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Keatah

The computer you always wanted to build..

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The computer you always wanted to build but didn't.

 

Not long after the Pentium became popular there was the PentiumPro. I was totally taken with the magical idea of out-of-order execution, and thought it the epitome of "anything computers". It was the mid-late 1990's and I was still beating a 486, overloading the cardcage, hooking up 3 hard disks, and doublespacing them into like 9 drives. All the while dreaming about building a super-uber mathematical graphics powerhouse around the PentiumPro. 200MHz was unheard of and the chip itself was monstersized. It even had onboard cache and a real FPU.

 

I spent weeks and months collecting the specs and diagrams and datasheets. Adding up the prices to a towering $4000+ or more. 256MB RAM an incredible 4MB graphics board, new PCI bus.. The VS440FX motherboard - solid, intel, conservative.

 

Alas this computer never saw the light of day, not even in present times. I have most all the parts and such, but just never assembled it. In the very late 90's I did build a Pentium II 266MHz, which was better spec'd and w/MMX too. Since I've got the parts for the P-Pro machine I still occasionally look fondly on it and always wonder if it would have become a nostalgic machine I'd have treasured today, like my original 486. Tough to say.

 

So what system(s) did you always want to build out but never did?

 

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3 hours ago, Keatah said:

Not long after the Pentium became popular there was the PentiumPro

My main memory of the Pentium Pro was that Intel set up a website to demonstrate it,  you could submit something for it to render and it would return you the image.  These were the days when raytracing was nowhere close to real-time, so it took some time to complete a highly detailed image.    I guess it was supposed to showcase the speed that it could churn out these renders.   But in reality, your request sat in a queue before it got rendered so you were waiting even longer-  so if it was fast, it didn't feel like it.   It wasn't really an impressive display of anything.

 

In the end,  I don't think the Pentium Pro really took off, did it?   Pentium-2's weren't too far behind.

 

As for my own want..   When I was building my first PC,  my friend sold me on the idea of a 486DX-50 because while other 486's were chugging along with a 33mhz or even 25mhz bus, it had a massive 50mhz bus.   I didn't know about the instability problems on a 50mhz bus, his DX-50 seemed stable enough.  Besides in those days, we took computer crashes for granted because they were much more common.

 

Anyway..   By the time I was assembling my first PC, 486DX-50's were become scarce.  You were much more likely to find the slower DX2-50.   I did manage to buy one, but it didn't work and I returned it.    I ended up with a DX4-100 which I'm sure I was better off for, but for awhile the DX-50 seemed like the one that got away.

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In my case, I wanted some of the fancy SMP systems from then, that had REAL, PHYSICAL CPU sockets on them.  I very much liked the idea of having a system that had more than a single CPU, so that some tasks could be offloaded.

 

Sure, almost nothing from that era uses SMP, but that wasn't the point.

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4 hours ago, zzip said:

In the end,  I don't think the Pentium Pro really took off, did it?   Pentium-2's weren't too far behind.

It did not.. It didn't have consumer-marketing behind it. And it ran 8/16-bit code slower than the Pentium., clock for clock.

 

P-II had a huge consumer push with the all-then-important MMX. And it was affordable at $775 introductory price. I was smart and waited till first drop, and paid $655 for it!

 

Quote

As for my own want..   When I was building my first PC,  my friend sold me on the idea of a 486DX-50 because while other 486's were chugging along with a 33mhz or even 25mhz bus, it had a massive 50mhz bus.   I didn't know about the instability problems on a 50mhz bus, his DX-50 seemed stable enough.  Besides in those days, we took computer crashes for granted because they were much more common.

I thought about getting the DX-50. But the EISA system I was eyeing from Gateway 2000 was too expensive at $3,200. I had to settle for the DX-2/50 at about $2,200 give or take.

 

Either way I was thoroughly impressed and blown away by the article I read in Byte about clock-doubling. Never heard such an idea. This was sophisticated stuff. And since most of my uses back then didn't involve continual disk-access the slower bus wouldn't bother me. 25MHz was tons faster than the Amiga & Apple II I was beating on at the time. https://archive.org/details/byte-magazine-1992-05

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33 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Either way I was thoroughly impressed and blown away by the article I read in Byte about clock-doubling. Never heard such an idea. This was sophisticated stuff. And since most of my uses back then didn't involve continual disk-access the slower bus wouldn't bother me. 25MHz was tons faster than the Amiga & Apple II I was beating on at the time. https://archive.org/details/byte-magazine-1992-05

Yeah that was the thing, it was a new concept in home computers to have the CPU clock doubled or tripled in the DX4,  and I really didn't know how important it was to have the CPU and bus running at the same speed at the time.   My friend insisted it mattered,  but he already bought a DX-50, so he had a vested interest in believing that.   On the other hand  PC marketing was busy conditioning consumers to believe CPU clock speed was the only thing that mattered when buying a PC.

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Never thought it important to have the bus = cpu speed. I mean sure there were some performance advantages and such, but it was untenable long-term.

 

I used to be a flunky for clock speed. Thankfully that stopped with the Pentium IV. Worst processor in the Intel lineup. Especially with the early requirements (thanks to legal agreements) that RAMBUS be used exclusively. Also untenable long-term.

 

Today I don't even look at processor specifications beyond the Generation number, like 8th gen or 11th gen. I'll consider the sub-branding like i7 or i9 and take solace that later and higher is better.

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4 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Never thought it important to have the bus = cpu speed. I mean sure there were some performance advantages and such, but it was untenable long-term.

 

I used to be a flunky for clock speed. Thankfully that stopped with the Pentium IV. Worst processor in the Intel lineup. Especially with the early requirements (thanks to legal agreements) that RAMBUS be used exclusively. Also untenable long-term.

 

Today I don't even look at processor specifications beyond the Generation number, like 8th gen or 11th gen. I'll consider the sub-branding like i7 or i9 and take solace that later and higher is better.

I always knew that clock speed only mattered when comparing CPUs of the same architecture and generation.   Back then it was fairly obvious that the old x86 CPUs like the 8086/286 where slower than other common CPUs running at the same clock speed.   Each x86 generation reduced the number of cycles per instruction until they got really efficient.

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Intel was running rather efficient with the Pentium III, but certainly not with the Pentium IV. The industry wouldn't really take note till the Banias & Dothan cores came out, Pentium-m for the Centrino mobile platform. Mixes of P3/P4 features. 2004 era.

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At this rate a nice dreamy thing to own would be a laptop, P 200mmx more or less level, perfect for DOS into Win98se level stuff.  With the few twitchy for then cycle needing poorly setup DOS titles, moslo always fixed the issue for me.  I'd like that, easily folded up and put out of the way, and when I'd want to fire up some goodies a modern PC still get awful bout through DOSBOX as it's not perfect, that would be great.

P200-266mmx range about, max ram possible, max HDD for DOS/Win9X to take, SB Pro/16 for audio, CD burner DVD if possible, a couple USB ports, some basic ability if needed to lock it into a network (secured) if I needed to run some strange update but that last bit isn't a need since security would be a joke.

 

I think somewhere around here I may still have like a 12-15 year old Quadcore P4 around here I used around 2006-10 era.  IT would have sadly had Vista on it, then 7 to remove the stain. :)

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My dream system predates yours by a few years. As a kid I owned a TI-99/4A.  This was just the console with no accessories.  This would have been in the early 1980's.

 

Every time I received a TI related mail order catalog, I'd see pictures for the complete TI systems with PEB (peripheral expansion box), disk drive, speech synthesizer, and monitor.  I would have loved to have one of those systems back then.

 

system_994a.jpg.5870329d334b6fdb9cfd2e5fcb113ada.jpg

Image source: http://www.mainbyte.com/ti99/computers/ti994a.html

 

But alas, a complete system would have been to costly to afford.  Fast forward to today - I would love to have a PEB for my TI, but it takes up too much space and is too heavy.  So I won't be putting this system together any time soon.

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I remember really wanting one of those early dual CPU motherboards at the time when they first came out. Something like the Tyan S1562D. I don't remember if it was exactly that one that I was lusting after but it basically fits the bill of what I thought was cool at the time; a late 90's system supporting two high-end retail CPU's for TWICE the power! (Not really.) Plus, it just *looked* so badass, with two CPU's and all those slots... *eight* memory slots, four PCI and five ISA slots. That was a lot by the standards of any era.

 

I've never owned a dual CPU system because of cost. In fact I pretty early on became an AMD guy so I rode their wave into many, many cores instead of having to have multiple Intel CPU's (that was the main reason to have dual Intel CPU's). But thinking about it again now, I suppose this would be a good candidate for something "new" to look for and tinker with. Stuff from the Pentium era on up doesn't yet seem to have the retro tax, although I'm sure that'll change.

S1562-02.jpg

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I always wanted to build a HeathKit robot - those seemed so cool at the time.  Kind of a computer...

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I got to reading "How to build a computer controlled robot." from Tod Loofbourrow when I was a kid. It was a modern-day battlebot-sized thing that looked like it could be the bottom, base, of a small 6-Million-Dollar-Man "Venus Probe". It used a car battery and KIM-1. Would have weighed a ton and cost millions. That's how I envisioned my version back then.

 

But cost and gathering supplies at that young age was impossible without parental support. And therefore I never did anything, except read the book and learn the concepts.

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I would say that the computer that I always wanted to build but didn't would be to upgrade and/or enhance the IBM PS/1 that was my family's (more or less) first computer.  I took that thing with me to college and got a year of two of use out of it even then.  However, I am sure it pretty much went to the scrap heap once I ditched it for a brand new Compaq laptop.  It was still in good working condition, but obviously was well past its prime by the time it was replace in 1999/2000 (we originally got the machine in December 1992).  A minor computing regret, but I really don't play computer games as I am a console and/or handheld guy.  Still, what could've/would've been...

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Always wanted to put together a P4EE on the 478 socket. 

https://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/Pentium_4/Intel-Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4 GHz - RK80532PG0962M (BX80532PG3400F).html

 

Think that was the final evolution of the original P4 on that socket.  It's hyper-threading and clocks 3.4GHz.  Think I've still got a compatible Asus motherboard somewhere.

 

Would be great for warming the house in winter.

 

It's 32bit so would have run XP 32bit with its' 3.5GB limit.  Would have been good for some older games/computing giving some built in DOS capability.

 

Maybe one day.

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I did one of those one time early on. I disliked the heat issues and the expensive RAMBUS requirements. Until Intel's no-SDRAM contract expired, when they were allowed to make 865/867 chipset. Everything (back then) was expensive about that platform.

 

It was a good performing machine. But technology was still moving rapidly and everything "Pentium IV" would be replaced with more power efficient stuff.

 

I remember having had the P4T-533C Asus board with the 850 chipset IIRC. It was a super solid and stable performer. Though it and the 865/867 weren't legacy enough for me so I went back to using the Abit BX6R2 board, 440BX chipset, Slot1, Pentium III 1.4GHz, as my last and highest performing legacy PC.

 

Anything after is virtualized or emulated on modern i9.

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