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Lert

Retro computers, a hobby I got into since Covid

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A hobby I came in to since the whole Covid deal started is Retro computers, though I like calling it Archeotech, after the 40k term. I finally have enough of a collection that I can consider actually calling it that.

The least interesting first:

gcNpCr0.jpg

One of two Windows XP machines, a HP Compaq prebuilt, running a Pentium 4 2.8ghz, 1gb DDR, 40gb hdd, onboard graphics. Not very interesting. Probably gonna sell this, because when I want to run Windows XP things I reach for~

YgXlxGU.jpg

Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (watercooled!), 2gb DDR2, 240gb SSD, onboard graphics, built into a cheap modern case. Far more interesting machine. Still needs a graphics card upgrade, so if anyone has a PCIe card from the early to mid 2000s lying around ...

Next, getting into the really old hardware, from before the turn of the century:

RMki3Yf.jpg

My Windows 98SE machine, running 1999 hardware. AMD K6-2 400, 128mb SDRam, 40gb HDD, ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics, Creative PCI 128 sound, in a cheap modern RGB case. Still need to replace the HDD with an IDE-to-compactflash solution, I want all my systems to run on solid state storage, more reliable, more convenient, faster and quieter.

Unfortunately the machine spirit in this system is a bit unruly. This machine is the least stable / reliable of all my archeotech computers.

Moving on, we're getting into the really ancient stuff now, computers older than significant portions of this game's playerbase:

vKGuT3k.jpg

My Windows 95 PC, a 1995 vintage Pentium 133 with 64mb EDO Ram, 2gb compactflashcard storage, S3 Virge 2mb graphics, 1.44mb floppy, 16x CDRom, built in a modded 1992 case, painted white and black, with window cut out and RGB lighting installed. It just needs an ISA based, soundblaster compatible soundcard to be more or less complete. This is one of my favorite systems from my collection, only behind:

IZYOVTH.jpg

A 1992 vintage AMD 386 DX40 with 8mb ram, 1mb VGA, 1.44mb floppy and a 214mb hdd running MS-DOS 6.22. Also needs an ISA soundcard and an IDE-to-compactflash storage solution.

Why collect old computers?

Nostalgia, most of all. Some of these machines are pretty close to what I grew up with myself, playing games into the wee hours of the morning, hoping my mom wouldn't notice. She knew though. She always knew. Speaking of games, many period games don't run well or at all on modern hardware, and running them on period hardware just adds charm, I think. These old machines have quirks and personality. Plus, I have the space, so why not~

There's still some work to do. Need to figure out why my Windows 98SE machine is unstable, hoping it's not the motherboard - Super Socket 7 boards are quite desirable and quite expensive, if you can find them at all. Two machines still need a soundcard, two still need a compactflash adapter and memory card. I'm also lacking a step between the 386 and the Pentium; I do still want to get my hands on a decent 486 system, maybe a DX2/66 or a DX4/100. Like with any collection or hobby, you're never really truly done.

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My brother has my old Apple 2+ with disks still in his collection of old computers.  It's system memory is 16 kb. He even has a portable computer that runs on D Cells. Granted that ones is the size of a small suit case. It is amazing at what we keep for memories.

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1 minute ago, Tpaktop2_1 said:

My brother has my old Apple 2+ with disks still in his collection of old computers.  It's system memory is 16 kb. He even has a portable computer that runs on D Cells. Granted that ones is the size of a small suit case. It is amazing at what we keep for memories.

Awesome. Those kinds of machines predate my entry into the hobby though, but I still love seeing them preserved.

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13 minutes ago, Lert said:

 

13 minutes ago, Lert said:

Unfortunately the machine spirit in this system is a bit unruly. This machine is the least stable / reliable of all my archeotech computers.

 

Did you perform all the prerequisite rites, give praise to the Omnissiah while pressing the start button and annoint the device with the oils needed for its proper function? 

Also, nice collection. Any plans of getting CRT monitors to pair with the older computers or too expensive?

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4 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

Did you perform all the prerequisite rites, give praise to the Omnissiah while pressing the start button and annoint the device with the oils needed for its proper function?

I did, to no avail. The Omnissiah is just not with me on this one.

4 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

Also, nice collection.

Thanks!

4 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

Any plans of getting CRT monitors to pair with the older computers or too expensive?

Ah, no. That's one thing I made myself promise, no CRTs. They're unwieldy, heavy, draw more power and degrade over time a lot more than a flatscreen. Plus, they just take up so much space that I really don't have; you can stack PC cases, not so much CRTs. Unfortunately this also means I'm limited to machines that have a 15 pin D-sub VGA connector, but so be it. Yeah it's not 'vintage' to run a 17" TFT on a 386, but I just don't want the headache.

Edited by Lert
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I have great memories of playing Xcom on my friends Dx2/66 in the wee hours of the morning.  

You need a Commodore 64 to round out the collection.  Great system.

Lert you are the coolest.  

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13 minutes ago, Lert said:

Ah, no. That's one thing I made myself promise, no CRTs. They're unwieldy, heavy, draw more power and degrade over time a lot more than a flatscreen. Plus, they just take up so much space that I really don't have; you can stack PC cases, not so much CRTs. Unfortunately this also means I'm limited to machines that have a 15 pin D-sub VGA connector, but so be it. Yeah it's not 'vintage' to run a 17" TFT on a 386, but I just don't want the headache.

Nah, fair point. Some compromise has to be made with these things.

As for nostalgia, I remember myself getting incredibly excited over imac G3. The  different colours, the all in one package, the modern design by late 90s standards really got me fascinated as a kid. Not an Apple fan, but damn that was a nice looking PC.

 

Edited by warheart1992

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That takes me back a bit!  i started with a Commodore 64 and moved up to an Apple IIe with 128 K of memory, 2 floppies, and an green-screen monitor.  My first PC-compatible was a 286 clone that had a 20 meg hard drive and a single floppy.  Think that one had either 512K or 640K.  I go all the way back to DOS 3.3 running on 8088's.  Been in the business long enough to know what Hercules, CGA, EGA, and VGA are.  Monitors had grown in size (and weight!) from 12 to 14 to 15 to 17 to 19 to 21 inch while I was watching.  I have worked with MFM and RLL drives and thought IDE was the greatest (For the time).  Many times I set the hard drive parameters in the BIOS and was glad when that became automatic.  I still remember the day my boss installed a  full-height 1.2 gigabyte SCSI hard drive in the server.  Thing sounded like a jet taking off when it spun up!

 

For your AMD machine I might suggest, if you have not already, to do the following:

Remember that part of the rites is to disconnect the power cord!

Unseat your memory chips and swap them around.  Install them in different sockets.  Fixed a few machines that way.

Take a look under the heat sink for the CPU.  Sometimes the compound dries up and no longer works as intended.

If it is an active heat sink (has a fan) make certain the fan is running at full speed.  Seen too many where the fan wasn't up to snuff.

Have fun!

 

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1 minute ago, Grey_Paladin said:

 I go all the way back to DOS 3.3 running on 8088's.  Been in the business long enough to know what Hercules, CGA, EGA, and VGA are.  Monitors had grown in size (and weight!) from 12 to 14 to 15 to 17 to 19 to 21 inch while I was watching.

My first PC experience was when my parents got an 8088, back in 1988. November 11th, I remember the date. It was a Philips NMS 9115, with 768k ram, a 20mb MFM harddrive, and a 14" Amber screen with Hercules card driving it. The memories~

Philips-NMS-9100-computer-historisch-mus

3 minutes ago, Grey_Paladin said:

For your AMD machine I might suggest, if you have not already, to do the following:

Remember that part of the rites is to disconnect the power cord!

Unseat your memory chips and swap them around.  Install them in different sockets.  Fixed a few machines that way.

Take a look under the heat sink for the CPU.  Sometimes the compound dries up and no longer works as intended.

If it is an active heat sink (has a fan) make certain the fan is running at full speed.  Seen too many where the fan wasn't up to snuff

Did all that. Even tried underclocking it to see if that helped. Instabilities remained. I'm thinking either the CPU or the motherboard is just showing its age.

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I went up through the Commodore range: Vic 20, C64, Amiga A500, then the 1/2mb upgrade (yeah you heard right - a whole half meg upgrade - that's just how I rolled back then!).

My move to a PC came when I went into what was then called 'Electronic Boutique' (now known as Game in the UK) and witness Admiral Ackbar uttering 'it's a trap!' on the screens; I had to upgrade to PC!

 

Got myself a HP DX 33MHz (with a turbo button that boosted it to 66MHz) - I remember sometimes having to have some things in my upper memory in order to get some games to run (Master of Magic was one that I had to put the mouse memory in there to get the game to work). Fond memories.

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1 minute ago, _WaveRider_ said:

I remember sometimes having to have some things in my upper memory in order to get some games to run (Master of Magic was one that I had to put the mouse memory in there to get the game to work). Fond memories.

Ah, yes, memory management. EMS, XMS, upper memory, etc. Was such a godsent when M$ added memmaker to DOS, spared me many an hour fiddling with DEVICEHIGH, myself.

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6 minutes ago, Lert said:

My first PC experience was when my parents got an 8088, back in 1988. November 11th, I remember the date. It was a Philips NMS 9115, with 768k ram, a 20mb MFM harddrive, and a 14" Amber screen with Hercules card driving it. The memories~

Got ya beat by just a couple years.  768K?  Not bad!  I wonder if they had to mess with the Extended Memory Managers.  That was always fun! <not> 

I heard stories of clever engineers souping up their IBM machines by soldering an extra layer ( or three ) of memory chips to the motherboard.  Apparently it actually worked.

Then there was the engineer who heard that there were a series of little switches in the CPU and dutifully hosed the innards of his PC down with WD-40.

Got a 40 meg hard drive in my machine and thought I was set for a few years!  Yeah, right!  It weren't long before it filled up. 

How is the power supply on that AMD? 

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2 minutes ago, Grey_Paladin said:

Got ya beat by just a couple years.  768K?  Not bad!  I wonder if they had to mess with the Extended Memory Managers.  That was always fun! <not>

Like I said above, was a godsent when M$ introduced memmaker, saved me more than a few headaches.

3 minutes ago, Grey_Paladin said:

How is the power supply on that AMD? 

Tried several, both AT and ATX (the board supports both), problems remained the same.

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2 minutes ago, Lert said:

Tried several, both AT and ATX (the board supports both), problems remained the same.

Interesting.  Do the problems manifest right away and then get better as time goes on, or does it work well at first then get wobbly?

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Just now, Grey_Paladin said:

Interesting.  Do the problems manifest right away and then get better as time goes on, or does it work well at first then get wobbly?

It hangs halfway during the Win98 bootcycle, ~40% of the time, though more often on cold boot rather than warm. Sometimes it forgets its graphics card or sound card (both PCI) and sometimes it bluescreens.

Come to think of it, maybe it's the graphics card. That's one of the constants through all the different test iterations.

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1 minute ago, Lert said:

t hangs halfway during the Win98 bootcycle, ~40% of the time, though more often on cold boot rather than warm. Sometimes it forgets its graphics card or sound card (both PCI) and sometimes it bluescreens.

Come to think of it, maybe it's the graphics card. That's one of the constants through all the different test iterations.

Not a bad idea.  Take a look and see if you can see anything obvious, like darkened components or loose chips (if any are in sockets).

Try a safe boot?

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Just now, Grey_Paladin said:

Not a bad idea.  Take a look and see if you can see anything obvious, like darkened components or loose chips (if any are in sockets).

Tried that before, it looks fine.

Just now, Grey_Paladin said:

Try a safe boot?

That usually works.

I'll try another tragics card some other time, when I'm in the mood to tinker again. I could always try the 2mb S3 card from my Win95 machine, at least as a temporary measure.

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2 minutes ago, Lert said:

That usually works.

I'll try another tragics card some other time, when I'm in the mood to tinker again. I could always try the 2mb S3 card from my Win95 machine, at least as a temporary measure.

Sounds like a plan to me! 

Have fun!

 

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54 minutes ago, Lert said:

Archeotech,

 

I'm old enough to have lived through the entirety of the personal computer age. I can still recall a time when the manuals for your computer and operating system weighed nearly as much as the computer did and if you wanted software then you had to program it yourself. It always amazed me how little some of the "old school" college professors knew about computers even in the 1980s. In grad school, I actually was put on an information retrieval committee for a well-respected scientific society simply because I knew how to get information off of a mainframe tape and onto a floppy disk.

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I went back a little further...   Look at the number stamped on the center 40 pin chip.

Closup.JPG

IOWR_TimingFix.jpg

FirstWorking.JPG

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3 minutes ago, AVR_Project said:

Closup.JPG

That an Altair? That was before my time. Always wanted to learn how to program one, though.

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1 minute ago, Lert said:

That an Altair? That was before my time. Always wanted to learn how to program one, though.

I was going through my attic and found this home-brew computer I bought back in the 1970s for $100.
The PCBs were blank, but I had all the parts.  I was in quarantine for having Covid-19, sitting isolated at home for 10 days.  Suddenly, I had the time.

 

WireWrap.JPG

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1 minute ago, AVR_Project said:

I was going through my attic and found this home-brew computer I bought back in the 1970s for $100.
The PCBs were blank, but I had all the parts.  I was in quarantine for having Covid-19, sitting isolated at home for 10 days.  Suddenly, I had the time.

 

WireWrap.JPG

Awesome! Ping me when you complete it? I'd love to see a thread on it. This is before my time, but I love things like this.

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Is that a wire wrapper?

I haven't seen one in years.  Like 30

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Civ on the 486s.... lol

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