Skip navigation

In the 1980’s and 90’s it seemed like everyone was making IBM PC compatible computers from Canon and AT&T to bigger names like HP and Dell. Of all these OEMs Gateway 2000 perhaps made one of the greatest of all these IBM compatibles. Enter the iconic 486 based Gateway 2000 4DX2-66V (Desktop) released around 1993 and retailing for a whopping $2995.

Not to say the other OEM companies didn’t make some impressive PC’s back in the day but the 4DX2-66V from Gateway 2000 really stood out as a massive and powerful PC of the time. This thing meant serious business and if the specs didn’t impress you the large case and relatively high build quality should have.

The model we’re looking at in this article is the desktop version although an even more impressive to look at tower version was also available for purchase.

The 4DX-66V (4DX standing for 486DX CPU and 66V standing for 66MHz with Vesa Local Bus slots) is a rather large desktop case and is fairly heavy with a mostly all metal case. To the left, we have a key lock with a green power LED located underneath followed by a reset button an HDD activity light and finally a turbo button. On the far right side of the case, we have three 5 1/4 external bays. One thing I do dislike about this case is the complete lack of any external 3 1/2 bays forcing you to use a 5 1/4 bay adaptor for the obligatory 1.44MB floppy drive.

I attempted to replicate the look as closely as possible to a stock 4DX-66V and placed my drives according to some older advertisement photos I found. On the top is a 1.2MB 5 1/4 drive with a 1.44MB 3 1/2 floppy drive taking up the middle bay and finally a CD-ROM drive at the bottom.

I want to note here that there seems to be some difficulty in determining the stock CD-ROM drive type. Although IDE would be the standard for an OEM PC like this I’ve read some sources claiming the original CD drive was actually a SCSI x1 or x2 drive. The machine in question here did, in fact, come to me with an SCSI card installed and no CD drive and I had a very hard time getting an IDE CD drive to install and work correctly. In the end I did opt to install an SCSI CD drive though the drive itself is a newer and faster Sony drive.

The front of the case also lacks any power button. There is a power switch located on the right back side. This is a design more in common with earlier 80’s machines like the 5150.

This design also makes it difficult to find and fit a replacement PSU should yours die since standard AT or ATX power supplies with AT adaptors lack this side switch and are of a smaller size.

Taking a look at the back.

There is nothing too special about the rear of this PC and we have a pretty standard layout with parallel and serial connectors as well as an AT keyboard port and eight expansion slots.

Before we open the case I wanted to take a look at the keyboard Gateway sold with this machine.

This PC came with a massive 124 key Gateway 2000 “Anykey” keyboard. This keyboard featured extra function keys on the far left as well as 8 directional keys and has macro keys for programming your own macro commands.

Opening the case is fairly easy and requires unscrewing screws at the rear of the case and sliding the top section of the case forward and then up and off.

To the left of the three 5 1/4 external bays we do have two internal 5 1/4 bays. As I stated earlier the design of this case certainly feels a little out modded for the 486 era and internal 3 1/2 bays would have been a much more useful option seeing as your going to need some adapters to properly install and secure a standard 3 1/2 hard drive.

The case also features a real cone speaker nestled in the front of the case as well as guide/support ridges for extra long expansion cards.

Lastly, as far as the case goes we do unfortunately have the “rail system” in effect on this case. Rather than using simple screws to hold drives in place you must first attach rails to your drives before installing and securing them. My PC came with several drives missing as well as missing rails so extra rails of roughly the same fit had to be salvaged from other builds.

Early magazine advertising listed a 340MB 13ms IDE hard drive as standard but the closest I had was a Western Digital 853MB Caviar 2850 manufactured in 1996 which installed with the help of a bay adapter into one of the internal bays.

Despite the case itself having some by even the early 90’s standards a relatively outdated design the motherboard itself featured some very advanced and useful features such as dual built-in IDE controllers and even a CPU upgrade socket.

The motherboard used in the 4DX-66V is a Micronics board and sports eight 16-bit ISA slots two of which double as VLB slots.

1) CPU – The standard CPU in the 4DX-66V was, obviously, an Intel 486DX running at 66MHz. This CPU was more or less the gold standard during the 486 era and offered excellent performance in a wide range of games while not being too slow or too fast as well as offering stable reliability. The DX2 CPU in the 4DX-66V came stock with a small heatsink but did not feature a fan for extra cooling.

Next to the CPU socket there is also a CPU upgrade socket to allow for easy upgrading of the CPU via chips such as the Intel Overdrive which greatly increased CPU power.

2) RAM – The 4DX-66V is capable of supporting a maximum of 64MB of FPM memory via four 72 pin memory sockets. Mine currently has 16MB installed which is still a rather healthy amount of memory for the early 90’s. The stock amount seems to of been 8MB.

3) L2 cache – Unlike most 486 era motherboards which used DIPP chips installed in several sockets on the motherboard the 4DX-66V employed a single socket which accepted a CoaST (Cache on a STick) module. This is the same method used by the infamous M919 socket 3 motherboard as well as many early Pentium motherboards. The 4DX-66V seems to of been sold standard with a 256K cache stick but mine only has a 64K module for some reason. I’m not sure why someone would have downgraded the L2 cache on my machine but perhaps at some point in the past the original L2 stick was damaged or lost and the former owner only had a 64K module as a replacement.

4) Switch – Behind the L2 cache module is a small switch block. Unfortunately, I did not have the manual for this PC nor could I find a guide to this switch block online. I did find a Video by Silicon Classics which did briefly display a page from the manual with some functions of the switch block which I was able to screen capture. switches 5-8 appear to set the CPU type.

(Click to enlarge)

5) Battery – One thing I did find fairly odd for this motherboard is the seemingly complete lack of any kind of on-board CMOS battery to save BIOS settings. The only apparent method of installing a battery is an external battery connector located next to the Keyboard port. The 4DX-66V seems to of come standard with an external Rayovac 844 battery. Thankfully the battery is easy to replace and modern equivalents using three AAA batteries can be found cheaply on eBay. It is HIGHLY recommended to change the battery before tinkering with the 4DX-66V as it seems very finicky and you’re likely to run into many random problems when operating with a dead CMOS battery

6) IDE – The 4DX-66V motherboard came with two IDE controllers built-in for a total of four usable IDE devices. This was rather uncommon to see built into a socket 3 motherboard and a very welcome addition. On my machine though the IDE was extremely problematic and picky about both the hard drive and the CD-ROM drive. In the end I decided to forgo the built-in IDE altogether and opt for an ISA EIDE card.

Above the IDE connectors we have a standard floppy connector.

7) Finally to the left of the IDE and floppy we have I/O connectors for the serial and parallel as well as the AT power connector.

Expansion cards

For the various expansion cards I attempted to get this Gateway as close to stock as I could though I did take a few liberties in the name of power, convenience and necessity.

IDE – After getting fed up with the fickle nature of the built-in IDE I did finally give in and installed a SIIG SC-JE4012 16-bit ISA IDE controller card. This card offered faster access speeds then the built-in controller as well as made life much easier when choosing hard drives. I may be wrong but I believe the built-in IDE controller hits a 512MB limit when looking at hard drives and most of the time regardless of the size the built-in controller was just not seeing the drive or only sporadically seeing the drive. It’s quite possible the controller is failing with age but regardless, a more reliable IDE card like this SIIG card is certainly recommended.

SCSI – Even though my machine did come with a VLB SCSI controller card installed and I read sources that indicated that the stock CD drive was SCSI, my original plan was to remove the SCSI card and run both the hard drive and CD-ROM drive off the IDE controller. Unfortunately this was another element during the restoration of this PC that almost drove me insane as even with the separate IDE card installed my particular 4DX-66V was incredibly picky about what drives worked and what master/slave configuration they were in. The form factor and length of the IDE cables did not help this situation in the slightest. Eventually I decided to give up and run the CD drive off the VLB SCSI controller, which after being set up properly gave me no issues whatsoever.

The SCSI controller used was a Buslogic BT-440C/445C VLB card. I’ve used this card before in my main 486 PC and I’ve found them to be reliable and mostly trouble free cards. I did briefly consider going all out with SCSI and replacing my IDE hard drive with an SCSI drive but in the end decided to stay with the IDE drive since not only was it more “stock correct” but was already setup at this point.

Sound – The sound card is another area where I took a little bit of a liberty in choosing the card. Finding out what card came installed factory from Gateway proved to be a challenge and I never did find a concrete answer. Some sources cited the Sound Blaster Pro CT1330A as being sold along with the PC while other sources claimed early Sound Blaster 16 cards like the CT1770 would of been the stock card.

I also stumbled upon the Gateway 2000 branded 16MVCARD based on the JAZZ 16 chipset from Media Vision.

The seller of the card claimed it was pulled directly from a 4DX-66V though it’s completely possible it was a later replacement for the original card or it came from a similar but not exact Gateway model. I did decide to install the JAZZ 16 based card but unfortunately the card was non-working with audio being barely audible over extreme and constant audio “noise” and squealing.

The card I did finally settle on though was the Creative Sound Blaster AWE32 CT3910. Even though this by all accounts was not the stock sound card in the 4DX-66V I feel it does make a very good fit. The CT3910 is an earlier non-plug & play card with a real Yamaha OPL chip for authentic FM sound. It lacks a wavetable header but it does have a standard IDE connector (though again, I had no luck with mine when trying to setup an IDE CD-ROM drive on this machine). It’s more or less a cleaner sounding SB16 with built-in MIDI capabilities which is nice for playing games like DOOM and Duke3D on this PC.

Video – Lastly we have the video card and unlike the sound card it was actually extremely easy to find out what card came stock in the 4DX-66V. That card was a special cut down OEM version of the Mach32 card from ATI possibly known as the Mach32 XLR or CLX. This was a VLB card and differed from the retail version of the VLB Mach32 card by having a slower RAMDAC and only 1MB of video ram standard.

The card I have installed is the more capable retail version of the Mach32 for the VLB slot.

If you look to the right side of the card you’ll notice a large square socketed chip labeled ATI68875, this is the improved RAMDAC. On the OEM card this socket would be empty and instead the lower rectangular socket which is empty on this card would be populated with the slower RAMDAC chip. These cards support a full 2MB of RAM which mine is currently outfitted with.

Like any high-end VLB video card these days the Mach32 goes for a pretty penny on eBay. The card is fast, It came in right behind my ET4000 based VLB card in most benchmarks I performed and it also makes an excellent Windows 2D accelerator but unfortunately it does fall a little short when it comes to compatibility. For instance I had some pretty bad scrolling issues in Commander Keen 4 even with the option to fix scrolling issues checked in the options menu. To be fair my ET4000 also had some odd graphical issues as well but these went away completely by checking off the SVGA box under options and scrolling was silky smooth.

Despite the somewhat outdated case design and relatively minor issues like the use of rails and an awkward to replace power supply the 4DX-66V is an impressive PC for 1993 even with the stock configuration. The board is pretty easily upgradable and the CPU upgrade socket makes adding something like an Intel Overdrive CPU a cinch. I would of prefered at least one external 3 1/2 drive but the case does look very stylish. The Mach32, even the gimped stock version isn’t half bad though it’s worth considering replacing it in the name of better overall compatibility. Collectors seem to really love the 4DX-66V (especially in the tower form factor) and I expect prices to rise, so if you see one, even if it’s just a shell, snag it.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Sun Microsystems was an American computer company founded in 1982. They seem to be most widely known for their Sun workstation computers based on their own 64-bit RISC-based SPARC processors. In this article we will be taking a look at a later offering from the late 90’s, the Sun Ultra 10, a tower form factor workstation PC that utilized an UltraSPARC IIi CPU but also a number of less proprietary PC parts.

This article will be my first ever experience with a Sun computer so it should prove to be a learning experience for myself. I generally stay away from workstations as my interests primarily lay with PC gaming and workstations with their proprietary parts, non x86 architectures and very often non-game friendly OS’s severely limit gaming. The Sun workstations are no exception to this. I have been told that there may have been ports of games such as Sim City to the Ultra 10 and its Solaris operating system but I have yet to find any evidence these ports actually exist.

With that introduction out of the way, let’s take a look at the Sun Ultra 10.

The Ultra 10 along with its little brother the desktop form factor Sun Ultra 5 were launched in 1998 and shipped into the early 2000’s. These workstations would have been contemporary with the late Pentium IIs as well as the Pentium III and early Pentium 4s. The form factor of the Ultra 10 tower is fairly standard though it does show some artistic flair to its design. The case is not quite as wide as a standard PC case of the time and reminds me of the slightly smaller width of the Dell Dimension cases. My machine came with a standard 1.44MB floppy drive as well as a CD-ROM drive which is obviously a later replacement. There is also a second bay for a 5 1/4 device as well as a second 3 1/2 inch bay above the floppy drive with a lift up cover. I would at first assume the second 3 1/2 bay would be for a tape drive but referencing the service manual indicates the bay is intended for a PCMCIA interface. There is no reset button or HDD activity LED that I could spot and simply a power button on the right side of the case and a power LED above it.

The rear of the case doesn’t appear too odd but first, let’s take a look at the lower section of the case. On the left lower side of the case we have a db-25 serial port and under that, we have a VGA monitor port for the built in video and under that an Ethernet port. To the right of these ports we have a db-9 serial port and under that a parallel port.

There are four PCI expansion slots of which my system has PCI slot 3 occupied by a multi Ethernet card sporting a number of Sun chips.

Above all these expansion slots and I/O ports is a lone horizontal expansion punch out with a monitor symbol under it. This is for an optional Sun high-resolution UPA graphics card.

Moving back up, let’s take a look at those audio jacks and the keyboard port.

For the four audio jacks, we have what I believe is labeled line in and out on the right. On the left, the jack with the headphone symbol I assume would be the speaker/headphone jack and above that, I’m going to assume is the microphone jack, though the symbol doesn’t make this very apparent as it just looks like a ring in a purple background to me.

Under this, we have the proprietary keyboard port that somewhat resembles a PS/2 port or Apples ADB port. Without a keyboard connected the Ultra 10 actually defaults as a console and you will not even get a video out signal.

The keyboard looks pretty standard at a glance but if you look closer there are key differences to a standard PC keyboard. This Sun keyboard actually reminds more of an Apple keyboard. In the upper right corner, there are buttons for volume control as well as a power button. Some of the buttons are labeled as “Compose” and “Alt-Graph” which I’m not sure what they do. There is even a button that is completely blank in the upper left hand of the board. On the left, there is also a dual vertical row of function keys with labels such as “Again”, “Stop”, “Copy” and “Paste”.

Just like most Apple keyboards the mouse attaches to a port on the keyboard as opposed to having its own port on the tower itself.

One of the things I do find pretty weird about the Ultra 10 is the manner in which the case opens. The case comes open by removing four screws on the back and taking off one big piece that comprises both sides of the case. Even though by the late 90’s most cases would allow you to remove the sides individually having a case that removed the entire casing consisting of both sides, as well as the top of the case, was not very uncommon. The thing I find weird about the Ultra 10 is that instead of the side and the top the case comes apart with the sides and the bottom. Okay, maybe that rambling seemed a bit confusing so let me use an image instead.

It’s basically the opposite of every other case design like this that I have ever seen. There’s nothing wrong or worse with doing things this way, I just find it unusual.

With the case removed we can now see the motherboard itself. This case does also have a proper PC speaker which you can see peeking out right above that middle divider at the front of the case. Like a Macintosh the speaker is connected to the sound chip so if no external speakers are present you can at least get some sound via this speaker.

Being a sort of none standard workstation PC the Ultra 10 on the inside isn’t all that strange and shares a lot in common with late 90’s Macintosh machines.

The Ultra 10 does not have expansion slots directly on the motherboard but uses a riser card which has four standard PCI expansion slots.

1) CPU – The CPU for this system is a 440MHz RISC based UltraSPARC IIi but models also came with the same CPU clocked as low as 300MHz and several speeds in between. This CPU came in a sort of CPU package that reminds me of a G4 PowerPC CPU. L2 cache varied by CPU but I believe the 440MHz variant of the CPU came with 2MB of L2 cache.

 

I’ve even read that the SUN UltraSPARC CPUs are “PowerPC processors done right.” Unfortunately, I can’t really comment on them more than that As I could find no games to benchmark to compare to an X86 system. As far as speed there are the same difficulties as with a PowerPC in trying to equate them to an Intel x86 CPU equivalent. Despite the lower clock speed, I would assume these CPUs at 440MHz are roughly equivalent to the later Pentium IIIs.

I did not remove the CPU but it appears they connect to the motherboard via two pin connectors.

2) Video – In another similarity to late 90’s PowerPC Macs the Ultra 10 comes with on-board video in the form of the Rage Pro Turbo on the PCI bus. This chip is perfectly serviceable for late 90’s gaming though I have no idea how well it performs for workstation tasks. As a general VGA chip though it’s pretty good but since I couldn’t find a single game for the Ultra 10 or the Solaris OS it’s all rather moot as far as games go.

3) NVRAM – Unfortunately the Ultra 10 uses a battery method not unlike the old Dallas RTC batteries where the battery is encased in a hard plastic shell. Thankfully on the Ultra 10 the NVRAM is not soldered onto the motherboard but is instead socketed which makes life much easier when the battery does die. Like the Dallas RTCs there is also a method to connect a coin battery holder to the NVRAM and use coin batteries. That mod is detailed in this video (not mine) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lP4rXua1Lo

On the other side of the riser board we have some more familiar components to anyone that’s opened a PC and taken a look inside.

4) RAM – The Ultra 10 supports up to 1GB of Buffered EDO ECC RAM via four 168-pin DIMM slots. My machine came with the maximum 1GB of RAM installed via four 256MB sticks.

5) Sound – Sound is provided by a Crystal CS4231A-KQ chip.

Disconnecting the IDE cables we can see some more of this side of the motherboard.

6) UPA slot – This is the UPA or “Ultra Port Architecture” slot. This was a 100MHz bus developed by SUN for the use of higher bandwidth high-resolution graphics cards. I believe this was a proprietary slot only found in SUN workstation PCs. Several UPA graphics cards were produced such as the Creator, Creator3D, Elite3D and XVR-1000. If you do not have a UPA graphics card installed it does not appear having the AUX power connector is necessary and the machine powers up fine without.

7) The Ultra 10 uses standard floppy and IDE controllers for its interface so finding a replacement hard drive, CD drive or floppy drive is very cheap and simple.

The Ultra 10 uses a CMD646U chip to control the IDE. I believe this gives speeds of ATA-33.

The Ultra 10 also has room for several hard drives including the ability to mount one under the power supply as can be seen above with the Seagate Barracuda IV hard drive being mounted under the PSU.

8) Power Connector – The power supply for the Ultra 10 is 250w and the board does have a AUX connector though I’m unsure if the wiring for the AUX connector is the same as a standard AUX connector. The ATX connector appears to be standard though so as long as your not using a UPA graphics card it appears you can use a standard ATX power supply.

Unfortunately, I was not able to access my SUN Ultra 10 due to a password so as far as I could get was the Password prompt for the Solaris 9 OS. On booting up my Ultra 10 I was greeted with a white screen and eventually a power-on test error and an “OK” prompt. tying in “boot disk” at this point led to several minutes of the OS loading from the HDD and finally the password screen.

I wasn’t really able to delve much into the Ultra 10 running due to the password roadblock but in retrospect there wouldn’t be much I would want to do with it anyways. This machine is a workstation and as my interest primarily lies with games the Ultra 10 leaves very little for me. For those of you that do enjoy working with, restoring and using older workstations The Ultra 10 appears to be a fairly user-friendly model seeing as it has many things like sound and video built in and seems to have very few proprietary hardware components. Just be sure if you do pick up an Ultra 10 (or 5) to grab the keyboard and mouse along with it.

Ever since the early days of computers when the 286 supplanted the 8088 companies have been coming up with various adaptors that would allow one to install newer processors into older sockets. Usually, these adaptors did not meet with great success as it generally made more sense to just buy a newer machine than to buy the usually expensive upgrade adaptors with gimped performance.

In the late 1990’s Intel released the Celeron, Pentium II and then the Pentium III in the slot 1 form factor. Processors designed for Slot 1 motherboards came in various cartridge like form factors which used an edge connector to interface with the Slot 1 connector on the main board. In 1999 Intel went back to a more conventional socket with socket 370 AKA PGA370 for the later Pentium III and Celeron CPU’s.

Comparison of a Slot 1 CPU (on right) and PGA370 (on left)

Slot 1 motherboards only officially supported front side bus speeds of 66MHz and 100MHz and finding the 100MHz FSB versions of the later slot 1 P3’s could be difficult and expensive. 100MHz FSB versions of the Pentium III in socket 370 form factor, as well as the 100MHz FSB Celerons, were much more abundant and in time much cheaper. This is where the “slocket” came into play which was a fairly cheap and simple adaptor that allowed you to use a cheap and abundant PGA370 Pentium III / Celeron on a Slot 1 motherboard.

In the early 2000’s though Intel released their Tualatin Pentium III and Tualatin based Celeron CPU’s which were designed on a smaller 0.13 processes and were released in speeds exceeding the 1GHz and 1.1GHz of the earlier Pentium III and Celeron processors.  These new Tualatin processors though required a modified socket 370 known as FCPGA 2 socket 370 and were not usable on older socket 370 motherboards or Slot 1 boards by use of a slocket adaptor.

This is where the Powerleap PL-iP3/T, the T standing for Tualatin, Slot 1 to socket 370 Slocket Adapter came into play and allowed users of older Slot 1 motherboards who were perhaps still sporting sub 450MHz Pentium IIs to upgrade to the latest and fastest Tualatin Celerons.

Although I can not find concrete information on the original selling price the initial PL-iP3/T adaptors with 1.2GHz Tualatin based Celerons I have seen some sources indicated that they retailed for $169 which was cheaper than the P3 1GHz chips at the time. Later versions of the PL-iP3/T came with the option of the 1.3GHz and 1.4GHz Celeron CPU. Even though these Celeron processors ran on a lower 100MHz FSB then their big brother Tualatin Pentium CPUs they sported a full 256 KB of L2 cache just like the Coppermine Pentium III processors.  Tualatin Celerons were also known to overclock fairly easily to 133MHz FSB if your motherboard allowed it. I have read of individuals having issues getting the Powerleap to operate at 133mhz on most motherboards and I can attest mine would not POST when set to 133MHz FSB even though my board supports it via switch settings. My PL-iP3/T is version 2.0 with a 1.3GHz Celeron installed.

On the left side of the adaptor is the header for the fan as well as jumpers to set FSB speeds. The Powerleap can be set for 66, 100 and 133MHz FSB as well as Autodetect which mine is currently set to.

On the right side of the heatsink is the power connector as well as the jumpers for setting the voltage. The Powerleap supports several CPU core voltages.

The connector at the top right is for extra power and mine uses a 3 prong connector though I have read earlier versions of the adaptor used a floppy power connector. Unfortunately, my Powerleap did not come with an adaptor for the power connector so I was forced to make my own rather haphazard adaptor from a molex power extension.

Be sure to connect the cables from left (closest to the heatsink) to right as yellow, black, red.

I used some electrical tape on the ends to help prevent any shorting but if you want to put some more effort into it you can buy the correct 3 prong plastic end piece here. Note that the Powerleap does require this power to be supplied to it as all my attempts to run the Powerleap from the CPU slot with the fan plugged into the motherboard resulted in no POST screen.

For convenience here is a chart with all the jumper settings for both FSB and voltage.

 

The PL-iP3/T also came with different heatsink fans depending on the version. Mine has the Intel fan and I have to admit I’ve been very reluctant to remove it to replace the CPU with a 1.4GHz Celeron or even a 512KB L2 cache version of the Tualatin due to the slightly awkward mechanism it uses to attach to the board and the tight grip.

For a host motherboard I decided to use the Asus P3B-F Ver 1.3 slot 1 motherboard. I have found this motherboard to be rock solid as far as stability goes and it also supports overclocking the FSB via a switch all the way up to 150MHz through the manual warns against any speeds over 100MHz as “unofficial” slot 1 speeds may result in decreased stability. I want to note that initially, I could not get the motherboard to POST with the PL-iP3/T installed. After flashing the board to the latest BIOS however I had no issues and the board POSTed and detected the Powerleap (although incorrectly as a Pentium II 1200MHz) without issue.

As for the other specs of this machine

512MB of PC100 RAM

Geforce 2 Ultra AGP

AWE 64 value ISA

Matrox ATA100 card PCI

USB 2.0 card PCI

below are some comparisons of this setup running first a Pentium II 350MHz and then with the PL-iP3/T Celeron 1.3GHz. Remember this chart isn’t to prove the 1.3GHz Celeron can beat a 350MHz Pentium II, that is very obvious, but it is to show how much a typical slot 1 build from the late 90’s like this could have improved with this upgrade.

I performed all of these tests minus 3DMark 99 at 800x600x32 with high detail settings (3DMark 99 used 16bit color depth) but the Powerleap showed significant performance and left plenty of room to play with higher resolutions.

I also managed to overclock the CPU and FSB to 112MHz via the motherboard switch giving me a speed of 1.45GHz. I had no issues with stability at this speed and my Asus P3B-F ran happily along without issue. As mentioned earlier though bumping the FSB to 133MHz resulted in the PC refusing to POST.

The Powerleap PL-iP3/T does what it claims and if your intent is to drag your slot 1 motherboard into the early 2000’s and early Windows XP era it will do the trick. Unless you can find one for a good price though these adaptors are pretty hard to find these days (2018) as well as pricy.  A slocket adaptor with a 1GHz chip should do almost as well for upgrading your slot 1 board unless you simply demand the fastest, though in that case your likely better off just tracking down a Tualatin compatible motherboard or a Pentium 4 board for early 2000’s gaming.

Were you a huge fan of the best selling Commodore 64 computer in the early 80s? Did you love it so much you just wished you could bring it along everywhere you went? Well, if so, in 1984 you were in luck because that’s when Commodore released the SX-64 or sometimes called the Commodore Executive, a Commodore 64 “luggable” computer. The SX-64 was a Commodore 64 computer, complete with floppy disk drive, keyboard and a small 5 inch color CRT monitor all in one briefcase style package. It was heavy and bulky like a large briefcase and still required the unit to be plugged into a wall power supply but in the early 1980’s this was the norm for portable computers.

The keyboard of the SX-64 also acted as the front cover and attached over the front of the machine shielding the monitor and single floppy drive. The handle on the case doubles as a stand when the SX-64 is in use.

With the front cover / keyboard removed by pressing down and two small plastic tabs the front of the SX-64 is revealed. On the far left we have the 5 inch composite color CRT monitor. Next to that we have one Commodore floppy disk drive and what looks like a storage area above it which is actually….well, a storage area and is labeled as such. There were plans to release a SX-64 with two floppy disks drives named the DX-64 but details are a bit sketchy on if this version was ever actually officially released. A few have turned up over the years but they seem to be exceptionally rare. I’ve read some SX-64 owners have indeed added a second drive in the “storage area” so it can be done. Usually this little storage bay is used to stow the keyboard cable when the SX-64 is not in use.

On the far right we have a small door with the C64 branding behind which is some basic control knobs and pots to control sound volume and adjust the monitor.

The 5” color composite monitor itself is small but very easy to read and I found mine to be quite sharp and gave a better looking image then I expected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spinning the SX-64 around we can take a look at the back and the various ports.

Starting from the left we have two joystick / mouse ports followed by an A/V out port meaning that you can easily connect the SX-64 to an external monitor or TV if you wished. Next to this is a Commodore serial 488 port for connecting things like an external disk drive or printer. In the center we have the edge connector like Commodore user port which connects to some printers, modems or even other computers. Lastly to the far right we have a standard three prong power connector, a fuse and a power on/off switch. My unit interestingly does not have the port labels molded into the plastic next to the relevant ports where I have seen some models that do.

Located on the top of the SX-64 is the cartridge port.

The keyboard connects to the main unit via a non-standard 25-pin keyboard connector. The connector on the SX-64 itself is located below right side of front panel and is a little awkward to reach and connect in my opinion.

Finding an official replacement cable if yours is lost or damaged can be difficult but homemade replacements can be found on eBay in the $25 and up price range. They generally aren’t as nice looking as the official cables though.

Lets take a quick look inside by removing several screws on the side.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The internals of the SX-64 are extremely cramped and hardware failures due to excessive heat are not uncommon. On the left side we mostly have the CRT itself as well as the speaker and behind that the power supply. Directly behind the cartridge slot is the board with the keyboard controller and the panel on the far right is the board hosting things like the CPU, RAM and PLA chip.

Common issue with PLA chip

On powering my SX-64 up for the first time however I was greeted by a very pixelated and distorted screen.

This is a rather common issue caused usually by heat and a faulty PLA chip. Thankfully this chip is socketed and is fairly easy to get to and replace.

Below is an image with the bad chip highlighted. Even though it’s relatively easy to reach you probably are better off disconnecting the board and raising it out of the case for better access. There are some excellent guides online and on YouTube detailing this process.

And here is the offending chip once removed.

I opted to replace my PLA chip with a more modern equivalent. I found my online for about $25 and as far as I can tell it is 100% compatible and generates significantly less heat.

I even decided to add a small heatsink just for extra cooling though with a more modern replacement part like this it’s not necessary.

If you experience keyboard issues you may also want to make sure the connection with the board directly behind the cartridge slot and the main board are making a solid connection as seen below.

Thankfully this simple and fairly cheap fix solved all my video issues and if you have issues with your SX-64 I would suggest looking at replacing the PLA chip first. There are other chips that may go bad including the RAM which unfortunately is soldered on but I have found a bad PLA chip is usually the issue as far as a black or distorted screen goes.

Overall compatibility with the SX-64 seems to be pretty good though I’ve read there are issues with certain games and peripherals such as RAM expansion units and some printers. Due to the default screen color being changed to blue text on a white background some programs may experience issues since they expect the default white text on a blue background.

I like the SX-64 but I don’t really find it that useful as I would strongly prefer a standard C64. The SX-64 didn’t sell that well back at release. The C64 was never really seen as a serious business machine and in my mind packing a breadbox C64 as well as the floppy drive, PSU and a few cables into a small box and just using a larger TV as a monitor if you’re going on vacation or something isn’t much more of a hassle or less of an inconvenience then lugging the SX-64 with you. Yes, it is more convenient and if you needed a C64 and traveled a lot or did demonstrations it would be really helpful but for a retro gamer today it’s an interesting piece for Commodore fans but I’d stick with a good old C64 or C64c for my actual C64 gaming.

 

 

 

The IBM PC 350 was released in the mid 1990’s as an office / home desktop PC. It came in several sub models that used completely different motherboards and CPU’s from a socket 3 486 class up to socket 7 Pentiums all using the same case. In this article were going to look at the sub model 6587 which is the last sub model in the PC 350 class.

The case for the PC 350 is both sturdy but at the same time not extremely heavy. On the front there are LED lights for HDD activity and a power LED next to the large white power button. There is no reset button.

One pretty cool feature is the sliding front cover that slides to the left revealing your various drive bays. There is room for two 5 1/4 inch drives as well as a 3 1/2 bay and two internal 3 1/2 bays for hard drives. In the upper left corner is a cut out for an optional PCMCIA interface which I’ve never seen on a desktop before. Unfortunately mine did not come with this option installed.

My PC 350 did come with an 850MB hard hard drive installed which sounds about right for the time. A CD-ROM drive was an option but mine did not come with one installed. Installing a 5 1/4 drive can be a little taxing and removing the bay bezels can require a lot of force or completely removing the metal drive holders inside which also is not easy due to the assembly being held in by a hard plastic screw.

On the back we have from left to right, a infrared port for connecting an infrared receiver for wireless inferred communication with compatible devices. Next we have two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse followed by a serial port, two USB 1.0 ports and a parallel port. Lastly there is a VGA port for the built in video.

There are no screws holding the upper case on and accessing the motherboard is achieved by depressing the plastic tab in the upper left corner of the case and pulling back and then up on the upper case. Thankfully this tab is made from pretty rugged and thick plastic and feels fairly resistant to breaking off.

On the underside of the case is a simple chart explaining the memory configurations as well as a basic motherboard layout and the various switch settings. I always like when PC’s do this as it helps greatly when making basic changes like CPU upgrades.

Here is a view of the drive bay assembly removed from the case as well as the hard plastic screw that needs to be removed to get the metal assembly out.

Now lets take a look at the motherboard and relevant parts.

The PC 350 motherboard does use a standard lithium battery to store CMOS settings. In the image below is is obscured by the IDE cable.

 

1) CPU – My model 6587 came with a Pentium 133 but is easily upgradable. The chart found on the case underside gives settings for installing up to a Pentium 166 but online sources indicate a Pentium 200MHz classic or even a 166 or 233MHz MMX chip can be successfully installed though you may need to experiment with motherboard switch settings (Wikipedia suggests the 75MHz setting should work for 233MHz).

The MMX chips take a lower voltage from what it appears the board can provide so use caution if your going to attempt an MMX install. For a Pentium 200 classic the jumper settings were not present on my jumper sheet but through trial and error I found the settings for the Pentium 120 allowed for 200MHz operation with the P200.

The CPU’s on all of these machines are fanless and only come equipped with a passive cooling heatsink, though a rather tall one.

The instructions and all paperwork only refer to 3.3 volt Intel Pentiums CPU’s being compatible with some sources claiming Cyrix and AMD chips to be incompatible though I was able to upgrade my board with an IBM branded Cyrix 6×86 PR 166+ CPU without issue. I just made sure my CPU was labeled as requiring 3.3 volts (most Cyrix 6×86 CPU’s seem to require only 2.9 volts).

ibm350cpuchart

*Correction* The above chart refers to the Cyrix / IBM CPU as a “PR 166+” as it should be labeled as a P166+

2) RAM – The PC 350 has one 168 pin RAM socket as well as four 72 pin RAM sockets for memory expansion. You can expand the memory up to a total of 192MB and the convenient chart found on the underside of the case lid has a graph showing the advised memory configuration for the desired memory amount.

My PC 350 came with 32MB of memory installed via one 16MB 168 pin stick and two 8MB 72 pin sticks. I originally thought I would try using a single 32MB or 64MB stick of 168 pin memory and forgo the 72 pin sticks but none of my 168MB sticks would physically fit the 168 pin slot. I tried several sticks and they all were physically very slightly off and would not install. This is because I later discovered the 168 pin slot is keyed for 5 volt SDRAM which is not compatible with the 3.3V (the common used SDRAM).

3) L2 cache slot – L2 cache on the model 6587 is via a COASt module fount next to the CPU and can accept either 256KB or 512KB of L2 cache. Mine came with a 256KB stick though I needed to remove it and clean the contacts before it was recognized.

4) Video – The PC 350 comes with a S3 Trio64V+ chip on the board along with the ability to expand the memory from 1MB up to 2MB. The Trio chipset is an extremely DOS compatible chip proving excellent 2D support and compatibility for DOS and Windows 9x.

5) Riser card – The PC 350 uses a riser card in order to provide both PCI and 16-bit ISA expansion slots. In total the riser provides three PCI and five ISA slots though three slots are shared PCI/ISA slots and two are dedicated ISA slots. The opposite side of the riser provides for one of the stand alone ISA slots as well as a connection for power.

6) Floppy/IDE -The 350 motherboard provides for standard floppy connection as well as two built in ATA-2 IDE connectors for a total of four IDE compatible devices.

7) Switch – This is the switch used mainly for selecting your processor speed. Thankfully the chart on the underside of the case provides the settings and switch configurations should you decide to change CPU’s. The chart provided does come off as a little confusing though as It does not list actual FSB settings or provide a setting for 200/233mhz CPU’s. The Wikipedia entry on the PC 350 advises setting the switches to the “75 MHz setting” for a 233MHz Pentium.

8) PSU – The 350 motherboard requires three PSU connections to the board. Besides the standard AT connection the 350 also requires an additional AUX connection as seen below.

The IBM PC 350 makes a fair retro computer. It excels at DOS retro gaming and needs very little besides an ISA sound card to have a very compatible machine. As a Windows PC it is quite acceptable and a PCI 3D accelerator card such as a Voodoo would do wonders. The BIOS tends to be fussy though and when I made ANY changes including simply unplugging the mouse the machine demanded I enter the setup feature upon restarting and change/save the new settings. There are other annoyances such as the extra connection needed on the power supply as well as the slightly picky 168 pin RAM slot.

The case itself is quite nice offering a sturdy design, decent bay expansion as well as being easy to get into. I also like the sliding piece on the front so you can cover up your ugly discolored drives when not in use. Adding drives though requires some disassembly and is a hassle.

For a DOS PC the IBM PC 350 will serve you well though for Windows it’s passable but there are much better options. As a side note I could not get Windows 95 or 98 to install on my machine. This was due to some sort of driver conflict at the Windows splash screen I was never able to resolve. The machine IS Windows capable however and this problem boiled down to my particular machine.

Well we’ve finally reached the end of the road going into the past for our x86 “anatomy of series“. So far we started this series with the end of the DOS era and our Anatomy of a Pentium based DOS PC article and thus far we have covered every x86 era in between with our last article covering the ultimate 286 based build. Today we are going to take a look back at the earliest x86 and look at the best parts that balance power, compatibility and esthetics to create the best build for the 8088 era of PC retro gaming. Keep in mind this build is based around the 8088 but you can just as easily make the same build around the faster 8086 CPU (though you may encounter issues with speed sensitive games). Also for the sake of this article we also aren’t considering the Tandy 1000 line of PC’s such as the Tandy 1000SX, 1000 HD or 1000RL HD which due to their superior Tandy graphics, sound and high compatibility would possibly make them the superior choice to building your own early 80’s IBM compatible 8088 PC.

The 8088 is an 8-bit variant of the 16-bit 8086 developed in 1979. The 8088 would go on to be the dominant CPU in the early days of personnel home computing and was the CPU IBM chose to base their legendary IBM 5150 on. For anyone that’s a computer enthusiast that’s building a PC to relive the earliest days of home computing this can be a very fun project. Before we get into the details of what I feel comes close to a “ultimate 8088” build lets look at some of the reasons you may or may not want to build a PC focusing on this early era.

This machine will primarily be geared to playing early CGA PC classics from the early 1980’s up until the mid 80’s though it is capable of playing games from later on. We will try to use as close to period correct cards as we can when we can but will use later parts where it makes sense. With this said before we go over the build it’s very important to note that early on in the realm of IBM x86 compatibles there wasn’t a such thing as a “gaming PC” and early IBM compatible machines were largely intended for office and business use with gaming being a novelty and an afterthought. Most computer gaming was taking place on home micro computers such as the Commodore 64 and most of the earliest games for the IBM arena were rather simple “arcade like” or text based affairs. There were exceptions of course like complex early RPG games such as Wizardry and Ultima but by and large early games were rather simple compared to later offerings. Because of this hardware for the PC compatibles weren’t very game oriented until the later half of the 1980’s.

Why you may want to build a 8088 era PC?

besides building such an old PC simply for the pleasure of restoring a piece of computing history there are more practical gamer oriented reasons. Many early PC games demand an 8088 CPU running at 4.77mhz and a true CGA card to display properly. Games such as Striker, Demon Attack and early Ultima titles among many others really need a 8088 CPU running at a stock 4.77mhz to run at a correct speed. With some titles even a small speed bump of a few megahertz can drastically throw off game play or create glitches in sound effects. It may of been rather difficult to comprehend the speed at which computer CPU’s would advance at the time and thus poor programing and a lack of thinking ahead crippled many games when run on later, faster CPU’s. Another issue is that many of the earliest PC games were meant for a CGA card running at an appropriate speed. Later EGA and VGA cards are NOT 100% compatible with CGA and errors can occur to various degrees depending on the VGA card used. Games from Windmill software are one example of games that have issues running on a non CGA card. You can place a CGA card in a later PC such as a 286 and up but then you still have to deal with the various speed problems associated with a faster CPU. Unlike later games from the early 90’s that may of been speed sensitive these early games never received patches or work arounds to the degree later games did due to a seeming lack of interest in the earliest games of the PC era.

Before moving on it’s probably also wise to make a quick distinction between PC and XT class computers. The computer we are looking at in this article is an XT class computer. XT stands for eXtended Technology and is basically a slightly refined PC class computer. The biggest distinction is that XT class motherboards had more ISA slots (eight vs five) then a PC class machine but otherwise had most things in common such as the keyboard scan codes that we will discuss later.

Now that we’ve had a basic overview of the machine we are striving for and a few reasons you may want to build one lets take a look at the machine in question and talk about what you want to look for when putting together such an early build and what you can probably leave out.

If you want to go era correct the overwhelming majority of PC cases in the early 80’s were desktop style with only a few bays for 5 1/4 drives. The case I’m using here as you can tell from the image is heavily yellowed but this can usually be fixed by using the retrobright technique.

On the front panel we have some fairly typical buttons and LED lights. At this time in PC history Turbo buttons actually did what they stated and engaged a “turbo” mode. Mine kicks the CPU from 4.77mhz to a blazing fast 10mhz. This is a pretty substantial boost and can help with some games that maybe need a little more power to get running smoothing such as flight simulators or more intensive CGA titles. I really like the feel of the buttons on this case and when depressed the entire turbo button on my case lights green.

There is no power button on front of this case. Like many PC cases and designs from the early 80’s the power button is a rather large, in this case red, switch located on the right side near the rear of the case.

Before flipping the case around we need to take note of the floppy drives. Floppy drives of the era were low density 360 KB and later on 720 KB drives as opposed to the later high density 1.2 MB and 1.44 MB drives.

Thankfully 1.2 MB 5 1/4 and 1.44 MB 3 1/2 high density drives will work on a low density controller as 360 KB and 720 KB drives. Do take into consideration though that floppies formatted and written to on a 1.2 MB drive acting as  360 KB floppy may not read properly on an actual 360 KB drive. There are high density 8-bit floppy controller cards but they tend to be pretty rare and expensive. There are also programs such as “2M” which when used with an 8-bit compatible 16-bit floppy controller and a small TSR program loaded into memory should allow the use of high density drives and disks. Ive never used this method personally as I’ve felt its unnecessary but I’ve read others have used it with good results. perhaps the best option though would be a parallel port high density drive. These arn’t as rare as an actual 8-bit high density controller card but they can be quite slow.

Though I admit the convenience of a high density drive in such a PC would be nice I’m generally okay with running low density drives on such machines as the vast majority of software meant for this class of PC will easily fit on a 720 KB floppy disk. I don’t recommend adding a CD-ROM drive for this era either. CD drives did not become common until the 1990’s on PC’s and games meant for a 8088 will easily fit on a floppy disk. unlike later games most of the games from this era did not get CD re-releases.

Mounting a CD-Drive in an XT can also be quite difficult as they were not a consideration at the time and screw holes may not match up. If you do want to add a CD drive I would recommend an external drive controlled by either a 8-bit SCSI card or a parallel port drive.

I would also urge anyone building an era correct XT class machine to set their 360 KB floppy drive as drive A. This is because a number of games were released as “auto booters” which means they do not require an operating system such as DOS and will load up and play on booting the PC if the disk is inserted. All of these games that I am aware of came on 360 KB disks and a number of these “auto booter” games default to looking for the A: drive. Therefor if your 360 KB drive is set as drive B: there is simply no way of telling the PC to boot from there instead.

Nothing to exciting about the back of the case. It is worth noting that the majority of these early 80’s cases are not designed to accept a standard AT power supply. Though the connector is generally the same as later AT PSU’s the form factor is different and they are generally larger and have a large switch on the side that is used to power on/off. They generally also come in lower wattage’s of 65-200 watts.

While we are looking at the back of this machine We do need to also point out the keyboard type. As mentioned earlier the earliest IBM PC and XT compatible computers used a keyboard interface that looked like the later AT interfaced used up until the PS/2 standard but is not compatible. Many keyboards from the mid 80’s have a DIP switch on the underside to switch the keyboard into PC/XT or AT mode.

If you have such a keyboard make sure it is in PC/XT mode in order to function properly with your PC or XT class PC. There were also some auto sensing keyboards as well as XT to AT adapters allowing the use of later keyboards but these can be harder to find then an actual XT kyboard or have questionable functionality.

Before we take a look at the expansion cards lets take a look at the motherboard itself and the various components.

The motherboard I’m using is a DTK PIM-TBIO-Z Rev-9. This board is a “10mhz turbo board” meaning that it can turbo the CPU from a stock 4.77mhz to 10mhz either via the turbo button on the front of the case of via a keyboard command of < ctl > <alt > <-> provided your board has a 10mhz capable 8088 installed. This is a little different as many 8088 PC’s only offered a speed boost up to 7.16mhz although machines like the Commodore Colt offered all three options. There isn’t anything to necessarily look for when choosing an XT class motherboard as they all were fairly similar. I would make sure though that your board runs stock at 4.77mhz or can down clock to 4.77mhz since the point of this build is running software at this original speed. There are some 8088 boards that run default at higher speeds such as 7.16mhz. The manual to my particular board can be found here.

A) CPU – The 8088 running at 4.77mhz was IBMs choice for their first personnel computer and a CPU that stayed relevant for many years. As we’ve already established a great deal of early games demand a CPU running at this lower speed. If you acquired your motherboard with the CPU already installed it is likely already capable of running at the boards turbo speed but be sure to double check if you can. A -1 after the 8088 designation marks the CPU as 10mhz capable. My CPU is a Fujitsu but your just as likely to come across Intel, AMD, Siemens or other variants. These are all functionally identical to one another and who your particular CPU is from is largely irrelevant.

There are various CPU accelerators available for the 8088 socket and usually add a 286 class CPU for significantly increased speed. These cards tend to be rather rare and expensive and I wouldn’t recommend one unless you find one for a great deal or are just trying to push the XT PC to its limit. Generally it would be more worth it to simply build a true 286 or even 386 PC then to use an accelerator. If you do want to add an accelerator to your PC/XT computer try to acquire one that can fallback to the original 8088 and its 4.77mhz speed as a 286 at any speed will break many games meant to run on an 8088.

The blog Nerdly Pleasures has a good article listing a few games that have issues with faster CPU’s in his article “4.77mhz 8088 You’re needed!” but for convenience I will list some of them here along with my own findings on games that require an 8088 to run properly. For more details on the games in question and how speed effects them check out his site.

  • Striker
  • Defender
  • Ultima I-IV
  • Dunzhin: Warrior of RAS
  • Lode Runner & Championship Lode Runner
  • Touchdown Football
  • Demon Attack
  • Super Boulder Dash

 

To NEC V20 or not to NEC V20?

The NEC V20 was a pin compatible clone of the 8088 designed to run faster and more efficiently at the same clock speed. The NEC V20 is sort of a “magic bullet” drop in replacement for the 8088 increasing speeds by as much as 10 to 15 percent. Compatibility is also extremely high and is estimated to be around 99% with the only program I could find that refused to work with a V20 being Lode Runner Championship edition. The V20 also incorporates some new code that allows programs to work which otherwise won’t on a 8088. One example is the Iomega ZIP drivers which will not function on an 8088 but will if a V20 is installed.

The V20 was a fairly common upgrade for 8088 systems and is generally recommended as it has high compatibility and offers a decent performance increase. Whether to install one or not is up to you. I have chosen not to as the performance boost is enough to throw off timing in a small number of games but if absolute compatibility is not your goal I feel the V20 is a great upgrade which adds some performance (but usually not to much) as well as some added functionality.

B) FPU – As with later PC’s adding a math co-processor is completely optional and very few games (Sim City) actually support it. It’s more useful for things like CAD programs rather then games. If you do choose to add one like I did make sure it’s rated speed matches that of your CPU

C) Most motherboards of the early 80’s will have one or two DIP switch blocks with switches in ON/OFF positions. Unlike later boards that can auto detect or work on simple jumpers for things like video output many older 8088 based boards require the setting of DIP switchs for various functions. It is very important to learn what these switches control and how to properly set them as they can control things like your floppy drives, what type of video card is enabled and the amount of RAM recognized. This information is commonly found in your motherboards manual or online.

D) RAM

The 8088 is only capable of addressing up to 1 MB of RAM with the upper 360 KB being restricted and reserved meaning at most your left with 640 KB of memory to work with. This is known as conventional memory and it’s something we have had to consider in all of our DOS builds.

Here is a simple chart displaying how the 1 MB of RAM is split up into segments. This is true for later X86 DOS builds as well except in those cases we have the benefit of CPU’s able to address over 1 MB of memory as well as programs such as EMM386 which allowed TSRs to be placed in upper memory.

(Page from Hicard AMS manual)

Look for a board that supports a full 640 KB of RAM. thankfully most boards except for the earliest such as early IBM 5150 PC class computers do. My board here came with a full 640 KB and in my own experience coming across these era PC’s most do. If yours doesn’t but is capable of adding RAM do so. Generally this RAM will come in DIP form and installs into sockets on the motherboard as seen above.

Sticking to early 80’s games the small amount of memory available should not be a problem as these restrictions were taken into consideration at the time. memory limitations may become a problem though if you decide to add peripherals outside of the era of this PC such as a CD-ROM drive and the memory eating drivers that go with it. 640 KB should be enough for a simple build though. I will go into more detail on expanding memory when we get to the expansion cards though.

Expansion cards, what you need and what you can ignore.

Here is an overview shot of my 8088 PC with all expansion cards installed. Right off the bat your going to see something amiss….allow me to explain.

What you need.

1) Hard drive & Hard drive controller – Even though you don’t necessarily need a hard drive for a PC from this era one does make life a heck of a lot easier and also makes a much better all around experience, especially if your playing multi disk RPG games. Many early 8088 based PC’s did not come with a hard drive option and some like the IBM 5150 only came with single or dual floppy options. With programs being so small it wasn’t out of the question to play the entirety of your game from a floppy disk as well as load your version of DOS from a floppy on every boot.

That said I definitely recommend adding a hard drive and its relevant controller card if only to cut down the wear and tear on the floppy drives. For an operating system I went with DOS 3.3. DOS 3.3 was released in 1987 at the tail end of the 8088’s useful life and allows us to use hard drive partitions of a whopping 32 MB in size. the 286 had been out for some time at this point and the 386 was two years old but 8088 machines were still in use in office settings and budget builds. IBM had just discontinued its 8088 based XT PC in 87 but companies like Commodore were just launching the 8088 based PC10-III the same year so I feel this is the best OS as it still falls into the twilight years of the 8088 and gives the most functionality and options. You could use later versions of DOS and I doubt the 8088 would really care as increased overhead between DOS versions seems minimal to nil but many of the advanced features would be unusable or wasted such as EMM386.

Now onto the topic of the hard drive itself. If you wanted to be completely period correct then you would have to choose between a MFM/RLL drive such as the one below or and early IDE or SCSI mechanical drive.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

I don’t recommend a MFM or RLL drive as they are all going on over thirty years old now and tend to be very small in capacity, hard to find, possibly overpriced on eBay and have questionable reliability. If your just going for a fun project build and want to be period correct then by all means but if you plan on running your 8088 PC a lot I wouldn’t trust 20+ hours of Wizardry saves to it.

SCSI is a good choice but 8-bit SCSI controllers are hard to find and 50 pin SCSI drives as well. IDE was released in 1986 and would make a good compromise choice between period correctness and reliability. You could use a more modern IDE drive but with 32 MB partition limits there’s going to be a lot of wasted space. Even though my case had a bay for a full height MFM drive internally I opted to go a bit of a different route and went with a modern compact flash drive with a CF to IDE converter. They are silent, fast, power efficient and come in a 32 MB size so I don’t feel like I’m wasting a ton of space.

If you do go the compact flash route I recommend buying a brand name drive. I also recommend using an industrial grade card which were built to be more reliable and durable then consumer grade cards.

For a controller card I am using my Silicon Valley ADP-50L 8-bit IDE card from 1991. This card has always worked great for me though oddly enough I have read it can cause palette switching issues with the game Jungle Hunt for unknown reasons. Another more modern option would be a XT-IDE card which are usually available as a kit or pre-made on sites such as eBay and usually sell for $60 to $100 depending.

2) I/O controller – seeing as the vast majority of 8088 motherboards had no built in controllers for things like Floppy drives and various serial and parallel ports an I/O card is an absolute must.

Thankfully most of the super common 16-bit ISA I/O cards will work just fine in an 8-bit ISA slot minus use of things such as IDE. I’m using a fairly generic Winbond card to add a serial, and parallel port as well as to control both of my floppy drives. The addition of a serial port does allow the use of a serial mouse though Ive found very few times any need to use it or any early games that even take advantage of a mouse.

3) CGA video card – Since we are building this machine expressly for the purpose of playing the earliest games that require both an 8088 and a CGA card it makes sense that we want to use a CGA card for our video.

I am using my ATI small wonder card which formally resided in my Epson Equity PC. I really like this card as it’s small and supports a wide variety of standards such as CGA, Plantronics Colorplus CGA & Hercules Graphics.

CGA was introduced in 1981 and was the first color display standard for IBM PC’s. It was most commonly used in a 320×200 resolution with 4 colors from a 16 color hardware palette. It also had several other less used modes but this article isn’t about CGA itself. If you want to learn more about CGA I suggest watching The 8-bit Guy’s YouTube video on how CGA graphics worked or for a more simple explanation check out my short article on an overview of PC video standards. The color palettes CGA uses can be pretty ugly but it’s the only color graphics mode many of the earliest DOS games support.

Example of the CGA game Alley Cat using the standard cyan/magenta/white/black palette

Here are three examples of the same game, Burger Time, two are in different modes the ATI Small Wonder provides. These images are for demonstration, the three preceding images I found online.

btr

CGA mode on a CGA RGB monitor

CGA mode on a VGA card

Composite mode

Notice how CGA looks completely different when run via a CGA card on a CGA monitor as opposed to being run on a VGA card. The VGA card defaults to cyan/magenta/black/white though in this case I find it more appealing then the blue background and color scheme on a true CGA monitor. Composite mode looks by far the best but not all games supported a composite mode and although colors are much better sharpness and especially text suffer. It’s not so much an issue with a game like Burger Time but on something like a flight simulator with dials and text menus it can be an issue.

What makes a true CGA card essential to our 8088 build though is compatibility. EGA as well as VGA cards are backwards compatible with CGA and many 16-bit VGA cards will work in a 8-bit ISA slot either by auto sensing or with a quick jumper selection from 16 to 8 bit. The problem though is VGA isn’t 100% compatible with CGA due to the way CGA is handled and even the higher speed of VGA cards may cause issues. The levels of compatibility can even be different depending on the VGA card you choose. It has also been said CGA on a true CGA card also looks more vibrant then CGA emulation on a VGA card and colors seem more correct, I would agree with this statement. Another issue with using a VGA card for CGA is that many CGA games will play but be stuck in the default cyan/magenta/white/black palette while a true CGA card may display a more appropriate choice. Wizardy is an example that comes to mind and when played on a CGA card the palette choice is much more appealing. Other games like StarQuake switch up the CGA color palette as you progress through the various screens but many VGA cards will stick with the same default palette for the entire game. Composite out compatibility for games that support it is another feature lacking on most VGA cards. For this reason only a true CGA card connected to a CGA monitor will give you 100% compatibility with the earliest of PC games. If we’re going through the trouble of building a PC based around an 8088 processor for compatibility it only makes since we also run a true CGA card for compatibilities sake since pretty much all of those 8088 speed sensitive games also were designed to display in CGA.

The ATI Small Wonder is a great card since it supports all CGA modes fully as well as a few additional modes such as Plantronics Colorplus CGA & Hercules Graphics. Plantronics mode is similar to Tandy video but I don’t know of any games that support it. Hercules Graphics mode allows for graphics on a monochrome monitor as well as CGA emulation in monochrome on a monochrome monitor. The card is also fully IBM MDA compatible if you just want to do text on a monochrome monitor. The ATI Small Wonder also has a composite out (usually) which is a must have feature when looking for a CGA adapter. On my card I am using a break out cable connected to pins at the top of the card but most cards have a composite jack directly on the card. Composite allowed connection to a standard TV set or high quality monitor with a composite in jack and use of a standard composite cable (the usually yellow color coded RCA jack cable). Over one hundred early games have special color composite modes that use the dithering effect of composite video to actually display more then the four colors of CGA on screen and the effect can create an image that looks very close to 16 color EGA at times. Basically CGA mode is sharper and much, much better for text but is limited to four colors that usually look pretty hideous where composite mode is a bit more blurry and text can look pretty poor but depending on the game you can get a image with many more colors looking substantially better then CGA mode.

Also keep in mind CGA mode is a digital format unlike VGA which is analog as well as using a different connector. CGA uses a DE-9 connector (also the typical connector for EGA and Monochrome standards) outputting a digital signal while VGA uses a DE-HD15 connector and an analog signal. Here is an image of my ATI VGA Wonder XL 24 card which has connectors on the bracket for connection with both a VGA and a EGA/CGA/Monochrome monitors.

most VGA monitors will not be compatible with a CGA signal coming from a CGA card even with a pin adapter though very early VGA models may be, check your monitor model and specs before trying. For the best results with a CGA card use a CGA monitor like the Tandy CM line. I am using a Tandy CM-4 but there are others from Tandy like the CM-4 and CM-10. The CM-11 is a very highly regarded CGA monitor as well as a multitude of monitors from other makers such as IBM themselves.

Here are a list of some games that may encounter issues when running on a VGA or EGA card emulating CGA mode.

  • Digger (high score screen)
  • Possibly all Windmill Software games (like Digger mentioned above)
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator II (“double screen effect”)
  • Starquake (has positioning and palette switching problems when used with some VGA cards, ex ATI Mach32)
  • Freddy’s Rescue Roundup
  • Pac Man (incorrect title screen colors)

 

With all this said I understand that not all of us are 100% hardware purists and even I take some liberties at times incorporating newer tech outside of a given era into a build for the sake of convenience. So considering the increasing scarcity of 8-bit CGA cards and especially CGA monitors if you must go with a VGA card here are some tips. Stay away from cards using the ET3000 and ET4000 core as even though these are great VGA cards they have shown to especially lack compatibility in CGA. For a cheaper card with decent CGA compatibility go for the Trident 8900 series as they can operate in an 8-bit slot and offer decent compatibility. For the best compatibility look for cards that are “CGA Register compatible” and I recommend the ATI VGA Wonder XL 24 or the Cirrus Logic Eagle II chipset both of which have CGA DE-9 connectors for connecting to real CGA monitors and standard VGA DE-HD15 connectors on the card. Also check your cards software as some cards can be switched into a “CGA mode” via software for better compatibility. My ATI VGA wonder cards have this feature. Unfortunately both of these cards can be hard to acquire these days, especially cards using the Eagle II chipset which I’ve read has the highest CGA compatibility of any VGA card but is pretty slow for VGA.

If your curious about the compatibility of your own card there is a program called the CGA compatibility tester available for download here.

Some of the issues are relatively minor but others can be quite distracting and take away from the experience.

What you can probably do without.

The last three cards in this setup are cards that may add a little functionality to your setup but you could probably do without them.

4) EMS memory card – Remember earlier when we talked about how the 8088 could only address up to 1 MB of memory? Well using an EMS memory expansion card is a way around such a limitation.

The card I’m using is from Intel and it is an 8 Above board capable of providing 8 MB of additional EMS (Expanded Memory Specification) memory to a PC or XT (or AT) class computer. EMS should also not be confused with the later introduced XMS (eXtended Memory). The 8 Above card uses a 16-bit ISA connector but will happily work in an 8-bit slot as will many EMS cards. My card only has 2 MB installed but filling the DIP sockets up with the appropriate RAM will allow for a total of 8 MB. There were several makers and variations of this card type and some such as the Orchard RamQuest card will allow adding up to 16 MB via 30 pin SIMMS.

This card as well as many other EMS RAM cards will allow you to use its RAM as a temporary RAM disk hard drive or for back filling conventional memory if your board does not have a full 640 KB installed. Using the card as conventional memory is mostly a waste as filling your 640 KB via the motherboard is generally a better idea and grants faster performance.

The main attraction of this card however is the ability to add LIM 4.0 compliant EMS memory. LIM is a standard put together by Lotus, Intel and Microsoft (hence LIM) to grant a way for users of PC and XT class computers to access more then 1 MB of memory. Lotus 123 was a very popular program for business spreadsheets at the time and 1 MB just wasn’t doing it. They managed find a way to add memory by using a section of the upper reserved memory that wasn’t being used as a sort of “window” to the EMS memory on the card as illustrated below.

(Page from Intel 8 Above card manual)

So when accessing the EMS memory the computer would have to “look” at the designated memory segment in the upper memory and then through that access the EMS memory on the card. This was obviously pretty inefficient and slow compared to using regular conventional memory on the motherboard but it did allow the 1 MB barrier to be circumvented. Setting one of these cards up isn’t plug and play either as you must use special drivers and have a basic understanding of your computers setup so you can configure the card to an unused memory segment. The Intel 8 Above card I’m using also needs a dummy plug inserted into a socket near the bracket in order to function in 8-bit mode.

So why wouldn’t I recommend adding one of these cards to your 8088 setup when having up to an additional MB of RAM seems like a great idea? Well basically it’s because you will never use it in a standard 8088 gaming setup. Unless your creating giant spreadsheets or word documents in Lotus 123 or pushing your machine to play software well out of its era you’ll likely never encounter a situation where you actually need EMS memory. Sure some games require EMS memory but those games are generally later VGA games that would run poorly on an 8088 anyways and would be better off played on something like a 386 PC. Add in that these cards can be hard to find and typically cost over $100 and it’s just not worth the price. Sure it’s fun to see that extra RAM counting up on POST but it’s sad to know your rarely if ever going to need it.

5) HIcard AMS – This card is very similar to the Intel 8 Above board but rather then add EMS memory it manipulates the RAM you already have installed.

The HIcard can do several things. Like the EMS card the HImem can be configured to use its RAM as a temporary RAM disk. The more interesting features of the card are the ability to extend your conventional memory as well as create up to 192 KB of HIpage memory. HIpage memory allows you to load programs such as RAM resident programs and utilities, ect, into memory which basically acts just as as loading programs into upper memory with EMM386 would.

The first feature this card performs is expanding your conventional memory from 640 KB to a total of 704 KB. Since the first 64 KB of memory over 640 KB is reserved for use of an EGA video card if no EGA card is installed this memory is not used and the HImem card can be configured to take advantage of this and expand conventional memory into this segment creating a total of 704 KB of usable conventional memory. If you do have an EGA card installed obviously this feature will not work. Since my goal here was to build an 8088 with a CGA card this memory segment was available and I was able to successfully expand my conventional memory to a full 704 KB.

the second function of this card is to map unused areas of the upper memory to the cards HIpage memory. Since I have various things installed in my 8088 such as a hard drive and an EMS card I was only able to find one unused segment of 64 KB to configure as HIpage memory.

Like the EMS card the HImem AMS card requires a basic knowledge of your PC’s configuration and memory setup and requires special drivers and the correct configuring of DIP switches on the card. Thankfully like the EMS card the manual and software is fairly detailed and the process isn’t to difficult.

The truth is I didn’t even know cards like this existed and if I didn’t randomly come across one in a forum for sale at a great price I never would of searched one out. Admittedly the features of this card are super cool. Expanding your conventional memory and being able to free up the conventional memory you already have sounds extremely useful but like the with the EMS card if your just playing CGA games your never going to use this cards features. This again is another card meant for computers running memory hungry productivity software and things like Lotus 123. For a system geared to games of the early 80’s conventional requirements were never super high and since my system lacks things like a CD-ROM drive, ZIP drive, network card or even a sound card driver I have no resident memory programs to even load into the available HIpage memory. Now if you do decide to add things like a CD drive or network card to your 8088 setup I could see this card being much more useful but as it stands its a neat card but not to useful for our PC’s purposes.

Here is an image of my computers screen after the memory count and the loading of DOS. here you can see the EMS and HImem AMS cards initializing for DOS.

6) Sound card – For a sound card the earlier are the most period correct such as an adlib or a Game blaster card but I went with a card from a little later and chose the Sound Blaster 1.5 w/CMS chips from 1990 since it mostly supports both standards plus has digital sound effects.

The sound Blaster 1.5 supports Adlib sound as well as most games that support Game Blaster/CMS (Creative Music System) sound and has an improved DSP over the earlier Sound Blaster 1.0. If you come across a Sound Blaster 1.5 with two empty sockets that card is missing CMS support but restoring support is easy with installing two readily and cheaply available Phillips SAA1099P chips off eBay. most games that use CMS will work once the chips are installed but a few games do require a true Game Blaster card.

Adding the line

SET BLASTER=A220 I7 D1 T1

To the Autoexec.bat file is all you need to do to allow the card to function and requires no conventional memory although a small number of games do require you install the driver to receive sound.

Even though adding a sound card may seem like a no brainier, remember that even the earliest sound card, the Adlib wasn’t released until 1987. Up until this point in time all games used the built in PC speaker for sound. By the time games started supporting sound cards and music they also largely supported EGA and were starting to support the new VGA standard and most don’t run all that well on a 8088 even in turbo mode. Sure many games still had a option for CGA mode and some do play well on an 8088 and support sound blaster sound like Prince of Persia but the question remains why wouldn’t you just play any of these games on a faster machine in their EGA or VGA mode.

Is it worth building an 8088 PC?

As always the answer is highly dependent on your individual needs and wants. For the casual retro PC gamer whom views the golden age as consisting of classics like, Doom, Duke Nukem, Decent or even Wolfenstein 3d and Secret of Monkey island an 8088 build probably isn’t for you and I would suggest thinking hard about if your passionate about playing the early games an 8088 does excel at which with exceptions are generally much simpler and more arcade like experiences. On the other hand if your interested in an earlier era of PC games and are looking for full compatibility of all eras on real hardware then building a 8088 is pretty essential to your collection. where as you could probably skip a 286 since a 386 will do just about anything a 286 will do but better an 8088 build by nature of its slow speed can play a number of games that just won’t feel or sound right on any faster system. Sure you can throw a CGA card in a faster 286 or 386 and fix most of the issues associated with not using a true CGA card but your not going to be able to downclock that CPU to a 8088 4.77mhz speed equivalent. Even a 286 or 8086 running at 4.77mhz is faster then a true 8088 at the same speed.

If you want to completely abandon period correctness I found a great example of pushing an early XT class machine and based several of my hardware choices off his article. If you want to push your own machine to its limits I suggest checking out Anonymous Cowards “V’ger XT” -10MHz V30.

https://youtu.be/m2t0XsbLcng

Machines based around the socket 4 Pentium-60 and 66 make for a fairly fun and unique DOS computer. They have the FPU power of the Pentium yet are slow enough that they will run most DOS games meant for the ubiquitous 486-66DX2. As neat as a socket 4 system is (If you want to read about one check out an article I wrote on the subject here) They can be pretty expensive and hard to find these days. The earliest Pentiums also have their fair share of quirks and can be unreliable. With this project I wanted to make a Pentium based system as cheap as possible and as close to the performance as possible to the original Pentium-60 and Pentium-66. The main goal of this PC will be to play early 90’s 2D DOS games and applications as well as early Windows games. Of course a lot of this can be achieved with a faster CPU and slow down programs or disabling various caches in BIOS to slow down a CPU but that’s not really my style so were going to create a PC based around the next logical option if you can’t acquire a socket 4 board which is the Pentium-75.

The Pentium-75 was released in September of 1994 for the new socket 5 but it is also compatible with the newer socket 7 form factor when it was later released. Unlike the 5v Pentium-60 and 66 the Pentium-75 ran on 3.3v and was cooler running and much more reliable. That said with this build we are going for a mostly 1994-95 look and feel for this project. My focus is using mostly period parts when I can for a decent DOS and Windows 3.1/95 PC with an emphasis on 2D gaming rather then early 3D. I’m not necessarily trying to make this project an “ultimate” build for the era, just something that feels appropriate. This also lets me experiment with different hardware.

The case I decided to use for this project is a little beat up but I think it has the right look for this machine and I wanted to go with a desktop style for this build. I would of liked to add a 5 1/4 1.2mb floppy drive but unfortunately the holding brackets for the two vertical 3 1/2 bays are missing so I could not mount anything for them forcing me to use only the three 5 1/4 bays. I had to use the middle bay to mount the hard drive as no other space was available for mounting. I wish I had another one of those 1.4mb / 1.2mb combo floppy drives or 3 1/3 floppy / CD combo drives available. The HDD I’m using is a older drive of about 3gb, thankfully the BIOS in on this motherboard supports larger drives and I am able to use a full 2gb in DOS.  I did go with a newer 32x CD drive since I can’t find any IDE CD drives from that time frame in my stash that work but this drive operates just fine if not a bit loud. I’ve also adjusted the jumpers on the frontal LED display to illuminate a pleasant “75” when power is turned on via the power button. Under the LED display are two more buttons for turbo and reset. Turbo features rarely if ever work with Pentium CPU’s and not to long after the 486 era the jumpers stopped appearing on motherboards.

Nothing special about the rear of this case and it’s mostly as one would expect from an AT style case.

Taking off the cover reveals the innards of this particular PC. I originally wanted to go with Socket 5 for this build but lacking a working socket 5 board I opted for a slightly newer AT style socket 7 board. I suspect running this chip on a socket 5 board possibly would of given slower results but this of course depends on boards and chipsets. Even though the faster Pentium-75 has an advantage of a slightly newer architecture and a 9mhz clock bump I was very curious how much of an effect the lower 50mhz FSB of the Pentium-75 with a 1.5 multiplier would have on it compared to the Pentium-66 running on its 66mhz FSB.

As you can see above there is no way to mount anything at the two 3 1/2 cutouts.

The Motherboard I’m using for this build is an Aptron International PM-8600. This is an AT style Socket 7 board with 512kb of L2 cache on the motherboard as well as supporting up to 512MB of EDO RAM in either 72 or 168 pin slots. There is built in support for four IDE devices via an ATA-33 controller. The board also sports four 16-bit ISA and four PCI slots for expansion. I feel the overall look and capabilities of this board fit the mid 90’s era we’re shooting for.

Now that we know the motherboard we are using for this project lets take a look at the other components.

CPU – Obviously the CPU we are using is the Intel Pentium-75mhz. This CPU came out in 1994 and was really seen as the first reliable and “serious” Pentium chip as the earlier Pentium 60/66 chips had issues with reliability and heat. This CPU should be as fast as the fastest 486 chips with superior FPU performance. The Pentium-75 operates on a lower 50mhz FSB utilizing a 1.5 multiplier as opposed to the 60 and 66mhz FSB of the earlier Pentiums running at the same speed as the FSB.

(image courtesy of Wikipedia)

some models of the Pentium-75s came with the same gold top as the earlier Pentium 60/66. even though with a mounted heatsink/fan this makes no aesthetic difference compared to a Pentium with a ceramic top I happened to have a gold top CPU so this is what I used in this build.

RAM – The PM-8600 board supports both 72 pin DRAM as well as 168 pin SDRAM RAM as well as the faster EDO RAM variant. I went with 32mb of 72 pin EDO RAM for my build. 32mb is more then enough memory in most cases for the 94/95 era. Using 168 pin SDRAM is likely much easier to find, faster and cheaper then 72 pin so it’s nice to have that option for those looking to construct a similar build but I opted for the older 72 pin variant simply due to the fact I had extra in my stash and it gave the machine a more internally oldschool look.

Video – For a video card in this PC I wanted to experiment a little and try a few different cards outside of my “go to” cards. I also wanted to specifically go for a 2D PCI card without any 3D capabilities as in the mid 90’s combined 2D/3D cards hadn’t completely taken off yet and many early PCI cards were produced that were 2D only though you could pair them with early 3D accelerator cards like the Voodoo 1 and 2.

The video card I went with for this build ended up being the ATI Mach64 released in 1994. Despite the Mach64 being one of the more sought after ISA and VLB cards the PCI implementation as my chart will show shortly is certainly not the fastest early PCI card but it is pretty well known.

As I mentioned earlier I wasn’t necessarily going for the “best” parts for this era and I did want to experiment a little. ATI whom eventually was bought out by AMD is known for making some pretty good video cards throughout the 1980’s and 90’s and the Mach32 and 64 were known to be pretty decent 2D accelerator cards when running in Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. As for DOS games the Mach64 scored dead last in my benchmarks when put up against several other 2D PCI cards from the era.

Benchmarks performed on the Aptron International PM-8600 motherboard with a Pentium-90mhz. ATI Mach32 also tested but statistically identical to Mach64. All tests done using “vanilla” results without the aid of enhancement programs such as FastDOS

In all of my benchmarks the Mach64 fell behind similar offerings from Tseng Labs, IGS and S3. I have also read sources that claim the Mach32/64 cards have hit or miss compatibility with certain DOS titles producing graphical glitches. Though this is true with all cards with S3’s offerings widely sighted as the king when it comes to compatibility the Mach32/64 series and ATI cards in general may be a little worse overall. So far with my own testing I have seen no graphical issues though the number of games I’ve tested have been relatively small. As mentioned earlier though usage in Windows 3.1 and 95 should be good. I can confirm myself that when using the card under Windows performance in the GUI felt snappy.

Keep in mind like many cards there were variations of the Mach64 offering more and faster video RAM as well as minor chip revisions. There seems to be at least eight major chipset variations for the Mach64. I have the GX variant which offers enhanced video playback capabilities over the original card. I went with this card despite the alleged deficiencies because overall it still performs adequately and I was not going for a power machine. In the case of this build the slower FPS produced by the Mach64 actually helps to keep this machine in line with our late 486 era / Pentium-66 performance goals.

Sound – I really struggled with choosing a sound card for this system as I wanted something that felt correct for the era but I also wanted to experiment a little with different cards. In the end though I went with a good old Sound Blaster 16 CT1740. This is an older SB16 with manual jumpers to configure settings and a dial to control volume. The CT1740 is a fairly “noisy” card so prepare for buzzing at higher volumes as well as an assortment of “pops” now and then during game play. despite the “noisiness” I find myself liking it very much and it tends to “just work” with very minimal setup hassle. The card features a true OPL FM chip for FM synth and has pretty good compatibility with older games that supported the Sound Blaster Pro. Usually the CT1470 is free of the dreaded hanging midi bug though mine has DSP ver 4.7 so unfortunately mine does, though I was able to get around this by adding a midi card which we will take a look at next.

The empty socket is for the ASP chip and the vast majority of older Sound Blasters seem to lack this chip. The capabilities of this chip were only used in one game to the best of my knowledge. That game being the 1993 DOS title TFX: Tactical Fighter Experimental, so we’re not really missing out on much due to its absence. You can check here to get a guide on how to set your jumpers to fit your requirements.

MIDI – When it comes to midi, whether using a wavetable board or an external module my CT1470 does have a few issues. One is since my card does have a later DSP version it does suffer from hanging midi notes though keep in mind that cards with DSP version 4.5 and lower will be bug free. The other issue with all of the Sound Blaster cards is that they do not support games that require “intelligent mode” which includes many high profile games. There are software solutions such as SoftMPU but this creates a small amount of processing overhead and I just tend to prefer hardware solutions when available. Midi support in my opinion is pretty important for this PC since a huge amount of games supported MT-32 and General Midi standards by the mid 1990’s.

The midi card I had available and opted to install in this machine is the Music Quest MQX-32m.

Music Quest MQX-32m with dongle

The MQX-32m is a Roland MPU compatible midi clone card meaning that it basically works just like if you were using a true midi card from Roland. I run this card along side the sound blaster to handle all my midi needs via external midi modules while the Sound Blaster 16 handles digital effects as well as FM synth. The MQX-32m supports games that require intelligent mode and suffers from no hanging midi bugs. It is important to note that this clone card is not 100% compatible and some Origin games such as Wing Commander will lock up when you attempt to run them using this card. Since the focus of this build is later games (due to the high CPU speed Wing Commander would be unplayable on this machine anyways) I’m not very concerned with the compatibility and this card should work fine with just about every game this PC is intended for.

The MQX-32m is a very interesting card as it supports many features and even has two Zilog Z80 chips for dual midi output. The bulk of these features though many of which I have no idea what they do are more geared to music applications so for our purposes it’s good enough that the card supports intelligent mode midi and solves all our midi issues that using the Sound Blaster alone would of created. I currently have my MQX-32m configured as address 330 and IRQ 2, being careful to not conflict with my Sound Blaster 16 card settings. a chart detailing how to set the DIP switches to select those settings can be found here.

So now that we have looked over all our hardware how does this machine perform and also how does its performance stack up to my socket 4 66mhz PC? Lets take a look at the benchmarks.

As we can see from the benchmarks that despite a slightly lower overall Front Side Bus the newer Pentium-75 pulls ahead in all tests. In games though the performance boost isn’t terribly noticeable as the boost is generally around or under 5 FPS. In some games where the FPS is lower like Quake the extra 5 FPS is far more noticeable then say DOOM where both machines are pulling 30+ FPS. Synthetic benchmarks tend to favor the Pentium-75 more but those kind of results are usually expected from synthetics. As I mentioned earlier you can get somewhat different results depending on what motherboards you use but I feel results will generally follow the trend above. These results seem to indicate that gaming on a Pentium-75 machine should give a more or less similar experience to gaming on a Pnetium-66 machine without the headaches and with significantly lower cost involved.

For some more comparisons I decided to also make a chart including results from my Pentium-66 PC with my preferred PCI ET6000 card installed.

From looking at the tests the ET600 makes a pretty big difference and in many places helps close the gap with the Pentium-75 machine. Gains in Quake are very modest which makes sense as I believe that game to be more CPU intensive then video card. I wasn’t able to test the card in the Pentium-75 PC due to the fact that when installed the machine failed to move past POST and would produce a black screen regardless of how I manipulated settings in the BIOS. The card did work when I had a faster Pentium-90 installed and although I haven’t gone back and reinstalled that CPU to test this theory my best guess is that my ET6000 just doesn’t like the 50mhz FSB the board uses with a Pentium-75 installed. Interestingly my S3 cards also fail to work on this board when a Pentium-75 is installed while my ATI Mach cards as well as my IGS card work flawlessly.

Overall I think this machine achieves its goal of being a mid 90’s PC very well and comes very close to approximating the feel and performance of an original Pentium with none of the fuss. Of course the video card can be upgraded to a faster 2D card or even a 3D card if you so choose. I find performance with early 90’s titles like Doom and Wolfenstein 3d to be rather good. Even games like Quake can be somewhat playable at lower resolutions if sub 30 frame rates don’t bother you to much. I’ve also been playing a lot of slower paced strategy games like Panzer General on this machine which it handles perfectly. I have found even a Pentium-90 plays the movie clips in Panzer General a bit to fast but on the Pentium-75 everything seems to play at the correct speeds and game play is very fluid. Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 feel fairly snappy to navigate overall and I haven’t run into any major issues.

There isn’t any super compelling reasons to specifically build a Pentium-75 PC on its own if all you want is a retro game machine. If you want a more classic PC for retro gaming then a 486 system is advised and if you want a retro rig with a little more power then why not go for a Pentium-133 or 166mhz with a 3d capable card? That said if you want to build one just for the experience or maybe due to nostalgia for a 75mhz PC you had in earlier years it will still make a very serviceable retro machine capable of playing a large amount of games from the later DOS and early Windows years.

 

In this article were going to take a brief look at the Dell Optiplex GX110 which is a Pentium III based small form factor computer from the year 2000. The Optiplex series was generally focused toward small business as well as education markets so we’re not looking at a gaming rig though it may make a fast and stable late DOS or Windows 9x machine. The closest similar machine I can think of from the same time is the Compaq EN small form factor which I wrote about here.

As you can see above the GX110 is a small form desktop PC but it also came in a desktop and mini tower form factor. They also came in slot 1 and socket 370 form, this machine being the later socket 370 form. I would say the GX110 small form case is not as tall as the Compaq EN was but it’s not smaller by much. Unfortunately I no longer have the EN to directly compare. On the front we have a single button for power as well as a floppy drive and a CD-ROM drive though notice the CD drive is looking a bit odd with the eject button on the face plate but we will get to that.

On the back starting from left to right we have a parallel port with a serial port below it followed by two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, two USB 1.1 ports another serial port followed by the built in video port, Ethernet and finally three audio jacks for mic, line in and line out. Having a line in jack is nice as many of the small form factor PC’s I’ve looked at only have the mic and line out jacks.

Opening the case is very simple and you just pinch in two plastic side tabs on the sides near the rear of the case and lift the upper part of the case up and off.

Here is the inside with the riser card still attached. I currently have a Geforce 2 MX400 installed.

Here is the riser card removed though there isn’t much of interest revealed below it except that 3com chip which presumably controls the Ethernet.

The riser card here supports two PCI expansion cards but from what I’ve read Dell may of also offered an optional riser card with one PCI and one 16-bit ISA slot. If this is true those risers would of been optimal for a fast DOS build.

Now lets take a look at that CD drive.

So this machine does something I don’t see very often in desktop IBM PC’s and that’s use a laptop style CD drive. Now the obvious benefit of using a laptop style drive is you can have a smaller case and it also is lighter. You also can use a smaller floppy style power connector if you like that kind of thing. I find this a bit of a negative though since I find laptop style CD drives to be a bit less robust and more prone to damage. I also find them to be harder to replace as they aren’t uncommon by any means but desktop style drives are so much more abundant and can be found on any given day at a retail PC shop or used at a thrift where a laptop style drive may take a little more hunting to track down.

The hard drive bay is located under the floppy drive. Originally these models came with a variety of size options for hard drives but mine has a 40gb drive installed, it is likely this drive was added later.

Here we have a good view of the board. The board is based on the Intel 810e chipset which allows us to run a 133mhz FSB for our CPU but our memory is limited to 100mhz PC100.

1) CPU – The PGA 370 GX110 came with a few CPU options. I’m not sure what this one originally came stock with but it has been upgraded to a 1ghz Coppermine-EB Pentium III running on the 133mhz FSB. Just about any 100/133mhz FSB socket 370 Pentium III or Celeron should work just fine in this machine and any choice should be fine for a Win 9x or DOS setup though if you want to run things in higher resolutions or do some XP gaming a faster P III is recommended. There is an option is the BIOS to disable cache to lower speeds for earlier games.

2) RAM – The Optiplex GX110 can take up to 512mb of PC100 SDRAM via two slots. My machine currently has the max of 512mb using two PC133 256mb sticks. The PC133 clocks down to PC100 though depending on the RAM brand and specifications I have read of incompatibilities when using PC133.

3) Riser slot – This is the riser slot for the riser card we looked at earlier. It installs like just about any other expansion card though it has a little green plastic lever you want to raise before removing the card.

4) Floppy connector

5) IDE – Two ATA-66 EIDE connectors supporting up to four EIDE devices. Of course you only have room for three total drives unless you get creative with dual SSDs for hard drives.

6) CMOS battery

7) CD audio in connector for the on-board audio.

8) PSU connector

Sound – Built in sound is sound blaster compatible Analog Devices AD1881 soundMAX. It’s similar if not the same sound chip that was in my Compaq EN and although it’s okay for basic Windows sound its pretty terrible for DOS. A PCI Sound Blaster Live! or Vortex 2 based card would be a smart upgrade for one of the available slots.

Video – Video is Intel Dynamic Video Memory which seems to pull memory from the system memory. It’s passable for desktop use but if you actually want to use this system to run games a video card should be your first upgrade. A PCI Voodoo 3 would work great in this machine for Windows and DOS gaming but other later PCI cards would compliment the Pentium III CPU as well.

And that’s about it for the Optiplex GX110. As usual these Pentium III machines make great Windows 9x or late DOS gaming PC’s with a few tweaks and additions such as appropriate sound and video cards. As for the GX110 though I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it just because there are better options out there. Unless you really really need the small form factor or are in an area starved for Pentium III PCs and earlier era stuff. It’s just not that much smaller then other options like the Compaq EN which gave three expansion slots as opposed to two which can make a big difference when upgrading. In a pinch it works but keep an eye out for something nicer if you can.

The Gateway GP7 computers were a series of late 90’s and early 2000’s Pentium III based computers from the Gateway corporation. It appears the GP series were meant for small businesses from what I could find on Gateways old website but it’s hard to tell since information is spotty via the Wayback Machine. I believe the PCs in the series had the same case but used different motherboards as the series progressed. This is why I’m writing this article specifically on the GP7-500 and not the entire GP7 series as the GP7-500 does not seem to represent later computers in the series. The GP7 series ran though models ranging from the GP7-450 to a GP7-850 where the number after the hyphen designates the speed of the installed Pentium III. The series may have sported models with higher CPU clocks but I could not find any first hand. The specific model we’re going to take a look at here is the GP7-500 with a 500mhz Pentium III installed manufactured in 2000.

I have to say I’m not totally in love with the style of this case but it does have some features that make it a little different. Aesthetic wise it’s more rounded then similar cases of the period and it does have a nice sort of grilled indent at the bottom to add some visual flair. Something I found odd was the 3 1/2 drive bay located under the first 5 1/4 bay. This very unusual as usually the bays are grouped together by size with however many 5 1/4 bays on top followed by one or two 3 1/2 bays under them. Functionally it makes no difference but it is a change from standard bay placement. My GP7 appears to of came with the original drives which were a Pioneer DVD drive in the top most bay and a standard 1.44mb floppy drive located underneath with lots of room for two more 5 1/4 drives and another 3 1/2 drive so adding a tape drive, a second CD drive or a ZIP drive is easy.

Another thing I noticed is a strange omission of a reset button. You get two LED’s for hard drive activity and power but no reset button so resetting must be done through the keyboard. CTRL + ALT + DEL.

The rear is fairly standard. My GP7 has a “property of Amiga Inc.” sticker that I did not add but seems otherwise to be stock. The GP7-500 and presumably others of the line came with video and sound cards preinstalled and not integrated to the motherboard which is a real bonus and usually a good sign as integrated graphics and sound in the 90’s and early 2000’s was usually sub par. As for integrated components we have the pretty standard two PS/2 ports, two USB 1.0 ports as well as two serial and one parallel port.

The case is pretty easy to open up via two thumb screws. Everything is fairly easy to access on the inside with a removable caddy below the drive bays which is meant to house up to three hard drives. The PC came with what I believe is a stock 16.5 Ultra IDE hard drive. For the year 2000 this most certainly wasn’t the fastest or the largest drive available at the time and feels pretty budget minded. It’s pretty easy to remove being held on by three screws as well as the metal support bar you can see just above the expansion slots. The PSU appears to be proprietary as it’s a little slimmer then a standard ATX PSU and has a removable plastic shroud used to direct airflow over the CPU from a fan located on the bottom of the PSU. Thankfully unlike DELL, Gateway does not require an additional AUX like power connector found on some Dell models of the time.

The motherboard is a Gateway specific Tabor3 ws440bx motherboard made by Intel. This motherboard also only supports a 100mhz front side bus with BIOS options for tweaking being pretty sparse.

1) CPU – The CPU in the GP7-500 corresponds with the final number being a 500mhz slot 1 Pentium III. This should be consistent along the entire GP7 line though I believe the highest GP7 PC I’ve seen was a 850mhz model and this is in fact the highest clocked CPU this board “officially” can take. The 500mhz model makes a good fast DOS machine or a good general Windows 9x CPU though for those late Windows games, Windows XP or running higher resolutions you may want to think about upgrading.

Unfortunately Gateway didn’t make upgrading super simple. To upgrade your going to need to remove the power supply which isn’t hard but it is an extra step and requires removing five screws (don’t forget the one inside close to the drive bays). The CPU itself also can have a death grip on the little plastic guide stands so be careful in removal. You may also encounter a situation where your case on your replacement slot 1 CPU isn’t compatible with the plastic stands that help keep the CPU from jostling on the slot 1 connector. You can either modify your CPU or remove the posts with a screwdriver and pliers. Doing this will allow your CPU to wiggle a little more freely in the slot but it should be okay and Ive never had an issue. You may also need to remove the plastic shroud on the PSU if your CPU is to tall but this shouldn’t effect things much especially if you upgrade to a CPU with a fan of its own on the heatsink. You should be able to drop in any 100mhz FSB slot 1 CPU up to a 1ghz which is the highest speed Intel went with its 100mhz FSB slot 1 processors.  I have managed to upgrade the GP7-500 up to a 1.3ghz Tualatin Celeron processor by means of a slot 1 powerleap converter. The BIOS reports a 1000mhz CPU on POST but windows 98SE was able to utilize the full 1.3ghz and reported its presence without issue. A 1.4ghz upgrade should also be possible

2) RAM – The GP7-500 came with 128mb of SDRAM installed but could be expanded to 384MB via 3 RAM slots. Speed was limited to PC-100 but you can use PC-133 which will downclock to PC-100 speeds. Installing more then 384MB of RAM with simply result in sticks over 128mb not being utilized at all. This is interesting since on other boards I’ve used when installing larger amounts of RAM the PC would usually use that RAM up to its hard limit. For example if I installed a 128mb stick as well as a 512mb stick in a PC with a limit of 384mb many times I would get my 384mb with 256mb simply being unused and wasted but with my GP7-500 if I attempted this The machine would boot but only give me the 128mb completely ignoring the 512mb stick. If I go into the BIOS the 512mb stick is seen and correctly reported as being 512mb but on POST and in Windows it is completely ignored. This I found was the same when using 256mb sticks so to get your full 384mb three 128mb sticks are required.

Searching various message boards I have found some reports that the chipset will support at least 256mb sticks of SDRAM and some users have even reported achieving 512mb using 256mb sticks but apparently the board is very picky about RAM with your best bet using 8×16 internal org, 16 memory chips (8 per side) DIMMs. I haven’t tested this myself though.

As far as games go This should be more then enough for just about all Windows 9x stuff and even at 128mb complete overkill for general DOS usage.

3) IDE – information on the specifics of the motherboards onboard IDE was a little iffy with specs and manuals being surprisingly difficult to find in any amount of detail. Looking though various sources online as well as Intel’s spec sheet for the reference motherboard it seems the IDE controller is ATA-33. This would be completely usable for a year 2000 machine but definitely on the budget side as ATA-66 and ATA-100 was available in 2000. This can be easily remedied though with a PCI IDE 100 or 133 controller or even a PCI SATA controller.

4) Expansion – The GP7-500 sports one AGP x2/x4 slot as well as five PCI slots (one being shared) and one all important 16-bit ISA slot for enhanced DOS compatibility as far as sound cards go.

5) Piezo speaker

6) CMOS battery

Expansion cards

The GP7-500 did not have video or audio built into the motherboard and thus all units came with a video as well as a sound card. These are the cards that came installed with my machine. I have no way to tell if they are 100% stock cards but from the period of the cards and what I could find out about the GP7-500’s specifications I strongly believe these were the stock cards. Seeing as this machine also seemed to of been marketed as a small business PC the cards also make sense as networking would of been very important as well as a video card that could display a sharp image while sound would of taken a back seat.

Video – The video card that came pre installed was a Nvidia TNT2 Pro with 16mb of memory as well as a DVI output. The TNT2 Pro offers excellent DOS compatibility as well as making an excellent Win 9x card. Except for the Voodoo 3 and TNT2 Ultra it’s possibly the best choice for an all around Windows 9x card. The interesting aspect of this card is its DVI port acting as the only source of video out. Of course a DVI to VGA converter can be used for connection with a standard VGA cable but this is one of the earliest cards I can recall seeing with DVI. This would make a great card for compatibility when hooking up to a more modern LCD display for running DOS and Windows software via a pure DVI or HDMI with a DVI to HDMI adapter. Running the card through the digital DVI connection may also give a slightly better image quality over an analog VGA connection as well.

Sound – The sound is nothing to write home about and is a fairly generic looking Creative Audio PCI. These cards are known to have fairly decent DOS compatibility for a PCI card but the question is why bother with a PCI sound card for DOS if you have an ISA slot available. I’ve never had much luck with these types of cards and even though they get the job done more or less I wouldn’t really recommend them for a retro gaming PC, either DOS or Windows. Much better options exist that won’t break the bank.

Other – The GP7-500 also contained an Ethernet and modem card, both from 3com. I usually don’t give these cards much use or thought but I’m including them here for the sake of posterity.

So what do I think of the GP7-500? Well The closest OEM machine I have on hand to compare it to is my Dell 4100 which is from only one year later but is significantly more advanced out of the box. The 4100 sports a faster FSB, newer CPU types, Faster built in IDE controller, faster RAM and universal AGP slot. The GP7 does have one big advantage though if your thinking about DOS games and that’s a 16-bit ISA slot. It’s hard to state how much this improves the DOS gaming experience and the options it opens up. That said though if you are primarily looking to play Windows 9x games at the highest settings or XP era games you may want to consider passing the Gateway GP7-500 up due to its rather outdated motherboard for the time period. If your looking for a machine to play DOS games as well as Win 9x titles I wholeheartedly endorse the GP7-500 if you can get one cheap.

Of course things can be done to upgrade the GP7. I’ve added a slotket CPU adapter and a 1.3ghz Tualatin Celeron CPU as well as a faster video card and faster PCI IDE controller. With these upgrades you should comfortably be able to play any Windows 9x game and most early XP era games just fine while retaining that old school slot 1 cool factor. The 384mb limit though may be an issue though when thinking of using this PC as a Windows XP machine unless you can achieve 512mb as some users have been reported able to do. The question is, is it worth the effort when more capable machines from that era can be found?

 

 

lc3mp

In previous articles we covered both the nearly identical LC and the LC II, both of which were early attempts to bring an affordable color Macintosh to the market. Both machines more or less accomplish what they set out to do but also both were heavily compromised in functionality to achieve this end.  The main compromises of the original LC and following LC II were

1 – A 32-bit CPU on a 16-bit motherboard severely hampering the performance of the LCs 16mhz 68020 CPU.

2 – An imposed limit of 10MB of RAM regardless of the size of the RAM stick(s) installed.

3 – complete lack of a MMU or FPU socket on the motherboard.

4 – Difficulty getting the LC to run with monitors outside of the fixed resolution 512×386 monitor it was intended to be paired with or period Apple or early VGA monitors.

The LC II added the ability to use virtual memory via the CPU’s built in MMU and tweaked the video a bit but was otherwise identical. Thankfully the LC III finally addressed all the above issues while maintaining the same small form case. Finally we have a full 32-bit data bus so as not to strangle the 32-bit CPU. There is now a MMU as there was built into the LC II but also much more expandability for RAM as well as a socket for a FPU chip and the video memory supports 640 x 480 resolution without any kind of fiddling or upgrade.

Other then the LC III badge the case is identical to the LC I and II. bear in mind there are two versions of the LC III case and one features a manual eject floppy drive that looks a little different with an indentation to grasp the disk. These cases also have the case badge as more of a label then etched onto the case. Otherwise these machines are identical.

The rear of the case though is identical to the LC I & II. from left to right you have the power connector and switch, Mac video port, modem and printer ports, external SCSI port, ADB port and finally an audio jack for speakers and mic. The Ethernet card installed on the right is the same one that used to be installed in my LC II.

The LC III like the LC I & II does not support power on via the keyboard and use of the rear switch is required. Opening the LC II is exactly the same as the other LC’s with just two fairly sturdy tabs securing the top.

Now with the top removed.

The general layout is basically the same as it was in the LC II with a single floppy drive and space for a SCSI hard drive. Mine came with a standard 80mb SCSI hard drive but I upgraded mine to a 500mb model by transferring the upgraded hard drive from my LC II.

Now lets take a look at the motherboard.

1) Enhanced LC PDS slot – The PDS slot on the LC has a slight extension to it compared to the PDS slot in the LC and LC II. The “enhanced LC PDS slot” in the LC III supports both 16-bit PDS cards of the type that would be used in the older LC machines but also 25mhz 32-bit PDS cards. Unfortunately these 32-bit cards are quite uncommon.

2) CPU – The LC III unlike the LC I & II now uses a full 32-bit data bus as opposed to a 16-bit but so the CPU can be taken full advantage of. The CPU in the LC III is a Motorola 68030 running at 25mhz, also a bump up from the 16mhz of the previous LC’s.   Some benchmarks of the time placed the LC III twice as fast as the LC II in overall performance. There is also a version of the LC III known as the LC III+ which is identical save for the CPU which got a speed bump up to 33mhz. There is no way to tell the two models apart as there was no indication given on the outer case. Only opening the case and checking the CPU or powering the machine up and checking in software would reveal the difference. There are guides available on modding the LC III into an LC III+ but perform at your own risk. Also Later LC III’s with the manual floppy drive eject are more likely to be the plus models though be aware this isn’t a sure thing.

3) FPU – Finally we have a socket to add an optional 68882 math coprocessor to assist in complicated math calculations. This doesn’t seem to of been a popular upgrade though as I’ve never come across an LC III with this upgrade though the chips are fairly cheap (as of 2018).  Like on the x86 PC though I don’t think the FPU was heavily utilized in any number of games on the Mac so the FPU upgrade was not seen as a priority.

Empty FPU socket to the right of the CPU

68882 coprocessor installed

4) RAM – The LC III has 4mb of RAM on the motherboard but also unlike the previous LC’s the LC III has a single 72 pin SIMM socket with the ability to add up to 32 additional MB or RAM for a potential max of 36mb. This is the configuration of my LC III featured here. The LC III was also the first Macintosh to use 72 pin SIMMs. This was a welcome feature as the previous 10mb was serviceable for the time but the ability to add up to 36MB total went a long way to extending the usefulness of the LC III in the future.

5) Video – The LC III features built in video and 512kb of VRAM standard. This allows 640 x 480 resolution on a 640 x 480 capable monitor out of the box and I had a much easier time hooking this LC up to my various monitors via a Mac to PC VGA adapter and getting a image without any hassle or “out of range” errors. The VRAM is upgradeable to 768kb via a VRAM slot and 256 KB 100ns VRAM SIMM. This will allow a maximum resolution of 832 x 624 at 16-bit

6) PRAM – this is the ever present PRAM battery for saving settings. It is always recommended to swap this battery out when you get a new Mac or if you start encountering strange instabilities.

The Mac LC III was a great evolution of the LC line finally fixing all of the shortcomings of the line while maintaining a lower price point. For all intents and purposes the LC III was a Macintosh IIci in a smaller form factor case with slightly lower performance and much less expansion capabilities. If all you wanted to do was some light work and gaming and didn’t need the expansion slots of the Macintosh II line the LC III was an excellent option that saved money and took up a little space in the house.

For the retro Mac gamer I would easily recommend this machine over the LC I and II. They don’t take up much space, are light and relatively cheap and easy to fine. They also offer enough power to run early color Macintosh games or black and white titles well and can work with most monitors hassle free.

FDISKformat

A place for the pc collector

I ❤ Old Games!

Retrogaming & other stuff

Waltorious Writes About Games

Game-related ramblings.

NekoJonez's Gaming Blog

A Journey Through A Gamer's Life

Old School Game Blog

Amiga enthusiasm, retro gaming passion

Evelynn Star

Lynn talks about video games, records and books ...

Retro Megabit

Sharing My Retro Video Game Collection.

133MHz's Junk Box

Random electronics and gaming crap

SNES A Day

Reviews, screenshots, and videos of the entire Super Nintendo library.

Retrocosm's Vintage Computing, Tech & Scale RC Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus radio controlled scale modelling.

The PewPew Diaries.

Work(s) in Progress!

The Martian Oddity

Video Games and other weird stuff!

1001Up

1001 video games and beyond

retro computing and gaming plus a little more

sparcie

retro computers and stuff

jispylicious

Stay Jispy!

lazygamereviews

MS-DOS game reviews, retro ramblings and more...

%d bloggers like this: