27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

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27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-12 @ 20:57

27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

About Me/About My Rig:

First-time poster, long-time lurker. Known by the same name within other forums online. This was a 6-month project with LOTS of trial and error, and LOTS of hardware/software testing to find the 'perfect' balance for playing PC games from 1981 up to 2008 within a single system *without* the use of emulation in *any* form *or* without needing to switch out hardware physically (no need to open the case). Beige/White parts and cables used wherever possible. Hardware compromises were made, performance could always be better but it *plays* everything no problem. My design is 'complete' at this point hardware-wise (new games are always being added though) and I do not intend to change it (unless there is a very good reason to do so), but feel free to comment/recommend/advise/mock/tease/troll me or my design as you like. My main intention of posting this is to provide a path for others who may want to build a similar rig. But... does it play Tetris, X-WING, Doom 1, Doom 2, Doom 3, Crysis 1 and Crysis 2? Absolutely, along with everything in-between. ;)

NOTE: ZIP files with pictures attached to this post - I did it this way so there would be no need to rely on an external server for image hosting.

Compatible Software Years: 1981 – 2008
Final Parts Cost: $1230.26
Research/Development Cost: $986.92 (hardware that didn’t work out for one reason or another, *none* of which is listed here)
Basic Description: Based on Pentium 4 3.4Ghz (478), industrial motherboard w/865-chipset and ISA/PCI/AGP slots, 4 video cards, 2 sound cards, 4 hard drives, 2 optical drives, 2 floppy drives and PLoP bootloader w/custom GPU switching solution

Core Components:

• Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 3870 AGP, Nvidia Geforce FX 5200 PCI, Nvidia Riva TNT PCI, 3dfx Voodoo 2 PCI
• Sound Cards: Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZX PCI (SB0350), Sound Blaster 16 ISA (CT1740)
• Hard Drives: Western Digital 40GB HDD (PATA), Western Digital 80GB HDD (PATA), Intel 500GB SSD (SATA), Seagate 750GB HDD (SATA)
• CD/DVD Drives: Sony DVD-RW (PATA), Panasonic/Matsushita CD-ROM (Proprietary)
• Floppy Disk(s): Epson SD800/SD700 Combo (3.5”/5.25”)
• RAM: Patriot DDR-400 (4x1GB)
• Motherboard: Advantech AIMB-742 Industrial (AGP/PCI/ITE8888-based ISA w/IRQ & DMA redirection)
• CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.4Ghz (478)
• Power Supply: AGI 350W ATX
• Keyboard: Mitsumi PS/2
• Mouse: Optical Serial Mouse (barcode-based)
• Monitor: ASUS VX238W 23” 1080p HDMI/VGA LCD
• Speakers: Sony SA-SPC5 2.1 Reference (Studio-grade)
• Game Controllers: Gravis 4-button Gamepad, Gravis 10-button Gamepad, Sony PSOne Dual Shock w/USB adapter

Hardware Reasoning/Compromises:

• 865-based industrial motherboard used for full DMA support with ISA (all chipsets above 865 lack DMA support for ISA bridges) and full Windows 98 support (other chipsets would work, but won’t be fully compatible)
• HD 3870 GPU used for maximum video performance in Windows 7 (best AGP GPU ever made aside from the HD 4670 which is only marginally better, unless someone designs an AGP-to-PCI-Express adapter in the future... if so then I will upgrade further)
• FX 5200 PCI GPU used for 44.x driver compatibility in Windows 98 (best PCI GPU available with 44.x driver compatibility - better FX cards *could* be used but AGP slot is already in use)
• 3dfx Voodoo 2 GPU used for DOS/Windows 98 Glide compatibility (Voodoo 3 PCI not fully compatible with DOS Glide)
• Riva TNT GPU used for proper CGA/EGA/VGA/VESA video support in DOS (including smooth side-scrolling in Keen games)
• SSD used for Windows 7, HDDs used for DOS/Windows 98 (lack of OS TRIM support prevents use of SSDs)
• Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZX used for full surround sound in Windows OSes (OEM model used, as it *does not* have a joystick/MIDI port and therefore won’t conflict with the SB16 for joystick/MIDI)
• Sound Blaster 16 used for proper sound support in DOS (also allows for PC speaker pass-through)
• Era-correct AGI 350W PSU used for strong amperage on 5v rail *and* 12v rail
• ASUS VX238W 23” LCD used for 1080p HDMI/VGA support and 4:3 ratio support (I don’t like CRTs, despite being raised with them)
• Startech 2-port VGA auto-switcher used for FX 5200/Riva TNT VGA switching (only one VGA port on LCD)
• PS/2-based keyboard and Serial-based optical mouse used for full DOS compatibility (PS/2 keyboard is fine, Serial mouse ensures no issues with older DOS applications)
• 40GB HDD used for DOS (40GB is plenty)
• 80GB HDD used for Windows 98 (avoids file system corruption issues)
• 500GB SSD used for Windows 7 (loading performance)
• 750GB HDD used for HDD backups (secondary Windows 7 OS)

Hardware/Software Tricks:

• Windows 7 (located on 750GB HDD) used for maintenance/backups
• Windows 7 (located on 500GB SSD) used for Windows 2K/XP/Vista games
• Windows 98 (located on 80GB HDD) used for Windows 3.0/3.11/95/98 games
• DOS 7.11 (located on 40GB HDD) used for *all* DOS games
• AGP/PCI GPU switching done via BIOS, PCI GPU (FX 5200/Riva TNT) switching done via custom FX 5200 BIOS wipe/reprogram script utilizing NVFLASH (NOP’d i.e. no-operation BIOS file flashed to FX 5200 results in the Riva TNT booting instead, reversing the process i.e. flashing original BIOS back results in the FX 5200 booting)
• Nvidia 44.x drivers used under Windows 98 for game compatibility
• HIMEMX used to force Windows 98 to only ‘see’ 1GB of RAM (no memory errors in Windows 98)
• Windows 98 HDD is the first drive in order physically *and* in the BIOS, contains PLoP bootloader (prevents MBR errors in Windows 98)
• Additional PATA/SATA controllers disabled in Windows 98 (ensures no ‘triangle’ errors in Device Manager, allows full drive performance and no lockups)
• Service Pack 3 (Unofficial) used to update Windows 98 OS core files
• DirectX 7.0 used on Windows 98 (intentionally omitted DirectX 8.1/9.0 support in Windows 98)
• PLoP bootloader used to launch OSes and to ‘hide’ FAT partitions to ensure booted DOS/Win98 OS only ‘sees’ one FAT partition (itself)
• UNIVBE (DOS) used to ensure full VESA support for Riva TNT GPU
• Hyper-threading and CPU caches need to be disabled, and MOSLO used to slow CPU to run 1980’s-based DOS games
• PC speaker routed through SB16
• Daemon Tools (Windows 7 and Windows 98) used for ISO mounting
• SHSUCD (DOS) used for ISO mounting
• CTMOUSE (DOS) used for smallest possible mouse driver footprint
• ACCESS 4.60 (DOS) used for menus
• JEMMEX (DOS) used for memory management
• MIXERSET (DOS) used to set volume levels and enable PC speaker pass-through on SB16
• Network adapter disabled under Windows 98 (for obvious reasons)

Benchmarks:

Windows 7 (SAPPHIRE/AMD Radeon HD 3870 512MB AGP, 3DMark Vantage) - P2972
Windows 98 (PNY/Nvidia Geforce FX 5200 256MB PCI, 3DMark 2000) - 10837
Windows 98 (STB/Nvidia Riva TNT 16MB PCI, 3DMark 2000) - 2544
Windows 98 (Diamond Multimedia/3dfx Voodoo 2 12MB PCI, 3DMark 2000) - 2391

Finalized Hardware List w/Pricing (*not* sorted by type, most parts purchased on eBay):

Chenbro Server Case (ATX, Beige) - $49.95
AGI 350W PSU (ATX) - $14.44
Advantech AIMB-742 Industrial Motherboard (AGP/PCI/ISA) - $149.97
Pentium 4 478 Heatsink (Copper Core) - $13.50
Pentium 4 3.4Ghz 478 CPU (SL7PP) - $19.98
Patriot 4GB DDR-3200 RAM (DDR1) - $23.75
Sony DVD-RW (PATA, White) - $12.88
Panasonic/Matsushita CD-ROM (Proprietary, Beige) - FREE
Western Digital 40GB HDD (PATA) - FREE
Western Digital 80GB HDD (PATA) - FREE
Intel 500GB SSD (SATA) - FREE
Seagate 750GB HDD (SATA) - $29.15
Molex Splitter - FREE
12v Fan Controller - $3.78
Floppy Cable (Supports 5.25") - $3.99
PATA Cables (Shielded) - FREE
SATA Cables - FREE
Panasonic CD-ROM Cable - FREE
3.5mm Mono Male to RCA Female Adapter (Gold) - $5.89
3.5mm Stereo Male to Male Cable (White) - $5.49
3.5mm Stereo Male to RCA Male Cable (White, x2) - $19.98
RCA Male to Male Cable (White) - $11.99
Mini-DIN-7 to 3x Component RCA Female Adapter (Black) - $9.99
Mini-DIN-7 to Composite RCA Female Adapter (Black) - $3.19
2x Molex Female to 8-pin PCI-E Male Adapter - $2.89
PC Speaker Cable - FREE
DVD-RW Audio Cable - FREE
CD-ROM Audio Cable - FREE
ATI Radeon HD 3850 512MB GPU (AGP) - $111.99
Nvidia Riva TNT 16MB GPU (PCI) - $29.44
Diamond Multimedia (3dfx) Voodoo 2 12MB GPU (PCI) - $139.00
Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 Sound Card (PCI) - $14.95
Creative SoundBlaster 16 Sound Card (ISA) - $40.00
Mitsumi Keyboard (PS/2, White) - $20.00
Barcode Mouse (Serial, White) - $16.99
ASUS VX238H-W LCD Monitor (VGA, HDMI x2, White) - $84.50
Gravis 4-button Gamepad (Joystick Port, Beige) - $10.99
Gravis Gamepad Pro (Joystick Port, Beige) - $15.00
Sony PSOne Gamepad (PSX -> USB Adapter, White) - $7.74 + $9.99
3v Motherboard Battery - $2.00
Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Grease - $8.00
3dfx Stickers - $12.45
Nvidia Stickers - $15.75
ATI Stickers - $4.94
Windows XP Sticker - $2.50
Windows 2000/98 Sticker - $6.99
Pentium 4 Sticker - $3.65
DVI-D to HDMI Cable (White, x2) - $15.98
VGA Cable (White, x3) - $20.97
3dfx Loopback VGA Cable (Black) - $9.08
Sony SA-SPC5 2.1 Reference Monitor Speakers - $60.00
IMATION 5.25" Floppy Disks (10-pack, sealed) - $7.33
TDK 3.5" Floppy Disks (10-pack, sealed) - $12.70
Logitech Trackball Trackman Mouse (Serial) - $17.00
Molex-to-3.3v Power LED Adapter - $8.57
Epson SD800/SD700 Combo Floppy Drive - $114.00
Startech 2-port VGA Auto Switcher - $18.95
SP/DIF to TOSLINK Adapter - $10.99
Nvidia Geforce FX 5200 256MB GPU (PCI) - $19.00

Final Total: $1230.26
Attachments
Retro PC Pictures (part 1).zip
(4.77 MiB) Downloaded 51 times
Retro PC Pictures (part 2).zip
(4.71 MiB) Downloaded 25 times
Retro PC Pictures (part 3).zip
(2.49 MiB) Downloaded 28 times
Last edited by FrostyTheSnowman on 2019-5-08 @ 20:46, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby doaks80 » 2019-3-12 @ 21:13

I thought the ISA on those industrial motherboards doesn't work properly? Anyone confirmed this? I think there are non-industrial SocketA mobos that have ISA slots that work normally, I have one in fact (but it's a uATX without AGP that limits it usefulness).

> Service Pack 3 (Unofficial) used to update Windows 98 OS core files

I think the general consensus is to just use the 2004 service pack rollup with the USB storage controller.

> DOS 7.11 (located on 40GB HDD) used for *all* DOS games

Why not DOS6? You already have DOS7 with Win98. And I would not be so strict about this. Many DOS games run great under Win98, and can take advantage of better memory management and VXD sound card drivers that offer huge advantages in some cases (e.g. SoundFonts on AWE32).

> switching done via custom FX 5200 BIOS wipe/reprogram script utilizing NVFLASH (NOP’d i.e. no-operation BIOS file flashed to FX 5200 results in the Riva TNT booting instead, reversing the process i.e. flashing original BIOS back results in the FX 5200 booting)

Every man to himself.
k6-3+ 400 / s3 virge DX+voodoo1 / awe32(32mb)
via c3 866 / s3 savage4+voodoo2 sli / audigy1+awe64(8mb)
athlon xp 3200+ / voodoo5 5500 / diamond mx300
pentium4 3400 / geforce fx5950U / audigy2 ZS
core2duo E8500 / radeon HD5850 / x-fi titanium
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-12 @ 21:35

doaks80 wrote:I thought the ISA on those industrial motherboards doesn't work properly? Anyone confirmed this? I think there are non-industrial SocketA mobos that have ISA slots that work normally, I have one in fact (but it's a uATX without AGP that limits it usefulness).


I don't know what the consensus here is, but my testing confirms it does work on the motherboard I am using (AIMB-742) as it is based on the 865-chipset and uses the ITE8888 ISA bridge with proper BIOS support (chipsets newer than 865 don't support DMA with ISA, this is what the issue is for ISA on newer industrial motherboards). I haven't had any issues on any of my DOS games with my SB16 (music and sound both work), both IRQ and DMA are working correctly AFAIK on my Sound Blaster 16.

doaks80 wrote:> Service Pack 3 (Unofficial) used to update Windows 98 OS core files

I think the general consensus is to just use the 2004 service pack rollup with the USB storage controller.


I haven't had any issues yet with SP3, but I will keep this in mind if I have any weirdness - always good to know where the consensus is. ;)

doaks80 wrote:> DOS 7.11 (located on 40GB HDD) used for *all* DOS games

Why not DOS6? You already have DOS7 with Win98. And I would not be so strict about this. Many DOS games run great under Win98, and can take advantage of better memory management and VXD sound card drivers that offer huge advantages in some cases (e.g. SoundFonts on AWE32).


I have 4 partitions that I use for gaming:

Windows 7
Windows 98
DOS 7.11 (used for 90's DOS games)
DOS 7.11 (used for 80's DOS games)

I do the above because I want them isolated from each other (I don't play DOS games under Windows 98, I just use it's DOS OS files), and so I can configure them differently (i.e. MOSLO isn't used on my 90's DOS games partition).

I am using DOS 7.11 on my 90's DOS partition primarily for it's FAT32 support (I have a LOT of 90's DOS games), DOS 6.x doesn't support FAT32 AFAIK. I am only using DOS 7.11 for my 80's partition because of convenience - if I happen to run into an issue with any 80's DOS games with DOS 7.11 then I will use an older DOS version on that partition if needed as it is *much* smaller and uses FAT16 anyway. I also have my DOS 7.11 partitions running on the slimmest possible memory configuration so I haven't had any low memory issues.

I also have a Sound Blaster 16, so AWE32 sound fonts and VXD driver benefits likely don't apply to me anyway. :)

doaks80 wrote:> switching done via custom FX 5200 BIOS wipe/reprogram script utilizing NVFLASH (NOP’d i.e. no-operation BIOS file flashed to FX 5200 results in the Riva TNT booting instead, reversing the process i.e. flashing original BIOS back results in the FX 5200 booting)

Every man to himself.


I know this method makes some people squirm - flashing BIOSes with blank/NOP'd data is like playing with fire for most people. But for me, I own many standalone flashing devices and a hot-air reflow station so i'm not worried about recovery situations. I tried simply 'disabling' the FX 5200's EEPROM by lifting the voltage-in leg of the EEPROM but this wasn't enough... I also tried writing zeros to the EEPROM, but even that didn't work - I had to NOP-out the data (909090909090909090) in the EEPROM on the FX 5200 to force it to boot the Riva TNT.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-13 @ 20:56

I am incapable of sitting still, and I *much* desire to increase the supported software time frames for my build... my head is swimming with dreams of my Sound Blaster 16, Xeon X5470 and Nvidia Geforce 1070 Ti co-existing in the same build.

I have done more research into the post-865-chipset industrial motherboards and DMA issues, and I found this page:

https://flaterco.com/kb/ISA_chipsets.html

The above page indicates that the RUBY-9719VG2AR (G41-based chipset, 775 socket, ISA+PCI+PCI-E) *can* be made to work with ISA DMA via 'RUBYISA.EXE', which is a DOS-based tool to configure the IO port ranges to forward through both the ICH7 southbridge and the Fintek FG85226 LPC to ISA bridge - the tool itself was made by Tiido Priimägi (TmEE in this thread: http://www.techtalk.cc/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=80&start=50) and is reported to work with some ISA cards (but not all, due to ISA slot power limitations).

I have found the above motherboard brand-new on eBay for $300 - I have ordered it and I will be performing testing with the above utility to see how well it works with my Sound Blaster 16, and if it works acceptably I will be replacing my current CPU/motherboard/RAM/PSU with a new configuration based on this motherboard.

Updates on this adventure to follow in the next few weeks.
Last edited by FrostyTheSnowman on 2019-3-13 @ 21:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby agent_x007 » 2019-3-13 @ 21:05

Personally, I would drop SB16, and do OPL3LPT and PCI based SB16 emulation.

Can you make ISA based 2D card as "primary GPU" in BIOS ?
Also, Why using SOO MANY HDDs ?
Wouldn't CompactFlash (Industrial for DOS boot), and SSD be more ear friendly ?
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-13 @ 21:24

Nice project. Lots of great work. 8)

As usual, can't avoid some useless crap which people seem attracted to (Win98 "service pack" junk, dual and triple-booting DOS with DOS with DOS, forgetting that Win98 has a perfect DOS in itself, etc.). Although maybe on such a pretentious setup, which like all such setups is 'held together with bubble-gum' (meaning that it only works through a precise combination of components configured in a very specific way, and if something malfunctions or is accidentally misconfigured, the whole thing collapses), I too would prefer to separate my DOS games from my Windows games, and on separate hard drives as well. :)

As usual, it is impressive yet pointless. All the time spent in meticulously selecting components, arranging them in a precise way and managing all this, would be better spent playing games via emulation, and/or, if desk space is not a scarce resource, assembling separate systems for retro and modern.

Indeed to each his own. :lol:
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-13 @ 21:24

agent_x007 wrote:Personally, I would drop SB16, and do OPL3LPT and PCI based SB16 emulation.


OPL3LPT looks *very* cool - I didn't know that existed! :D

If the new motherboard doesn't work properly with ISA DMA then I can probably still use my SB16 for synth, and then I can use the OPL3LPT for music - I prefer to use the SB16 for the 'cool' factor, and because it has PC speaker pass-through functionality.

agent_x007 wrote:Can you make ISA based 2D card as "primary GPU" in BIOS ?


In my experience most BIOSes that have ISA slots still only offer PCI/AGP or PCI/PCI-E switching, they usually don't show an option for ISA... I also tend to wonder if the motherboard could even use one? Perhaps an S3 Trio ISA card would be worth trying. :)

agent_x007 wrote:Also, Why using SOO MANY HDDs ?
Woudn't CompactFlash (Industrial for DOS boot), and SSD be more ear friendly ?


This tower is a server-based design with a loud 120mm fan in the back - even with my fan controller set to 70% it is still somewhat loud so I don't hear the HDDs anyway.

I certainly *could* use SSDs, but DOS/Windows 98 don't support TRIM so the SSD wouldn't be reliable in the long run. :(
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-13 @ 21:36

dr_st wrote:Nice project. Lots of great work. 8)

As usual, can't avoid some useless crap which people seem attracted to (Win98 "service pack" junk, dual and triple-booting DOS with DOS with DOS, forgetting that Win98 has a perfect DOS in itself, etc.). Although maybe on such a pretentious setup, which like all such setups is 'held together with bubble-gum' (meaning that it only works through a precise combination of components configured in a very specific way, and if something malfunctions or is accidentally misconfigured, the whole thing collapses), I too would prefer to separate my DOS games from my Windows games, and on separate hard drives as well. :)

As usual, it is impressive yet pointless. All the time spent in meticulously selecting components, arranging them in a precise way and managing all this, would be better spent playing games via emulation, and/or, if desk space is not a scarce resource, assembling separate systems for retro and modern.

Indeed to each his own. :lol:


It is definitely a fragile (and stupidly complex) configuration for sure - everything needs to be configured just right to work, software *and* hardware both. I've heavily documented all the details of my configuration (not fully listed in these posts) just in case something goes south (BIOS battery dies, HDDs going bad, hardware going bad, etc).

With the above said, I already own other retro computers that are in storage - I have an XT rig, a 386 rig, a 486 rig and a Pentium 3 rig (I also have my modern Core 2 and Core i-series rigs too, which I won't get into), all of which are era-correct and loaded with games but I wanted something a bit more unique so I decided to 'go nuts' with this setup. :D

Don't get me wrong - emulation is a wonderful thing, and it is the only way to truly preserve the classics, but some things just can't be emulated accurately.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby AlphaPapa » 2019-3-13 @ 22:04

This is awesome...
Yeah I don't have any questions or anything to contribute..
This is awesome.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-13 @ 22:13

AlphaPapa wrote:This is awesome...
Yeah I don't have any questions or anything to contribute..
This is awesome.


I'm glad to hear you like it! :blush:
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby agent_x007 » 2019-3-14 @ 07:16

Here's another idea : LINK
MIDI quality on LPT port :D
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-14 @ 07:39

FrostyTheSnowman wrote:With the above said, I already own other retro computers that are in storage - I have an XT rig, a 386 rig, a 486 rig and a Pentium 3 rig (I also have my modern Core 2 and Core i-series rigs too, which I won't get into), all of which are era-correct and loaded with games but I wanted something a bit more unique so I decided to 'go nuts' with this setup. :D].
Yeah, that's the other extreme - too many computers, most of which are useless as everything they can do is easily handled by the others; but, that's what most of us end up with, with the difference being just the identity of the rigs, dependent on when one has started using/collecting computers. ;)

In my case, between my current place, and parents' place (where I grew up), I have 4 desktops (the oldest a K6-2), and 10+ laptops (the oldest a Pentium III). I never owned anything older than a Pentium, so I have no fond memories of such machines, and no desired to keep/restore them.

FrostyTheSnowman wrote:Don't get me wrong - emulation is a wonderful thing, and it is the only way to truly preserve the classics, but some things just can't be emulated accurately.
Most things that are important to emulate accurately have been, though; the things that are not emulated accurately / not at all, are usually obscure (useless for most games) and mostly incompatible with one-size-fits-all all-era gaming computers anyways (e.g., special video card flavors), or are orthogonal to emulation (for example - the look of a real CRT, proper 70Hz refresh rates).
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby AlphaPapa » 2019-3-14 @ 13:50

I feel like in your research and maybe even testing phase you considered the ASROCK 4core Dual sata.. LGA 775 has PCI and AGP and a PCI-E. I have one.
My thinking is setting up a Win9x-Win7 Era system, use DosBox for any dos stuff.
Do you have any Insights/knowledge on this board.
I am aware of other forum posts here and other sites talking about upping the 2gb ram limit to 4 but not much else really.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby ynari » 2019-3-14 @ 17:06

TRIM shouldn't be a huge issue - it's more about performance than longevity, and at the data rates that DOS/95 uses, you won't destroy a decent SSD.

I am impressed, although I wouldn't have gone down the reflash route. If anything I'd find a way of physically turning off PCI cards via an interposer, they do exist.

Personally I just go the multi systems route, I don't have *that* many PC boxes (Three retro PC). I suppose it does save on the speaker/MIDI wiring a bit.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby ynari » 2019-3-14 @ 17:16

dr_st wrote:
FrostyTheSnowman wrote:Don't get me wrong - emulation is a wonderful thing, and it is the only way to truly preserve the classics, but some things just can't be emulated accurately.
Most things that are important to emulate accurately have been, though; the things that are not emulated accurately / not at all, are usually obscure (useless for most games) and mostly incompatible with one-size-fits-all all-era gaming computers anyways (e.g., special video card flavors), or are orthogonal to emulation (for example - the look of a real CRT, proper 70Hz refresh rates).


Really it depends how fussy you are. MUNT isn't quite the same as a real CM32-L, but it is 95%+ of the way there, and a lot cheaper. Likewise although I have two CRT monitors *and* a CRT projector, I still can't bring myself to get a CRT TV to play console games on. I have an old TFT TV with a 'game' mode, and a load of connections including HD15. I can't face the extra space and cabling needed to move it to CRT, just yet, even if the SNES will probably look a tiny bit better. CRTs are a wonderful but dead technology, and it's probably time for me to move on.

However, when you're throwing a modern 2.5GHz processor at a DOSBox game designed for a fast Pentium and it's laggy as hell, maybe physical hardware is the better way to go. Even if that then means you have to fiddle with gameport joysticks and ISA sound cards.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby FrostyTheSnowman » 2019-3-14 @ 20:18

agent_x007 wrote:Here's another idea : LINK
MIDI quality on LPT port :D


Sweet! Looks like the MIDI/FM over LPT is a popular solution - not sure how I missed this, I will have to buy this (or the OPL3LPT) and test it out.

It looks like it's compatibility isn't perfect though - hopefully the driver matures enough to fully replace ISA-based Yamaha chips (and the various other FM/MIDI chips). :)

dr_st wrote:
FrostyTheSnowman wrote:With the above said, I already own other retro computers that are in storage - I have an XT rig, a 386 rig, a 486 rig and a Pentium 3 rig (I also have my modern Core 2 and Core i-series rigs too, which I won't get into), all of which are era-correct and loaded with games but I wanted something a bit more unique so I decided to 'go nuts' with this setup. :D].
Yeah, that's the other extreme - too many computers, most of which are useless as everything they can do is easily handled by the others; but, that's what most of us end up with, with the difference being just the identity of the rigs, dependent on when one has started using/collecting computers. ;)

In my case, between my current place, and parents' place (where I grew up), I have 4 desktops (the oldest a K6-2), and 10+ laptops (the oldest a Pentium III). I never owned anything older than a Pentium, so I have no fond memories of such machines, and no desired to keep/restore them.


I was born in '85, but my first real exposure to computers was around '91 or '92... my family was not able to afford the current computers at the time (and felt there was no need for one in the house) so in '93 (at the age of 8 ) I took it upon myself to restore one with thrift store parts. When I was done I had a fully working EPSON Equity I (8088) that ran DOS (and not much else). After the EPSON I decided to move on to laptops around '95 with the Toshiba T3200 (80286) running Windows 3.0 - shortly after that I built my first 'real' computer (80486) so I could play Doom and I have been addicted to hardware projects ever since.

My original computers above are (of course) long gone, but over the last decade I found them again and added them into my collection - but those machines are sentimental to me so I don't actually use them. I also pieced together an 80386 (just for completeness sake) so I have that too, along with a Pentium 3. The computer I have detailed on this thread however is there to *actually* be used, so the others can be left in storage and preserved (my Core 2/Core i-series machines are in constant use at home for other things, so they don't really count). :)

dr_st wrote:
FrostyTheSnowman wrote:Don't get me wrong - emulation is a wonderful thing, and it is the only way to truly preserve the classics, but some things just can't be emulated accurately.
Most things that are important to emulate accurately have been, though; the things that are not emulated accurately / not at all, are usually obscure (useless for most games) and mostly incompatible with one-size-fits-all all-era gaming computers anyways (e.g., special video card flavors), or are orthogonal to emulation (for example - the look of a real CRT, proper 70Hz refresh rates).


It's true - there is no such thing as a 100% compatible multi-era computer (mostly due to obscure hardware/etc as you mentioned) but I think it's possible to get very close.

When I think of emulation I think of NES/SNES/PSX/N64/etc that were 'loved' enough to put the time in to emulate them properly, and as such they tend to work very well... but there are still numerous PC games that only work properly on the original hardware. For example, many people speak of running Windows 98 under DOSBox (which certainly does work) but it doesn't fully support 3D hardware for later generation games, and even if it *does* work it will still be unplayable on even modern computers with huge processing power.

AlphaPapa wrote:I feel like in your research and maybe even testing phase you considered the ASROCK 4core Dual sata.. LGA 775 has PCI and AGP and a PCI-E. I have one.
My thinking is setting up a Win9x-Win7 Era system, use DosBox for any dos stuff.
Do you have any Insights/knowledge on this board.
I am aware of other forum posts here and other sites talking about upping the 2gb ram limit to 4 but not much else really.


My research/testing was limited to ISA-equipped motherboards only unfortuantely - I wanted to use an original Sound Blaster ISA card to be sure my DOS sound/music worked as intended. :(

I know that most PCI-based sound cards that supported DOS work fine, but they don't 'sound correct' to me... especially music. There are also compatibility concerns with some DOS games and PCI-based sound cards that emulate Sound Blaster. :(

ynari wrote:TRIM shouldn't be a huge issue - it's more about performance than longevity, and at the data rates that DOS/95 uses, you won't destroy a decent SSD.

I am impressed, although I wouldn't have gone down the reflash route. If anything I'd find a way of physically turning off PCI cards via an interposer, they do exist.

Personally I just go the multi systems route, I don't have *that* many PC boxes (Three retro PC). I suppose it does save on the speaker/MIDI wiring a bit.


If SSDs can survive the data rates of DOS/Win9x I may re-think my HDDs, I certainly would prefer the faster loading times and lower power draw. ;)

Interposers were something I thought of early on, but I wanted my rig to 'look normal' - an interposer solution would usually be external and would take up too much space so I decided against them. The reflash solution is definitely not one that most people would want to do, but EEPROMs support well over 100,000 rewrites per-cell and I don't think I will get anywhere near that limit, and if so I can always solder a new EEPROM to the FX 5200. :)

ynari wrote:
dr_st wrote:
FrostyTheSnowman wrote:Don't get me wrong - emulation is a wonderful thing, and it is the only way to truly preserve the classics, but some things just can't be emulated accurately.
Most things that are important to emulate accurately have been, though; the things that are not emulated accurately / not at all, are usually obscure (useless for most games) and mostly incompatible with one-size-fits-all all-era gaming computers anyways (e.g., special video card flavors), or are orthogonal to emulation (for example - the look of a real CRT, proper 70Hz refresh rates).


Really it depends how fussy you are. MUNT isn't quite the same as a real CM32-L, but it is 95%+ of the way there, and a lot cheaper. Likewise although I have two CRT monitors *and* a CRT projector, I still can't bring myself to get a CRT TV to play console games on. I have an old TFT TV with a 'game' mode, and a load of connections including HD15. I can't face the extra space and cabling needed to move it to CRT, just yet, even if the SNES will probably look a tiny bit better. CRTs are a wonderful but dead technology, and it's probably time for me to move on.

However, when you're throwing a modern 2.5GHz processor at a DOSBox game designed for a fast Pentium and it's laggy as hell, maybe physical hardware is the better way to go. Even if that then means you have to fiddle with gameport joysticks and ISA sound cards.


I'm not super fussy about my audio, but I do want it to work properly and 'sound correct' so I have been stubborn about sticking with ISA in my build.

However, I *am* really fussy about CRTs for the same reasons you mentioned above - I have no emotional ties to the 'look' of a CRT, they also tend to irritate me as I always find myself changing the position of the image to fill the screen properly and only later-generation CRTs supported per-resolution settings. I also find that things like convergence, colors, etc drive me insane (perfectionist) so I prefer LCDs despite their downsides with ratio/resolution/scaling/etc. :)

I don't mind fiddling with hardware - I think fiddling is the fun part. I spend *way* more time playing with hardware than I do actually playing the games anyway. :D
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-15 @ 07:17

ynari wrote:Really it depends how fussy you are. MUNT isn't quite the same as a real CM32-L, but it is 95%+ of the way there, and a lot cheaper.
And also a CM32-L may not be the same as a real MT-32, or LAPC-I, or different generations of MT-32, with or without the bugs, etc; they all may have subtle differences and if one is obsessed with these subtleties, there is no end to it. It doesn't stop with just emulation versus real hardware, but continues with hoarding of said hardware, and spending 1-2 orders of magnitude more time tinkering than playing. :)

ynari wrote:Likewise although I have two CRT monitors *and* a CRT projector, I still can't bring myself to get a CRT TV to play console games on. I have an old TFT TV with a 'game' mode, and a load of connections including HD15. I can't face the extra space and cabling needed to move it to CRT, just yet, even if the SNES will probably look a tiny bit better. CRTs are a wonderful but dead technology, and it's probably time for me to move on.
Some people are dreadfully sensitive to pixelization, and the smoothing which comes built-in with CRT is a big deal to them, when playing those old low-res games. Most people are not so picky. :lol:

ynari wrote:However, when you're throwing a modern 2.5GHz processor at a DOSBox game designed for a fast Pentium and it's laggy as hell, maybe physical hardware is the better way to go. Even if that then means you have to fiddle with gameport joysticks and ISA sound cards.
You know, this kind of thing just doesn't happen any more (unless your definition of 'modern' is a Pentium4). Any desktop X86 CPU and most laptop CPUs from the last 10 years can crunch through any game in DOSBox without breaking a sweat.

And I do love fiddling with Gameport joysticks (even though I don't use a joystick at all) and ISA sound cards! I just do it on my dedicated retro-system, and don't bring this bizarre hobby into my main rig. ;)
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-15 @ 07:34

FrostyTheSnowman wrote:I was born in '85, but my first real exposure to computers was around '91 or '92... my family was not able to afford the current computers at the time (and felt there was no need for one in the house) so in '93 (at the age of 8 ) I took it upon myself to restore one with thrift store parts. When I was done I had a fully working EPSON Equity I (8088) that ran DOS (and not much else). After the EPSON I decided to move on to laptops around '95 with the Toshiba T3200 (80286) running Windows 3.0 - shortly after that I built my first 'real' computer (80486) so I could play Doom and I have been addicted to hardware projects ever since.
We're not much different you and me, as it turns out. ;) Except that where I grew up, there were no thrift stores for this kind of thing, so the first computer my parents could afford was a Pentium 100MHz in 1996. Before that time I had some gaming experience on 386 and 486 machines at friends' places, and on my dad's work laptop - a Thinkpad with an i486SX 33MHz. I learned my way around DOS back then, but haven't tinkered with hardware until much later.

FrostyTheSnowman wrote:My original computers above are (of course) long gone, but over the last decade I found them again and added them into my collection - but those machines are sentimental to me so I don't actually use them. I also pieced together an 80386 (just for completeness sake) so I have that too, along with a Pentium 3.
Again I can see the similarities. :happy: When the P-100 system had died, it was replaced with a K6-2 system, and at that point the "bug" of tinkering with hardware and keeping it running got into me.

The P-100 went to the trash, the Cyrix 133MHz system which was used as a stop-gap so that my dad could keep on running his Windows 3.11 apps - also , as did some 'retro' P-MMX 200MHz rig that I got for free from a neighbor with the dream to set up DOS LAN games with the K6 rig (I think I did it a whooping two times in its lifetime). All these systems are gone (I kept the CPUs, though), but the K6-2 rig lives on (on its 3rd motherboard, I believe), with various ISA/PCI sound cards tested over the course of the years, and still on its original Voodoo 3000 (Yay!). I actually ordered a K6-2+ CPU for it, trying to beef up the performance just a tad (due to the extra level of on-die cache).

dr_st wrote:For example, many people speak of running Windows 98 under DOSBox (which certainly does work) but it doesn't fully support 3D hardware for later generation games, and even if it *does* work it will still be unplayable on even modern computers with huge processing power.
Yeah, I don't advocate running Windows 98 under DOSBox (or VirtualBox, or any virtualizer) at all, for all the reasons you mentioned. I would rather keep a separate system for Win98SE (which I do, that's what the K6-2 computer does), rather than try to blend it into my main system. Win98 really imposes a lot of restrictions on the hardware, and I don't want the other, modern OSes, to have to deal with these restrictions. At the same time, a single, strategically picked Win98SE system can cover 99% of DOS and early Windows games, and the few that will not work, can either work in DOSBox (DOS games) or natively on a modern rig (Windows games), perhaps with some patches.

The main compatibility issue with many early 3D Windows games is the 3dfx Glide API, which they are optimized for (and sometimes downright require it); nGlide seems to handle it pretty well nowadays.
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby eviljoeclark » 2019-3-15 @ 10:05

Nice set up!

I used the same motherboard for my main retro rig, with an fx5950 in the AGP, and a Voodoo 5 5500 in PCI for Glide; but I'm getting rid of the Voodoo, as its just not that useful. Maybe I'll try something like you and broaden the range of games I can play!
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Re: 27-year-span 'Ultimate' PC Gaming Computer (built with compatible hardware *only*, no emulation)

Postby ynari » 2019-3-15 @ 11:09

dr_st wrote:
ynari wrote:Really it depends how fussy you are. MUNT isn't quite the same as a real CM32-L, but it is 95%+ of the way there, and a lot cheaper.
And also a CM32-L may not be the same as a real MT-32, or LAPC-I, or different generations of MT-32, with or without the bugs, etc; they all may have subtle differences and if one is obsessed with these subtleties, there is no end to it. It doesn't stop with just emulation versus real hardware, but continues with hoarding of said hardware, and spending 1-2 orders of magnitude more time tinkering than playing. :)


Oh sure. I'm trying to minimise the tinkering by finalising my retro systems. MIDI is now CM32-L, SC55 (Mk 1), and MT-32 (rev 2). If I find a cheap rev 1 MT-32 at some point I'll swap that in and then call it done.

dr_st wrote:Some people are dreadfully sensitive to pixelization, and the smoothing which comes built-in with CRT is a big deal to them, when playing those old low-res games. Most people are not so picky. :lol:


Well, that, fast refresh rates, odd resolution support, old shutter glasses, and handling unusual timing issues (which can be handled by the right TFT). Smoothing also means you don't need to bother with anti aliasing much.


dr_st wrote:
ynari wrote:However, when you're throwing a modern 2.5GHz processor at a DOSBox game designed for a fast Pentium and it's laggy as hell, maybe physical hardware is the better way to go. Even if that then means you have to fiddle with gameport joysticks and ISA sound cards.
You know, this kind of thing just doesn't happen any more (unless your definition of 'modern' is a Pentium4). Any desktop X86 CPU and most laptop CPUs from the last 10 years can crunch through any game in DOSBox without breaking a sweat.

And I do love fiddling with Gameport joysticks (even though I don't use a joystick at all) and ISA sound cards! I just do it on my dedicated retro-system, and don't bring this bizarre hobby into my main rig. ;)


I have to admit I've not done much Dosbox with my main (E5 2600 Xeon) system. When I was rocking a 3GHz Core2Quad it was definitely too slow for a number of Dosbox games from GOG.

It's sort of satisfying to spend *one* evening fiddling with the memory management and getting your configs working, but then I just want to play games, and then when I try the accelerated modern DOS Quake port and it crashes, I remember why we all moved to using decent operating systems. It was a nightmare to support DOS professionally, too.

I'm not so enamoured when replacing the CMOS battery means I have to fiddle with the AWE64 and BIOS again to force it onto IRQ 7, and the BIOS sticks the new USB/Firewire card on IRQ 9, which then conflicts with the MusicQuest card which has been hardwired to IRQ 2.
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