Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ahhhh....The Joys Of "Vintage Computers"

I ws cleaning out some stuff in the garage the other day (actually just separating piles of stuff), and I found a box that had my favorite computer games in it. Now I'm not much of a gamer, so the fact that I even saved these particular games kinda surprised me. The two that I played the most were "Grim Fandango", and the "Descent" series of games. I've also got "Half-Life", but never really got into it much. So, deciding that I'd like to play Grim Fandango again, I started looking at the requirements. The last time I played it, Windows 2000 had just started to become big, and I remember ripping out some hair trying to get the game to play on that platform. Since my garage resembles "Jim's Vintage Radio and Computer Emporium", and one section of my radio room is "Jim's Vintage Software Archive", I figured I had enough stuff (the YF calls it "Junque", notice her spelling of my treasures!)) to build a rig that would run Windows98 at a reasonable rate to play the game. I already had an older HP Vectra VL that I had been using as my hardware-based firewall from when I ran my "Community Wireless Network", and it had an original Pentium 233MHz processor with 128megs of RAM and a 6 gig hard-disk. I dug out an old 3dfx "VooDoo 3 2000" PCI video card, and an Aureal Vortex sound card, my Windows98 discs, and proceeded to get this ancient beast running again. Not being a big fan of Internet Explorer, I looked for a version of Firefox for Win98, but no joy, so I grabbed Netscape 9.0 from the AOL/Netscape archives. Then I had to grab some USB Mass-Storage drivers so Win98 could read my external drive.
My first thoughts are it's not fast enough, so back out to the garage to dig out some more stuff. Well, let's see....I've got an Epox MVP3G-M motherboard (one of the best "Super 7" motherboards ever made!), an AMD K6-III+ good for 500 MHz, and enough memory to stuff the board full. The sound card will fit, and since the "Super 7" motherboards also have an AGP slot for the video card, I can put one of my newer NVidia GeForce cards in for plenty of video processing power. case for it! All the computer cases and power supplies I have "In Stock" are for later ATX motherboards, and aren't compatible with an AT style motherboard. Off to eBay, where I found a brand-new TechMedia case that includes the power supply, a floppy, and has built-in speakers. What's really "Deja Vu" about this is that this exact case was what I built several PC's in many (well...10 or more) years ago, and I was stunned to see several vendors still have them new-in-box!
The case should be here sometime next week, and it'll take me a day to build it up, load Windoze on it, and get things running smooth.
More to come..........


  1. Nice use of old hardware. Virtual machines would allow you to run the old windows & game on a new box.

  2. Well, yes and no.....
    Some old games (like this one) don't work very well with modern video cards. There are some patches and mods and special settings you can use to 'tone down' the modern hardware, but it depends entirely on what version of the video drivers you're using. The latest NVidia drivers, for example, have removed some of the anti-aliasing settings from the NVidia control panel. If you can't run the anti-aliasing at 2x2 or less, the game won't render correctly. And CPU speeds of much greater than 500MHz cause other problems with some of the features and functions in the game.
    I've used virtualization before, and it's great for many things. Unfortunately, playing 1995 era games isn't one of them! Rather than spend hours and hours of getting things "just right" on a virtualized PC, I'd rather just make use of some of the older hardware I have laying around, and spend the 'hours and hours' playing the game.

  3. drjim, you have WAY too much time on your hands...LOL

    And I found myself nodding to your selections, which means I remember WAY too much about building those damn things back in the day... sigh...

  4. The amazing thing is that while it still takes me about the same amount of time to actually *build* the PC, loading Windows XP, Windows 7, or Linux goes _MUCH_ faster than loading Windows 98!
    The hard-disks and optical drives (CD/DVD) using SATA are so much faster than the old IDE drives that even though there's more to install, it gets off the CD/DVD and onto the hard-disk WAAAAY faster.
    The Windows 98SE install, after all the updates and drivers for the 3dfx video card weighed in at about 240 megabytes. The most recent Windows 7 install I did was about 20 GIGAbytes!
    And it wasn't that long ago that 20GB was a good sized hard-disk!

  5. Meh- my first computer didn't even HAVE a hard drive... just two 360 floppies...

  6. My first "computer" was a Sinclair-Timex I built from a kit. Floppies were just a dream then, and we had to use a cassette recorder to store programs and data.
    So there!......;-)


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