster 3D card new unopened in the box with all that original bundled software.To me it would be worth the original price for that.
 

Vlad Rose

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His best bet for video (if he can find it) is a Matrox Millenium and a Voodoo2 add-in card. He can also add in a Power VR add-in card as well. I remember years ago Maximum PC (was called Boot then) did an article where they stuck a bunch of 3d video cards together in a rig and got them to work together. I think their main card was an ATI Rage though.
 

Rogue Leader

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As a former owner of a PowerVR PCX2 card ( Videologic Apocalypse 3D, their last consumer card) I don't recommend it in this case. I had an ATI 3D Rage Pro card as well as the PowerVR. With games that were made for the PowerVR it worked great, however games that didn't support it ran on the ATI. But the ATI ran basically everything, the Power VR it was only a certain subset of my games that it ran. It was pretty sick however when it worked (the PVR version of Wipeout XL blew away the highest level D3D version on the Rage, and Voodoo as well). Just not sure its worth the trouble for the limited number of games that use it. Most of the Voodoo cards had more support and worked in pass through with a VGA loop cable, probably why they were able to get all of them working in 1 machine.

IIRC mine came bundled with like 8 pack in games (Mechwarrior 2, Re-volt, Wipeout XL, Ultimate Race, Terracide, and a few others I can't remember), and strangely Cyber Gladiators this Sierra fighting game, that only worked with D3D and not the PowerVR lol.
 

blackbeard34

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I would have to outweigh the costs vs reward. Old games - sure you can get some of them if not a lot to work in Virtual pc or dos box environment. I don't see point going back to anything pre 1990 and would not want invest hard earned money in some extremely old pc just for older games and then run around looking for drivers and patches and updates and fixes for error messages. There are to many newer games out there to play and only older games I l like to look at are things like x-com and terror from the deep. I do miss the voodoo cards and their brilliance but can't stand the older windows and would advise anyone to run what you can in virtual pc and let the other games die and move on. Save your hard earned cash for newer upgrades and newer components and games that will take you to new worlds.
 

lordmogul

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I saw some Diamond Monster 3D II just a few months ago on ebay, sadly not in an unopened original packaging, but with all accessories.
To bad I don't had the money by the time.
 
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