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Another 486, just for fun.

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First post, by badmojo

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I already have a 486SX33 that I built for my Ultimate Ultima 7 machine (The ultimate Ultima 7 machine). I don't need another one, but I have a stack of 486 parts, and the 486 era will always be my favourite era of computing. I owned a 486 from '93 and loved it; I give that thing credit for both helping me survive the horrors of the mid-to-late-teen-years, and teaching me the skills I use today in my job as a programmer. It started life as a 486SX33, and was upgraded with a DX266 Overdrive chip that my father - who used his home PC as a CAD machine and upgraded semi-regularly - gave to me. So, just for fun, I decided to build a DX266.

I've had these bits for a couple of years, and have probably had them in a simular setup in the past. Early on in my vintage hardware collecting days I was short on parts and long on desire to test every combination I could think of, so my PC's tended to be broken down as I messed around looking for the "best vintage computer eva". I'm over that now (I think), so hopefully this one will remain as-is:

A nice AT case I pulled from a junk pile at the local scrapper's yard a while back. Very simular to my one from the 90's, and quite common around these parts - it's basically just a big box with a flip up lid and some buttons on the front. Very easy to work with; all this one needed was a new PSU fan and it was ready for action:

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Motherboard in. I'm using an ASUS VL/I-486SV2GX4 and of course the DX266 Overdrive chip. No CPU has ever looked cooler, nor will ever. I'm using a VLB Tseng ET4000AX VGA card and standard Winbond IO controller:

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I dug through my box of HDD's and chose this Seagate ST3660A based on the review of it here: http://redhill.net.au/d/35.php at the Red Hill guide. ~500MBs is a good size for this era machine. I can't remember where I got this from - salvaged from the scrapper's yard too I'd imagine - but it had working copies of DOS 6.22 + Windows 3.11 on it, plus a heap of games. A DOS boot menu was set up with 'Games' and 'Windows' as options, and the Games option took me into Power Menu, which was my menu application of choice too from memory. I was planning on cleaning it all up and using it as is but it was a mess, so in the end I just copied the good stuff off using my trusty parallel port ZIP drive and formatted it. The games were mostly shareware but there were quite a few that I didn't have - Captain Comic, Michael Jordan's In Flight, etc.

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16MB of fast page Goldstar RAM - I would have sold a vital organ to get my hands on this as a kid.

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Quad Speed Mitsumi CD-ROM, my second ever drive which came with one of those cheap (yet expensive) starter packs - the ones bundled with a crappy sound card and CD's full of nothing in particular (MS Dangerous Creatures, etc). This is not such a great drive really, it struggles with burnt CD's and has developed a nasty grinding noise. So although it works, it's on notice and will be replaced when something more reliable comes along.

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For sound I've gone with a OPLSAx card, YMF719 chipset. I've had nothing but bad experiences with these cards but I'm determined to learn to love it because - as noted by many around here - they do have their good points. The big selling point though was that I'll be using the below daughter board, and I like the idea of a Yamaha card driving a Yamaha DB. I've only tried this combination with DOOM and it does sound pretty good. The FX do sound different to what I'm used to, which up until now has been mostly Creative cards. It's not bad different, but it's much more crisp sounding - cleaner I suppose. I'm sure I'll get used to it.

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All together, and despite this case have a decent around of room, the DB50XG had to be mounted on the ceiling! I've installed DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11.

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Last edited by badmojo on 2013-12-05, 22:37. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 2 of 37, by Anonymous Coward

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I remember trying to get a hold of one of those DX2 overdrive chips around 1995 or so. The only shop in town said they ordered one for me, but never bothered to call back. I contacted them again later and they said the chips were unavailable. Then I asked if I could upgrade to a DX/2-80, to which they replied: NO. As far as they were concerned I was SOL. Bastards. If only I knew about VRMs and 5x86 chips back then I could have rocked the 486 for a little longer.

I hated those PC tech bastards back then. They were always really smug and pretended they had all the answers and I was just some punk kid annoying them with questions about upgrading my crappy old and no longer supported 2.5 year old 486.

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Reply 3 of 37, by feipoa

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Anonymous Coward wrote:

I hated those PC tech bastards back then. They were always really smug and pretended they had all the answers and I was just some punk kid annoying them with questions about upgrading my crappy old and no longer supported 2.5 year old 486.

I have had similar experiences and was eventually told to stop calling the store. They were overly smug as well. It doesn't take a university degree to slap some hardware together and call it a computer. I wouldn't be surprised if they are long out of business.

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Reply 4 of 37, by Mau1wurf1977

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Very nice PC!

Those dodgy PC stores back in the day 😀

I got shafted with this 486DLC40 machine. The price was too good to be true and when I got it and benchmarked it was of course slower than a 486DX-33. Looking back it must have been 386 upgraded with this DLC chip...

The next PC I built from scratch as a kid. An AMD 486DX4-100. Loved that machine. VLB ET4000 and everything. Doom ran really well on it. Wired the multi and FSB switches to the front so I can tweak the machine 😀

I read a ton of magazines before ordering the parts and I remember freaking out just before turning that thing on. But it worked right away and I was so proud.

Haven't had a single computer (notebooks sure) that I didn't built myself. It was a milestone moment and has set me on the path I am now.

The board did have that AMI Win Bios. But that's all I remember.

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Reply 5 of 37, by Markk

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Congratulations. That's exactly what I have in my mind as the typical 486 of that era. dx2-66 cpu, 16MB RAM, 540MB HDD, and VLB SVGA. I slightly disagree on the cool factor concerning the cpu. It's nice, but in my opionion the blue heatsink dx2-66 is a little better.
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Reply 6 of 37, by NJRoadfan

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feipoa wrote:
Anonymous Coward wrote:

I hated those PC tech bastards back then. They were always really smug and pretended they had all the answers and I was just some punk kid annoying them with questions about upgrading my crappy old and no longer supported 2.5 year old 486.

I have had similar experiences and was eventually told to stop calling the store. They were overly smug as well. It doesn't take a university degree to slap some hardware together and call it a computer. I wouldn't be surprised if they are long out of business.

Weird, when I worked at one of those stores we usually had no problem filling parts requests. They are likely gone before 2000 with an attitude like that as a sale is a sale no matter what. We were even known to support older hardware and upgraded a few 486s to faster CPUs..... in 1998 no less! I never understood the point to DX2 Overdrives though, the boards usually supported the standard DX2 chips. Even the ones with the notorious "487" socket.

Reply 7 of 37, by Anonymous Coward

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I never understood the point to DX2 Overdrives though

It was Intel's way of conning ignorant people out of money.

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
V'Ger XT|Upgraded AT|Ultimate 386|Super VL/EISA 486|SMP VL/EISA Pentium

Reply 8 of 37, by vetz

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Have the same board myself and I love it (even though I would wish for three VLB slots, not just two). Why are you not using a PS/2 mouse when the board has a connector for it?

Again I envy you like hell for all the cases you get hold off!!!

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Reply 9 of 37, by badmojo

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Yes it's a very nice board, I love those old ASUS boards.

I don't like switching mice / keyboards around and avoid using adapters if I can help it, so I use the same serial mouse for my 386 up to my PIII. Also I have a thing for Logitech serial mice!

And I think the parties over for getting my hands on nice cases - the recycle joint I was getting them from have changed their setup to make it harder to take them - I basically have to steal them from out the back, because they're worth more to them as scrap, so they don't put them out for sale. I've been lucky though, so I shouldn't complain.

Reply 10 of 37, by badmojo

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Well I tried my level best to get the OPLSAx card to give me some love but it's just not to be - I couldn't get the mixing right, Duke2 doesn't like it, blah blah.

But it did redeem itself in the end because I discovered that you can turn a lot of it's functionality off (using SETUPSA) - or at least move it out of the way - making it a good MPU401 to host the DB50XG, and I popped a Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 in for FX. This setup seems to work well, and I get best of both worlds.

The SBPro is jumpered of course so installation was easy, the OPLSAx card's audio out simply feeds into the SB's line in via a 2" stereo cable. Getting the OPLSAx card configured with minimal resources took some trial and error thanks to the confusion that is SETUPSA, but in the end I settled on:

Sound Blaster

SB: Enabled
Base IO: 240 (just to get it out of the way)
IRQ: 9 (this is shared by the MPU401 so required)
DMA: Disable

MPU401

Base IO: 330
IRQ: 9

SB Mixer

All turned down to 0

WSS

WSS: Enabled (the WSS is also required for the MPU401 to work, don't ask me why)
Base IO: 530 (the default)
IRQ: Disabled
DMA: Disabled

Game Port
OFF (SB has one)

WSS Mixer

All turned down to 0 except AUX2 and VOL, again, don't ask me why, but these are the mixer settings for the MPU401.

Lastly I edited the OPL3SA.INI file to turn the OPL3 setting to OFF - not sure if this does anything but I don't need it.

The only other challenge was that when the SETUPSA program is called by AUTOEXEC.BAT, it will "correct" the set blaster line to match those for the OPLSAx card, which of course is not what I wanted. To get around that I removed the SET BLASTER line (SETUPSA won't create one if it's not there), and put the SET BLASTER and SBPro mixer call into a separate batch file, and called that from with AUTOEXEC.BAT AFTER the SETUPSA call. So it looks line this:

..
C:\OPL3SAX\SETUPSA.EXE /S
CALL SETSOUND.BAT
..

And I don't know if this is relevant but I ended up using a YMF-701 card, because it doesn't include the 3D stuff that the 715 and up do.

Bob, as they say, is my uncle. It's a nice solid sound setup for a ~94 era machine, with the Sound Blaster Pro's dulcet tones + compatibility + ease of use, coupled with great soundding and bug free DB50XG MIDI.

Last edited by badmojo on 2013-06-25, 23:20. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 11 of 37, by bjt

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Cool, I use the same setup (SB16 + YMF718/XR385). You can also just set your autoexec.bat read-only to stop SETUPSA modifying it.

One advantage of having the MPU on IRQ 9 is that games that are hard-coded to use IRQ 2 will also work (e.g. Legend Entertainment games).

Reply 12 of 37, by bristlehog

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RacoonRider wrote:

Awesome sound, solid CPU/motherboard and... I think I remember the case 😁

I have a very similar one, except the CPU clock window. Crocodile type, as russians call it!

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Reply 13 of 37, by RacoonRider

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bristlehog wrote:
RacoonRider wrote:

Awesome sound, solid CPU/motherboard and... I think I remember the case 😁

I have a very similar one, except the CPU clock window. Crocodile type, as russians call it!

Me too, just as you say, no clock indicator! And a funny thing, when I first saw badmofo showing a PC in this case...:

Racoonrider wrote:

btw, here in Russia we call them "crocodiles" as they resemble crocodile's jaws 😀 And they swing pretty hard when you forget to move your finger or LED wires away from the danger ...

I guess all russians here think the same way 🤣

Reply 14 of 37, by badmojo

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A small update for this machine. Previously I was using a Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 along side a YMF701 OPLSAx, with the Yamaha card attached to a DB50XG for GM, and then feeding into the Creative card, which did the rest.

I decided to swap the SB Pro out for a Media Vision Pro Audio Spectrum 16 because a) I already have a SB Pro running in another machine and I like using different sound cards where possible to keep things interesting, and b) I had a PAS16 as a kid and wanted to revisit one.

My first PAS16 was purchased in the mid 90’s to replace my trusty Sound Blaster 2.0 Value. There was nothing wrong the 2.0, but there was a lot of media hype at the time around “16 bit sound”, and I wanted (read hysterically needed) stereo DOOM. The hot older saleswoman at my local computer store convinced me that the PAS16 was the way to go, and so I went, and it wasn’t the first time that temptress talked me into spending my life’s savings on something I later regretted. The first ill-fated purchase was a single spin SCSI CD-ROM that was horrible to set up and died a premature death, the second was the PAS, and the third an SRS sound module which claimed to allow ‘surround sound’ with 2 speakers. In my teen-boy mind, this impressive display of unquestioning consumerism would render her powerless to resist me, and she’d take me by the hand, lead me into the store room, and make a man out of me.

But who was I kidding? She was saving herself for the kid who could afford an AWE32.

Anyway, I couldn’t remember exactly what my issue with the PAS16 was. It’s only Sound Blaster (not Pro) compatible, but a lot of games supported the PAS16 natively by the mid 90’s so that shouldn’t have been a big deal - this is one of the reasons I wanted to revisit this card; why didn’t I like it?

Here it is, bought from eBay for 30 bucks or so. These things are easy enough to find - there always seems to be at least one for sale at any given time:

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I downloaded and used the drivers hosted on VogonDrivers, and although the install went smoothly, I quickly identified the first problem – a TSR. I knew beforehand that a TSR was required but I’d assumed that it was only for Sound Blaster emulation, and that I could still use the PAS16 portion of the card without loading it. Wrong, and it takes up about 12K of memory. It can be loaded high, but – despite there being room for both – Smartdrive was promptly kicked down into convention memory when it was for whatever reason.

I had trouble getting Sound Blaster emulation working initially but after giving the card’s contacts a good clean with an eraser, that problem disappeared. Can’t blame the PAS for that, and the Sound Blaster emulation does seems solid so far. I did notice however that the FM volume is too low, and it was at this point that I ran into my next problem – the DOS mixer software sucks. There’s a simple interface provided but I couldn’t work out how to save and load the settings I entered – it shouldn’t be that hard. There’s also a command line interface but it’s not straight forward either and I couldn’t fix the FM volume issue, try as I might. Perhaps the provided Windows mixer is the way to go, I didn’t try it, but it wasn’t clear whether it would have any impact on DOS anyway.

And finally, although I did have the OPLSAx card working with the PAS16 initially, they stopped playing nice at some point. So my DB50XG was no longer usable, and I couldn’t face another several rounds with SETUPSA to get it working so I pulled the OPLSAx card and the DB50XG out.

All told it wasn’t a great experience, and I guess this is why I didn’t have fond memories of the PAS. It seems to work pretty well in games that support it, although Raptor wouldn’t play FX for some reason. Some games, I noticed, listed the PAS in their sound setup programs, but actually used the SB emulation.

I haven’t given up on it yet; I’d at least like to get the low FM output issue corrected. Yet again though the humble Sound Blaster 16 wins hands down for compatibility and ease of use. I know the SB16 has a bad name around here sometimes, but IMHO a card like the CT2230 or CT2290 just can’t be beat.

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Reply 15 of 37, by Mau1wurf1977

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AFAIK the PAS16 also requires -5V. Without it I got "super fast" speech in many games. I'm sure I tested this with an old AT PSU and a new ATX>AT adapter and that was what I found.

The PAS16 is very well shielded but my card has a constant hiss that I couldn't get rid off. But certainly no "hearing the computer think" sounds like other cards.

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Reply 16 of 37, by badmojo

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Mau1wurf1977 wrote:

The PAS16 is very well shielded but my card has a constant hiss that I couldn't get rid off. But certainly no "hearing the computer think" sounds like other cards.

Yes mine hisses too, the hiss starts as soon as the card is initialised (i.e. when the TSR is loaded), and gets significantly worse in some games. I'm using 'out' as apposed to 'speaker out', which I assume is amplified. And I also assume that the hissing can be reduced by turning off unused lines via the mixer, but as mentioned I'm not having much luck with the mixer.

There are "realsound" and "enhanced" options available in the mixer and these are off by default. With them on, the hiss is 100% worse!

I'm focusing on the negative a lot here but it's not all bad - this card does sound pretty good in DOOM. Although the stereo is reversed compared to all the other cards I use and I can't see a way of swapping it back globally, so I'd have to swap my speakers if the game didn't have an option to reverse stereo.

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Reply 17 of 37, by Mau1wurf1977

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Yea I remember muting the inputs and it did not reduce the hiss.

Some games support FM Stereo with the PAS16, like Space Quest 4, but only mono FM on a SB Pro or SB 16. But there is always the mighty MT-32 putting such "improvements" into perspective.

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Reply 18 of 37, by Cloudschatze

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badmojo wrote:

I quickly identified the first problem – a TSR.

If all you're after is the Sound Blaster compatiblity, and aren't so much concerned with "PAS" compatibility, the non-TSR, "PROAS" utility can be used to initialize the card in lieu of the MVSOUND.SYS driver.

...the DOS mixer software sucks.

Sounds like you need to RTFM. 😉

The PAS' hardware mixer is actually fairly advanced, compared to its contemporaries, and the CLI pretty is unique for being a command-language interpreter, allowing for some interesting "scripted" effects.

I couldn’t work out how to save and load the settings I entered – it shouldn’t be that hard.

Settings made in the mixer GUI can be saved into four "setting" files by pressing a shift-f5/f6/f7/f8 combination. These can be recalled in the GUI by just pressing the associated function key, and from the command-line or batch-file by specifying a "PAS F5," "PAS F6", etc. combination.

Take a look at some of the suggestions I offered in this post regarding noise control. There's definitely some tweaking that needs to be done. One of the most effective things you can do is to get the input channels off of the recording bus, and then completely reduce the volume for the recording monitor channels besides.

There shouldn't be much hiss if the mixer is set-up properly. I use a Pro Audio Studio 16 card, like yours, in my main "MIDI" system, and would be happy to share my mixer settings file, if it might help.

There are "realsound" and "enhanced" options available in the mixer and these are off by default. With them on, the hiss is 100% worse!

"ENHANCED" is a stereo-spatialization effect comparable to Creative's later "CT3DSE" sound-enhancement circuit. Both are equally noisy, if provided a noisy feed.

Although the stereo is reversed compared to all the other cards I use and I can't see a way of swapping it back globally...

I haven't heard of this particular issue, which is probably with the software itself. Swapping channels can be done via the "cross-channel" mixer options.

Reply 19 of 37, by badmojo

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I'm mainly interested in the PAS compatibility, so the TSR will have to stay. I've since done some more memory juggling and have a decent setup going now.

Hee hee, I'd love to RTFM but I don't have one! I searched for an online scan of it but no luck, any idea where I could find one?

A basic 'help' function is included within the PAS.exe GUI and it explained the 'save settings' function, but it didn't work as described. Save files were generated, but trying to recall the settings failed, and just either max-ed or min-ed all of the setting sliders. Perhaps I was using the wrong version? Calling "PAS F5" for example would be great, and I'd have to retract my "this software sucks" statement.

I did look into the "cross-channel" mixer option to reverse the stereo but from the 'readme' provided with the drivers it sounded like all I could achieve would be to merge the left and right channels into a mono feed. I'll try harder.

And thanks for the link regarding noise control, I'll try harder with that too.

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