VOGONS


First post, by Fujoshi-hime

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So this forum kept turning up in my own various searches for info on retro PC gaming, so I thought I'd join and post. For my first post, I'm going to present to you my eMachine eMonster 500a restoration. 😀 This is kiiiiiiiinda a sleeper but not quite? I got one for Xmas 1999, it's long gone, but I started to hunt down parts to 'rebuild it'. First it was going to be modern inside, but I eventually decided to build it as a 'High End Windows XP Machine'. 'High End' at least until games from about 2006 when Vista would be the more suitable OS. The goal was to have the exterior to look as 'stock' as possible.

CPU: AMD A8-3780K with Radeon HD 6650D integrated graphics
RAM: 2x4GB 1600mhz DDR3
Storage: 120GB Kingston A400 + 500GB Western Digital Blue 2.5" Drive
Optical: TEAC Sata DVDRW drive
PSU: Corsair SFX450 450w PSU

The original collection of parts may have appeared briefly in a LTT video on account of the 'Never Obsolete Branding'.

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Basically I found an eMonster 500a faceplate after some EXTENSIVE searching and then used an eTower 566i case for donor parts.

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The basic case is mATX but has poor accomodation for 'full width' mATX, so there's some spacing issues. I have to use low profile DDR3 on the board I'm using for example, due to the board going under the 5.25" bays.

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The PSU mount is SFX, good, those are common today. But they all ship black so that needed some work:

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This board and it's D9L Noctua cooler is bigger than the original P3 Slot 1 board an eMonster would have held, but the goal was to be able to play 'XP Era Games' without ever needing to look at the hardware reqs. A quad core Athlon II, with 2011 era IGP bolted to it and up to 2GB of VRAM configured, more RAM than XP can address, this is overkill for the task at least. 😀 I could make it FASTER but it's not supposed to be 'The Best XP System" just '"So good that I don't have to think about it."

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Reply 2 of 21, by Almoststew1990

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I have a similar APU set up. I have an FM1 A3820 2.5GHz quad core which comes with 6550D graphics. It's good enough for most games up to 2005, seems to struggle with Oblivion particularly.

I have 4+2 GB of 1600MHz RAM. If this isn't operating in Dual Channel (it seems to be according to CPUz but seems counter intuitive that mismatched RAM would work in dual channel...) I guess I'm halving my memory clock on my graphics :p I also want to put 8GB 2133MHz RAM in there from my old main PC but it's in the loft and I can't quite be arsed to go up there.

I remember being excited about APUs when they first came out and how they *nearly* provided a solid basic gaming experience with every release. They were never quite fast enough!

Ryzen 3700X 4.4-ish GHz | 16GB DDR4 3600MHz | Nvidia 1070ti | 750GB NVMe
AM1 x4 3820 APU Thing | 6GB DDR1 | iGPU or GTX 650
Slot 1 PIII 450MHz | 256MB PC100 | Nvidia MX440 | AWE32 CT3910

Reply 3 of 21, by Fujoshi-hime

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Almoststew1990 wrote:

I have a similar APU set up. I have an FM1 A3820 2.5GHz quad core which comes with 6550D graphics. It's good enough for most games up to 2005, seems to struggle with Oblivion particularly.

I have 4+2 GB of 1600MHz RAM. If this isn't operating in Dual Channel (it seems to be according to CPUz but seems counter intuitive that mismatched RAM would work in dual channel...) I guess I'm halving my memory clock on my graphics :p I also want to put 8GB 2133MHz RAM in there from my old main PC but it's in the loft and I can't quite be arsed to go up there.

I remember being excited about APUs when they first came out and how they *nearly* provided a solid basic gaming experience with every release. They were never quite fast enough!

Yeah, my main thinking is 'Even if the game can run on XP, if it can also just run on Win10, just do that.' so it keeps the focus of games the XP Machine pretty narrow. If it comes to it, I could drop in even a Radeon HD 7XXX series graphics card as there's XP drivers for that. Could also come in handy if this machine ever goes to a LAN, cause then I could boot Win10 on it and run more modern games like Counter-Strike GO and really wow the nerds. 😜

Anyway, onwards with the story.

The faceplate uses a somewhat proprietary connector for the PWR/HDD/Power On LEDs, but thankfully I could just do those up with dupont wires and a little bit of guess work.

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Next was the ODD. The eMachine shipped with Samsung drives that used faceplates of their own to match the rest of the machine. In instead found a TEAC Beige DVDRW SATA drive and modified that. Thus way the user can't tell the drive is far less vintage than it really is but no need to add an IDE controller. I tried finding a beige BDRE drive but no luck. 😜

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The case however is poorly ventilated and was not designed around the kind of hardware I added to it. After some digging, I was able to find some nickle coated vented expansion slot covers to try and give it at least a bit more air. That's also a SoundBlaster Audigy SE you see added in there.

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So externally the machine seems really done right now but there's more to do. I'm working on getting the front USB, Gameport and floppy drives to work. Though that'll use some extra PCBs so they can be controlled by USB.

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Oh and those classic 'Never Obsolete' emachine's graphics? Yeah those are in the works too. Some time ago I took those beat up eMonster graphics from my faceplate and took high res photos, I then spent a day matching every font and recreating the graphics in Adobe Illustrator. I've been het to find the time to find someone who can do proper reproduction print ups of them yet however.

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Reply 5 of 21, by xjas

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I had to go look up that LTT video to see what the context was, and was rewarded with a beautiful little clip of Linus drinking salt. Nice.

Cool build! I'm amazed at how few of those Emachines "Never Obsolete" towers are left. Yeah, they were bargain-basement shonkware, but they were everywhere and now they're not.

Great job recreating the stickers. Hope you can get them printed up in a nice quality way.

selected builds & megathreads { Quick & Clean | Like a Hipster | Only One 'T' | In a Lunchbox | IT IS THE NINETIES }

Reply 6 of 21, by Fujoshi-hime

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wirerogue wrote:

was it really "The world's best gaming machine"? 🙄

Christmas 1999, it was indeed PRETTY GOOD, I mean, for what it was and what passed as a 'Gaming Machine' at the time. But the 'best' at that date, probably woulda been like a Voodoo 3.

The real thing at that time was the rapid pace at which faster Pentium 3's were released. Feb 1999 the fastest Pentium 3 you could get was 450mhz. By December 1999, Intel was releasing 800mhz models. That's almost a two fold increase in performance in under a year.

Reply 7 of 21, by Fujoshi-hime

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xjas wrote:

Great job recreating the stickers. Hope you can get them printed up in a nice quality way.

I've been pointed to a few local places that can do it, places that normally do commercial jobs. The problem at hand is finding the time, unlike a Staples or anything, these are the kinds of place only open 9-5, M-F... The same time I'm kinda at work. But the goal is to bring the sun bleached originals and say 'I'm doing a restoration job, I need this, I have vectors for you. Money is no object.'

Reply 8 of 21, by xjas

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Fujoshi-hime wrote:

Christmas 1999, it was indeed PRETTY GOOD, I mean, for what it was and what passed as a 'Gaming Machine' at the time. But the 'best' at that date, probably woulda been like a Voodoo 3.

[...]

I know this isn't what you meant, but did eMachines ever offer Voodoo3 cards in their prebuilt stuff? I got this weird underclocked V3 2000 out of a system that was a re-purposed eMachines motherboard with a P3/500 in a standard ATX case. I figured whoever built the system added the V3 themselves, but maybe it came with the donor board.

Underclocking the GPU so they could skimp on cooling or power supply or whatever seems like something eMachines would do.

selected builds & megathreads { Quick & Clean | Like a Hipster | Only One 'T' | In a Lunchbox | IT IS THE NINETIES }

Reply 9 of 21, by Warlord

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who knows, I know compaqs came with V3s because I have a few of those cards. Compaq made some emachines quality computers, I suspect the ones that voodoo3s came in were workstation class tho. 🤣

Anyways, a xpert 128 isn't exatly a rage 128 pro tho is it.

Reply 10 of 21, by Fujoshi-hime

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xjas wrote:

I know this isn't what you meant, but did eMachines ever offer Voodoo3 cards in their prebuilt stuff? I got this weird underclocked V3 2000 out of a system that was a re-purposed eMachines motherboard with a P3/500 in a standard ATX case. I figured whoever built the system added the V3 themselves, but maybe it came with the donor board.

Underclocking the GPU so they could skimp on cooling or power supply or whatever seems like something eMachines would do.

Googling around I think yes? I think the eMonster 500 (Not 500a) had a V3? I can find multiple listings suggesting it had a V3 at least.

Reply 12 of 21, by Fujoshi-hime

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oeuvre wrote:

hell yeah sleeper PCs are the coolest! great work here

Well, this is only KINDA a sleeper? The goal is to have a machine that'll run XP era games really well and while my eMonster 500a back in the day shipped with 98SE, it spent most of it's life with me until 2004 running XP. It's just also stuffed with guts from 10 years after it was made. That said, it also has components NEW enough that it could just as easily boot Windows 10 and do a pretty decent job at casual/LAN type games like CS GO or the like.

Reply 13 of 21, by Fujoshi-hime

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Guess who learned to print high quality graphic decals. 😳 (CUTTING them is still by hand, so not flawless. 😒 )

I'm really impressed what a Canon photo printer that I got used for CAD$60 can do when given the write media to print to.

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Reply 15 of 21, by gca

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My eTower 600CD has the exact same case. Pretty much stock apart from the inclusion of a NIC and jacking the memory up to the max. The mobo is some $deity awful Trigem Cognac unit. Temperamental as hell and does not play nice with anything this side of XP (including XP, bloody BIOS ACPI issues cause havoc).

Reply 17 of 21, by wiretap

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Fujoshi-hime wrote on 2019-10-20, 12:30:
xjas wrote:

I know this isn't what you meant, but did eMachines ever offer Voodoo3 cards in their prebuilt stuff? I got this weird underclocked V3 2000 out of a system that was a re-purposed eMachines motherboard with a P3/500 in a standard ATX case. I figured whoever built the system added the V3 themselves, but maybe it came with the donor board.

Underclocking the GPU so they could skimp on cooling or power supply or whatever seems like something eMachines would do.

Googling around I think yes? I think the eMonster 500 (Not 500a) had a V3? I can find multiple listings suggesting it had a V3 at least.

I had the eMonster 550 when it was new.. I believe it came with a TNT2 (m64?) which I replaced with a Voodoo Banshee for Glide support.

Circuit Board Repair Manuals
Turbo Display Project
Dual Socket 8 Project

Reply 18 of 21, by xjas

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Love this build! The new decals look great.

Did you use 'sticky' photo paper then, or something else?

selected builds & megathreads { Quick & Clean | Like a Hipster | Only One 'T' | In a Lunchbox | IT IS THE NINETIES }

Reply 19 of 21, by Asaki

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We had an eMachine that looked like that 566, I want to say it was a 666 mHz Celeron processor with Windows ME. I was not a fan of that OS at all, I'm certain I must have installed 98SE on it when I inherited the computer...but I know I used Win 2000 for a long time, shortly after college. Maybe 2003-2005? I know I got fed up when every program started dropping support, but 2006 was when I got a job and built my own computer.

I have no idea what kind of video was in it, I didn't pay that much attention back then...but I know at some point I had that awful Matrox M3D card in it...and later on, a GeForce 2 MX (no 32-bit color in 3D! Woot!).

I know we still have some of the parts around...the keyboard is all grunged up and sitting in the garage, and the monitor is outside on the porch, getting rusty, thousands of hours of IRC sessions burned onto its screen =) Poor thing.

Fujoshi-hime wrote on 2019-10-20, 15:37:

The goal is to have a machine that'll run XP era games really well and while my eMonster 500a back in the day shipped with 98SE, it spent most of it's life with me until 2004 running XP.

My XP machine is a Core 2 Duo, which got upgraded to a Quad a few years ago. It's kind of surprising how many more "modern" games will still run on it, or maybe I'm just not that interested in newer games. The biggest problem I have with it is that modern Web browsers and Web sites are ginormous RAM suckers, but I have NoScript and other workarounds at the moment.

Anything that's too old for it, I either use Virtual Machine, DOSBox, or I'll just use a different computer (especially if the game calls for specific hardware).