[Build Log]: Dimension95 - A Retro DOS/95 Build & Project for Modern Internet Interactivity... and much more!

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[Build Log]: Dimension95 - A Retro DOS/95 Build & Project for Modern Internet Interactivity... and much more!

Postby x0zm_ » 2018-11-26 @ 12:49

Hey guys! Build time! :D


Anticipating a successful build with my Ipex project, which ultimately failed due to a bad motherboard, I've decided to go ahead and build something else similar, but completely different.

Having sold off a lot of my hardware recently for downsizing for an upcoming move, having a DOS & 95 machine is quite important to me.

This build will be comprised of hardware from 3 major sources, in addition to hardware I already owned :-

  • Hardware from the defunct family business
  • Hardware purchased on my trip to Shenzhen & Hong Kong
  • Hardware purchased for the Ipex build

The Project Brief

Hardware wise, I'm keeping it as early to mid 90's accurate as possible. I am not restraining myself to any particular hardware or period, but rather what I like. This provides me a bit more freedom than the Ipex project, but still keeps it within the DOS/95 scope. There are two major exceptions to this - storage and power supply.

Like the Ipex build, it'll have all sorts of fun peripherals. All of which play an important part in the project overall! An SC-55, an MT-32, a dot matrix printer, an ESP8266 cased inside a dead US Robotics Sportster 14.4k for a Hayes compatible WiFi modem and such.

Unlike the Ipex build, it will have a lot more storage, a lot more software and a lot more exciting uses.

One solid rule I'm setting for myself is that after it's built and running, any modifications or hardware changes I want to do will have to be planned on this machine. That probably means fun time in awfully slow CAD packages... :lol:

So what's the whole "Modern Internet Interactivity" deal?

There are three major parts to this, so I'll go over them individually. Keep in mind that these are long-term plans after I move and after the build is complete, though testing has already been done and shown it to be feasible enough.

My personal blog, with a twist.

I've wanted to run a blog for awhile to document stupid projects I do. The website will (mostly) be developed on this system. I've written a lot of the CMS & back-end already, but it's the front-end that really needs work. It's nothing special feature wise, but the plan is to have three separate front ends.

  • A plain-text, terminal and console compatible format. Fully developed on-machine.
  • A mid-90s style HTML/CSS/minimal JS front-end. Fully developed on-machine using era appropriate software and standards.
  • Modern front-end. Developed on main PC.

It should auto-detect and serve appropriately based on user agent and how it's requested, and will likely fallback to the middle option if unknown.

All content will be written & published from this PC. Photos will be taken with some of my early digital cameras, probably my Mavica FD71.

Next up is...

Twitch Streaming

No. I'm not streaming from the PC. Just streaming what I do on the PC. Nothing too special. Playing games. Working on stuff. Streaming will obviously be handled by another PC. But hey, a bit of fun. Will likely use some of my older video cameras or webcam as a webcam, and microphones as a microphone. Maybe a fun DOS-themed layout.

But my personal favourite...

Twitch Plays

I've done a few of these before, but I want to do it with old games and software.

Twitch chat controlled ACiDDraw? Hexen? Quake? Some obscure DOS games? BBS access? Though I'm unsure about that one, I don't want random idiots shitting up people's boards. I suppose it could be anything really. A perfect platform given that mouse isn't really required for a lot of these software packages and games.

But if all works out, there will be a reasonable amount of hardware control too, which my early testing shows is fine. Controlling things such as the reverb, chorous and other variables and instruments on the SC-55. Playing MIDI files. Printing messages on the printer. I'm sure there's lots that can be done simply due to the simplistic nature of the hardware.

Essentially, giving crowd-sourced control of the PC to strangers on a lives stream. Something I know I dreamed about doing when I was kid, but it is now actually feasible. Probably not 24/7. Likely when I'm not home, or on certain dates.

The Hardware

With that out of the way, let's talk about the hardware. I've got pretty much all of it on hand. There's just a few minor decisions left to make. Hardware source indicated in brackets.

Case: Old early ATX/late AT mid-tower case. Minor modifications. [Family Business]
CPU: Intel Pentium 120-150MHz (Undecided) [On-hand/Purchased in Shenzhen]
CPU Cooler: Standard Intel Pentium Retail Cooler [Had on-hand]
Motherboard: The LEGENDARY ASUS PI-P55T2P4 Rev 3.1 [Purchased in Shenzhen]
RAM: 64MB of... something (4x16MB) [Have on-hand, have to go through and decide which sticks or sets I want to use]
HDD1: Likely a 1.2GB-2.1GB HDD. [On-hand, have to decide].
HDD2: 40GB HDD [Again, need to decide which I want to use and partition up.]
FDD: One of them [Have plenty to pick from. I'll pick a nice looking one.]
ODD: Teac 6x CD [The ODD I pulled from a family business build and put into the Ipex, which I've now repulled to put into this. The circle of life.]
ODD 2: Another CD or possibly DVD drive. [Have on-hand.]
PSU: Corsair CX450 [Modern PSU w/ ATX to AT adapter.]
Graphics Card: Canopus Power Window T64V (S3 Trio64V+) + Canopus MPEG Decoder Daughterboard (S3 Scenic/MX2 Powered) [Purchased for the Ipex originally]
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster 16 IDE (CT2290) [Purchased for the Ipex originally]
Network Card: 3COM Etherlink 10/100 PCI (905C-TX-M) [Purchased in Shenzhen]

Mouse: Undecided.
Keyboard: Acer 6311. [On-hand]
Monitor: Sony CPD-17SF2 17" CRT. [Purchased for Ipex]
Printer: Panasonic KX-P1123 OR KX-P2123 Dot Matrix Printer [Bought the first, found the second]
Modem #1: ESP8266 acting as Hayes compatible modem over WiFi, inside a USR Sportster 14.4k case. [Put together using a few cheap parts, around $6. Modem was purchased dead on eBay.]

Sound Module: Roland MT-32 [Purchased for Ipex... and because I wanted to give the one I was borrowing from a friend back]
Sound Module: Roland SC-55 [Had on-hand]
Amp: AIWA A10 Amp [Family business]
Speakers: Technics SB-CH550 [Purchased because they are big, sound great and appropriately early 90s.]

Where I'm At:

At the time of writing, I'm just finishing up a few odds and ends before assembling the PC.

The case was pretty plain, and the buttons were horribly yellowed. Retrobright did nothing to help them. I've sanded, primed and painted them to a button colour I fondly remember personally having in the old days - baby blue.

The case was dusty, so I spent a fair amount of time and paper towel cleaning it out.

Aside from that, it's been small parts like cleaning the USR modem shell and installing the ESP8266 into it.

All hardware is present. It should be a fairly simple build and installation process.

I've taken photos of all the stages this build has gone through before I posted this thread or even decided what I was going to do with this machine, so I'll post those in the coming days as I assemble the rig.

Look forward to posting more during or shortly after this weekend! :cool:
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Re: [Build Log]: Dimension95 - A Retro DOS/95 Build & Project for Modern Internet Interactivity... and much more!

Postby oeuvre » 2018-11-26 @ 13:46

Thought this was going to be a Dell Dimension MS-DOS/Windows 95 rig with that title.
Dell Optiplex 745 Q6600, 8GB, AMD FirePro V3900, SSD + HD, 2000/XP/7
i7 9700K, 32GB, MSI GTX1060, NVMe SSD + HD, Windows 10
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Joined: 2015-3-31 @ 13:31
Location: USA

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