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Is doing retro stuff expensive and hard?


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#1 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 20, 2019 3:05 PM

Is doing retro stuff expensive and hard? Big question with broad meaning. But focusing it down to point of discussion..

 

Doing retro stuff in today's modern ecosphere (let's take vintage gaming on a vintage pc) means hauling a lot of baggage around. You've got to build that retro-rig and that isn't going to be a $100 I'm done proposition. No. You may spend $100 on a SoundBlaster 16 ASP & WaveTable Daughtercard alone!

 

You might get lucky and get one for free from crookslist. But waiting for that deal may take 6 months or longer if ever.

 

I might suggest emulation, but not everyone has the patience to set up a proper rig. Or want to. AND THAT'S OK! Emulation fidelity is only increasing. And guess what that means? More hardware requirements. A fast i3 is now (IMHO) about the minimum, give or take a few MHz here and there so to speak.

 

So.. Yes.. IMHO retro computing is only getting more expensive as time rolls on. Doesn't really matter what hardware you're getting into.

 

I spent a good $500 - $600 on restoring my old 486. Maybe more. (the wife is nodding knowingly) This included acquiring some spare parts, shop materials for cleaning, replating some screws, gold plating connectors and front panel emblem.. Examining each solder joint in the lab, time in rigging up an off-board clock battery that is better than OEM yet conforms to OEM specs in terms of charge and discharge currents and voltages. And then personal time spent running diagnostics and verifying settings and jumpers and dipswitches and that sort of thing. Researching documentation and drivers and making sure everything came together.

 

Thank the lord that everything passed save the parallel port loopback tests. They mysteriously failed till I acquired a working loopback tester. The one I got for this purpose was from CablesOnline, their ebay store. It was sold as new, but in reality it was used and not even wired as a loopback tester. So careful if you buy from them.

 

I wasn't too concerned and immediately expected the tester to be at fault as I had just used a Zip Drive on the port. And that's pretty extensive as far as bi-directional data goes!

 

Ohh it was all fun. Especially watching the system tear through each test and report 100%.

 

But if you go all out to near perfection - then it's going to cost you in time and money. Much more than saying ohh I got this <insert vintage item here>

 

All that remains to be done is remake a set of labels for all the ports and button it up.



#2 Osgeld ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 20, 2019 4:13 PM

It can be expensive and hard, it can be done on the cheap and easy depends on what one is trying to get out of it ... I am not a pokemon collector, I don't have to catch them all, and in perfect condition or else that hole on my shelf demoralizes me as a person, so I just kind of kick back and enjoy what I happen to find along the way

 

back to your sound blaster example, sometimes I don't get people I had 2 sound cards for sale recently

 

a sound blaster 2.0 and a crystal audio 

 

sound blaster sold instantly for a silly amount of money, couldn't give away the crystal audio card (I tried and eventually found a home for it) even though its superior in every way to the SB 2.0 ... people what are you going to do 


Edited by Osgeld, Sat Apr 20, 2019 4:30 PM.


#3 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 21, 2019 5:09 AM

One of the reasons I do retro at all is because it's cheap and easy for me, at least the way I do it.

Someone coming at it cold (no memories or experience) would have a harder time getting started or choosing things to play. Someone hung up on original hardware (I am DONE with ye olde PC environment as if it were leaded gasoline) is going to spend a shitton more money than me, for marginal benefits unless they really get off on hardware.

#4 juansolo OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:04 AM

It can be, especially now with the prevalence of youtube and ebay driving prices up. However if you have the ability to tackle things yourself, then things can be a lot cheaper, but require a lot more (enjoyable) work. The key to doing it frugally is patience, common sense and a bit of luck.

So, for example. I've got a pair of 8-bit Atari's. The first one was a 65XE that looked rough as hell, was for sale as untested and was pick up only. Thankfully it was near a friend, so I bought it and he picked it up for me. Next time we met he handed it to me. That cost me a little over £20. The machine looked awful. But it was intact, a thorough clean and retrobrite got the machine looking frankly excellent. It had a couple of faults, a dodgy PIA (odd directions not working on both joysticks) which was easily enough swapped and something else that was pretty minor. I re-capped the machine, then made a little filter box for the PSU input and now use a Raspberry Pi PSU on it (I don't trust any old PSUs). Since then the machine has been upgraded to a 130XE and I've done some video mods to it to improve the picture. It owes me very little. However when I came to upgrade it again I thought I'd killed it, so picked up a spares/repair 800XL. It cost a little over £30 delivered. Again, looking at the advert it was intact but dirty. I love people who don't make any effort when they find old kit in their lofts and garages then decide to ebay them. That turned out to be in full working order. So again, it got stripped and cleaned and I did the S-Video mod to it.

If you're not electronically inclined, you're at the mercy of the seller and restorer so it's going to cost you. Because this kit is OLD, and like it or not, there are components in most electronic kit that degrades or fails over time. For what it's worth we've just repaired and re-capped a BVM and it was well over £40 in parts alone. The labour on that had we been doing it for someone would have been a significantly more. So I can totally accept higher prices for refurbed kit. I've paid it myself because I just haven't been bothered to do the work at times.

Tips from me would be:

Tap up any nerdy friends you may have on social media - I've got a few machines for either nothing or peanuts from friends who had them kicking around in their lofts and garages. Most have needed some work, but you can't beat free!
Buying bundles can work out better in the long run - Done this with consoles with games bundles. People who just want stuff gone and don't want to go to the effort of splitting and selling things individually are great people to get bargains from. Make a bit of effort selling all the bits you don't want and end up with a Megadrive for £2 (this has happened).
Untested, spares or repair - Only really an option if you know what you're doing. Even so you may end up with a machine you can use to repair another. I got a spares or repair 2600 that I just couldn't track down the fault on. Parts from it have ended up restoring a 7800 and another 2600. Never throw stuff away!
Patience is the key - I constantly watch gumtree and ebay for things popping up. Be they computers, consoles or PVM/BVMs. I have an absolute load of searches set up that e-mail me. I picked up a PVM recently for very sensible money from a chap on gumtree. When I got there I found he had a second that was possibly a little faulty, but seemed to be now testing ok. Again, if you have the ability to fix such things, this is what you want, so I ended up bringing that back as a spare also. If you're prepared to wait, things do pop up.
Clean everything! - Some things can be really nasty/manky. Particularly controllers. Strip them down, wash them. You'd be surprised how well stuff scrubs up.

 

FWIW, the P2 PC in my sig was a Dell a friend had been using as a linux server in his garage and had replaced it. I'd let it be known among my nerdy friends that if they have any old kit they're going to bin, ask me first as I'll likely take it. The chassis was a bit rusty so it needed stripping and sanding back, but otherwise, it worked. That took a V3 card and a replacement CD-ROM drive to get it running as a gaming rig. All up it cost me about £60. It takes work but it's satisfying. The monitor was free, someone was just going to bin it and listed it on gumtree to save them taking it to the tip. I took it off his hands instead.


Edited by juansolo, Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:34 AM.


#5 dj898 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:39 AM

I stopped buying around 2003/2004 when our first child was born. I was quite actively collecting and playing since 97/98 but like all good things come to an end I haven't bought any major purchase since. yea if I ever see a great bargain and it's under $50 sure I will jump at the chance but it's getting rare and rare I see those bargains :)


Edited by dj898, Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:39 AM.


#6 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:36 AM

Having electronics knowledge is almost de'rigueur. I do run across deals many a-time, but almost always have to apply some technical trick or tip to get the item working at peak performance. And keeping them at peak performance for a long long time. Might be something as simple as reseating chips and cleaning contacts. But there's right ways and half-assed ways of doing even that.

 

Patience is another huge factor. HUGE! Can't emphasize that enough. You never know when that one spare part or circuit board will show up at a swap meet or on ebay at a reasonable & fair price. I've waited years and even decades in some isolated instances to acquire something. Gotta face it. Many vintage computers were e-waste even in the 90's. 386's and 486's definitely were being ground down to recyclable material less than 10 years after they sold new for thousands. So. Yeh. Rarity.



#7 The Usotsuki OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:04 AM

Midrange Pentium's good for metaretro. XD



#8 OLD CS1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 22, 2019 10:19 AM

Depends.



#9 Cepp OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:29 PM

Depends what you're going for I suppose. Do you have to have that Voodoo instead of a cheap Nvidia card and nGlide? Must you have access to Roland music or the fastest cpu for your particular chipset? Like you say, if you want perfection you'll pay for it.

I think in general you can still pick up an old desktop and parts pretty cheaply that will play most games with a bit of tweaking.

Other computers? I dunno, they've all certainly raised in value over the past ten years but I guess that's to be expected. At the very least the C64 is still affordable here in the UK which is great since that's the computer I plan to pick up next. The Apple II GS however...

Edited by Cepp, Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:29 PM.


#10 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:14 PM

I find little that's memorable about the IIgs. Maybe it'd be different had it been my first Apple II.

#11 RodLightning OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:50 PM

Post #4 pretty much sums up my experiences as well. I agree with everyone who recommends patience. Time and a watchful eye will yield results...eventually. It also helps to have friends and family helping you keep look out for stuff you need/want. The more the better. :)

The times I have spent more money on a retro project, is when I got impatient on finding the pieces and parts needed for completion.

Difficult? Oh yeah. Like games, too easy quickly becomes boring and uninteresting.

#12 Cepp OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 3:50 AM

I find little that's memorable about the IIgs. Maybe it'd be different had it been my first Apple II.

I've never owned a vintage apple computer but the II GS just really stands out to me as a cool little system. They rarely show up though and usually get listed for £500+.

Going back to PCs I do have an Abit KT7-Raid motherboard that really needs a recap. It has an AGP slot, 5 PCI slots and an ISA slot. With 512MB RAM and an XP2100+ CPU it's pretty much the ultimate 9x motherboard for me but I'm terrified of fucking it up. I've never recapped anything and I'll be kicking myself if I somehow kill the board during my attempt.

#13 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 4:12 AM

I'm sure the IIgs is cool. I just never got into it at the right time. I have one or two with all sorts of parts and peripherals for it.. But there it sits.

 

There are places that will do a recapping job for you or sell you the necessary kit with the right caps. Not sure of any off-hand, gotta go, so maybe someone else will mention some choices.



#14 x=usr(1536) OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:02 AM

Patience is another huge factor. HUGE! Can't emphasize that enough. You never know when that one spare part or circuit board will show up at a swap meet or on ebay at a reasonable & fair price. I've waited years and even decades in some isolated instances to acquire something. Gotta face it. Many vintage computers were e-waste even in the 90's. 386's and 486's definitely were being ground down to recyclable material less than 10 years after they sold new for thousands. So. Yeh. Rarity.

 

x10000000 on patience.  It's like buying a car: with few exceptions, there will be another one out there - and you have the ability to wait for the right one to come along.

 

 

I'm sure the IIgs is cool. I just never got into it at the right time. I have one or two with all sorts of parts and peripherals for it.. But there it sits.

 

The IIgs always struck me as the machine intended to be the gateway drug to get Apple ][ users migrated over to the Mac.  Never owned one, used a few, thought they were kinda neat - but it ultimately should have been released around 1984 rather than 1986.  Had it had the ability to have two or three evolutionary models released over its lifetime, it probably would have made more of an impact than it did.

 

Then again, I also believe that Atari should have been a little more radical with the XL lineup in relation to architecture.  Launch with the 600XL and 800XL as they were, but also add the 1400XL and 1450XLD as 65C816-based machines (and while I'm dreaming, give those two the AMY chip in addition to POKEY).  Cut the 1200XL from the lineup; the 1400XL fills that gap, and gradually phase out the 600XL and 800XL over a two-to-three-year period.  This would have given them an all-16-bit lineup by about 1986, and may have forced some better decisions about what to do with the ST range.

 

I'll wait and see which hand gets full first ;)



#15 Cepp OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 24, 2019 9:17 AM

I'm sure the IIgs is cool. I just never got into it at the right time. I have one or two with all sorts of parts and peripherals for it.. But there it sits.
 
There are places that will do a recapping job for you or sell you the necessary kit with the right caps. Not sure of any off-hand, gotta go, so maybe someone else will mention some choices.

That's probably what I'll end up doing. There's a few people I can ask and get quotes from. Of course part of me says, No! Save money, do it yourself! lol but I'll leave it to someone else.




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