Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby Neco » 2018-10-20 @ 05:57

I had 3 main configurations for gaming in the 90s, after I got out of the 386 - > 486 phase of late adolescence..

Cyrix MII 6x86 @ 233Mhz
32MB RAM
Some 2MB-ish video card
later added a Voodoo 2
AOpen AW35 Pro for sound
--------------
AMD K6-II 500Mhz
64 - 128MB of RAM
same Voodoo2 / onboard
Went through a few video cards like Diamond Viper V550 or something I think? and several TNT or TNT2 based cards as well. I think I had a via MVP3 chipset back then, horrible lockup issues, etc.
played around with swapping out with Voodoo Banshee, etc and I think at late stage tried a Voodoo4 4500 PCI
sound eventually changed to a brief stint with an Aureal 3D card, and then just a plain old SB PCI 512
-------------------

final machine for the 90's - 2000's transition was
AMD Duron 650Mhz, usually OC'd to around 750Mhz or so (water cooled)
Geforce 2MX (Hercules!) but transitioned to a Radeon 8500 64MB IIRC
512MB RAM
30GB ATA-133 IDE
same SB PCI 512

----------------

I always considered my machines "average". I could never afford intel based machines, being a kid and lucky to get anything. I never really could afford top of the line anything. But I think these machines were very capable, especially back when GLIDE was still in use.
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby athlon-power » 2018-10-22 @ 20:27

Thanks so much for your help! I'm very thankful for the amount of information I've been given.

I can say for sure that this will probably help me figure out stuff with that machine, and similar-era machines for later on. I'm also glad for the mentions of hardware specs before the original scope of the question, as that will help me build earlier machines down to the mid-90's.

gex85 wrote:If you are on a tight budget you might want to look for a TNT2 M64. Would be a good fit for a 500 MHz Katmai and ranges between TNT and TNT2 performance-wise. At least here in Germany there are plenty of these cards available on eBay for 6-7€, shipping included.


I'll have to look on eBay for stuff like that. Even if I got the GeForce 2MX going, I'd still be using hardware that's well outside of the scope of that build as far as time frames go.

RaverX wrote:True. 1998 was one of the best years, Voodoo2 and Riva TNT were huge leaps in 3d graphics. Late 1996 to early 2000 was awesome, a true golden era. We went from under 200 MHz CPUs/16-32 MB RAM/1 MB 2D video cards to 1 GHz/256 MB/32MB 3D video.


I find the huge leaps fascinating, but in this instance it's somewhat agitating as I have trouble wrapping my head around it. The speed in which quite substantial developments happened in the PC industry is insane, and I probably make it harder on myself as I try to actually understand what wasn't written on paper. I didn't even exist before 2001, much less know and understand how people viewed and took that amount of development in such a short period of time. It's hard to describe, but for some reason I want to know the context, how people felt about things, stuff that isn't documented and isn't something you can find on Wikipedia or something like that. Things like finding old forum posts from around 1997 helped me understand the opinion on Pentiums and how Quake was so FPU intensive. I would link them, but they get pretty messy. People who think Intel are better and people who think AMD are better have been fighting for a very, very long time. I found those posts to be honestly hilarious.

It also probably doesn't help that I'm trying to understand the people and aura of non-written opinions and knowledge from 1990 to something like 2006. Anyways, I again thank you guys for the help. I plan on posting pictures of my '99 rig at some point when I get around to it.
Custom Builds:
Intel SE440BX-2, Intel Pentium III SL35E, 128MB PC100, ASUS V3800M 32MB, AOpen AW744L II, Samsung SC-148, WD Caviar WD400, ca. 1999

Upcoming builds:
Athlon XP 3200+ (Socket 754), 512MB DDR-400, rest unknown, ca. 2003
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby Neco » 2018-10-22 @ 22:54

sorry to hijack but since you brought it up..



If you want to see some interesting flame wars from the 90s you should probably try to use the wayback machine on 3dfiles.com 's forum.

Man there were some doozies, might even find me in there somewhere calling people names. Another good resource might be seeing how far back you can go with overclockers.com forums using either their current search, or archived site captures. Those guys were the cream of the crop as far as knowledge there and you even had people from companies interacting with the enthusiast community.

As far as how people felt, for my part, I was turned 14 in 1996. At that stage I was transitioning between a 386/DX 40Mhz to a 486 of some 30Mhz design.. all I know is I could run Windows95 on it...sorta.
I missed the boat on Voodoo1 and all that jazz (but I did get to experience owning an IBM PC Jr and Commodore 64).

The pace of rapid hardware improvements was both a blessing and a curse. A lot of those advances were driven by competition, pure and simple. Competition in the enthusiast market, competition in the general consumer market (PC's and the Internet in every home were just starting to boom. You had companies like Dell, Gateway, Compaq, and who can forget our old friends, Hewlett Packard (Packard Bell). Big box pre-built branded systems were starting to really become a thing for the x86 platform.

Most people bought their machine and shrugged their shoulders.. complained how it got slow because they bloated it with stuff, and bought something faster a few years later. Enthusiasts, from my point of view, along with industry rivalry, is what really opened the floodgates on rapid advancement. Enthusiasts were willing to pay top dollar for the fanciest, fastest, best components and in some ways it kind of subsidized development for the lower tiers of the consumer market. I see it as a trickle-down effect. Those advancements that people were paying top-dollar for bragging rights, were refined and reduced in price, for mass production in lower-end models that still made upgrading worth it.

My first 3D card was a Voodoo2 and it blew me a way. I still lament the loss of 3Dfx and the loss of APIs like GLIDE. Glide was a bare-metal API, you could do amazing things at amazing speeds, but that also meant it was proprietary, and that was ultimately what killed it. The key thing to understand about a lot of advancements back then, was that they were brute-force "is it possible to break moore's law" types of advancements. Yes there were legit new technologies along the way, and refinements in efficiency, but the CPU race to 1Ghz, the GPU wars with Core/Memory clocks and overclocking ability. That was all brute force. It was easy to do.

I'm typing this on an Intel i7 6800K. a 6 core CPU with 16GB of RAM and a Geforce ...I don't even remember the name its the 1060 model of whatever is out. lol
My CPU is ancient, I bought it when the platform was pretty much dead already. But it works. It works well for video encoding, and my GPU works well for gaming @ 1080p with acceptable image quality and FPS. Sound is irrelevant these days unless you are an audiophile of some sort, or actually buy into Creative Labs marketting snaz


I built this system around 2 years ago during black friday. I think the GPU came a little later. Lots of people play their games on 5 year old machines, even. You couldn't do this in the 90s. Technology advanced so fast for so many reasons, you literally had to upgrade your machine to be able to play a new game coming out that you wanted THAT badly. What some of us witnessed, and what you're trying to find out about, was literally the birth of the modern computing industry.

It was something like the baby boom post WW2. The USA had existed before then, but we didn't really do much. Didnt accomplish much. But then, we won a world war, we came home, our brightest minds went to work and things exploded. The IBM PC based industry kind of went the same way for games, in the 1990s.


That's my brief, personal opinion. you can interpret it for your research however you like.
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby athlon-power » 2018-10-22 @ 23:10

Another off-topic note, but that does remind me of some things I'm actually doing right now. I have had 3 upgrades since my first real 'gaming rig' I had that I sorta built myself. Took an old Dell Studio 540 with a Core2Quad Q6600, threw 8GB of DDR2 in there and threw in an AMD Radeon HD 6770. I made that machine about late 2016, and still have all the parts. The next upgrade was to another Dell desktop, but this time it was a Dell Inspiron 620 with a Core i5 2310, and it came with 8GB of DDR3. I took that Radeon from the Studio 540 and put it into the new one until I got a GTX 1050Ti, and afterwards the Radeon went back to the 540. It had a 320GB primary HDD and a 1TB secondary at the end of it's life cycle, before I upgraded to my newest one, a Dell Inspiron 5676 with an AMD Ryzen 5 1400 and an AMD RX 570, with 8GB of DDR4, 1TB for boot and 1TB for games and the such.

I mention this because I have seen many times where people wish they had kept their old computers instead of selling them or something. I intend to keep these computers together like this so later on I will have all of them, and even with the original hardware I used in them.

Also, I have never owned a computer with more than 8GB of RAM. It's went from DDR2, to DDR3, to DDR4, but has always stayed at 8GB. I just find that weird.

But that Studio 540 was like 7 or 8 years old by the time I upgraded it, and the GPU was around 5 or 6 years old. Interesting how it actually ran alright, and even ran games decently, which would have sounded like the ramblings of an insane man in the 90's. A 7 or 8 year old computer would have been something like a 386 or 486 and a GPU of the same age would have been similarly very weak compared to the advancements made later on. It would have originally used something like MS-DOS 3 or MS-DOS 5 and Win3.0 or 3.1. Definitely proves that the era of exponential component growth as it was seen in the late 90's and early 2000's has slowed down considerably.

Also, thanks for the help with finding old posts like that. I'll definitely take a look at them later on.
Custom Builds:
Intel SE440BX-2, Intel Pentium III SL35E, 128MB PC100, ASUS V3800M 32MB, AOpen AW744L II, Samsung SC-148, WD Caviar WD400, ca. 1999

Upcoming builds:
Athlon XP 3200+ (Socket 754), 512MB DDR-400, rest unknown, ca. 2003
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby Neco » 2018-10-22 @ 23:21

Yes, I would advice you to hold on to as much of your old gear as you can, without it becoming a detriment to your life (cost of storage, storage location itself, relationship problems over hoarding all the stuff, etc)

I would give anything to have some of my old stuff back. Especially my 5150 XT and 5170 AT style cases, and AT towers. If I had the money I would hunt down a 5170 style desktop case, and have it modified to look stock but hold modern components - including a functional big red power switch. If I ever get the time and inclination to try, I would take something tiny like an arduino or similar device, and hook it into an older gaming system where the drives have been replaced with an SSD or SD Card, etc. Hook it into the motherboard header for HDD activity and have it play sound files like HDD noises through the PC Speaker. Turning on a machine with an SSD and hearing an old Seagate ST-225, or Quantum Fireball spin up would be nice...

just for kicks....lol.
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby stamasd » 2018-10-22 @ 23:30

I built my first PC in fall 1998. I was a poor student on a budget so I weighed everything to get the best bang for my buck. It was a success (except for the graphics but that was all I could afford)
-motherboard: Abit BH6
-CPU: Celeron 300A
-RAM: 64MB PC100 SDRAM
-HDD: Maxtor 6.4GB
-FDD: generic 1.44MB, I think Mitsumi
-sound: ES1371
-video: ATI Rage Pro (specifically Xpert@Play 98), 8MB RAM
-generic beige case, PSU, keyboard, mouse
-15" CRT which IIRC I got from a thrift shop, the only used part in the build.
I/O, I/O,
It's off to disk I go,
With a bit and a byte
And a read and a write,
I/O, I/O
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby athlon-power » 2018-10-22 @ 23:40

Neco wrote:Yes, I would advice you to hold on to as much of your old gear as you can, without it becoming a detriment to your life (cost of storage, storage location itself, relationship problems over hoarding all the stuff, etc)


I may have already caught up with myself on that one. I'm storing 19 mini to mid-tower computer cases in my room, a large majority of them are old Dell PCs from around 2004 or 2005 that I got from an auction that, for 15 computers or so, cost about ~$45, which is a great deal considering that's around $3 per computer, and some of them were newer Core2Duo machines. So, storage space is starting to run a little.. thin. But I could probably squeeze some more room for about 3 or 4 computers if they were especially valuable (such as Socket 3 or Socket 7 systems, and maybe even 286 or 8086/8088 systems).

I might be a little excessive on the whole 'old computer collecting' thing, but I've still got a decent amount of space to move around in, not like the floor is piled with computers or something. I've got 12 of those Dell PCs stacked in a corner of a room, two horizontal rows and then a vertical row, so six in each row. I could probably put 18 computers in that stack if I was feeling frisky.

Neco wrote:Hook it into the motherboard header for HDD activity and have it play sound files like HDD noises through the PC Speaker. Turning on a machine with an SSD and hearing an old Seagate ST-225, or Quantum Fireball spin up would be nice...


I'm one of those people that will use an era-accurate HDD unless I am forced to use other means, which will often include me using newer HDDs then what would've been used in that PC's timeline. For example, I've got a 40GB WD Caviar drive in my PIII system. I've seen people like LGR use a compact flash card solution for a similar machine to mine, but I just like mechanical HDDs too much.

Of course, that would make absolutely zero sense for a newer build, but my current rig holds dual 1TB mechanical drives. I don't know, I'm just very reluctant to switch to SSDs.
Custom Builds:
Intel SE440BX-2, Intel Pentium III SL35E, 128MB PC100, ASUS V3800M 32MB, AOpen AW744L II, Samsung SC-148, WD Caviar WD400, ca. 1999

Upcoming builds:
Athlon XP 3200+ (Socket 754), 512MB DDR-400, rest unknown, ca. 2003
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby Neco » 2018-10-22 @ 23:52

Well like I said, I love the sound of old machines. However, the problem you run into as you age, is that things tend to annoy you more. When you want peace and quiet, you WANT peace and quiet. Also I am not in a position where I can have a dedicated room in the house for "loud" machines. My stuff is in the same room I sleep in (its rather large for a bedroom but this place used to be a bed and breakfast). I enjoy silence, I want a silent computer. Even when gaming, I dont want to have to wear headphones and stuff (unless I got into flight sims or something and needed to talk to people). One of the secondary reasons I got into water cooling when I turned 18 was because of how silent everything was without half a dozen case fans running

It's a personal preference kind of thing. As far as your collection goes, I would honestly start cataloguing what you have, if you haven't already, and then find out what you can do to consolidate them down to one or two period accurate machines, as close to top of their model-line as possible. Sell off the rest. Use the space for better new toys
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby athlon-power » 2018-10-23 @ 00:12

Neco wrote:My stuff is in the same room I sleep in (its rather large for a bedroom but this place used to be a bed and breakfast).


I use my bedroom for storage as well. I really don't have anywhere else to store my stuff, considering that my mom doesn't want 800 computers sprawling all over the house. I use a box fan for white noise anyways, so while I'm sleeping it's going to be difficult for any of the PCs to wake me up, even though the only PC that I keep on all the time is my main rig.

Neco wrote:As far as your collection goes, I would honestly start cataloguing what you have, if you haven't already, and then find out what you can do to consolidate them down to one or two period accurate machines, as close to top of their model-line as possible. Sell off the rest. Use the space for better new toys


The problem is that my area is horrible for PCs, especially vintage or older ones. I probably couldn't give a lot of those to most people, much less sell it. I do have a couple of Core2Duo machines I could probably sell, but even then it's still a long stretch. I really don't want to throw it away, either, because it's sort of a waste of PCs that are just fine- well, most of them at least. On some of those motherboards, the capacitor plague took them long before I could use them, so it might be worth parting those out and seeing if I can sell some of the components in them and attempt to sell the cases. I honestly might have to throw them away, because they use that crappy early 2000's Dell clamshell design where the motherboard is mounted into the case via a custom mobo plate that snaps into the case itself, so they're useless for any motherboards that don't use that form-factor.
Custom Builds:
Intel SE440BX-2, Intel Pentium III SL35E, 128MB PC100, ASUS V3800M 32MB, AOpen AW744L II, Samsung SC-148, WD Caviar WD400, ca. 1999

Upcoming builds:
Athlon XP 3200+ (Socket 754), 512MB DDR-400, rest unknown, ca. 2003
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby appiah4 » 2018-10-23 @ 06:08

I bought this PC in the early summer of 1998, and it was a mid/high range PC at the time:

ASUS P2B Motherboard
Pentium II 333MHz
64MB Ram
6.4GB IDE HDD
Creative Infra CD-ROM (24x, 36x or 48x, can not recall)
Intel i740 AGP Graphics Card
Diamond Monster 3D II 8MB Voodoo 2 3D Accelerator
Sound Blaster Live! Value

I believe it cost roughly $2,000.- so make of that what you will. I could have gone with a TNT at the time, but I was crazy about wanting a Voodoo card, and made the uninformative and unoptimal decision of going with an i740 as my main AGP VGA.

Regardless, the system lasted me a good two years. I upgraded to a Voodoo 3 in 2000, then an Asus CUSL2-C motherboard and Coppermine P3 in 2001.
1989:A500|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
1992:HIPPO-VL+|DX2-66|8M|GD5428|CT2290|S2
1995:PCI597-1|P133|32M|Trio64|V1|CT3980/2M
1998:S1573S|K6-2/400|64M|RagePro|V2/SLI|CT4500/32M
2001:GA-6OXT|PIII-1200|512M|GF3Ti200|MX300
2004:K8V-D|3200+|2G|X1950P|SB0350
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby villeneuve » 2018-11-03 @ 12:03

I was lucky enough to be able to configure my new system as a 98 christmas/99 birthday present in December 98, because aunt, uncle, grandma and parents decided to put their money together. I told my father some rough specs (3dfx Voodoo Banshee for example, but not which brand etc.). I went all out on the multimedia side of things, so the system was this:
ATX Miditower called Viper
250W PSU
Gigabyte 6BXC
Intel Pentium III 350 MHz
64 MB RAM
IBM Deskstar 8,4 GB
TEAC Floppy Drive
Creative 3D Blaster Banshee AGP
Creative SoundBlaster Live! (my father ordered Value edition, which was out of stock, so the dealer put in the full one instead without paying extra)
Creative DXR2
Creative DVD 5240E-1
Hauppauge WinTV PCI
Peacock Entrada 19 CRT monitor
From my previous system (P100) I took over all input devices, an external Iomega Zip100 drive and a miroMEDIA Surround.
The cool thing was the dealer gave us the retail boxes of most parts as well.

In 1999 I added an HP DVD Writer, cheap level one Realtek based Ethernet-card, a Papst intake fan to overlock the system to 392 MHz CPU & 112 MHz GPU & videomemory.

In 2000 I lend the base of the system to my sister and built a PIII 733 with Voodoo5 from my own money.

I still have all the parts & where damaged got another example of the same part exept for the CRT, which I wasn't that good anyway compared to my uncles LG Studioworks and the DVD drive, which was dead after 5 years or so.

Coming from my pretty basic P100 system built in 1996 it was a bit overwhelming having connected the TV to the DVD card, a satellite receiver to the WinTV, the sound cards to grandpa's 1970s CD4 Hifi system and having access to 3D acceleration, different surround sound standards, General Midi, pay-tv, DVD etc.. I was so hooked on the whole sound capabilities that I instantly started saving for a 5.1 setup with digital input which I finally got in 2000. I was so exited about the whole system that I would've passed out if it also had access to the internet, but that was available only in my father's office. I transfered downloads between those two systems via Zip100 disks.

Oh, that became a long post, that shows how excited I am still about it, that time was wild in terms of development. I stopped keeping up with that development when Steam and stuff was forced to the consumers.
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby KCompRoom2000 » 2018-11-05 @ 01:37

villeneuve wrote:In 1999 I added an HP DVD Writer, cheap level one Realtek based Ethernet-card, a Papst intake fan to overlock the system to 392 MHz CPU & 112 MHz GPU & videomemory.

You had a DVD burner in 1999?! 8-O
1988-96:SL-54U5|P233MMX|64MB|Virge325|YMF719-S
1995-98:P2B-VE|C433|192MB|Rage Pro|Voodoo2|CT4500/32M
1998-01:GX150MT|PIII-S 1400|384MB|GF4Ti4200|CT4670
2000-05:A8V|A64 3700+|2GB|RadeonX800
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby vvbee » 2018-11-05 @ 02:06

Sheesh. I rocked my k6 300 until 2001.
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby villeneuve » 2018-11-05 @ 04:28

KCompRoom2000 wrote:
villeneuve wrote:In 1999 I added an HP DVD Writer, cheap level one Realtek based Ethernet-card, a Papst intake fan to overlock the system to 392 MHz CPU & 112 MHz GPU & videomemory.

You had a DVD burner in 1999?! 8-O


Haha, no sorry, of course it was a CD-RW Writer. It's burn speed was 2x.
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby KCompRoom2000 » 2018-11-05 @ 22:47

villeneuve wrote:
KCompRoom2000 wrote:You had a DVD burner in 1999?! 8-O


Haha, no sorry, of course it was a CD-RW Writer. It's burn speed was 2x.

I figured it was a typo and you meant to say you had a CD burner. As always, that previous comment was sarcasm as I like to be sarcastic about silly hardware combinations.
1988-96:SL-54U5|P233MMX|64MB|Virge325|YMF719-S
1995-98:P2B-VE|C433|192MB|Rage Pro|Voodoo2|CT4500/32M
1998-01:GX150MT|PIII-S 1400|384MB|GF4Ti4200|CT4670
2000-05:A8V|A64 3700+|2GB|RadeonX800
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby villeneuve » 2018-11-06 @ 09:54

Allright, I wasn't sure if DVD burners were already available for very early adopters in 1999, so my sarcasm detector failed :-)
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Re: Average PC Specs for Low, Medium, and High-End PCs of late 1998 - early 1999

Postby PcBytes » 2018-11-06 @ 10:12

Tiido wrote:My first Pentium was supposedly high end in 1997 according to the person I got it from, cost about 1200€ equivalent (not accounting any inflation).

"Fujitsu ICL Indiana" (*black* AT tower with a matching keyboard : http://www.tmeeco.eu/ABOUT/ServFrnt.jpg)
* Biostar MB-8500TVX-A
* 166MHz P54C Pentium
* 32MB EDO
* 1MB Mach64CT
* 1.6GB Quantum HDD
* 12x NEC CD-ROM
* Labway YMF719 based sound card
* Win98SE + Office97
* 17" monitor

You've nearly described some of AGER systems back in the late 90s in Romania. The only differences I see between them is the case (white generic AT case), P233MMX, 48MB EDO, Matrox MGA Millenium (though some have S3 Trio 64V+), 3.2GB Maxtor HDD, and 4.3GB IBM HDD, and my guess would be a SB16 Value. Of course, 98SE and a 15" white monitor. Otherwise, the board is the same, and same CD-ROM.
Main: Xeon X5450, 8GB RAM DDR2, DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS
Wolfram: C2D E6750, 2GB DDR2, ASUS P5K-SE/EPU
R.A.I.D: Pentium 4 2.8GHz, 2GB DDR400, ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe
Totem: Pentium S 166MHz, 128MB RAM, Totem TM-586TX4
Voodoo: AMD K6-2 500MHz, 128MB RAM, LuckyStar 5MVP3
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