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Today we’re going to be looking at another Vectra, This time the Vectra VL series 4 5/100. This Vectra uses a similar case to the Vectra VL series 3 5/90 that I did an article on some time ago although this one uses a socket 7 motherboard as opposed to the series 3 socket 5 board. The Vectra series were more designed as an office or work computers than anything else but with a few additions, I’ve found they make excellent DOS and Windows PCs. This Vectra has a designed for Windows 95 sticker but I decided to install DOS and Windows 3.11 instead.

On the front of the case we have a large speaker grill on the left side of the case. This Vectra does have a rather large full speaker behind this grill so one could get sound without speakers if you had no option though I really wouldn’t recommend it.

I’ve replaced the Windows 95 sticker with a more generic Windows sticker since I went with Windows 3.11

At the center of the front of our case we have a rather large square power button as well as LEDs for power and HDD activity, no reset button is to be found though. Below this we have a conveniently placed volume slider as well as a 1/8 headphone jack.

To the far right we have dual 3.5 bays as well as a single 5.25 bay though I think I would have preferred dual 5.25 bays. My current setup has the original CD-ROM drive and one 1.44MB floppy drive installed though I’ve considered adding a ZIP drive to the lower 3.5-inch bay.

On the back of the case there is what appears to be a slot on the left side. I believe on some models that this slot is used for an optional network connector card but on this model the slot is not present.

Next to this we have four vertically oriented expansion slots. below the expansion slots we have multiple built-in I/O. starting on the left we have dual PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse followed by a parallel port, two serial ports and then finally a VGA out port for the built-in video. Lastly, we have a standard 3-prong power connector on the right of the case.

Here is the Vectra with the top cover removed. The proprietary power supply on the left which also acts as a cooling fan for the CPU can easily be removed by pulling it up and out. On the right we have the drive bays to the front of the case and behind these we have a spot for a hard drive to be mounted in a horizontal upside down orientation.

The motherboard as we can see above uses the Triton 430FX chipset and uses a riser card for connecting expansion cards.

1) CPU – The CPU on this Vectra VL is a 100MHz Pentium. This is a good all around CPU for late DOS titles and Windows 3.1 or even Windows 95. The socket 7 board does allow for a wide range of CPUs to be installed from 75MHz to 200MHz non MMX. There is a voltage regulator module next to the CPU socket and I believe with the proper module MMX CPUs can be installed.

Next to the CPU socket on the left is also an AUX power connector for the proprietary power supply.

2) L2 cache – This board uses a pipeline burst COAsT module for L2 cache memory. COAsT modules or cache on a stick was a fairly common method of adding L2 cache on the early socket 7 motherboards. The module on my board was a standard for the time 256KB though larger ones may be available. running without the module installed can significantly degrade performance.

3) RAM – This board has six slots for accepting 72-pin memory modules. The max memory wasn’t stated but going by the chipset the maximum memory should be 128MB. When I received this PC I believe it had 16MB of RAM installed but I upgraded it to 64MB total via two 32MB sticks of memory as seen below.

4) Video – on-board video is provided by a Trio64 video chip and 1MB of video RAM expandable to a full 2MB. The S3 Trio64 is an excellent 2D chip for DOS gaming and should provide maximum compatibility with games. If you’re building a pure DOS PC the built-in Trio64 should be sufficient for most needs but There are faster options available if you’re willing to install a PCI video card.

5) Riser Card – The riser card provides five expansion slots in total, two PCI and three 16-bit ISA. The two PCI slots can be utilized for a primary video card as well as a Voodoo card for 3D if desired for a significant video upgrade.

6) IDE and a floppy connector supporting two floppy drives and four IDE devices.

7) CMOS battery and switch box – The switch box is used to configure things such as enabling passwords, clearing the CMOS battery and most importantly configuring the board to the CPU you have installed. please refer to the chart further up the page for settings. settings can be found on the case sticker over the drive bays as well as silkscreened onto the board itself.

Expansion Cards

Sound – The Vectra VL series 4 5/100 did not have sound built into the board but my machine did come with what appears to be an OEM Sound Blaster ISA card which had a connector to interface with the front panels’ audio.

The card is a 16-bit ISA Sound Blaster model CT2860 with the Vibra16S chip on board. This board does provide a real Yamaha OPL3 chip as well as a wavetable header, midi/joystick port and a speaker connector as well as a connector to the front panel audio that I have never found on any other Sound Blaster card. Unfortunately, this card does suffer from the hanging midi bug if using it with a wavetable card. I also read online when researching these cards that several users described it as a “noisy” card though when I used it myself I found it quite adequate and it sounded just fine in my testing (though I’m not an audiophile).

You can replace this card with any ISA or PCI sound card though you will lose the ability to connect the new card to the front audio controls on the case. Despite the hanging note issues with this card I did decide to keep it installed and even installed my Creative Wave Blaster midi card.

Video – For video I decided to upgrade to a faster PCI card. Although PCI 2D/3D combo card options are abundantly available I decided to go with a discrete 2D and 3D card. For 2D video I decided to go with a ArkLogic based card.

The card I used is the Stealth 64 2001 from Diamond multimedia and it is based on the ArkLogic 2000PV chip. My card is maxed out to its full 2MB of memory and provides excellent 2D compatibility and speed in DOS and early 2D windows titles though possibly slightly less compatibility than the Trio64 chip.

I did do some benchmarking between the ArkLogic card and the built-in Trio64 and found the ArkLogic card to be noticeably although not overwhelmingly faster than the Trio64.

For 3D I decided to pair the ArkLogic 2D card up with a 3DFX Voodoo 1 card which previously was installed in my older HP Vectra VL. Since I did build out this machine to be more DOS and Windows 3.1 oriented I felt the original Voodoo card and its better compatibility with DOS based Glide games would be most useful.

I still really like the HP Vectra line and this machine is now in my personnel permanent setup as a faster DOS/Windows 3.11 PC. There are some small annoyances like the proprietary power supply but they seem to be pretty durable overall. Although this PC was designed and mostly sold as a business or work at home computer it’s very easy to tweak them into very capable DOS and early Windows gaming PCs.

I picked up this beige Gateway E-3400 at the same time as my Dell Dimension XPS T700r that I covered in a previous article. Looking at the case it seems like a pretty standard beige box from the late 90s though when we turn it around we will see it’s a little bit different. There are two 5.25 and two 3.5-inch bays in this mid-tower which although is more than enough for most users is a little lacking compared to other full tower cases which have three or four 5.25-inch bays. Mid case we have a power (that lights up) and reset button along with an HDD activity light. On the very bottom right we have a button you press when removing the side of the case.

Looking at the rear of the case we can see it looks a little nonstandard. This is due to the motherboard form factor which we will take a look at in a moment but my first reaction was that this was some kind of server or workstation type PC. Near the top of the case we have a strange open slot, this is actually a slot for the AGP video card which we will look at after looking inside the case. To the right of the opening we have various I/O ports starting with a printer port and a standard VGA port which on my machine was covered up with a cap. Next we have dual serial ports followed by PS/2 ports for both keyboard and mouse. Lastly, we have dual USB ports (most likely USB 1.x as the user manual dated March 8, 2000 does not specify) and some audio jacks for line out, microphone, and line in. At the bottom of the case we have five expansion slots and at the very bottom of the case we have our power supply. Having the power supply at the bottom of a PC tower case as opposed to the top was fairly uncommon in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Taking off the side of the case on the E-3400 also removes the top of the case.

With the case open we can see the E-3400 uses the NLX motherboard form factor which is a motherboard form factor that some OEMs like IBM and Gateway used in some PCs in the mostly late 90s and early 2000s. I also covered my IBM 300PL Type 6862 which also used this motherboard form factor. Other than the form factor this is a pretty standard socket PGA370 board using the Intel i815 chipset. The most immediately noticeable difference are the PCI slots being located on the daughterboard and the AGP slot being completely separate from the other expansion slots.

On the bottom of the case across from the power supply are three bays for housing hard drives via guide rails. My E-3400 came with two 40GB hard drives.

1) CPU – My E-3400 came equipped with an 800MHz Celeron CPU running on a 100MHz FSB. I decided to upgrade this to an 800MHz Pentium III running on a 133MHz FSB as a nice little speed bump. The E-3400 should be able to handle all Coppermine Celeron and non-Tualatin Pentium III CPUs up to 1.13GHz

2) RAM – With only two slots for memory expansion the E-3400 is only capable of supporting up to 512MB of SDRAM, at least according to the manual. This is fine if you’re planning to run Windows 9x or even early XP titles though it may become a hindrance if you wanted to make your PC into a more capable Windows XP gaming machine where you may want at least a gig of memory.

3) Expansion slots – For expansion slots on the daughterboard we have five PCI slots. On the E-3400 there is also a neat little plastic guard that goes over all the slots, it really doesn’t do much but it does look neat. It would have been nice to have a 16-bit ISA slot or two if for DOS but seeing as this is a Pentium III class motherboard the vast amount of users that plan to use this PC for retro gaming are likely looking to build out a Windows 9x or XP machine.

4) AGP slot – The AGP x4 slot, unlike on most motherboards is located away from the other expansion slots. Because of the form factor you will need an NLX video card and a special NLX style bracket. Fortunately Diamond Multimedia made a large number of video cards with various different graphics chips in the late 90s that comply with the NLX standard.

5) Daughterboard – Other than the PCI slots the second half of the NLX motherboard also houses the floppy and IDE connectors with Ultra DMA/66 support as well as some power connectors and connectors to the front buttons and LED lights

6) CMOS battery and a piezo speaker.

Expansion cards

The first expansion card is an Ethernet card, I believe the one pictured is a 3Com Tornado LAN card which I also believe came standard with this PC.

Sound

Looking my motherboard over I could not seem to locate an obvious sound chip for the built-in audio (a reader did comment that the sound chip should be the chip located between the audio jacks and the CMOS battery) but the user manual indicates the sound is Integrated audio using a AC’97 compliant audio Codec chip.

My PC did however come with a discreet PCI sound card powered by the CMI8738 chip. Nothing very fancy but perhaps better than the built-in audio. The sound chip seems to have decent adlib/FM support but spotty Sound Blaster DOS support as well as EAX support in Windows though it doesn’t sound as high quality as a true EAX card from Creative. You do get a joystick/controller port with the card which is a bonus.

Video

Some E-3400s according to the manual do have integrated video though some like mine came with a discreet ATI Rage video card.

My PC came with an ATI Rage XL based card in the PCI variety as opposed to an AGP card. The Rage XL could be considered the pinnacle of the original Rage line of video cards and was widely used as a low cost video card in servers and workstations into the early 2000s. The card actually performs surprisingly well in games and I was honestly impressed with its performance. I found games like the original Quake under DOS as well as Forsaken under Windows 9x ran quite well and looked good. Games from around 2000 such as Quake III did not perform so well though and you should turn down settings if you want better performance. In theory the Rage XL should be the best card for playing ATIs proprietary API CIF on though unfortunately this is not possible mainly due to the newer drivers which are not compatible with CIF supporting games that the XL card requires.

There’s nothing wrong with the Gateway E-3400 and with some effort it can be turned into a good Windows 9x or early XP gaming PC but I didn’t find it quite worth the effort. The strange form factor doesn’t really hurt this PC but it does limit you a little on what AGP cards you can use. The limit of 512MB of RAM can also be a hindrance if you want to build a more powerful XP gaming PC. I also had some issues with the side of the case fitting correctly and the plastic tabs on my PC broke fairly easily. There are just better and more convenient options out there for retro gamers than the E-3400. If it’s all you have go ahead and pimp it out but if you have other options just go with those.

I’m a fan of the Dell Dimension and XPS series, especially of the late 1990s. We’ve looked at a few of these PCs in the past such as the Dimension XPS D and R series and the Dimension 4100. The Dimension series PC we’re going to take a look at in this article falls somewhere between those two in terms of when it was produced and its power.

The T___r series as seen here features the same slim tower case as the D series and the 4100 series I looked at in previous articles. My computer specifically is an XPS T700r, the number between the T and r designates the CPU speed so it can vary between PCs of this series from 600 to 850MHz.

The T___r series uses a tower case that is slightly thinner than most beige PC towers of the era. Several models of the Dell Dimension line use this tower case and I quite like it. It features dual 5.25 inch bays as well as dual 3.5 inch bays and then a special slot and cutout for a 3.5 inch floppy drive, typically of the 1.44MB variety.

The rear of the case is fairly typical with the PSU up top and a large case fan located underneath it. The built-in I/O is pretty sparse but has everything you need including dual PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse. Two USB 1.0 ports (assumed 1.0 or 1.1) and a single serial and parallel port. There are four LED lights below the parallel port to help troubleshoot problems if they should occur with the PC.

There are seven expansion slots for adding video, sound, etc but generally, the computer was pre-equipped when it was purchased. my PC came fully equipped though several of the blank expansion slot plates were missing.

Here is our Dell with the side panel removed. You can see there is an extra 3.5 inch bay under the floppy drive where I currently have the hard drive installed but the hard drive can also fit vertically in the spot underneath. The CPU on this PC is cooled via the case fan and uses a black plastic shroud to direct air from outside of the case to flow over the CPU. The OEM Dell motherboard uses the Intel 440BX chipset.

Motherboard with CPU shroud and expansion cards removed.

1 ) CPU – The T___r series all use the Coppermine Pentium III CPUs in the slot 1 form factor. My T700r predictably uses the 700MHz version of the CPU. The T___r series used Pentium III CPU speeds between 600MHz and 850Mhz. The CPU can be swapped with another slot 1 CPU and if the shroud is removed one could use a CPU with its own heatsink and fan attached. The 700MHz Pentium III is sufficient for most Win98 gaming needs although everything up to the Coppermine 1.1GHz slot 1 CPU should work though this may require the latest BIOS.

2) RAM – With three memory slots, this PC can accept up to 768MB of PC100 SDRAM which is overkill for a Windows 98 PC and adequate for an early Windows 2000 or XP type build. My PC came with two 128MB mismatched sticks of PC100 RAM for a total of 256MB of memory.

3) Expansion slots – The motherboard for the T___r series comes equipped with one x2 APG slot, five PCI slots, and a single 16-bit ISA slot. The ISA slot makes this machine a good candidate for DOS games as one can install an ISA sound card for better compatibility with DOS titles.

4) dual IDE connectors

5) Floppy connector

6) Proprietary power connector.

Like most of the Dell Dimension PCs from this time the T___r series uses a proprietary power connector that is split into two parts looking like a standard ATX and additional AUX connector.

7) Piezo speaker

8) CMOS battery

Expansion Cards

My PC came with the above modem and ethernet cards.

duel USB PCI card.

Sound Card

The sound card in my Dimension was a Turtle Beach Montego II, a sound card based on the A2D Vortex 2 chip. Despite its odd form factor this is a very nice card for Windows 98 and early XP gaming as it supports Aureal A3D and A3D 2 3d sound in games and was a major competitor to Creative’s EAX standard. The A3D chip worked reasonably well in DOS as well despite being a PCI card and is an overall good choice for gaming. The one downside is the awkward positioning of the wavetable header so not all midi daughterboards are going to fit comfortably.

Video

For the video card, we have an AGP TNT2 M64 which is a fairly typical lower end OEM video card. In power, this card falls somewhere between the original TNT and the TNT2. This card supports both DirectX 6 and Open GL as well as performs adequately under DOS. The TNT2 line is the last Nvidia card to retain compatibility with certain games such as Incoming as later cards will display graphical errors. Overall it is an okay pick for a late Windows 98 gaming build but a TNT2 will do everything this card does including graphical compatibility with games like Incoming but better.

I love the Dell Dimension series of the late 90s and very early 2000’s and this PC is no exception. The case has plenty of room for upgrades but the thinner form factor saves some room. The setup of this particular build screamed low-end business machine and capable but not high-end gamer build. If you have access to the cards this machine could very easily be turned into a Win9x powerhouse. The m64 could be easily swapped out with a true TNT2 or an early Geforce or Radeon card. The single 16-bit ISA slot also leaves room to turn this into an overpowered DOS build as well by swapping the Montigo II out for an ISA AWE32 or 64. The CPU can also be easily swapped for a more or less power one depending on your tastes.

Today we are going to take a look at one of my newer PCs which has recently taken its place as my flagship example of a 286 class PC. DTK or Datatech Enterprises is a Taiwanese PC manufacturer that was a fairly large player in the 1980s computer world and even into the 1990s. The DTK tech-1230 we see here is one of their earlier PC compatibles from 1989 and is considered a “mini-desktop”.

The DTK tech-1230 has three frontal 5 1/4 bays for expansion. I currently have installed a pretty standard for the time setup of dual floppy drives, one 1.2MB 5 1/4 drive paired with one 1.44MB 3.5 drive in an adaptor bay. Although not common or particularly era correct a CD-ROM drive can always be installed in the third bay if so desired.

Next to the case badge on the left, there is a keylock and LEDs for power and HDD activity. The dual buttons are a green turbo and a red reset button. The turbo button lights up green when pressed and is used to toggle the speed of the CPU which in the case of this PC is between 8 and 12MHz. One thing I really like about the look of this case is the three blue diagonal stripes at about the center of the case. They aren’t much but they work to differentiate this machine from the sea of beige boxes that existed at the time.

The power switch is on the right side of the case and is in the style of many early PC and XT style PSU switches.

The back is pretty standard for a case of this type. We have a PSU with the additional connector for attaching a monitor directly which is always a nice option. To the right of the PSU are dual 25-pin serial ports. If you’re planning on using a serial mouse I would suggest getting a cheap and easy to find 25-pin to 9-pin serial adaptor.

Next to that, we have a parallel port. Other than these connectors the only other card it appears we have installed is a video card. We will take a look at this card as well as what I added later in the article.

Okay, let’s take off the cover and get a look at the inside.

Pretty simple on the inside with just a video and an I/O expansion card installed as well as what looks like an IDE hard drive installed vertically on the side of the 5 1/4 inch bays.

The hard drive is a 43MB Western Digital WD93044-A IDE drive being controlled by our multi I/O card. The drive did spin up but was not detected by the controller card.

Board with expansion cards removed

The motherboard is fairly well integrated for a 286 board though it does lack ZIP or 30-pin RAM sockets which I tend to find on the later 286 motherboards I tend to come across. Sorry for the dust on the components in some of these images as I took them immediately after getting the machine home and before proper cleaning.

1 ) CPU – The CPU is an Intel 286-12 running at 12Mhz (though the turbo can cut this speed down to 8MHz). The 12MHz 286 could be considered, along with the 16MHz 286 one of the quintessential CPUs of its class. They were fairly common and are fairly capable as well being suitable for playing EGA as well as early VGA titles. The ability to use the turbo button to downclock to 8MHz isn’t incredibly useful as it’s still too fast for speed sensitive CGA titles but if you want something more akin to IBM AT speeds it’s nice to have the option.

MIPS benchmark @ 12MHz

2 ) FPU – The board also has a socket for an optional math co-processor. Usually adding a math co-pro isn’t very helpful but a few games and CAD software can take advantage of one. My PC came to me with this socket empty but I added an ITT 2C87 math co-processor rated for 20MHz. This FPU is a little more powerful than a standard 287 processor but is a bit overkill in this machine. It was formally installed and paired with my 20MHz Harris 286 PC but after I replaced it there with a 287XL it found a new home in my DTK machine.

3 ) RAM – The motherboard comes with a full 1MB of DIP memory on board. This is a capable amount for a 286 and should be more than enough for any game that would play well on this system. For those wishing to push the DTK tech-1230 or wanting a bit more memory overhead you can always add an ISA memory card.

4 ) Expansion slots – This DTK motherboard sports eight total ISA expansion slots, four 8-bit and four 16-bit ISA slots.

5 ) I/O – In the upper left hand corner of the board we have on-board connectors for the dual serial and single parallel connectors. This is also the location of the AT power connector.

Now let’s take a look at the two expansion cards that came with this PC.

The first card is just a pretty standard I/O card from Western Digital. It looks pretty basic and comes with an IDE and floppy controller. I’m not sure if this and the HDD were factory stock but I think there’s a good chance they are.

When it comes to a video card I was pleasantly surprised at what I found when I opened this PC up.

The video card I found installed was a fabled and quite uncommon Cirrus Logic “Eagle II” card. This 8-bit VGA card is one of Cirrus Logics’ earlier cards but is known for its excellent compatibility with CGA games.

After personally testing this card I can confirm it runs several CGA titles that generally have problems when run on a VGA card without issue, this is without the use of any CGA compatibility TSRs or software being run. Games such as Digger which display garbage on my VGA cards ran without issue on the Eagle II. Starquake is a CGA game that shifts CGA palettes as well as color intensities as it switches screens. On most VGA cards it stays the Magenta, Cyan, and White palette we mostly associated with CGA but again, on the Eagle II it displays correctly. In my personnel testing I put this card up against a Trident 8900D, Tseng ET3000AX, ATI VGA wonder 24XL, and ATI Mach 8 video card and the Eagle II was the only card to display these games correctly “out of the box”, that is without any CGA mode software running.

The card comes with both a 9-pin TTL connector for hooking up to older CGA/EGA style TTL monitors as well as a standard 15-pin VGA port. Output mode is determined by a switchbox next to the 9-pin TTL output.

One thing to note is that my testing found the Eagle II VGA card to be a rather slow card, scoring in benchmarks generally lower than the other VGA cards tested. In a 286 class PC though this shouldn’t much of an issue.

MY UPGRADES

SIIG EIDE card

Originally I decided to upgrade the IDE with a SCSI card and drive but unfortunately, the SCSI controller card conflicted with my midi card so in the end I decided to upgrade the HDD to a Quantum Fireball 8GB (seen as 2GB by the OS) and this SIIG CI-1050 EIDE controller card which now controlled my hard drive and floppy drives.

VIDEO

The next “upgrade” could probably be seen as a downgrade as I decided to remove the Cirrus Logic VGA card and install a true EGA card. I feel EGA is probably a little more era correct for a 286 though it’s hard to champion era correctness for this build after adding EIDE and a whopping 2GB hard drive. I’ve really wanted to mess around with a real EGA card though so I thought this machine was the perfect opportunity. Whether you go with an EGA, CGA, or VGA card is up to you and your needs. In general the best all around option I would recommend is probably a VGA card since it’s probably the cheapest, most available and most all around compatible card that will also work with just about all VGA monitors.

The EGA card I went with is the 8-bit ATI EGA Wonder 800 with 256KB of memory from 1987. This would be considered a higher end EGA card and is capable of extended EGA graphics mode as well as 16 color VGA modes (provided it’s attached to the correct monitor). One uncommon supposed feature of this card is that one of the RCA feature connectors (the upper one next to the switch box) is supposedly a true composite video out though I have yet to test this. The card does have a switch box for selecting a mode and it does require a TTL monitor to connect to via its 9-pin out. A MultiSync or EGA monitor is required to display higher resolution EGA modes but it will display low-resolution 16 color EGA to a CGA monitor just fine.

There is a higher end EGA wonder 800+ card that is completely jumper free and switchless but this card is supposedly a cut down VGA card that has compatibility issues with 25kHz monitors at 640×400, this is unconfirmed by me though.

I have been displaying this card on a Princeton HX-12e EGA monitor and the results have been excellent. The Princeton HX-12e is an EGA monitor style in a similar fashion to the IBM monitors for the PC, XT and AT lines of computers.

Switch settings for this card can be found Here.

SOUND

For sound I decided to go with the old reliable Sound Blaster standard for maximum support among games of the era.

The card is a Sound Blaster 1.5 model CT1320C. This is an 8-bit sound card capable of digital sound effects as well as OPL2 FM synth and Adlib sound compatibility. My card has also been upgraded with the optional CMS (Creative Music System) chips for compatibility with most games that support this earlier sound mode. Seeing as Sound Blaster cards were the standard this card should support pretty much every game that will run well on this PC and that supports sound. The gameport is also a nice addition as it allows my PC to support a joystick or controller without adding an additional card.

The second sound card I decided to add was a midi card.

I decided to add a Music Quest MQX-16 8-bit card for any games that happen to support midi sound, most commonly in this era via a Roland MT-32 midi module. The card is also “intelligent mode” compatible so many games that use that mode, for example many Sierra adventure titles from the era, will run without issue when paired with a MT-32.

RAM

My last upgrade was an Intel Aboveboard memory expansion just to give me a little more memory overhead.

The Intel Aboveboard I installed is capable of adding a full 8MB of additional memory though I limited mine to 2MB giving my DTK tech-1230 a total of 3MB. This should be more than enough memory for any games I’ll be playing on this setup.

My fully upgraded motherboard. Note this is my original configuration with the SCSI controller and 2GB HDD. I later found this card to conflict with my midi controller and had to replace it with the before mentioned SIIG EIDE card.

The DTK tech-1230 is currently my main 80286 class PC filling a small niche spot in my PC lineup. I really like this PC from the design of the case to the layout and capabilities of the board itself. My only minor complaint is I wish it supported RAM expansion on the board so I wouldn’t have to resort to using a card to expand the memory but this is a minor complaint. I may have also preferred a slightly faster 16MHz 286 to the 12/8 MHz one this machine received but it’s still only a minor complaint concerning my personnel desires for a machine of this class.

You probably don’t need a 286 in your collection as a 386 clocked similarly can do everything a 286 can but better but there’s still something magical about getting one of these beasts up and kicking again. Playing a game like the Colonel’s Bequest on a 286 and on an actual EGA monitor is just something to behold if you’re a retro PC geek like me.

In today’s article, we will be looking at the Packard Bell Legend 605, an 80486 class computer from Packard Bell.

The Legend 605 is a fairly small and compact desktop machine. On the left of the case, we have a keylock as well as LEDs for HDD activity and power/turbo. Next to the LEDs are two buttons for reset as well as an actual turbo button. The buttons are more like loose plastic cut on three sides that when pressed bend inward and press on a real button.

On the right side of the front of this case, we have dual 5.25 inch bays and a single 3.5 inch bay in the vertical position. For a small 486 class PC, this is perfect as it gives you room for two floppy drives, 1.44MB as well as a 1.2MB 5.25 inch drive as well as leaving a single 5.25 inch bay open for a CD-ROM drive if you wish.

Below the bottom 5.25 inch bay is the power button which is connected to a long plastic rod that physically switches on the power.

On the left of the rear of the case, we have standard power connectors. To the right, the Legend 605 has four expansion slots in a horizontal configuration and several built-in I/O below.

From left to right we have a serial port, parallel port, and thirdly a gameport for attaching a joystick or something like a Gravis Gamepad. Usually, these are included in conjunction with some form of built-in audio but the 605 offers no audio abilities. Next to the gameport is a standard VGA port followed by dual PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, a nice addition to find on any 486 class PC.

The cover is removed by removing two screws in the rear of the case and sliding the case top forward.

A sticker with jumper settings and board layout should be on the inside of the top cover but I’ve added it here for reference.

case open with cards and HDD bay removed.

In the image above the HDD caddy is already removed but a metal caddy that holds the hard drive fastens onto the dual 5.25 inch bays and can hold a hard drive in a vertical position.

My machine came to me with a 425MB WD HDD loaded with DOS 6.22.

clear view of motherboard

1 ) CPU – The 25MHz 486SX seemed to be the go-to CPU for lower end OEM PCs. The 25MHz 486SX lacks a math coprocessor and does fall at the lower end of the 80486 power spectrum running on a 25MHz front side bus. The CPU on the Legend 605 is soldered to the motherboard. Thankfully the Legend 605 does offer a fairly good upgrade path for CPUs.

2) CPU upgrade socket – fortunately the 605 does have a secondary “upgrade” CPU socket to allow for relatively easily upgrades to your CPU. Unfortunately, this socket is a LIF (low insertion force) socket as opposed to a ZIF socket which has a lever mechanism to assist in easily swapping CPUs. Installing a CPU in this socket is fairly easy but without the correct tools, it can be tricky to remove.

The upgrade socket can support a wide array of 5 volt 486 class CPUs such as the 66MHz DX2 which will give your PC a very noticeable boost in performance. Installing a new CPU and then jumpering jumper JCPUP (as well as adjusting for front side bus if applicable) will let the PC know a CPU is installed in the upgrade socket and deactivate the soldered on 486-25 SX while enabling the CPU installed in the upgrade socket. My machine has been upgraded with an Overdrive chip. The overdrive chip has a built-in voltage regulator and runs with a x3 multiplier on a 33MHz bus giving it a speed of 100MHz. This is a huge speed upgrade over the CPU the Legend 605 comes stock with. Note that the Legend 605 does not seem to support the Pentium Overdrive CPU.

3) L2 Cache – The Legend 605 supports 64k, 128k, and 256k of L2 cache memory on the motherboard. Mine has been upgraded to the full 256k of L2 cache. Anything over 256k of cache on a 486 class PC usually results in small speed increases with diminishing returns so having 256k on this board is a good amount and I’d say is the general standard for a machine like this one.

4 ) RAM – The memory configuration on the Legend 605 is slightly unusual as it has a maximum memory amount of 20MB with 4MB of memory being soldered onto the motherboard. You can upgrade to a full 20MB by adding four 4MB memory sticks as I have. In my experience with PCs of this age, usually there is no memory soldered onto the board and usually, they at least allow up to 32MB maximum.

5 ) Video – The built-in video chip is from Oak Technologies and uses the OTI077 VGA chip. There is 512K of VRAM soldered onto the board with empty sockets next to these allowing for upgrading to a full 1MB of VRAM. The video on the Legend 605 is supposedly on the VLB bus and not ISA but I haven’t been able to verify this.

I don’t have much experience with Oak Technologies but from my research, they seem to be pretty middle-of-the-road type chips offering mediocre to adequate video but nothing extraordinary.

6 ) Riser Connector – slot for the riser card which has four 16-bit ISA slots for expansion cards.

7) Floppy connector and single built-in IDE connector for supporting two IDE devices

8) AT power connector (note the battery in the image below is a replacement, the old battery was removed and a new one soldered in its place by the previous owner)

The Packard Bell Legend 605 has the potential to make a really nice retro DOS or Win 3.1 build. In its stock configuration with the 25MHz 486SX it is a bit on the weak side for a 486 but it can easily be made to be as powerful as a 486 as you want with the CPU upgrade slot. adding an Overdrive CPU or even a AMD 5×86 at 133MHz makes quite a powerful machine. Although most later 486 PCs can accept at least 32MB of memory the 20MB limit shouldn’t be much of a hindrance as many games did not require such a large amount. Adding a fast ISA video card and a sound card along with a CPU upgrade makes the Legend 605 a quite capable machine.

The legendary Abit BP6, released in 1999 was the first dual-processor socket PPGA 370 motherboard and the first board to finally bring multi-processor boards at an affordable price to the consumer market. There were motherboards prior to the BP6 which featured more than one CPU on the board. Slot 1, Pentium Pro and even so far back as the 386 motherboards were available that could support multiple physical CPUs on board in what was known as SMP processing. Generally these setups were found in very high end and very expensive workstations and were more or less out of reach to the average consumer.

In 1998 the Mendocino Celeron CPUs were released which were intended to be Intel’s low cost alternative to the Pentium II and eventually the Pentium III. One interesting thing about these CPU’s was that they were released as SMP (Symmetric Processing) capable meaning that two Mendocino Celerons could be made to theoretically function together on a single motherboard. It doesn’t seem Intel intended consumers to find out about this function but regardless it was discovered and soon Abit decided to take advantage of this fact by releasing the SMP capable Abit BP6. It was soon found that users could, with the right operating system and with certain games that supported SMP get better performance at a lesser price with dual Celerons on the BP6 than with a single more expensive CPU. With that bit of history out of the way let’s take a closer look at the motherboard itself.

The Abit BP6 uses the Intel 440BX chipset and ONLY supports Mendocino Celeron CPUs. Users have had success upgrading to later CPU’s such as Coppermine Pentium IIIs and even reportedly Tualatin Celerons via adaptors such as the Neo s370 Powerleap adapter and various modifications. Only the Mendocino Celerons are confirmed to work in dual processor AKA SMP mode though there are many posts of uses getting later Coppermine and Tualatin CPUs working in these modes as well with adaptors and modifications. The BIOS on the BP6 has quite a bit of overclocking and tweaking features and allows for setting the CPU multiplier and front side bus via BIOS settings. default front side bus for the Mendocino Celerons is 66MHz but the board does allow for settings of 75MHz as well as 100MHz FSB and above via a very user friendly “Soft CPU II” option in BIOS.

Built in I/O on the board is pretty minimal with dual PS/2 for mouse and keyboard, dual USB 1.1, a parallel and dual serial ports.

1) CPU – The BP6 only officially supports the Mendocino Celeron from speeds of 300MHz up to the fastest released chip of 533MHz (with the newest BIOS version installed). Despite being budget CPUs the Mendocino Celerons were very competitive with Intels higher end Pentium offerings. My board with the latest BIOS update features dual 533MHz Celerons which are very capable of playing most any Win 9x era games as well as early XP games provided you lower some settings. With a decent heatsink and thermal paste it’s not hard to overclock to 600MHz but this is about the maximum you’ll get out of the Mendocino while maintaining any stability.

Be aware this board only functions in SMP (dual CPU) mode with operating systems and software that allow it. Even though operating systems such as MS-DOS and Windows 9x do not support dual processors these systems will happily run on this board in single CPU mode and dual booting OSes is always an option.

2) RAM – The BP6 features three memory sockets for installing up to 768MB of SDRAM of either the PC66 or PC100 variety. PC133 memory will work fine but it will downclock to PC100 speeds. Each slot will also only accept up to 256MB DIMMS with larger sticks only being detected as 256MB.

3) AGP – The AGP slot is a x2 slot 3.3v slot. You can safely use anything up to about a Radeon 9700 Pro or Geforce 4 though the AGP x2 is going to bottleneck the power these video cards could potentially provide.

4) Five PCI v2.1 and two 16-bit ISA slots

5) Floppy and IDE connectors – One standard floppy connector and two ATA 33 connectors supporting two devices each for a total of four IDE devices.

6) HighPoint HPT366 – This additional controller chip supports four extra IDE devices via the white connectors at ATA 66 speeds, double the speed of the two standard connectors. Together that means the BP6 can support up to eight IDE devices in total.

7) SB Link – The BP6 sports a Sound Blaster link connection. the purpose of this cable was to create better sound compatibility for PCI sound cards when operating in a DOS environment. Unfortunately, the connector is somewhat uncommon on PCI sound cards and Creative themselves only made one card, the AWE64 PCI that even supported the cable. The SB Link connector is made somewhat even more redundant since the board already supports two 16-bit ISA slots.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the motherboard itself let’s take a look at the PC I built around it.

Since the BP6 is kind of a “poor man’s workstation” I decided to go with this server style case. The case itself is quite tall with a 3 digit LED display as well as a panel that slides down to reveal five 5 1/4 drive bays and two 3 1/2 bays.

Here is a look at the rear as well as the side of the case.

And the three digit LED MHz display.

Here is a look at my Abit BP6 under the hood.

I used some quality thermal paste and cooler master heatsink/fans on my CPU’s as well as attached a small fan to the heatsink on the chipset to help with any overclocking I decided to do. I was able to overclock this particular board to 600MHz by raising my FSB to 75MHz but anything higher resulted in non posting or instability.

I am using the full 768MB of PC100 RAM as well as running the Windows 2000 operating system. Windows 9x does not support SMP processing AKA dual CPUs so my pre W2K OS choices were rather limited, especially if gaming is your priority. I went with W2K over XP simply because it is a bit of a lighter OS compared to XP as far as requirements go and should run a little better on this setup as well as allowing me to play all the games I’m looking to play. Be sure to upgrade to the latest W2K service pack if you go with this OS for your build as some games such as Quake III failed to run for me before updating.

My hard drive selection was a simple 40GB Western Digital IDE drive from around the early 2000’s. nothing spectacular but more than enough for this setup.

Let’s take a quick look at the two expansion cards I have added to this board.

For sound I went with the venerable Sound Blaster Live! although this motherboard does have two 16-bit ISA slots DOS was not the focus of this build since DOS can take not take advantage of the dual CPUs. The SB Live! cards are good all around Windows 9x and early XP cards that support EAX and even have decent DOS support for being PCI cards. I could have gone with a later Audigy card but I felt this was a great card for the time frame I was going with.

My initial choice for a video card was the Matrox G400 MAX which is a capable and IMO underrated card for gaming that also matched the workstation theme I was going with for this build. Unfortunately, even though its performance was good I wanted something a little more powerful and switched to a Geforce ti4600 though I found much of the power of that card wasted on the AGP x2 slot and weaker processors. I finally decided to try out the Geforce MX 400 which is roughly equivalent to the Geforce 256 in power and gave me framerates well below the Geforce ti4600 in some cases and noticeably better than the G400 MAX. This card just kind of “felt right” for me and what I was looking for from this build but your choice may differ.

I don’t know if I’ll keep this video card but I may try out the Geforce 2 Ultra or the PowerVR Kyro II in the future for this PC.

The Abit BP6 was in many ways ahead of its time as an affordable consumer level board. The main problem I have with the board is that it came out at a time when SMP processing was a niche area reserved for specific work tasks. The problem was that no mainstream OS supported the dual CPU configuration and while most users at the time were running Windows 95 or 98 only Windows NT, Linux and a few other less popular operating systems supported more than one CPU. When Windows 2000 and then XP were released this largely solved this problem as Windows XP quickly became a popular OS for home PCs and it supported dual CPUs. The other problem was software, specifically games. There was not a lot of dual CPU support written for games pre 2000 and even for a time after. Quake III is perhaps the best example of a game supporting dual CPUs but even though it did receive a noticeable FPS boost in dual CPU mode the mode could be glitchy on some setups. There were other games such as Falcon 4.0 but other than a few titles here and there users of the BP6 were stuck in single CPU mode. By the time dual CPU support and things like multi-core support were becoming more widely supported the Mendocino Celerons, even at 533 or 600MHz were woefully underpowered or lacked the code to run these games. Quake 4 from 2005 is another relatively early example of a dual CPU supporting game but the Mendocino CPU is incapable of running it at all due to lacking SSE code in the CPU.

In short the BP6 is a nice motherboard, even in single CPU mode. It was a pioneer in the consumer market but unfortunately, the whole gimmick of the dual CPU support was largely lost on the lack of software, specifically games, that supported it. In this sense as a gaming motherboard I couldn’t recommend the BP6 as there are better single CPU options available for early 2000s retro PC gaming that are more powerful and easier to find. As a cheaper workstation build of the time the board performs well and if your a collector of vintage hardware it’s a fun board to have and play around with.

The IBM 300XL is a late 90’s PC from IBM that may look quite familiar to some of you. It uses the same case as the IBM PC 350 we covered on this blog way back in distant 2018. My first question is why did IBM use a model number that is lower than a previous model even though it uses a more advanced slot 1 motherboard as opposed to the socket 7 board in the PC 300. I guess that’s where the XL comes into the name, anyways….

On my 300XL if you look in the lower left hand corner my case is missing the cover for some unused ports. I’m guessing some models had audio jacks in this position. A little to the right of the center is the large beige power button and to the right of that is the sliding cover that when slid to the left reveals the drive bays. I have to say I do like the “Y2K Ready” sticker placed under the IBM logo.

Guess someone forgot to remove it.

Sliding the panel to the left reveals a single 3 1/2 bay and two 5 1/4 bays as well as one peculiar slim bay in the upper left corner I believe was reserved for a PCMCIA slot though there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to mount anything in this slot on my PC. My PC has a pretty standard combo of a 1.44MB floppy drive along with a CD-ROM drive.

Flipping the 300XL around reveals the ports on the back. There are five total expansion slots with four on the right and a single slot on the left coming off a riser card. At the center of the case we have two ports, a serial port and an IR port.

At the bottom of the case from left to right we have a number of jacks. Firstly are dual 3.5mm jacks for audio in and audio out for the built in sound. Next to this we have dual PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse followed by the parallel printer port. Next, we have dual USB jacks though it’s unclear if these are USB 1.0 or 1.1 as the user manual does not specify they are very likely 1.0. Lastly, we have an Ethernet port followed by a standard 15-pin VGA connector for the built in video.

The case of the 300XL is a screwless design and should come off by depressing the tab to the rear and pulling the upper casing off. On the underside of the case top should be a diagram of the motherboard along with jumper settings.

Here is my IBM 300XL with the case removed.

At about the center next to the CD and floppy drives is a mount for two hard drives. mine came with dual IDE HDDs one being 8GB and the other 2GB. Originally as I received it this PC had Windows NT installed but I did reformat the drive and installed Windows 95 OSR B. The power supply appears to be a fairly standard AT supply but features two extra power connectors that connect to the mainboard right behind the AT connector and another to the riser card.

Above we have the motherboard exposed with the riser card and mid support bar/HDD bays out of the way. The board is a proprietary board using the Intel 82440FX chipset. The board does provide sound in the form of a Crystal CS4236 chip providing sound blaster, sound blaster pro and WSS support though I was unable to locate any obvious crystal sound chip on the motherboard.

1 ) CPU – My 300XL came with a 233MHz Pentium II slot 1 CPU but also has jumper settings for installing a 266MHz Pentium II. The 300XL was probably a pretty early adaptor of slot 1 and although I havn’t tested this the 300MHz “Klamath” Pentium II would likely work as well. Later “Deschutes” Pentium II’s operate at a lower voltage which the 300XL does not appear to provide. Also Pentium II’s from 350MHz up also run on a 100MHz FSB which the 300XL also does not appear to be able to provide though provided voltage is not an issue could operate at a lower FSB and thus lower speed. The 233MHz PII is the slowest of the Pentium II’s but it should still make a capable CPU for most all DOS titles and early Windows 9x games. The CPU in my machine appears to get its cooling from a shroud directing air over the heatsink from a case fan.

2 ) RAM – The PC 300XL supports up to a maximum of 384MB of 168 pin DRAM memory. My 300XL currently has 96MB of memory installed. I’ve found many IBM PCs such as this one to be very picky about memory and none of my spare memory sticks worked on the 300XL even though they physically fit into the board. The manual states these specific memory requirements.

Must be 168-pin, unbuffered, +3 V type
Must have gold-lead tabs
Must have 60 nanosecond (ns) access speeds only
Must have a height of no more than 3.05 cm (1.2 in.)

3 ) Video – Built in video for the 300XL is provided by the S3 Trio64V2/DX and 2MB of DRAM. This chip is one of the later of the S3 Trio2D graphics chips. This makes an excellent video chip for 2D games and features top notch compatibility for DOS titles but lacks any 3D support. The chip does make sense considering the 300XL’s main purpose as a office or home work PC.

4 ) Riser – The 300XL uses a riser card to interface with any added expansion cards. The card features five 16-bit ISA slots (one on the oppose side) and three PCI slots though the PCI slots are shared with ISA for a total of five possible expansion cards.

The 300XL does not feature any AGP slot but something like a PCI Voodoo 3 2000 card as well as a good ISA sound card would be mostly all that’s need to turn this PC into a very capable DOS PC and even a quite adequate Win 9x gaming PC.

5) Piezo speaker.

The 300XL is basically a more powerful IBM PC 350 in the same case. The 2D video is slightly upgraded and it features the exact same amount and type of expansion slots so I’ll be a bit lazy here and quote what I said about that machine as it mostly applies here as well.

“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.”

The main difference with the 300XL is the CPU and the switch from socket 7 to slot 1. The Pentium II makes for a much more capable processor and thus a more capable computer when it comes to being a Windows 9x gaming machine though at the expense of being able to install a much slower socket 7 CPU and have a more speed appropriate DOS PC.

Released in 1987 the Tandy 1000 SX was an evolution of the original Tandy 1000 which itself was a clone of the IBM PCjr. The Tandy 1000 line featured several advantages over standard IBM compatibles of the time such as built-in “Tandy video” which offered CGA video modes along with 160×200 and 320×200 16 color modes. The Tandy 1000 also offered enhanced Tandy 3- voice sound. Both Tandy video and audio were very widely supported in games.

The 1000 SX is an enhanced version of the original Tandy 1000 offering many improvements that more or less correct every issue that the original Tandy 1000 had such as making upgrading and expanding the PC easier and adding a faster CPU “turbo mode” as well as a DMA controller to speed up certain processes. Many retro PC enthusiasts consider the Tandy 1000 SX one of if not the best bang for your buck IBM compatibles of the 1980s.

The 1000 SX case when compared to a IBM PC is noticeably smaller which saves desk space. It’s also mostly made of plastic which also makes it a significantly lighter PC. The SX came stock with dual 360k 5 1/4 floppy drives in its dual 5 1/4 bays though the built-in floppy controller also supports 720k drives. We will detail the process of upgrading to one of these larger capacity drives later in the article.

At the bottom of the front of the case there are two screws on the far left and right. Removing these is all that is necessary for removing the cover. On the bottom left of the front we have a large red reset button. Next to this we have a keyboard port. The Tandy 1000 SX uses a proprietary style keyboard port like most of the early Tandy 1000 line. This port is not compatible with standard IBM type PC/XT/AT keyboards so a Tandy keyboard is required though there are modern adaptors that allow the use of standard PS/2 keyboards.

To the right of the keyboard port are dual round 6-pin joystick ports. These joystick ports are also proprietary and require joysticks compatible with the Tandy 1000 and Tandy color computer line.

Turning the Tandy 1000 SX around and we can see the various rear connectors. The power switch like the one on the IBM PC/XT/AT is on the rear left side though the switch itself is not visible in this image. Starting from left to right we have a standard 3 prong connector for the power cord. Next is a card edge style connector located directly under the model label. This is actually an edge-style parallel port and is intended to be used with specific Tandy printers. Adaptors were made to connect non-Tandy parallel port devices to the edge connector. Next is the seldom if ever used DE-9 lightpen connector followed by the built-in video and audio jacks.

First up is a standard DE-9 connector for connecting to TTL RGB monitors. Tandy made several Tandy specific monitors of differing quality like the CM-5 that I’m using and the higher quality CM-11 but any standard CGA type monitor will work. The video output of the Tandy 1000 SX is based on the video capabilities of the failed PCjr but since the PCjr failed this video standard became known as TGA or Tandy Graphics Adaptor. The Tandy 1000 SX can output standard CGA as well as the TGA modes which allow 16 colors on screen at one time. This more or less resembles the look of EGA in low resolutions though they are not the same.

Tandy playing EOB in CGA mode
Tandy playing EOB in TGA 16 color mode

CGA compatibility on the Tandy 1000 line is almost 100% and is CGA register compatible though due to slight differences in text characters used very few games (ex. ICON : Quest for the Ring and The Seven Spirits of RA) may show some minor graphical issues. As for the extended TGA modes available the Tandy 1000 also supports 160×200 with 16 colors, 320×200 with 16 colors and 640×200 with 4 colors out of the palette of 16 colors. A very significant number of games do support Tandy 16 color graphics. Some of these games allow the user to choose the color mode between CGA and TGA but some games will automatically detect if a Tandy is present and force 16 color TGA mode. Some games such as ArcticFox only support 16 color mode via the Tandy graphics adapter.

Next up we have the RCA style A/V jacks for video and audio. At first glance it looks like stereo audio jacks but the red jack is for color composite out for connecting usually to a TV but also to some monitors. Some games may also show differences in colors when displayed in color composite mode on a Tandy 1000 as opposed to an IBM compatible CGA card.

The audio out is very useful if you don’t want to output sound through the internal speaker and instead wish to use an external speaker. The audio out though is disabled by default and some games may fail to initialize. there is a program called  tdyspkr.com which should allow you to select the A/V audio jack as active on boot up for those programs which fail to see it.

Since we are talking about sound It’s worth mentioning the Tandy 1000 SX “Tandy sound” which is a bit more advanced than the standard PC speaker and uses 3 voice channels and 1 sound channel is a clone of the PCjr sound. Tandy sound or Tandy 3-voice sound as it’s also known is generated by either a SN76496 or NCR8496 Chip. Some games such as Thexder only support PC speaker or Tandy speaker sound with Tandy sound being noticeably superior and less grating on the ears. If you opt to not use external speakers Tandy 1000 SX also sports a nice sounding large cone speaker at the front of the case

Removing the case to get inside is relatively easy and only requires removing two screws located on the front face of the case.

Image was taken before math co-processor and memory upgrade

The only expansion card for my Tandy 1000 SX is an I/O card for a serial and parallel port and this is the only card that was installed in this machine when I received it. The metal bar going across the motherboard from the side to the dual 5 1/4 bays is actually a support beam that is easily removed. Its purpose is to help support a monitor if one is placed on top of the case as was a common practice of the time.

Removing the dual 360k 5 1/4 floppy drives gives us a better view of the motherboard.

Like the original IBM PC the 1000 SX only has 5 8-bit ISA slots. Unlike the IBM PC though, the Tandy 1000 SX has the floppy drive controller as well as the video built-in. The motherboard of the 1000 SX also has a built-in DMA chip to speed up certain processes, something the earlier Tandy 1000, 1000A and 1000 HD lacked.

1) CPU – The 1000 SX uses an 8088 like previous models although the SX runs default at 7.16MHz with the ability to downclock to 4.77MHz for compatibility with older software. The SX has no turbo button so to slow the CPU back down to 4.77MHz you need to use the DOS commands “MODE SLOW” and “MODE FAST” in order to switch speeds. The default speed is 7.16MHz though at boot up you can also press the F4 key on the keyboard to boot into 4.77MHz slow mode. The MODE command which sets the CPU speed is only available in the OEM version of Tandy DOS 3.x.

2) Math Co-Processor – The SX does have a socket next to the CPU for adding a math co-pro. I elected to add an 8MHz capable 8087-2. Adding a math co-pro is hardly necessary and only a handful of programs and games from the time can take advantage of it.

Next to the CPU is a small switch box. These switches can be used to disable several features mostly for the purpose of adding discrete cards. All switches are set to “on” by default. switch 1 disables the built-in video. Switch 2 controls the IRQ the built-in video uses. Switch 3 disables/enables the internal floppy controller and lastly switch 4 will enable/disable the parallel port.

3) RAM – By default the 1000 SX came with 384k of memory but is easily upgradable to a full 640k of memory. My 1000 SX only came with the original 384k of memory but I upgraded to the full 640k via eight 256k x 1 150ns (or faster) DRAM chips. After adding the additional memory jumpers E1 and E2 also need to be removed for the system to detect the change.

640k should be enough memory for any game that will run well on the SX and there is even evidence that expanding past 640k on a 1000 series can cause issues and incompatibilities with games.

4) System ROM BIOS / Smartwatch Battery – This socket is used for both the system BIOS chip on the SX as well as the battery which holds time for the system clock.

System ROM BIOS

you’ll notice that on my machine the BIOS chip is in a socket that is a little high. that’s because my SX has a separate battery module in between the motherboard socket and the BIOS ROM. I don’t believe all SX’s have this module but mine does. its purpose is to hold the date which needs to be entered every time Tandy DOS 3.x loads up on boot. To access the battery you have to first remove the ROM chip which is socketed over it.

You can still purchase a modern replacement for this battery HERE which allows the use of a coin-style battery.

5) Speaker Volume control – Unfortunately there is no way to control the volume of the speaker from outside of the case but Tandy did include a volume adjustment on the motherboard. If turned down all the way the speaker can be completely muted.

6) floppy connector – Built-in connector for connecting floppy disk drives to the SX. The built-in controller supports both 360k 5 1/4 disk drives as well as 720k 3 1/2 style disk drives.

7) Tandy sound chip – As mentioned earlier the Tandy 3-voice sound is generated by either an SN76496 or NCR8496 Chip. For the Tandy 1000 SX it can be either chip. My SX uses the NCR8496 which is a clone of the original Texas Instruments SN76496 chip.

It is almost a perfect clone though there are slight audible differences in the noise channel. I suppose since it’s socketed an original SN76496 could be sourced and swapped out with the clone chip. If you are interested more information on the sound chips can be found HERE.

UPGRADES

There are common upgrades that apply to most all PC and XT machines such as an NEC V20 for a small speed boost or XT-IDE adaptor. There isn’t any place to really mount a hard drive and I use a XT-IDE compact flash adaptor myself which works well. I am using a 32MB card with Tandy DOS 3.2 installed but DOS 6.22 with a larger CF card works just as well.

A hardcard or hard drive on an ISA a card would be a more period correct, though slower option.

I don’t recommend adding an EGA or VGA video card to the SX though you certainly can I just find the whole point to using a machine like this is to take advantage of the Tandy sound and video that so many games supported.

A serial card or bus mouse card could also be useful if you are planning on using a mouse with your Tandy.

I did however add a Sound Blaster 1.5 w/ CMS chips. I’ll be using this machining mostly for older titles that support PC speaker or Tandy sound only though I wanted the option for games that do support digital sound and or adlib/CMS sound.

The upgrade I would definitely recommend is replacing one of the 360k 5 1/4 floppy drives with a 720k 3 1/2 drive. I replaced my drive B with a 720k drive as opposed to drive A since the primary format of the time was 360k disks and thus many “booter” type games came in that format which may require being read from drive A. Since there are no 3 1/2 size bays on the SX case you will need a 5 1/4 to 3 1/2 bay adaptor. Keep in mind you can press the F3 key on bootup to swap the A and B drives.

Some things to consider when adding a 720k drive is that the cable the SX uses is very short and also uses edge connectors so it’s very likely you will need some kind of adaptor and or extension to reach for the floppy drive or you’ll need to use a different cable altogether.

Original 1000 SX floppy cable.

Another thing to keep in mind is the Tandy 1000 SX uses floppy cables without a twist in them so you will need a 720k floppy drive with jumpers that allow you to designate what drive it is.

D0 designates the drive as drive A while setting the jumper to D1 sets the drive as the B drive.

If you can’t find an adaptor and or extension which allows you to use the original short floppy cable that came with the Tandy 1000 SX you will either need to find a longer floppy drive cable without the twist or modify a more common “twisted” floppy cable by untwisting the cable as seen below.

Unfortunately, I had no luck getting my modified cable to work though I know others have. I did end up finding an edge connector adaptor that also had an extension cable attached to it which allowed me to use the original cable that came with my SX and everything works fine.

So is the Tandy 1000 SX a great computer for 80’s PC gaming? I’d say so and I would at the very least say it was one of if not the best value for the money at the time. The built-in Tandy sound and video were far superior to PC speaker and CGA common at the time and many, many games supported the standard. There are a number of games that are just best experienced with Tandy color and or sound. You could have bought an EGA card but those would have been quite expensive and sound cards weren’t really supported until the late ’80s. The option to run the CPU at both 7.16MHz and 4.77MHz for compatibility is also a nice bonus. The 1000 SX is also lighter and takes up a little less desktop space than comparable IBM models and as mentioned at the beginning of the article the SX fixes most of the issues that hampered the original Tandy 1000. I like the Tandy 1000 SX so much I’ve actually replaced my primary 8088 based XT PC with it despite that machine still holding a few advantages over the Tandy.

The Power Macintosh G5 series was the end of an era for Apple and the Macintosh. It was one of the last Macs to use the venerable Power PC CPU before moving onto Intel CPU’s which in my opinion made Macs little more then PCs with a custom Apple OS and took away much of their uniqueness for better or worse. The quad core G5 Macintosh was one of the last of the G5 Macs and one of the most powerful. Before we get into the specs keep in mind that older G5 Machines will have differing configurations and this is only a look at one of the last PCs in this line and not a general overview of the entire G5 line..

I’ve frequently seen these cases referred to as “cheese grater” cases due to the front. The case is all aluminum and despite the lighter weight of the metal the thing is very heavy. Being aluminum though it’s likely the case will survive long after all of us are dead, that is unless they all get melted down to make aircraft during WW III. The front of the case is very simple with a single 5 1/4 drive bay near the top for a CD/DVD optical drive and only a few inputs further down on the left.

First is the power button which does light up when pressed and powered on. Next we have a audio headphone jack and finally one USB 2.0 port and below that a Firewire 400 port. The case also has aluminum “feet” on both the bottom and top which are handy for both assisting in carrying the heavy beast of a case as well as keeping it off the ground a little. Be aware that these “feet” are very prone to being crushed if shipped improperly.

Opening the case on the G5 macs is a cinch. on the upper right hand side of the rear of the case is a simple lever. Simply pull it up and the side panel pops off. To the right of the handle are four expansion slots. Most of the rear is taken up by two massive fans and below those is the connector for your power cord.

The connector is, in classic Apple fashion, not quite your usual 3 prong connector as the shape is completely square and the three prongs are fairly flat as opposed to round so you will need a special power connector. Now the power cable used here is not proprietary but it is commonly found on high end sever equipment with high wattage power supplies. I couldn’t really say what advantage this connector type has over the more standard one and I seriously doubt it is needed for the G5 Macintosh so all it really seems to do is be extremely annoying if you happen to lack a compatible power cable and the 50 standard ones you have laying around the house won’t fit.

Starting at the top and going down the G5 has a neat row of various inputs and outputs. First are dual Ethernet ports followed by a Firewire 800 and 400 port. Next are optical audio in and out ports followed by dual 1/8 audio jacks and finally three USB 2.0 ports.

Upon removing the side panel most of the lower section of the case is further covered by a hard clear plastic cover. This is easily removed via a small handle near the top. There is also a badge on the bottom portion of the case that if you are unsure of the exact factory specifications of your model you should be able to find them there.

On the top left is the sole 5 1/4 drive bay which at least factory standard should be occupied with a 16x DVD drive. To the right of this bay are dual 3 1/2 drives for installing hard drives. A 250GB SATA drive was the stock drive but I have added a second drive in the lower “B” bay.

I have seen people install SDD drives in these bays but it may require an adaptor to fit securely or just be installed loose in the bay.

Below these bays are the four expansion slots.

Four slots for expansions cards is pretty anemic for a computer but in all honestly they are all PCI-e and being a Macintosh your not likely going to find you need to install much more then a video card anyways. The four PCI-e slots is actually a nice upgrade from previous models in the G5 line which lacked any PCI-e expansion slots and instead used AGP, PCI and PCI-x. Only the bottom slot is PCI-e x16 so I would suggest installing your video card in the bottom most slot. As far as I can tell there is no option to run either a crossfire or SLI configuration in the G5 Mac.

the G5 Power Mac came stock with the Macintosh version of the Geforce 6600 with 256MB or memory. This card is quite adequate though it is not the mot powerful card the G5 quad can accept and if you want to take some better advantage of what this system has to offer the video card should be one of your first upgrades if possible.

The G5 is somewhat limited on video cards it can accept due to the requirement that cards use a special Apple Mac BIOS and OS drivers. The fastest video card I could find for the G5 Mac quad was the Quadro FX 4500 with 512MB of memory. This card is basically the workstation version of the 7800 GTX and is more or less the same. Upgrading to a FX 4500 gives a noticeable boost to gaming on the G5 though finding a specific Macintosh version of the card can be difficult and/or expensive. Another route you can take is tracking down the much more common PC version of the card and flashing its BIOS to the Mac version.

You will need a specific revision of the PC card with a specific BIOS in order to flash it though. Usually the card with the L bracket on the back are flashable models but always check the BIOS revision to be sure.

Guides on the process such as the one Here can be found with a simple Google search.

Also take note the FX 4500 will require an additional power cable that connects to the motherboard and then to the card as seen below. also seen below is the connector for the IDE cable that goes to the optical drive.

The area of the motherboard below the expansion slots is dominated by the CPU and in this model, water cooling system, which is located behind the “G5” shield. To the left of this is the RAM which we can get a better look at by removing the large gray fan which simply lifts straight out.

The G5 “quad core” came factory with 512MB of DDR2 memory but I have expanded mine to a whopping 16GB of RAM. 16MB of DDR2 is a lot of memory for 2006 when the G5 line was discontinued and when many PC’s were still maxed out at 4GB with Windows XP. I do remember reading that the the jump from DDR memory in all other models of the G5 to DDR2 in the late 2005 models such as the quad core made very little to no performance improvement but I can’t seem to locate the source so I can’t confirm this though I felt it worth mentioning.

Finally we have the CPU or in the case of the Power Mac G5 Quad Core, two CPU’s.

The CPU’s and cooler are under a stylish aluminum shield with a large G5 emblazoned on it so you know what’s under it. The G5 Quad Core sports two separate dual core 2.5GHz G5 Power PC CPU’s under a factory stock water cooled system.

My machine is equipped with a liquid cooling system by Delphi. The Delphi coolers were known to have leakage issues which could corrode and destroy the system. according to Wikipedia Apple started later using a liquid cooling system from Panasonic which was much more reliable. I have found at least one comment in my research that indicated that it was actually the Panasonic cooler used in the 2.7GHz G5 Macs that was unreliable and thus resulted in the apparent scarcity of that model. This also makes sense since the 2.7GHz G5 with the Panasonic cooler seems to of been released in early 2005 where the models with the Delphi coolers were released in late 2005.

There are faster 2.7GHz G5 macs though these machines use two separate single core G5 CPU’s so they may be faster in single threaded applications and games that do not take advantage of multiple cores though the quad core is seen as the fastest overall G5 PC. Its very hard to compare speed wise with Pentium or other X86 processors but I have seen rough equivalency with faster AMD FX processors.

The Power Mac G5 quad core is the king of the G5 line and possibly of the power PC computers in general. It was the end of an era for Apple who after these machines switched over to Intel CPU’s and in my opinion lost some uniqueness. The case for the G5s is durable but be prepared because it is heavy and moving it around is a real pain. The G5s did get a reputation in its day for being fairly good machines for things like video editing but also as a space heater as it tends to give off a lot of heat while in operation. I will say my machine does get a little warm and is loud though I expect the models with fan cooling as opposed to water cooling would be even louder. It should be the king of OS X gaming though unfortunately there aren’t many games that are exclusive to power PC based OS X though .

The IBM AT also known as the IBM 5170 is IBM’s follow up to the IBM PC and IBM XT (and XT-286) home computer. Released in 1984 the 5170 featured a 286 processor and the then new 16-bit ISA expansion slots which would continue to be seen on computer motherboards all the way until the early 2000’s. The AT also supported high density floppy drives, came standard with a hard drive, featured a battery to store system settings as opposed to motherboard switches and was a great machine for then then new EGA graphics standard.

For the duration of this article please take not I will be using the terms 5170 and AT interchangeably to refer to this PC.

The IBM 5170 has a pretty utilitarian look in my opinion but there are many fans of the industrial look of this very sturdy case. My case was rescued from a garage and has some significant rust and scratching but it still fully functional. On the far left we have the standard IBM model badge as well as a lock and LEDs for power and hard drive activity.

On the right side of the case are dual 5 1/4 drive bays. These bays are usually populated by two 1.2MB 5 1/4 inch floppy drives though it’s fairly common to see at least one bay housing a 3 1/2 inch floppy drive via a bay adaptor. All 5170’s support 720KB floppy drives but later revisions like mine also support 1.44MB 3 1/2 drives. I did upgrade one of my 1.2MB floppy drives to a 1.44MB drive but keep in mind you will need a bay adaptor as well as a molex to floppy power adaptor.

Below these duals bays there is also a smaller bay obscured by the front panel that could possibly mount a smaller half height form factor hard drive.

Like the earlier IBM computers the AT power switch is a large red flip switch located towards the rear of the case and on the side.

Looking at the rear we see the power supply on the left side. The AT came with a PSU of about 200w which was sufficient to power a hard drive and several expansion cards and drives. The only built in port on the AT is the AT keyboard port located next to the expansion slots. The AT like the XT supports the now standard eight expansion ports which meant now you had to sacrifice less when picking and choosing expansion cards as the earlier PC only have five expansion slots.

After the five rear screws securing the case cover are removed we can take off the top and have a look inside the AT.

As seen in the image above my original configuration included three expansion cards such as the hard drive controller as well as a serial/parallel port card and lastly a cirrus logic VGA card. The VGA card will be replaced later for something more period correct for the 5170.

Below is a view of the motherboard with the expansion cards removed.

The hard drive is housed in a bay next to the dual 5 1/4 bays. The 5170 shipped stock with an unreliable 20MB MFM hard drive though at some point my AT was upgraded to a 40MB model.

The 5170 lacks any switch blocks on the motherboard and setup is accomplished via a setup program run from a floppy disk. There is an official IBM setup program but it can be a little outdated and the setup program itself may not have options for things such as 1.44MB floppy drives even though the motherboard may be fully capable. A good alternative is a program called GSETUP which you can use with the IBM 5170 as well as other computers which require setup programs.

1 ) CPU – Early versions of the IBM 5170 used a 6MHz 80286 for it’s CPU but later revisions like the one I have pictured were upgraded to an 8MHz 80286.

Even at 8MHz the AT’s 286 processor is on the slow side as far as 286 CPU’s go. It’s certainly faster then an 8088, even at 10MHz but it’s still to slow to be optimal for many VGA titles that are more action oriented like combat flight simulators. The earlier IBM XT-286 was said to run faster with the same speed CPU due to 0 wait states though I have never personally tested this.

2 ) FPU – The 5170 motherboard does have a socket for adding a 287 math co-processor to assist in more complicated mathematical processing.

The FPU is useful for CAD type programs but it’s usefulness in games is quite limited with only a scarce few games of the time taking advantage of the processors capabilities.

3 ) RAM – All IBM AT’s came standard with 512KB of memory on the motherboard. The 5170 supports up to 16MB of memory though expanding to a full 640KB and beyond does require a memory expansion card.

4 ) Battery – The 5170 motherboard does not have any CMOS battery on the board to save settings nor switches (besides for monitor selection) thus a working battery is essential to save the settings set with the previously mentioned setup programs. The 5170 in order to save settings uses an external battery.

As original batteries are long dead for the most part buying a newer replacement will most likely be required. There are many options on eBay that use AA batteries though usually the wiring is keyed differently. Modification will most likely be required as most of these battery holders are not wired for the AT.

There is a switch between the power connector and the external battery connector. This switch is for selecting the monitor in use. The rear position is for using an MDA monitor and the forward position is for CGA. The position has no effect when using an EGA or VGA video card.

5 ) AT Power Connector

6 ) PC Speaker – The 5170 has a fairly decent PC speaker located at the front of the case.

Let’s take a look at the expansion cards I have installed in my IBM 5170 making it a late 1980’s configuration.

We will start with the two cards my PC had preinstalled and not counting the VGA card I initially installed for testing.

Hard drive controller

I believe this WD based 16-bit MFM controller card which came with my 5170 is the stock card provided for the later revision 8MHz AT’s.

The other card that came with my 5170 was a simple serial/parallel port card which is extremely useful seeing as there are no built in I/O ports.

And now to take a look at the expansion cards I decided to add.

Joystick Card

I decided to add a gameport card since my soundcard of choice did not have a gameport on it as many later sound cards do.

The card I went with was an 8-bit CH Gamecard III automatic. I didn’t have any specific reasons for choosing this card other then it’s what I had on hand although it is nice that it supports two gamepads.

RAM Expansion

Having memory over 640KB isn’t to important on an IBM AT since most games that will run acceptably on this PC only require 640KB or less of conventional memory. Unfortunately the 5170 only came with 512KB of memory stock so although that is enough to play a number of games you really want to get a full 640KB to get the best experience with the AT.

For memory expansion I installed an Intel Above Board which has a total capacity of 2MB but also allows you to backfill the conventional memory to the full 640KB bringing the total memory of the 5170 to 640KB of conventional memory and the difference allocated to being XMS or EMS memory though usually XMS is favored for 286 class PCs. Larger memory cards are available and you can even install multiple cards up to 16MB but I’ve found little use for more then 2MB in a PC of this vintage and class.

Audio

Sound cards weren’t really a thing until 1987 and most games that will run on the 5170 well won’t necessarily require anything beyond PC speaker though a sound card does expand your options. Since I decided to go more period correct with this PC I decided an original Adlib was the best choice.

The original Ablib as seen above from 1987 uses a 1/4 inch audio jack and a simple volume knob. This card uses off the shelf parts but its YM3812 FM chip is widely supported in games. These cards are quite the collectors item these days so I can’t recommend tracking one down unless you want a strict period correct machine from the later 1980’s and have large sums of cash to burn. Almost all later sound cards like the Sound Blaster 16 have perfect Adlib compatibility so I would suggest more people go down that route. There are also a number of Adlib reproductions available for a much cheaper price if you want to keep that original Adlib look. Later Adlib cards from 1990 also switched to a more commonly used 3.5mm audio jack.

Video

In the late 80’s most 5170’s would likely have been fitted with an MDA or CGA video card though the more expensive and fancier option was the official IBM EGA card allowing 16 colors on screen at once.

There are later smaller and cheaper EGA cards with all the memory built in but the official IBM card just felt right for this PC. The IBM EGA video card only comes with 64K of video memory on the card severely limiting resolutions and colors on screen and causing some games to display an incorrect image. There is a memory expansion daughterboard as seen above which brings the card up to a full 256K of video ram. These daughterboards used to be quite rare though I believe there are third party replacements available. I unfortunately only have a CGA monitor on hand but thankfully the card can be made to display to a CGA color monitor via switches on the card and will display EGA graphics but at a lower resolution.

You can add an ISA VGA video card which would be significantly cheaper and allow the use of much more common VGA monitors if so desired though I find this much less interesting.

Overall the IBM 5170 is a capable PC for the 80’s although I do feel its CPU is a bit on the weak side even at 8MHz speeds. It’s to fast for very early PC games that require an 8088 CPU but for more demanding games of the 80’s a 12MHz or 16MHz 286 or a 386 would serve you much better. I went with a very IBM, period correct build for this article but nothing is stopping you from adding a decent VGA card and Sound Blaster 16 giving a significant boost to this PCs power and expanding the playable game library, though as I mentioned the CPU will still be a bottleneck for more demanding VGA games. In my opinion one is better off with a clone system which are usually smaller, lighter and have more things built in such as more memory and I/O ports. You also most likely do not have to worry about the tiresome setup programs required on the 5170 when using an IBM compatible which is a plus. If you are an IBM fan though this PC can be a lot of fun. The design is seen as beautiful by many IBM enthusiasts the AT is more expandable and versatile then the IBM PC and XT and the case itself is built like a tank.

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