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coleco82

Is a vintage PC worth it these days?

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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

 

Damn! You should write up a tutorial on this. I didn't even know you could still do this in 2017!! Awesome!

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It's cool to see Vintage PC interest spreading more and more. My preferences are for the 486 and Pentium II/III. 486 because it was my first PC that I owned entirely myself. And PII/III because of all the added instructions and high performance bus at the time.

 

I skipped over the Pentium because I couldn't afford one and therefore have little nostalgia for it. I had the opportunity to upgrade my 486 motherboard, but it didn't feel right putting a Pentium in there, it was a short-lived upgrade of about 2 weeks. And in a just a few months, faster chips were coming out. So..

 

You could say my interest in 286, 386, Pentium, is nostalgia by proxy. From reading all the brochures and stuff.

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I probably had every chip from the 386 16MHz up. I worked in the field for so many years (big box computer stores, owned my own business for a few years) and was always keeping up with the latest and greatest chips of the time. I stopped at the Pentium D and didn't pick up again until the first gen i7 920 :) I still have (and use) the Pentium D on a daily basis.

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Damn! You should write up a tutorial on this. I didn't even know you could still do this in 2017!! Awesome!

 

And I would like to see the internals as well ;)

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All this talk makes me want to re-build my AL440LX, I have all the original parts. Man when I had that rig going I felt like I was entering the big leagues of IT. Erm, bullshit!

 

It also makes me want to finally get started on building the VS440FX P-Pro I was so hard up to do in 1996-1997.

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I was looking for "appreciation threads" on NeoGAF and found something that's probably of interest to people in this thread:

 

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1214023

That looks like a fun thread to dive into. If you want to understand the depths of obsession that vintage PC collecting can fall to, this user just posted images of his CIB/NIB hardware collection over at Vogons: http://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=17341&start=19160#p615245

 

For me, collecting for pre-NES retro consoles just got boring. I was just waiting for rares to show up on eBay or for new homebrews to be released. I tried collecting variants, sealed, and sealed variants, but that got old too. No nostalgia for NES era forward.

 

But retro PCs had it all: nostalgia + new stuff to experiment with and collect. Usually a lot cheaper than consoles too. I like to mess around with hardware more than play games, so I'd recommend diving into retro PCs if benchmarking sounds like a fun activity. Given the options of DOSBox and GOG, you'd have to like mucking around with hardware to invest in retro PCs.

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Now that I am finally really done (really, I am!) with my building upon a vintage Gateway pentium machine I will say that it was a rewarding experience. I know it could have been a lot worse had it been some other machine but something really has to be said for these vintage Gateway models. I did not run into any oddball issues and I tested a lot of hardware with it (quite a few PCI video cards). The only real issue I had was finding the BIOS update for it which took days. After some detective work I found what Gateway had named the actual file (by using the Wayback machine to enter their BIOS download page which no longer exists for this 1996 model) and then searching like crazy for that file name. I found it on some Japanese FTP and took a chance. It worked and now larger boot drives work. It was a hurdle but rewarding when it was done ;) I did not think I'd find it to be honest.

 

So, at the end of the day to get back to the topic...is it worth it? Well, it depends on your determination to make it work. Do you want to (potentially) work on it for weeks or months to get it to where you want it? Hunt down old hardware, test it and hope it is not DOA, run into driver and BIOS issues (like not finding them!)? Are you up for the challenge? If so, then YES, it will be worth it if you like that sort of thing. If these realizations frighten you, then I would say NO, don't bother.

 

Will I personally do it again? Yes, of course I will. But I go in realizing that I may not have the same luck as I did in the past. It might be total garbage and a big waste of item and money. Or...it might just be fantasic :) A gamble...just like everything else in life I suppose.

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Kudos on tracking down the BIOS.

 

A lesson I learned early in the Apple II days was/is to collect and save firmware/bios things, all versions, as soon as they became available. Not that the Apple II had a BIOS in the traditional sense - it did have BASIC in roms as well as different PROMS for the disk controller card. And then there was firmware for the Apple Cat modem. Made it a point to always have the latest, while at the same time keeping the old versions even if I knew I wouldn't backtrack to them much.

 

---

 

After some searching I found appropriate memory for my VS440FX project. At reasonable prices! I also decided to go with a ViRGE/DX graphics card. It's period correct and has drivers available. And I got one for the cost of a sandwich. I feel it's a good match unless anyone else has other suggestions.

 

Both my decked-out 486 and PIII machines, upon recent inspection, just need cleaning and cable re-routing to make them look nice. They're all sentimental because they're the ones I had back in the day, and should provide for several lazy winter days of disassembly and reassembly.

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Reading this thread makes me pine for my old Packard Bell 486 SX-25. I had that thing running slick-tweaked Config.sys and Autoexec.bat to average about 600KB BEFORE I used QEMM's Stealth mode to squeak more out. Coupled with a 256 color VGA card and a Mitac SVGA monitor- it played games pretty well up to a point.

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Yes but get something unique or something you owned back in the day.

I bought a few Tandys after my brother bought me a 1000 HX which is what I really learned to program on. I will keep them forever.

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Yes but get something unique or something you owned back in the day.

I bought a few Tandys after my brother bought me a 1000 HX which is what I really learned to program on. I will keep them forever.

 

I don't have a lot of PC stuff anymore, just the material I had BITD, and a few odd'n'ends. And that original material is the real shit kicker. In fact I'm thinking about setting up a writing station just on my 486. While every modern computer is superior in terms of storage, internet access, and speed. Sometimes you just want to turn it all of and fly on one propeller. For fun!

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---

 

After some searching I found appropriate memory for my VS440FX project. At reasonable prices! I also decided to go with a ViRGE/DX graphics card. It's period correct and has drivers available. And I got one for the cost of a sandwich. I feel it's a good match unless anyone else has other suggestions.

 

 

The ViRGE/DX is a great all around card and you are right...really cheap ;) I picked up a 4MB model for $5 I believe. Since then however I have tested a few others and have found that I *really* like the Rendition cards. The picture quality is better (at least to my eyes) and they actually handle some modes that even the ViRGE cannot handle (like DOS Cannon Fodder for some odd reason). They are said to have worse performance in DOS FPS games (like Doom) but honestly I think they run fine. Definitely worth a try if you can find one. I scored a Diamond Stealth II S220 4MB for $20...so a bit more expensive but not bank breaking.

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Yes, totally worth it. I have an IBM 5170 as well as a 486, P1 and P2 setups... no issues whatsoever with any of these and they were all acquired extremely inexpensively.

 

Roger

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Yes, totally worth it. I have an IBM 5170 as well as a 486, P1 and P2 setups... no issues whatsoever with any of these and they were all acquired extremely inexpensively.

 

Roger

 

 

Agreed. For vintage gaming I believe retro PC's are the best bang for the buck period. You can spend a whole heck of a lot on vintage consoles and games. Even more on vintage computers such as the Amiga and IIGS (I know this firsthand). But with the vintage PC's the prices are all over the place. I picked up a brand new (yes, brand new!) Intel SE440BX-2 slot 1 motherboard for $40 today. A vintage case for $12....and a PIII 450MHz Slot 1 CPU for $8. I had a stick of PC-100 128MB laying around as well. Now my next build will be an early 2000's gaming rig. It's a pretty inexpensive and fun hobby....certainly a lot more inexpensive than it was when this stuff was new! Its cheap and it keeps me entertained. I only got back into this because I wanted to do something that was fun while on an extreme budget. I have fun with it for sure.

Edited by eightbit

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I think that anything past the 440BX and Pentium 3 is where the legacy support starts dropping off.

 

 

And its pretty darn flexible with being able to use 233MHz-1100MHz Pentium II and III CPUs.

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There's a book called the Pentium Chronicles which talks about how the chip was designed. It covers the PentiumPro, too, which is directly what the PII/III are variants of. A good layperson's read. I just started it.

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Getting any vintage PC depends on what you want to do with the machine. It also depends on how much your willing to pay. Here's a video that I found to try to help you with what computer you might want to consider buying:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxMXJd4GDyc

Edited by Atari PAC-MAN Fan

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And its pretty darn flexible with being able to use 233MHz-1100MHz Pentium II and III CPUs.

 

Which is why the core of my retrobox is a lovely Abit BX6 :)

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The SE440BX is more stable than the BX6R2, it's an intel design.. Naturally.. And intel knows the nuances of their processors more than anyone else. I liked the BX6R2 because it supports 1GB RAM up considerably from 384MB. The 1GB RAM lets me do some modern application programs.

 

---

 

I still have my PII-266 and Intel AL440LX, should rebuild the machine. All I need is a case and fittings.

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I just prefer green motherboards...I dunno ;) But yes, 1GB of RAM is definitely a good thing. I will be maxing this 440BX board with the 384MB. At least the ram was cheap as it can use ECC memory. $5 a stick, brand new. This is going to be a "new" old build. I sourced the new motherboard, new case, new ram. The only used items are going to be the CPU and the video card (I opted for a Geforce 2 Ultra to keep within the time period). I actually purchased a PIII 450 and a PIII 750 as I do not know (yet) what BIOS the new board will have. If it has an older BIOS I may need the 450 in order to flash it in order to use the 750. Ehh, the 450 was $5 and the 750 was $18, so it didn't break the bank much to be assured I will not run into issues...and to have a spare PIII Slot 1 cpu handy ;)

 

 

Ohh, and the case was a REALLY good deal. If its half decent I will be a happy camper:

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/FOCUS-ATX-COMPUTER-CASE-WITH-250W-POWER-SUPPLY-BY-EXPERT-DESIGNS/132168297674?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

 

Not exactly what I usually use (I never really liked the floppy built into the case design) but it is new and not yellowed...and comes with a power supply which I am sure I will have to swap out...but its there. This was an "Expert Decision"...hahaha! At least that what it looks like it says on the front....

Edited by eightbit

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