VOGONS


First post, by athlon-power

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Recently, I've gotten the craving to get ahold of some '96 (maybe '97) workstation hardware- the enterprise stuff. I'd really have no use for a development business computer, but I find them alluring for some reason. Always have. A few things to note here:

A) I'd like it to be the best I can get for the time for its kind (more on that in a second).
B) I'd like it to cost a total of under USD $500, but prefer it to cost around or under USD $300.

I'm not sure what to do here, as sure, I could build a Pentium Pro based system (maybe a PPro 180), but at the same time, if there are workstation options for cheaper, I'd rather get those. Most PPro motherboards go for extraordinary amounts of money online, this is minus what it would cost to get a case as well, etc., so it could realistically end up being a USD ~$600 PC, and I am not spending that much money on one single build.

Architecture, brand, OS, etc. doesn't really matter in this instance. All I want is the best or near-best in its line for the time, that is available around my budget somewhere.

I may or may not actually use this machine to build the vintage network I have been planning for years. I would like to branch out from just working with vintage hardware to possibly developing (on a very small scale, of course) software that I can use for my vintage PCs/PC network. I will (hopefully) eventually have a dual x86 processor server running Windows NT 4.0 Server to host this mess.

Reply 1 of 14, by gex85

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If you do extend your search to 1997, you are on Pentium II territory ("Klamath" core, 233/266/300 MHz, introduced May 1997 according to Wikipedia).
Should be easier (and cheaper) to find a decent dual P2 workstation than to go the PPro route.

1992 - i486DX2-66 // 1997 - P1-233 MMX // 1998 - P2-350 // 2000 - P3-650 // 2001 - Athlon 1400 // 2003 - Athlon XP 3200+ // 2008 - Xeon E5450 // 2015 - Xeon E3-1240v5

Reply 2 of 14, by flupke11

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1996 Workstation equals Pentium Pro if you go for top performance, or a dual socket 7 system. The 1997 equivalent would be a dual i440LX based motherboard (66 MHz). Have Ppro's mainboards become so difficult to find? I would suspect it easier to find a dual Ppro than a dual s7.

Reply 5 of 14, by Intel486dx33

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Intel Pentium cpu.
Intel network card or 3com
64mb edo ram
Win nt4.0 workstation
Adapter scsi
Plextor cdrom
Sony floppy drive
IBM or Seagate Cheetah scsi hard drive
In-win A500 or A500s atx case or Lian Li PC-60, or enlight en7250

Brand name computers:
HP Vectra or Kayak
DEll Precision Optiplex
Intel motherboard.

Reply 6 of 14, by keenmaster486

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Probably dual Pentium Pro was the best you could find in 1996. The OS would be Windows NT or OS/2, probably. Maybe you'd have 64 MB of RAM; that would probably be a lot for 1996.

I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.

Reply 7 of 14, by NautilusComputer

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keenmaster486 wrote on 2020-02-24, 22:22:

Probably dual Pentium Pro was the best you could find in 1996. The OS would be Windows NT or OS/2, probably. Maybe you'd have 64 MB of RAM; that would probably be a lot for 1996.

A lot of dual Pros had offboard VRM cards like some Xeons; I know that back ages ago when I was a teen and my dad had a Micron PC with a Pent Pro 180 he wanted a 2nd CPU but the cost of a 2nd VRM card was WAY too high for his liking (at the time it was in use, it was running Mandrake 5.3, whenever that came out).

Reply 9 of 14, by appiah4

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Our high school's IT department head had a Dual Pentium workstation running NT 3.51, which IIRC was the same configuration as the file and print server for the two computer labs we had. He allowed me to mess around with it but I can't remember the amount of RAM and exact clockspeeds. I do know for sure that it had no CD-ROM for example, but the computers in the library had those and ran things like Encarta so a CD-ROM would be totally appropriate for the era (even our home DX4 had one in 1996).

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 10 of 14, by Intel486dx33

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Probably a Pentium Pro or Pentium ll 233mhz or Pentium 200mhz.
An old HP Kayak with Pentium ll 233mhz if you can find one.
This was one of the first HP Kayaks produced.

Reply 11 of 14, by barleyguy

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If I was looking for a high end workstation from that era, I'd probably look for a Compaq Deskpro. And possibly with a Pentium 200.

Or maybe a dual processor motherboard, like something from Abit. That was their specialty. One of those would be fun to have IMO. EDIT: Google says that the Abit BP6 didn't come out until 1999, so I guess that's not appropriate for a 1996 build. Would still be fun though.

The Pentium Pro was more common in servers, as far as I know. It was rare in desktop workstations. Also, I'm very cautious with Pentium Pros, because as awesome as they were, they were also very fragile. They had zero thermal protection, and ran hot enough to burn up in seconds if you ran them without proper cooling. I'm speaking from experience; I killed a Pentium Pro in a 1 RU Supermicro server because I pushed the power switch without the heatsink clipped down.

BTW, as far as network software, the dominant network software of the 90's was Novell Netware. In 1996 I believe they had about 70% of the market. By 2000 they had lost most of it to a split between Windows NT and Unix/Linux.

Reply 12 of 14, by jade_angel

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wiretap wrote on 2020-02-24, 13:00:

You can also look at early Sun Ultra workstations with an UltraSPARC 143MHz - 200MHz.

Or a Silicon Graphics Indigo2 R10000/IMPACT, but while those are decently common, they're often expensive.

For Sun, yeah, it would have been the Sun Ultra 1 (single-CPU, narrow SCSI, 10Mbit ethernet), Ultra 1 Creator (single-CPU, fast/wide SCSI, 100Mbit ethernet) or the Sun Ultra 2 (dual-CPU, otherwise like the U1Creator, much more upgradeable).

HP and DEC both had something competing in this field, too, but I'm not sure what it was.

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Reply 13 of 14, by chinny22

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If you want a dual CPU NT4 box, I'd say just build that. Realistically duel CPU will be overkill no matter if its PPro, P2 or whatever but it's definitely more fun.

Slot1 will be much easier to find and within budget. You may also be able to get a full server as demand isn't as high as PC's I know off the top of my head for Compaq you are after the old naming convention eg
Compaq Prolient #### vs Compaq Prolient ML### Dell, IBM, HP were also the big guys back then

Last edited by Stiletto on 2020-03-11, 04:59. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 14 of 14, by douglar

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I did a trading floor with 25 dual Pentium Pro, SCSI drives & 256MB EDO in early 1997. NT 4.0

Compaq Professional 5000 workstations. They were $10K each. It was a "they can't blame us if we spent as much of their money as possible" project.

The onboard NICs ended up fighting with the 100MBs switches when they upgraded from hubs. It was a really strange headache. Had to go back and request money for PCI NIC cards.

You might be able to find one of those old motherboards cheap because they had a proprietary case.

I like what this guy did with his: https://www.applefritter.com/node/9502