First post, by Forsa

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I've finished my vintage build which was intended to closely reflect the PC I had back in 1997-98, but with some quality of life upgrades. The main intent was to run lesser known legacy operating systems such as OPENSTEP 4.2 for Mach and BeOS, while also keeping a Windows 98SE partition for gaming and MIDI. I also have a lot of Jaz disk cartridges from back in the day where I had saved my personal collection of apps and data and thought it might be fun to look at those again. Project is now complete after months of hunting for the right components:

Compaq Deskpro EP 500 (swappable case design: can be set up as either a tower or desktop)
• Intel Pentium-III 500 MHz Slot 1 CPU
• Intel 440BX chipset motherboard (3 DIMM RAM slots, 1 AGP 2x 3.3V, 4 PCI, 2 ISA slots)
• Matrox Millennium G200 8 MB Graphics card (AGP)
• Intel SB 82558 10/100 Mb Ethernet card (PCI)
• Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audio PCI 64/128 sound card (PCI - ES5805)
• Adaptec 2940AU Ultra SCSI card
• Iomega Jaz drive (SCSI - internal 2GB version)
• Samsung DVD-ROM drive
• Floppy disk drive
• 8 GB Yansen 2.5" PATA IDE SSD with a 44-pin to 40-pin IDE connector adaptor [boot drive, contains 2GB partitions for the possibility to install 4 different operating systems]
• 80 GB IDE hard drive [data drive, installers, drivers, WIN98 setup files, games, etc.]
• Compaq 200W ATX PSU
• Compaq PS/2 keyboard and mouse
• Dell U2412M 24" IPS TFT LCD (1920x1200 native 16x10 res, but can handle lower res modes with decent scaling, accepts VGA, DVI and Display Port inputs)

The machine is up and running now with OPENSTEP nicely, including colour graphics, sound and networking. I've just installed Win98SE as well, though it's freezing when trying to install the Adaptec 2940 drivers, so I may need to change the slot and/or try newer drivers from Adaptec. All in all, I'm very happy with it. Thinking of adding a Roland SC-55 for some MIDI music goodness while gaming under DOS.

File size
1.77 MiB
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Public domain
Last edited by Forsa on 2020-07-16, 23:33. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 2 of 5, by Forsa

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chrismeyer6 wrote on 2020-07-16, 21:28:

That's a solid system you put together. Let us know how openstep runs in it.

It runs beautifully, very fast, very stable. There's a 3rd party OPENSTEP display driver written for Matrox G-series which supports 32-bit colour at high resolutions, but it wouldn't work for me for some reason, causing a kernel panic at boot, so I switched to using the VESA VBE driver which works well on the same card. The VBE driver can only do 60Hz modes and maximum 1600x1200 in 16-bit colour, but that's perfectly fine when using an LCD monitor (it would flicker badly on a CRT, I imagine).

The IDE SSD really helps and the machine is absolutely silent because the only fan there is the cooling fan inside the PSU which is inaudible. I was very happy to get the sound working too, this was always tricky since NeXT supported only a handful of ISA sound cards. There is a 3rd party driver for Sound Blaster PCI cards, which I was able to test and it works. Luckily, I managed to find my old AWE64 ISA card as well, so I am spoiled for choice now.

I installed DOS and Win98 in a second partition on the same SSD, and I'm using the boot manager provided by the excellent XFDISK utility to choose my OS at boot time (https://www.mecronome.de/xfdisk/index.php ).

The only snag is the network stops working under OPENSTEP some time after I boot up and log in, but I suspect that's a driver issue, so I'll try a different driver version or change network card. I remember I used to have an Intel 82559-based card back in the day which worked well, so I've ordered one of those cheap on eBay - just waiting for it to arrive. I also found a 3COM Etherlink PCI card in my spares box, which I could try.

[EDIT: Networking issue now solved by switching to a different Intel Pro-100 Ethernet driver]

I actually had a different Compaq Deskpro PC running NEXTSTEP and OPENSTEP back in 1996-7, which was a slower Pentium MMX 200 MHz model with 48 MB RAM, but it still ran OPENSTEP very well, and I have a lot of my old apps, files and screenshots saved from that machine on Jaz disks. Amazingly, that data is still intact even after 23 years, so I'm trying to restore and reconfigure everything to match my old setup closely.

I'll attempt to install BeOS on a third 2GB partition on the main SSD next. I have the original installation CD for BeOS 5 (the x86 version).

Last edited by Forsa on 2020-07-17, 09:40. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 3 of 5, by lolo799

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Cool machine for playing with other OSes than Windows 9x.
Have you thought about trying Rhapsody on it?

There is plenty of gaming to do in BeOS, and MIDI related stuff as well.
Starting with R4, BeOS has both x86 and PPC versions on the same CD by the way.

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 5 of 5, by Forsa

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chrismeyer6 wrote on 2020-07-17, 09:17:

That's awesome. You built a great system and it sounds like you have hours of fun and enjoyment ahead with it.

Thank you, yes, I'm very happy with it. I've made the following upgrades/modifications and it's 100% stable now using both OPENSTEP and Win98SE.

- RAM upgraded to 384 MB which is more than enough for all the software that I want to run
- Floppy disk drive replaced with a flash-based GoTek floppy drive emulator with a tiny OLED screen for easy navigation between floppy images. Works great.
- Graphics card upgraded to a Matrox G400 with 32 MB VRAM, for better 3D performance under Windows and high res 32-bit colour modes. 1920x1200 native res working now under Windows and OPENSTEP.
- Intel 82559 Ethernet card (supported out-of-the-box by both Win98SE and OPENSTEP)
- SCSI card switched to Adaptec 2940U (fully stable now, the other card was a 2940AU which was freezing under Windows for some reason)
- Sound card switched to a Sound Blaster AWE64 ISA CT4390. Rock solid support under all operating systems and it lets me play with wavetable MIDI synthesiser add-ons like the DreamBlaster X2
- SCSI2SD v6 adaptor added for fun. It can simulate hard drives, CD-ROM drives and so on using an SD card.