VOGONS


First post, by kataniel

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Hello folks,

today I would like to present my socket 2 based vintage system. It was manufactered by Dell in 8/1995.
The system's full product name is Optiplex 4100/LE. It is a slimline desktop with two external 5.25 inch bays and one internal 3.5 inch bay for a hard drive.
I got this one in late 1999, three years after I sold my very first Dell System, a 425/sL (that I upgraded to a 466/L). I needed the money as I went to school then and could not afford to keep the system in parallel to the new one. Thinking back, this first machine was a little bit more "vintage" because of the case. I tried to get one again, but I had no luck. This kind of system is very rare in germany but this is the case for its successor (the one I present here) also.
So let's come to the system specifications:

CPU: Intel 486 DX4 Overdrive
Mainboard: Dell socket 2 OEM Board with VLSI chipset, Phoenix BIOS, Risers for 2x VLB and 1xISA, 2x 72pin FPM RAM sockets, onboard PS/2 for mouse and keyboard, one channel onboard ATAPI-IDE, pseudo-ATX power supply
Cache: 128KB in 4 modules
Memory: 2x 16 MB doublesided FPM (Nanya, 70ns)
Graphics (onboard, deactivated): CL-GD5429 with 1 MB memory (no possibility to upgrade)
Graphics: Miro Crystal 10SD VLB with S3 Trio chipset and 2 MB memory
Harddisk: Western Digital WDC2850 with 850 MB (at onboard IDE, MASTER)
CD-ROM: Mitsumi FX400 Atapi (at onboard IDE, SLAVE)
Floppy: Teac 1,44MB 3.5 inch
Sound: Shuttle HOT-235 (Opti 82c930) with Yamaha DB50XG daughterboard
LAN: 3Com Etherlink III 10MBit with RJ45 port
Power: 145W pseudoATX with 20pin cable for mainboard

I think the most interesting part of the system is the mainboard. There is little documentation about the VLSI chipset but I remember that I read somewhere that it supports interleaved memory access, if both memory slots are populated. The onboard IDE controller supports at least harddisks up to 8GB (I tried successfully), possibly more (did not try).
There is a jumper for external bus speed, but the only settings are 25 and 33 MHz.
A remarkable construction is the modular design of the riser cards. The system initially shipped with an ISA riser with 3 slots. I was finally able to find the addon VLB riser, a strange piece of hardware as it only carries the brown parts of an ordinary VLB slot that is pushed into the empty brown slot before the ISA riser in the mainboard to turn two of the ISA slots into VLB slots. This riser card also carries a jumper for 0/1 WS.
After having installed the VL addon riser, I was able to use a better video card. I decided to try the MIRO Crystal 10SD with 2MB onboard memory. Now I was able to run Windows in 1280x1024 resolution with 256 colors which is a nice thing. The onboard CL only delivered 16 colors in this resolution. The speed difference is remarkably low in DOS games and windows, I expected a little bit more. But I think, the DX4 CPU is the bottleneck here. 3DBench2 results increased from 58.0 to a little more of 60.6 fps.

The case is some kind of stylish when compared to many of the systems that were around these days. It's slim but wide in width and depth but this fact restricts the possibilities of upgrading a bit. The 5.25 inch drive bays are rail-based what makes it easy to install new drives. Screw the rails to them and then slide them in. Today, it's quite difficult (impossible) to find these rails on the market.

It took quite some time to find a soundcard that suits my needs. All SB16 cards I own, suffer from a DPS > 4.05, so no chance to use them with my DB50XG. I used an ESS1869 audiodrive for quite some time. It was a good card with better sound quality than my SB16 cards but with annoying drivers. I then found an OPTI82C930 based card, the Shuttle SOUND System 3D (HOT-235) that has a comparable audio quality (in my ears) and a better driver suite. Windows software also works quite well (basic player for CD, WAV and MIDI).

I run the system with MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups with TCP/IP stack and y2k compliance patch for winfile.exe. This allows me to attach it via LAN to my main workstation, a Core2 Duo with Windows XP x64 installed and makes it easy to transfer files onto the machine via network shares.
The main usage scenario of this system is playing DOS titles from the mid 90s. Especially Privateer, System shock and Dune 2. But the time to enjoy this pleasure becomes less from year to year.

Finally, there is no place left in the system to upgrade something. No slots empty, no bays remaining. Photos of this machine will be added soon.

Dell Optiplex GL5100 | 64MB EDO | WDAC2850 | S3 VirgeGX 2MB PCI | HOT-235 (Opti 82C930) + DB50XG
Dell Optiplex 4100LE | 32MB FPM | WDAC2540 | Orchid Kelvin 64 2MB VLB | HOT-235 + DB50XG

Reply 1 of 5, by archsan

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kataniel wrote:

The case is some kind of stylish when compared to many of the systems that were around these days. It's slim but wide in width and depth but this fact restricts the possibilities of upgrading a bit.

Does your Optiplex look similar to this?

Reply 2 of 5, by kataniel

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Yes, that's exactly my machine. But I don't have the dual floppy. I had the dark grey dual floppy in my first 425/sL but I sold it with it. That was a bad choice, I know now.

Dell Optiplex GL5100 | 64MB EDO | WDAC2850 | S3 VirgeGX 2MB PCI | HOT-235 (Opti 82C930) + DB50XG
Dell Optiplex 4100LE | 32MB FPM | WDAC2540 | Orchid Kelvin 64 2MB VLB | HOT-235 + DB50XG

Reply 3 of 5, by Standard Def Steve

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That's an interesting machine. Definitely the first 486 I've heard of with a 20-pin power connector. Does it support soft-off and WOL, or is it mechanically controlled like an AT PS?

Reply 4 of 5, by kataniel

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According to the manual this machine has a kind of soft-off:
"The power supply-on signal is an active-low signal that turns on (and off) all power supply outputs except the +5 VSP (volts standby power). The +5 VSP is on anytime the power supply is connected to an AC power source."
The system draws standby power from the coord, that's a fact. I haven't tried WOL, but the Phoenix-BIOS says nothing about it.

Dell Optiplex GL5100 | 64MB EDO | WDAC2850 | S3 VirgeGX 2MB PCI | HOT-235 (Opti 82C930) + DB50XG
Dell Optiplex 4100LE | 32MB FPM | WDAC2540 | Orchid Kelvin 64 2MB VLB | HOT-235 + DB50XG

Reply 5 of 5, by ideasman69

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Hello from 7 years 10 months in the future! I was googling around to find some info on this machine as i just found one on a rubbish pile! It's in pretty good condition, little rust on the outside of the case but inside looks perfect. No dust or dirt amazingly.

The specs of my newly found machine are a little different to yours:
- same 486dx4 CPU
- single stick of 32MB RAM with ECC!
- SMC ISA network card
- 4gb hard drive

As I don't have any floppy disks - I installed MS-DOS 6.22 by hooking up the drive to my PC via USB, passing it through to a VM and installing that way. Once DOS was installed, I copied and configured mTCP so I can just FTP everything else over.

Here are some pics:
https://imgur.com/a/ZEEBq5s