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Is a vintage PC worth it these days?


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#26 Tanooki ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 24, 2017 8:44 PM

^Very true which is kind of why I said that off the wall suggestion of a Toshiba Libretto.  You get an entire machine in a small portable case.  It has a card slot on the side where you can toss in a network cable or a 56k modem, but all models also had a dock unit, and some of them included one or two USB ports so that opens the door up wide to attach a portable drive (hard drive, CD/DVD, etc) to get whatever you need in/out of it with little hassle.  The variety of the LIbretto hardware can set you up well for the life of the DOS era and the somewhat nicer P1-233mhz level stuff can get you into those really nice Win95 earlier powered 98 level games as well.  The internal drives alone have plenty enough space for the stuff of the era so it isn't a big concern either.  The issue is more just waiting to find the right one on ebay or elsewhere for a reasonable rate and researching the right model.  It won't be doing any of those lovely 3D games as it doesn't have a Riva or a Matrox or Voodoo chip in there, but the less intense software generated 3D and anything 2D it can take down quite nicely.



#27 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 24, 2017 11:20 PM

Laptops can be a convenient solution if you don't want to tinker and desire the most console-like experience. I have a Toshiba Tecra with a fast Pentium, S3 Virge (superb 2D DOS compatibility / awful 3D), and Yamaha OPL3 sound. Great all in one.

With laptops the biggest issue is finding one with a 15-pin game port for DOS games that require a joystick. There are docking station and PCMCIA solutions, but they're not easy to acquire. It's almost a deal breaker.

#28 CatPix OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:02 AM

It's amazing how the market seems different in the US for old computers.

I find old computers in the bins a lot. Okay, rarely 286 ans earlier (those are the ones that fetch 100/150€) but a 486 and later? Just wait.

Not saying you'll find one with a 3DFX inside, but I found a computer by the side of the road with a Yamaha clone sound card, ISA networking card and whatever 3D card from 1998. Runs all games I threw at it fine, except older DOS games that run at clock speed (but those usually works fine with DOSBOX).

I wonder what it is? I doubt that Europe was more into PC than the US at the time, and we were certainly playing on PC a lot.



#29 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:47 AM

Is there e-cycling near you? Electronic recycling to dispose of the materials responsibly.

#30 doctorclu OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:49 AM

About me:

 

1) A person in the Dallas area BTW... was cool to see others were too.

2) Not a PC gamer.

 

However, I do have a few solutions for Win 98 stuff as a have a few occasional games I like to play such as Super Bubsy, Doom, Descent, Wolfenstein.

 

1) A PC laptop.  I keep a few around.  They take up little space, pretty useful.

2) Wine on the Mac is good at running command line and a little higher stuff.

 

So that was all fun.  I also keep around one PC computer, the Headstart Explorer, since it has a actual built in GUI and I thought that was interesting.



#31 eightbit ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:27 PM

I am definitely going to put together a pre-2000's PC soon. I found one years ago for free at a yard sale with V2 cards installed and I foolishly sold it. Now I have the bug and definitely want the "real deal" again. I was a hands on PC tech between 1993-1999 for a few computer retailers (Computer City, Nationwide Computer, CompUSA) and I have a lot of great memories working with tons of this hardware.

#32 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 6:41 PM

I also served as a PC tech in that time frame. I recall walking out of an interview at CompUSA because the manager had a foul mouth.



#33 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:16 PM

I remember wading up a comp-usa application and throwing it over the counter cause they wanted to run a credit check ... this was at the end of the era and they were gone within a couple years ... im still around though lol 



#34 remowilliams OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:23 PM

Newly built triple boot (DOS 6.22 / Win98 / WinXP) P3 1GHz / dual Voodoo2 12MB / SBAWE64 retrogaming PC with dual SSDs and CF storage says hello :D

 

 

HDgmgE.jpg



#35 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:58 PM

I remember my 850mhz amd machine, it had a geforce ddr, voodoo2 IMO is pentium 1 era, even in the K6/2 - P2 era we had nvida TnT's 

 

when I think sli voodoo2's I think of my non mmx p 166 with 128 megs of ram 


Edited by Osgeld, Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:59 PM.


#36 coleco82 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 27, 2017 8:21 AM

My first PC a Packard Bell Multimedia PC, in 1995 had the following specs:
Pentium 1 Processor at 75 MHZ
8MB of RAM (later upgraded it to 64MB of RAM, mostly to play the demo of Mortal Kombat 3)
750 MB hard drive
56k Built in Modem
Sound Blaster Pro
Windows 3.11 for workgroups
2X CD-Rom drive

It played everything I threw at it except the demo of MK3 because I needed 16MB of RAM to play that game, it struggled with Quake a lot, but for back then it was great.
It ate though most Windows 95 and 98 games like nothing.
I did try Oracle Virtual Box but I keep getting blue screes after installing win98 SE on there, should I try PCem instead?

Edited by coleco82, Thu Jul 27, 2017 8:24 AM.


#37 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:43 AM

I had a Libretto for a while, and I would say that it is not a beginner's machine.  You are going to run into issues with the device as a pure laptop.  It doesn't have much in the way of speed adjustment, so that Pentium 75 or 120MMX of the 50 and 70 is likely to be too fast for many DOS games. The keyboard is just mush and not good for fast typing.  The mouse nub isn't very good as a mouse pointer.  To use the nub, your arm must be extended to where you are holding the screen, "gorilla arm" style.  Finding batteries with any life in them will be a challenge.  The speaker is awfully tinny and the screens of the 486 20 and 30 are those terrible passive matrix color screens.  CD-ROM support is limited to parallel port Backpack-style drives, which are slow.  A gameport must be added by a PCMCIA card.

 

On the good side, the active matrix color screens of the 50 and above are very nice.  You can use CF cards easily enough for lower power consumption and fast, quiet disk drive performance.  The sound card is a Yamaha card, so your FM Synthesis will be spot-on.  If you can find the port replicator or the docking station, then the Librettos can begin to shine as usable computers.  Try for a Roland SCP-55 for quality General MIDI.  



#38 jce3000gt OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:19 AM

My first PC a Packard Bell Multimedia PC, in 1995 had the following specs:
Pentium 1 Processor at 75 MHZ
8MB of RAM (later upgraded it to 64MB of RAM, mostly to play the demo of Mortal Kombat 3)
750 MB hard drive
56k Built in Modem
Sound Blaster Pro
Windows 3.11 for workgroups
2X CD-Rom drive

It played everything I threw at it except the demo of MK3 because I needed 16MB of RAM to play that game, it struggled with Quake a lot, but for back then it was great.
It ate though most Windows 95 and 98 games like nothing.
I did try Oracle Virtual Box but I keep getting blue screes after installing win98 SE on there, should I try PCem instead?

 

My first PC I had with my own money (mowing laws as an 11 yearold FTW!) was also a Packard Bell.  My specs that I can remember were...

 

Model: PB 23 (?)

CPU: 486 25Mhz (OC'd to 33Mhz because they only had a jumper to determine which speed to use LOL)

RAM: 2MB RAM (upgraded to 4MB to play Doom and Wing Commander Privateer smoothly)

VRAM: 512KB Video RAM (Upgraded to 2MB to play Doom in a larger window)

HDD: 125MB hard drive (?)

Sound card: Soundblaster Pro II (upgraded to Soundblaster 16)

Modem: 2400 or 4800 baud modem (?)

2X CD Rom drive

Windows 3.11 for workgroups



#39 eightbit ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:30 PM

I just purchased a Gateway 2000 P5-120 computer actually. It's a Pentium 120, 64MB of memory, S3 Trio64V video card, 1GB WD hard drive, 52X Creative CD-Rom and an unknown sound card. 

 

I will definitely be replacing the sound card as it does not provide a joystick port...I think I have some SB16's in the attic somewhere ;) I figured this would be an all around good machine for DOS stuff and early Windows 95/98 games. I will probably add a Voodoo2 PCI to the mix down the road and add a CF to IDE adapter to either replace the internal drive or add a second one for easier movement of files and games to the system.



#40 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:36 PM

How much did you pay for that, and did it come in a cow box?



#41 jce3000gt OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:36 PM

I just purchased a Gateway 2000 P5-120 computer actually. It's a Pentium 120, 64MB of memory, S3 Trio64V video card, 1GB WD hard drive, 52X Creative CD-Rom and an unknown sound card. 

 

I will definitely be replacing the sound card as it does not provide a joystick port...I think I have some SB16's in the attic somewhere ;) I figured this would be an all around good machine for DOS stuff and early Windows 95/98 games. I will probably add a Voodoo2 PCI to the mix down the road and add a CF to IDE adapter to either replace the internal drive or add a second one for easier movement of files and games to the system.

 

You'll be able to rock almost any DOS game and most Windows 95/98 games with those specs.  :D  



#42 eightbit ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:41 PM

How much did you pay for that, and did it come in a cow box?

 

 

No cow box ;) $125....I know a lot for what it is. But I have been searching locally for a very long time and NOTHING comes around pre-P4 era. There was one guy semi local with actually had a Gateway P5-133 for $100, but it was the tower model and I just have no room for it. This model is the desktop model so it is roughly the size of my Amiga 2000.



#43 poobah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:12 PM

As much as I chased after 3D graphics cards back in the day, I was thoroughly elated to see the passing of 3DFX and the Voodoo boards. While 1 and 2 were near groundbreaking, the format and eco-sphere never really grew beyond geek gaming. I particularly disliked you could only do 3D only, and that the cards had to do passthrough gymnastics to co-exist with your existing graphics solution.

 

When the 2D+3D cards like the Voodoo3 and the Banshee came around, it was too little too late. The company went stagnant. Much of 3DFX would eventually be absorbed into Nvidia.

 

With the arrival of Riva-128 and soon the TNT2 and GeForce, we were well on our way to finally getting a world wide standard that'd be accepted by everyone.

 

TRVIA: The Riva-128 had the fastest and most compatible 2D engine of its time. Eclipsing offerings from Matrox, Permedia, s3, and other contemporaries. The second fastest 2D card would be the GeForce GTS2 Ultra.

 

I believe the 3dfx Banshee card actually had the fastest 2D engine of the era. All 256 windows raster ops were implemented in hardware, and if I recall correctly, it was one of (if not the first) to hit the maximum theoretical Windows 2d performance. It had some ungodly wide internal 2D engine (128 bit?). It was significantly faster than the awesome Tseng Labs ET6000w32, which had been my 2D card of choice before then. 2D was really the banshee's only saving grace, since it was missing the 2nd texture unit from the Voodoo2.

 

Perhaps you are thinking of the Riva TnT, which had similar 2d performance to the banshee, voodoo3, and an assortment of Matrox cards, as by then pretty much everyone had maxxed out 2D performance.



#44 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:45 PM

No. Still thinking of the Riva-128, Nvidia's 3rd graphics accelerator. The Riva's internal/external buses are 128bits wide. It executes all 256 WinRasterOps in hardware.

 

Riva's 3D capabilities may have fallen a little short of contemporary 3Dfx cards at the time. But it wasn't by much, and the seamless 2D/3D and 3D in-a-window quickly became more compelling than the slight performance advantage the Voodoo boards had.

 

It's been a real long time, and I'll need to dig out the datasheet. I'm pretty sure it migrated to my long-term backups.



#45 butterburp OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:44 PM

Small side note to coleco82: I had pretty much the exact same machine you had. The best part was the software bundle, with "Best of Windows Entertainment Pack," Megarace and bunch of 3D educational adventures.  I actually bought the CD's on Ebay just so I could play them all again.

 

I have never really understood PCem, you could certainly try it but I had a doozy of a time trying to figure it out.  The documentation is dismal.

 

Now back to our regularly scheduled video card discussion...



#46 eightbit ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 2, 2017 9:42 PM

Building and collecting vintage PCs have been very fun for me. It can get expensive if you don't have a plan, however.

 

For Windows 98-era builds, the only pricey stuff is 3DFX cards and ISA sound cards with wavetable (or external MIDI modules). The latter is just to play DOS games. You don't need either of those to play most games, however. Getting those things made the hobby more fun for me because I never had that high-end equipment back in the day.

 

 

 

 

Reading through this again I can agree wholeheartedly. Building and collecting vintage computers is a blast. It may be ageing hardware, but no more ageing than an Atari 2600 or a Sega Genesis...or what have you. All hardware is ageing. New hardware is ageing from the moment you purchase it :)

 

It certainly can get expensive, but you have to really analyze what "expensive" really is to you. I did have high end equipment in the 90's. I was a single guy making a good salary in the computer field and I had skills that many (at that time) didn't. Companies saw it and I was paid well....so I splurged on myself quite often. I purchased the AWE64 Gold for like $300. Two 3DFX 12MB cards for SLI must have run me over $600. I know the Pentium 166Mhz ran me serious coin, and I remember purchasing a 9GB Fujitsu SCSI hard drive for like $900 at some point.

 

That said, when I see someone selling a Soundblaster Pro for fifty bucks or a Voodoo 2 for $75, I think of it as a steal. Is it a lot for "today's money"? Well, I am not using it in a "today's machine"...it is being purchased for a different purpose and that is to relive what was a fond memory of a good time in my life. I think a lot of people who spend serious coin on Atari games are doing it for that reason (as well as other reasons) and they are spending a whole boatload more than what I am on some vintage PC stuff.

 

That said, if you are into this type of thing this is a pretty cool hobby that doesn't cost you nearly as much as other hobbies do. I think beer costs me more monthly ;)



#47 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 8:49 AM

 

It certainly can get expensive, but you have to really analyze what "expensive" really is to you. I did have high end equipment in the 90's. I was a single guy making a good salary in the computer field and I had skills that many (at that time) didn't. Companies saw it and I was paid well....so I splurged on myself quite often. I purchased the AWE64 Gold for like $300. Two 3DFX 12MB cards for SLI must have run me over $600. I know the Pentium 166Mhz ran me serious coin, and I remember purchasing a 9GB Fujitsu SCSI hard drive for like $900 at some point.

 

That said, when I see someone selling a Soundblaster Pro for fifty bucks or a Voodoo 2 for $75, I think of it as a steal. Is it a lot for "today's money"? Well, I am not using it in a "today's machine"...it is being purchased for a different purpose and that is to relive what was a fond memory of a good time in my life. I think a lot of people who spend serious coin on Atari games are doing it for that reason (as well as other reasons) and they are spending a whole boatload more than what I am on some vintage PC stuff.

 

Yes, I agree that you can have a lot of fun with retro PCs for a fraction of what a collection of minor, unfun consoles can cost. I've been selling off my Arcadias, APFs, Nuons, etc. because they just sit there collecting dust.

 

The best rule of thumb I've ever heard for whether retro equipment is expensive is whether or not it costs more now (say, on eBay) than when it was new at retail. There are not many retro PC components that you can say that about, while there's a fair amount of retro console stuff that does meet that standard (although not as much as you would think).

 

Here's my favorite build:

 

CASE: Generic Baby AT with full three-digit LED display. I bought a complete system just for this case. It is very clean and in excellent shape. I used to have a case with an LED display but not one that could display any number past "199." It turns out that this case is the perfect one for my motherboard/CPU combo.

MOTHERBOARD: FIC VA-503+ rev. 1.2. This is a classic SS7 motherboard with the MVP3 chipset and 1MB onboard cache. I use the Turbo switch on the case to change the FSB speed from 66MHz to 100MHz. Because the case has an LED whose display responds to the Turbo switch, there are two three-wire connectors coming from the Turbo switch, both of which are needed for setting the FSB on the motherboard.

MEMORY: 128MB generic PC100 SDRAM.

CPU: AMD K6-3+ 450 ACZ. This one overclocks to 550 MHz with no trouble. I put a Scythe fan on the heatsink, and it is very quiet. The "plus" versions of the K6-2 and K6-3 allow you to set the clock multiplier and disable caches via software (SETMUL).

VIDEO: Geforce 2 MX AGP (about as high as I could go with this SS7) and 3DFX Voodoo 3 3000 PCI (switch via BIOS).

AUDIO: Turtle Beach Montego 2 PCI (Vortex 2) / Creative AWE32 CT3900 with 32MB RAM / GUS Ace

DRIVES: 40GB WD Caviar / Mitsumi FDD with flash reader (SD card super convenient) / LG DVD-RW (DVD function used only for making Ghost 2003 images on DVD-R)

PS: Delta 300W ATX (need to upgrade this).

 

By disabling turbo and/or caches, I can run this rig at 486-33 MHz speeds, or run it full speed at 550 MHz. Super convenient.

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#48 Flojomojo ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 9:10 AM

Yes, I agree that you can have a lot of fun with retro PCs for a fraction of what a collection of minor, unfun consoles can cost. I've been selling off my Arcadias, APFs, Nuons, etc. because they just sit there collecting dust.

I get what you're saying, but since everything an old PC can do, my new PC can do better. 

 

I know this thread is all about the beige so I'll be quiet now. 



#49 remowilliams OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 9:15 AM

I get what you're saying, but since everything an old PC can do, my new PC can do better. 

 

If only that were the case for all the old games... :)



#50 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 9:44 AM

Emulation is pretty good for some games, broken for others. Anything that requires an ISA sound card really needs that original equipment to produce authentic sound.

Then there are those who want to play a single game just right. For example, there's a Splinter Cell game that requires a Geforce 4 or lower and a certain driver release to display shadows or something correctly.

I'd say most of the fun for me is not playing the games but sourcing a build, getting it to run certain games optimally, then moving on to the next build.




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