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Need Help Building 90s PC


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#1 MotoRacer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:55 PM

I know it sounds silly, but I'd like to build a PC that would be great for playing games from 97-98 timeframe. Games like NFS2, Moto racer, rogue squadron, etc just don't play perfectly in modern pcs. From missing alpha layers to missing music, sometimes there's only so much you can do.

I still have my physical copies and was wondering what specs I should be looking to go for so that I can run these games on max. I'm assuming a pentium 2 or 3? Have no clue on the graphics card or ram.

Any help would be great. Thanks.

#2 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:30 PM

Turns out that my time on AA the last couple of years has been inversely proportional to my interest in retro PCs. Your interest isn't silly at all; there are lots of folks interested in building and collecting for PCs of the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Compared to collecting for consoles of the 90s, you can still find lots of great games and hardware at reasonable prices online and at thrifts.

 

IMHO, the games from 1997 or 1998 are the "golden age" of Windows gaming. So many cool and fun games from that era. If you want to build a rig that "just works" and can play everything from that era in a period-correct fashion, here are my recommendations:

 

  • OS: Windows 98SE
  • HDD: any IDE drive between 20GB and 137GB (the limit for 98SE's file system)
  • Motherboard: Slot 1 Intel BX (watch out for bad capacitors -- this was the capacitor "plague" era). Asus and Intel branded BX boards should be fine.
  • CPU: Slot 1 Pentium III Coppermine (anything over 600MHz should be fine and would even be overkill for a lot of games)
  • Memory: any SDRAM between 128MB and 512MB (512MB is the limit for 98SE without tweaks; you won't need more than 128MB usually)
  • Video: Nvidia Geforce 4 Ti4600 is a classic card and would be my recommendation, but you should be fine with a 128-bit high-end GF2 or GF3. Nvidias also have great VESA implementation for DOS gaming. I'd also add a Voodoo 3 for Glide compatibility. Love my Voodoo cards.
  • Monitor: any LCD will do, but 4:3 aspect ratio is a plus. You can run at 1024x768 or push your system with 1600x1200. CRTs even better.
  • Sound: Aureal Vortex 2. Great 98SE card. Aureal 3D ahead of its time. Has decent Sound Blaster Pro emulation for real DOS gaming and has a header for wavetable daughterboards (rare for PCI cards).
  • PSU: Get a brand new ATX model. Don't take any chances with old units--they can take out your components. It won't have a -5v line, but only some older ISA sound cards need it.
  • DVD drive & 3.5" FDD

 

You might be able to get a deal by grabbing a working system with some of these components. Retro PC gaming is not for everyone. You kind of have to like problem solving. But it's been a lot of fun for me.



#3 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:25 PM

97-98 yea the fastest P3 you can get, or if you want a mind bender get a socket A AMD Athlon, not an XP, though those would function they are not quite the same in the windows 98 / 2k era

 

bare minimum a voodoo 2 or 3 or a nvidia riva 128 or ati rage 128, personally I would splurge for a gefroce 3 or a ati 96xx,97xx or 98xx at least

 

slap a gig of ram at it and a fat IDE hard disk at it and your covered from the late 90's to the lateer mid 00's

 

windows 2000 for an os if you end up with a high end spec machine 98 for a bare bones 


Edited by Osgeld, Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:29 PM.


#4 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:35 PM

Sometimes it's a lot more helpful to watch a video. Here's the Youtube channel of a regular on my favorite retro PC site, Vogons: https://www.youtube....puterlab/videos

 

Here is one video about building a high-performance Slot 1 P3 system: https://youtu.be/wd9lQ8o_NKI

 

And here is a really interesting one about building a versatile Super Socket 7 system that is not quite as powerful as the one above but can be clocked down to play even 386-era games: https://youtu.be/fcAqRbFFQPU



#5 MotoRacer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:16 PM

Wow. Thanks for all the help! Happy to see I'm not alone! Obviously ram and hdd should be cheap, but are these old graphics cards and mobos pricey? I've noticed 90s PC prices have spiked recently and I'm hoping I can build one on a low budget. Some of these Asus bx board are over 400 0_0. Should I be able to build this for under 300?

Edited by MotoRacer, Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:18 PM.


#6 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:35 PM

Yes, you should be able to get a nice system for $200, even $100 if you get lucky. The mobos can be pricey, but someone is selling a brand new in box Intel SE440BX-2 board for $40 right now. This is one of the best BX boards available--not for overclockers, but very stable and high quality. If you go Nvidia, you should be able to get a GF 3 or even a GF 4 Ti4200 for less than $20.

 

One option is to go OEM. Dells usually had quality mobos without bad caps, and sometimes these OEM boxes go for very cheap on eBay. If you go OEM, make sure it comes with an AGP slot. Many of them do not.

 

Another option is to go Pentium 4. These are cheap and plentiful. You lose out on an ISA slot for soundcards for real DOS gaming, but that may not be important to you if you are playing only Windows games. The Youtube channel I linked to above has a nice video on building a fast, cheap P4 system.



#7 MotoRacer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:43 PM

Yes, you should be able to get a nice system for $200, even $100 if you get lucky. The mobos can be pricey, but someone is selling a brand new in box Intel SE440BX-2 board for $40 right now. This is one of the best BX boards available--not for overclockers, but very stable and high quality. If you go Nvidia, you should be able to get a GF 3 or even a GF 4 Ti4200 for less than $20.

 

One option is to go OEM. Dells usually had quality mobos without bad caps, and sometimes these OEM boxes go for very cheap on eBay. If you go OEM, make sure it comes with an AGP slot. Many of them do not.

 

Another option is to go Pentium 4. These are cheap and plentiful. You lose out on an ISA slot for soundcards for real DOS gaming, but that may not be important to you if you are playing only Windows games. The Youtube channel I linked to above has a nice video on building a fast, cheap P4 system.

 

I see a few Dell, Asus, Compaq and eMachines from the late 90s, all with P3s. But the problem I have is that none of them seem to talk about what graphics card they have, so I'm assuming it's integrated. I need a system that has a graphics card with at least 4mb of vram and the ability to play D3D games and Glide games. I'm assuming those wouldnt work.

 

I'm intrigued by this one, actually. Sounds like a good setup. Shipping from Ukraine though isn't making me happy :/

 

http://www.ebay.com/...=STRK:MEBIDX:IT


Edited by MotoRacer, Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:44 PM.


#8 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:28 PM

Check vogons for a wealth of information!

#9 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:33 PM

yea that is a good setup



#10 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:41 PM

I had no idea the SE440BX-2 was a highly sought-after motherboard. I'm pretty sure I've got a stack of them in my stash of parts. If I remember correctly, I pulled them out of some workstations that had 450MHz Pentium II processors, although the board will support up to a 650MHz Pentium III.

This thread reminds me that I need to finish my own retro build. I collected almost ALL of the original parts from my old 1999 workhorse (a 500MHz AMD K6-2 and a Diamond Micronics C200 motherboard); all I need to do is put them together again in the original case.

#11 MotoRacer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:42 PM

yea that is a good setup

 

Yeah, looked into the mobo, Asus TUSL2-C. Goes for a pretty penny, nearly half of what he was charging for the computer. I think that'll be great for my needs. Hopefully Moto Racer and Need for Speed 2 SE work well on it :D.

 

Thanks for the help you guys. Fully expected to build this, but at that price and at those specs, that one worked for me the best. 

 

I'll be sure to post once it comes in, and show some older games running on it. I honestly can't wait!



#12 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:42 PM

Micronics and Intel seemed to be the best boards for stability.

#13 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 10:51 PM

Micronics and Intel seemed to be the best boards for stability.

Micronics was my #1 brand in the mid-to-late 90s. I used a workstation built around a Micronics Helios (a dual Slot 1 motherboard based on the 440BX) for years and years, and it was probably one of the best machines I ever had. I still have most of the parts I'd need to rebuild that one, too ... even my matching 550MHz Pentium III processors!

#14 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:12 PM

 

Yeah, looked into the mobo, Asus TUSL2-C. Goes for a pretty penny, nearly half of what he was charging for the computer. I think that'll be great for my needs. Hopefully Moto Racer and Need for Speed 2 SE work well on it :D.

 

Thanks for the help you guys. Fully expected to build this, but at that price and at those specs, that one worked for me the best. 

 

I'll be sure to post once it comes in, and show some older games running on it. I honestly can't wait!

 

If everything is working as it should on that system, you should be very happy. The Asus TUSL2-C is a premium board. The 1.4 GHz P3 Tualatin is a beast -- faster than the early P4s at the same clock speed. The 1.13 GHz CPU in yours should be fast enough for just about anything through the DX8-era. Very nice getting a V3 3000. S3 Virge is a great card for 2D DOS gaming. To really take advantage of the Tualatin, you'll want to get a Geforce 3 or 4 to get full 32-bit color, T&L, etc. (things that the V3 can't offer). The Audigy offers nice SB16 emulation for DOS games and is a great Windows card.

 

I also love the retro look of that case. I'd seen that listing before and had admired the case then. Buying quality from the start will save you a lot of money. That is, of course, unless you get the retro PC bug and want to build dedicated 386, 486, and Pentium boxes with Roland sound.



#15 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:22 PM

I had no idea the SE440BX-2 was a highly sought-after motherboard. I'm pretty sure I've got a stack of them in my stash of parts. If I remember correctly, I pulled them out of some workstations that had 450MHz Pentium II processors, although the board will support up to a 650MHz Pentium III.

This thread reminds me that I need to finish my own retro build. I collected almost ALL of the original parts from my old 1999 workhorse (a 500MHz AMD K6-2 and a Diamond Micronics C200 motherboard); all I need to do is put them together again in the original case.

 

I would say that the SE440BX-2 is highly respected by retro PC enthusiasts, but Slot 1 boards from Asus, Abit, and others usually get the most attention. This is because the BIOS of the SE440BX-2 is very much like that of an OEM board: you can't fiddle with multipliers, voltage, and FSB speed. It's very bare bones. But many would agree that it is the most stable BX board out there. It's a great choice for those who have no desire to overclock (and with premium components dirt cheap, there's not a lot of reason to unless that's what's fun for you). I've run a 1000MHz P3 (the Slot 1 100MHz FSB version is one CPU that is hard to find and somewhat pricey) on my SE440BX-2 as well as a 1.3 GHz Celeron (100MHz FSB) on a Powerleap Slot 1 adapter. Both ran great after a BIOS flash.

 

Some OEM SE440BX-2 boards have nice Yamaha YMF-724 built-in, and those that don't have the SB-Link / PC-PCI adapter that will allow you to use a Yamaha PCI card with a real IRQ for DOS games. I'm just a big fan of this board. I use it for testing. If a component doesn't work with this setup, then it will be a problem in others too.



#16 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:39 PM

Interesting!  I'm pretty sure all my SE440BX-2 boards have integrated Yamaha sound.  In retrospect, I wish I'd saved more of them; we got something like two dozen of them in a lot of old workstations.



#17 MotoRacer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:54 PM

Thanks boxpressed! Yeah, I actually thought the case looked reminicent of the design of the old sony minidisc player. 

 

Honestly, I've been noticing that my tastes have hit a ceiling when it comes to modern gaming. New games .... just suck. Look at the new Battlefront. No content, overcharging people, poor gameplay mechanics, boring modes. The original by comparison is a masterpiece. 

 

I don't think it's just nostalgia. I genuinly think games today just lack something. I wouldn't be surprised if I get bit by this bug. I've built a couple PCs in the last couple years, but there's no excitement really behind it. It would be fun to go back and try to make my own system from older parts. This will be a good start to get me used to older hardware again. Maybe I'll make my own one day :).



#18 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:59 PM

Interesting!  I'm pretty sure all my SE440BX-2 boards have integrated Yamaha sound.  In retrospect, I wish I'd saved more of them; we got something like two dozen of them in a lot of old workstations.

 

The Yamaha sound is really nice. It is a contemporary to the Aureal Vortex and Sound Blaster Live! PCI solutions. I believe that the YMF-724 has really nice wavetable MIDI (comparable to Roland) that you can access for DOS games by running them in a Windows DOS box. It also has Sensaura and A3D 1.0 (I think) 3D sound for Windows games like Thief and Half-Life. I haven't tried to use the PC/PCI functionality with the built-in IC, but I've heard that its DOS compatibility in that mode is better than some ISA cards.

 

If your OEM boards are from Dell, make sure that the ATX power pinout is industry standard. Through the P2 and most of the P3 era (with the exception of late-era Tualatins), Dell used a proprietary ATX pinout that was dangerously incompatible with standard ATX PSUs.



#19 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:20 AM

Fortunately, these weren't Dell machines; they were whitebox towers.  They had SCSI CD-ROM drives and hard drive trays (the hard drives had been pulled); must have been expensive machines in their time.  I'll have to dig the boards out again to see how many I have left.

 

Did the BIOS upgrade you used to support the 1000MHz P3 come from Intel, or was it a third-party upgrade?  I seem to recall reading that the latest Intel BIOS only supported up to 650MHz processors.



#20 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:26 AM

Thanks boxpressed! Yeah, I actually thought the case looked reminicent of the design of the old sony minidisc player. 

 

Honestly, I've been noticing that my tastes have hit a ceiling when it comes to modern gaming. New games .... just suck. Look at the new Battlefront. No content, overcharging people, poor gameplay mechanics, boring modes. The original by comparison is a masterpiece. 

 

I don't think it's just nostalgia. I genuinly think games today just lack something. I wouldn't be surprised if I get bit by this bug. I've built a couple PCs in the last couple years, but there's no excitement really behind it. It would be fun to go back and try to make my own system from older parts. This will be a good start to get me used to older hardware again. Maybe I'll make my own one day :).

 

Well, I can say that it started for me when I came across a nice Pentium-powered Toshiba notebook in a thrift store. I used to own one almost exactly like it. "This will be fun to mess around with," I thought. "Play some Doom or something." Now I'm sitting in a room with nine fully-functioning retro PCs, including that laptop. Also have dozens of video and sound cards from all eras. I keep them in the clear box holders that used to hold my Atari and Colecovision games. :-)

 

As I said above, one appeal for me is problem solving. I just love getting an old system up and running at peak performance. The old problems of IRQs and DMAs and memory management are still there, but there's such a wealth of information online that most questions have already been asked and answered. But what's most appealing is that everything is very reasonably priced (for now). The nice stuff is not super cheap but still reasonable: AWE64 Golds for $30, Voodoo 3s for $20, Slot 1 P3s for $10, Nvidia Quadros for $20, etc. Then there's the premium stuff like Roland sound cards and Voodoo 5 cards. I can assemble the "Dream Machine" that I wanted in the 1990s but could not afford. It's just fun to assemble a top-of-the-line machine for period-correct gaming for pennies on the dollar.

 

Thrifting is fun again. You can find cheap, fun, and interesting games that the resellers pass over because there's no Nintendo Seal of Quality on the box.

 

Right now I'm on a General Midi kick. Trying to collect daughterboards and ISA sound cards with internal wavetable. Soundtracks to games like Descent and Duke Nukem 3D are a blast.


Edited by boxpressed, Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:39 AM.


#21 MotoRacer OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:33 AM

Oh man, Decent. Another game I had on PC back in the day. The cruddy PlayStation ports of many of these games just don't do them justice.



#22 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:36 AM

Fortunately, these weren't Dell machines; they were whitebox towers.  They had SCSI CD-ROM drives and hard drive trays (the hard drives had been pulled); must have been expensive machines in their time.  I'll have to dig the boards out again to see how many I have left.

 

Did the BIOS upgrade you used to support the 1000MHz P3 come from Intel, or was it a third-party upgrade?  I seem to recall reading that the latest Intel BIOS only supported up to 650MHz processors.

 

It was an Intel BIOS that I downloaded off Intel's website, IIRC. I recently saw a post on Vogons that cited some Intel literature recommending 800MHz as the limit for the SE440BX-2. That makes sense to me. I even ran the 1000MHz P3 in an old Dell Optiplex GX1 (great machine) that originally came with a 333MHz P2. I think the Optiplex had an Intel board too. There was so much flexibility with the BX chipset--one of the best.

 

I'm actually running a 450MHz P3 on the SE440BX-2 right now because it's fast enough and the stock Intel fan on the 1000MHz CPU is too loud for my tastes. My "fast" 98SE system is an Athlon XP 2400+ on a KT133A board. I like the KT133A chipset because it supports ISA.



#23 boxpressed ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 12:43 AM

Oh man, Decent. Another game I had on PC back in the day. The cruddy PlayStation ports of many of these games just don't do them justice.

 

Descent 2 was a brilliant moment in DOS gaming, IMHO. If you had a Virge or a Rendition accelerator, you could get hardware-accelerated 3D FPS action without Windows. Add that to a General Midi soundtrack and great digital effects, and you had an amazing gaming experience.

 

Forgot to mention that you should check out the Nerdly Pleasures blog and Lazy Game Reviews on Youtube if you really want to catch the bug.



#24 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:08 AM

I still have:

 

prototype (and production) Intel AL440LX boards.

VS440FX PentiumPro

Abit BX6R2

Micronics Gemini baby-at 486

Micronics C200

 

And maybe some others I don't recall at the moment.

 

The Abit board was the most difficult to make stable and 2 of them s'ploded their processors due to bad caps. The third one is currently hosting a 1.5GHz Pentium III (with separate off-board supply). Pretty quick in the legacy scheme of things, but of course its held back by the BX architecture. Fourth one is a spare.

 

I kinda gave up on finishing a VS440FX build. Heart wasn't in it anymore.



#25 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:14 AM

I've found Riva 128 and Riva TNT2 Ultra based boards to be pretty good with the early AGP systems when it comes to doing fast 2D. Exceeding the hot-shit Matrox stuff that came before. Even the PCI Riva 128 tears through 2D stuff.

 

But for 3D there's always classic 3Dfx Voodoo or the Nvidia GeForce series. I never liked the 2D passthrough of the Voodoo 1&2. And couldn't wait till Nvidia came out with decent 2d/3d offerings. I've found you get good performance from a 4600TI. And while you can go as high as a 5950, 6800, or 7600GT there are diminishing cost/performance returns.

 

I loved the early SoundBlasters and Pro Audio Spectrums from Creative and MediaVision respectively. Remember upgrading the SB-16 with the ASP chip, CD-Rom, and then the WaveBlaster midi daughter card. I never got too much into the Yamaha cards or Gravis UltraSound offerings - too expensive - for only little improvement.

 

Currently I'm doing Doom and Raptor and Duke and Quake and other classic PC gaming through DosBox. But DosBox is dated and hasn't been updated in years and is really buggy. So eventually I'll get my legacy hardware all set back up again. Can't wait to relive Doom on the 486 with a 1MB ISA CirrusLogic 5422 chip. Yeah baby!

 

ProComm Plus and Practical Peripherals 14.4 ISA modem and Win 3.1. Just simply wowow! Coming from 1200/2400 this was the future. With real hardware, not soft winmodem bullshit. It was THIS modem and the easy-to-access serial ports that truly ushered in the PC era for me - enabling me to bring all my files from Atari and Apple, C64 and Amiga, into the PC era. Some of which I just opened up for the first time 35 years!

 

I remember stuffing a 4-port gameport into the 486. And a second parallel card to connect up a Zip Disk and Snappy Digitizer - Newtek's attempt at making a Digi-View for the PC. And of course, another thing, the MicroBuffer and Epson MX-80 from my Apple worked perfectly on the 486 rig, until I could afford a DeskJet 560.

 

That and the co-processor. What a hoot! A chip that came equipped with specialized circuitry for blazing through math. Coming straight from the 6502 this was the shit. What an upgrade! First thing I did on that machine was do word processing and fractals.

 

Through a stroke of luck, and fortunate "insight" into how computer platforms were coming and going and how hardware seemed to have a limited production run; a lightbulb went off in my head. I picked up the Micronics M810 memory expansion card. It's a proprietary way of adding more memory to the system. Another 4-to-32MB via 8 additional slots IIRC. It didn't upset me that it was proprietary because it wasn't all that expensive. And Gateway had to special order it for me anyways. But they've been impossible to find since. Probably only used in workstations and workstations tended to get recycled through e-waste more than anything else it seems.

 

I just recognized how important and sentimental the old 486 is. And all the fun times I had upgrading it piecemeal back in the day. Almost like the Apple II. But yet significantly different. I didn't get into programming it like I did the Apple //e. All of it was over my head. I tried to get into all the fun I had with Star Raiders and Lunar Lander and all the make-believe science experiments and things I did as a kid with the Apple II and Atari, but it just didn't seem to go over on the 486. Round 2 of this play/fantasy was essentially dead in the water. I was getting older and women were coming on the scene..

 

In closing I'm not looking forward to recapping my old CrystalScan Gateway monitor though. I've thought about doing an LCD conversion of a sorts. But nah..






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