VOGONS


First post, by techgeek

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

I know that most of you guys go after the fastest CPU from a given generation, upgrading the RAM to the maximum supported by the motherboard and using the fastest drives to soup up your computers. I used to do the same, but recently my focus shifted to the low end hardware - for example instead of spending most of my time with my 386DX40 with 256kb cache, 32MB RAM, 1MB video card, CD-RW and a 4GB HDD, I play mostly with my 386sx-16 with just 1MB RAM and 40MB HDD trying to get the most out of it. I installed Stacker to double my hard drive, I use a 387 emulator to run software that requires it (an old version of Mathematica), installed Windows 3.1 and run on it Word 2.0 and Excel 3.0 and I transfer files using laplink. It is just more fun to optimize the software and deal with limited resources of a low end machine. Same with my other computers - I have a top of the line 286-20MHz with 16MB! RAM and co-pro, but I prefer to play with my 8MHz 286 with 512KB and 20MB ST-225 HDD. Anyone else into the slowest hardware of a given class? What are your reasons?

Reply 1 of 22, by BSA Starfire

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Yes, I have a weird fascination with the "cheap & cheerful" end of the market also, I use my 12MHz 286 with 1MB RAM and Seagate 157A hard disk, Hercules card and monitor more often than I use my fancy 20MHz CHIP's NEAT 286 with 1MB VGA and it's fancy big conner voice coil hard disk.
I've recently been playing with a Cyrix MII socket 7 machine with a variety of different VERY low end 3D cards, variants of the SiS 6326 and also a Cirrus logic Laguna 3D and it's been lots of fun to see what this bargain basement stuff can actually achieve.
My thread is here Games to play on a socket 7 machine with SiS 6326 graphics.
I like very much playing with things like Realtek & OAK VGA cards, Cyrix 6x86 and AMD K5 CPU's, odd 387 FPU's, 386sx.....yeah, my taste's in old PC stuff is a little odd.......
Only place I draw a line is Celeron netburst CPU's, I utterly despise those things! Intel at is cynical marketing led worst, if fact netburst in general is something I only find of an engineering interest, but not something I want to use or own, give me Athlon/Duron any day!
It's fun to explore things that most folk ignore, you learn yourself by experience rather than follow a well beaten and known path, the stuff has character too and your to at least an extent not just re-inventing the wheel with the Pentium is best, 3DFX...etc,etc. That of course has it's place if your just wanting the best experience to play old video games, but that's not what this hobby is about for me, it's more about trying things I haven't before, learning about them and then making them work the best they can.
Sometimes the biggest and best is not the most interesting, at least to me anyway.

286 20MHz,1MB RAM,Trident 8900B 1MB, Conner CFA-170A.SB 1350B
386SX 33MHz,ULSI 387,4MB Ram,OAK OTI077 1MB. Seagate ST1144A, MS WSS audio
Amstrad PC 9486i, DX/2 66, 16 MB RAM, Cirrus SVGA,Win 95,SB 16
Cyrix MII 333,128MB,SiS 6326 H0 rev,ESS 1869,Win ME

Reply 2 of 22, by 386SX

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
techgeek wrote on 2020-05-23, 11:17:

I know that most of you guys go after the fastest CPU from a given generation, upgrading the RAM to the maximum supported by the motherboard and using the fastest drives to soup up your computers. I used to do the same, but recently my focus shifted to the low end hardware - for example instead of spending most of my time with my 386DX40 with 256kb cache, 32MB RAM, 1MB video card, CD-RW and a 4GB HDD, I play mostly with my 386sx-16 with just 1MB RAM and 40MB HDD trying to get the most out of it. I installed Stacker to double my hard drive, I use a 387 emulator to run software that requires it (an old version of Mathematica), installed Windows 3.1 and run on it Word 2.0 and Excel 3.0 and I transfer files using laplink. It is just more fun to optimize the software and deal with limited resources of a low end machine. Same with my other computers - I have a top of the line 286-20MHz with 16MB! RAM and co-pro, but I prefer to play with my 8MHz 286 with 512KB and 20MB ST-225 HDD. Anyone else into the slowest hardware of a given class? What are your reasons?

I understand this and like the other user I also like the (not necessary cheapest/lowest end) alternative solution to the most common choice. For example, back when the Pentium and Celeron in the 1998 were common and powerful choice for everyone I went for the K6-2 not necessary for the lower price but for the 3DNow! brand and the fact I never had an AMD based pc until then and was so interesting. Same thing for the video cards, when there was the big discussion and critic to the Kyro2 I went for it just cause many where trying to say it could not compete etc. I went for the DVD accelerator PCI cards even when CPU were already fast enough. I used Windows ME (still do) when everyone asked me why for stability reason, for the 2000 version etc...
Nowdays I still like to try strange configs: for example I began using again a modern Windows after years of Linux just to finally succeed installing the "famous" GMA3600 iGPU and working in 3D acceleration even if its scores are so low that are almost good to bench, but we're talking about a 2-4W gpu.. but the story about its "compatibility" is so deep and difficult than to see it running anything 3D related (and decoding HD videos too) is impressive.
On the "lowest" end subject It's interesting too like to see a S3 Virge running Quake with the miniGl driver or a 386 with the 387 FPU "running" it too... but if I had to come back to the 386SX-20 I had with the OTI37c video card back in the early 90's I think to all the bad feelings it gave me with its low speed.. not even Wolfeinstein3D was running ok, not even Stunts.. in fact I don't remember a game that was ok to run without compromise details, but nowdays I know the problem was the video card most probably.

Reply 3 of 22, by douglar

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

When I'm building a really crappy contemporary build, like a thin client with a Kaby Lake Pentium gold processor, integrated graphics and a 64GB un-buffered ssd, it improves my spirits if I imagine what it would have been like if I had the build 30 years ago. Damn! Would have run circles around those crappy RT workstations that IBM had donated to the school. Fractint would have been an absolute blur! I'd need to find some ndis or packet drivers & a transceiver to connect to the the 10-base-F network we had at school. DR-DOS or MS-DOS? Railroad tycoon would have never lost a frame. I'd need to put some DOS usb drivers in the time machine with me, that's for sure, along with a thumb drive. Would I have been able to run "Tongue of the Fatman" on it? Could I have run Continuum at high def? Would I want to hide the new computer inside a beige mini tower case with a green led "20" on the display?

Why? Because I remember at the time toying with the possible drive geometries in the BIOS of an early 386 and found combination that gave a 1GB(*) drive , and I couldn't really wrap my mind around what I would do with that much space or how I'd organizing things. I thought that if I had a drive that big, I'd definitely need some serious FTP server software. I know, that was back before I knew about the 528MB bios limitation.

Reply 4 of 22, by Jo22

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

One lousy MiB of RAM is never enough, no matter what system (incl. XTs). It's nothing but a torture to the system. Period.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 5 of 22, by boxpressed

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

I'm not sure if this counts, but I started "My Wavetable Sample Thread" because I was curious about all of the "budget" wavetable synths and patchsets found on "generic" sound cards. Of course I wanted the Roland and Yamaha cards, as well as the GUS, Ensoniq, and Turtle Beach cards. But there was a "lowest-tier" wavetable market out there, the "high-end low-end" that used AdMOS, Crystal, and ESS synths and patchsets.

I discovered that the AdMOS QS1000 along with a 512KB ROM was probably the "lowest end" hardware wavetable card out there. (There's also the QS700, but all my examples of it came with 1MB of sample ROM.) There are tons of these cards out there with slight differences among them (such as the controller). To my ears, it's comparable to the more expensive "brand name" Creative EMU8K found on Sound Blaster 32, AWE32, and AWE64 but not as good as the premium or near-premium brand wavetables.

My Wavetable Sample Thread

Reply 6 of 22, by Caluser2000

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
Jo22 wrote on 2020-05-23, 14:30:

One lousy MiB of RAM is never enough, no matter what system (incl. XTs). It's nothing but a torture to the system. Period.

GeoWorks Pro 1.2 works just fine on my XT-Turbo with 640k. Can even log in to my Linux box with GeoComm

There's a glitch in the matrix.

Reply 7 of 22, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

There's a lot to be said for low-end builds, both because they were far more representative of what most people actually bought and used, and because with retrocomputing, speed/power is pretty irrelevant anyway - it's all slow & old, and you can choose the software to match your hardware or vice versa.

The problem though is that low-end doesn't only mean slow, it also typically involved some really shoddy build quality resulting in stability issues both when new and when antique. Of course, not all low-end stuff was unstable, but a lot was. In the case of power supplies an old, low-end device could actively damage the rest of your build. So I'm a bit reticent at fully embracing the low-end, perhaps instead choosing bottom-of-range stuff from reputable vendors rather than the worst crap out there...

Reply 8 of 22, by BSA Starfire

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Agreed on the power supply thing! That's another thing I DON'T cheap out on. I'm not that trusting on OEM PSU's either, my daily driver HP Proliant has a Corsair PSU even(the ML 115 had a poor history with it's stock unit).

286 20MHz,1MB RAM,Trident 8900B 1MB, Conner CFA-170A.SB 1350B
386SX 33MHz,ULSI 387,4MB Ram,OAK OTI077 1MB. Seagate ST1144A, MS WSS audio
Amstrad PC 9486i, DX/2 66, 16 MB RAM, Cirrus SVGA,Win 95,SB 16
Cyrix MII 333,128MB,SiS 6326 H0 rev,ESS 1869,Win ME

Reply 9 of 22, by toastdieb

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

One thing that I find interesting is comparing one hardware generation's low-end vs the top-tier performance of a previous generation, so I like to cobble together spare parts not good enough for "high-end" builds and just put them towards lower-power applications. That Allendale Pentium build may not be so great by the standards of the Win 7 era, but it'll do some damage vs XP era applications! My Mendocino Celeron build can be easily outpaced by my Pent 3 build in 98SE games, but I'll bet it can whip if used as a straight DOS 7.1 machine!

Reply 10 of 22, by Jo22

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
Caluser2000 wrote on 2020-05-23, 15:07:

GeoWorks Pro 1.2 works just fine on my XT-Turbo with 640k. Can even log in to my Linux box with GeoComm

PC/GEOS also runs on type writers..

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 11 of 22, by candle_86

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
BSA Starfire wrote on 2020-05-23, 17:41:

Agreed on the power supply thing! That's another thing I DON'T cheap out on. I'm not that trusting on OEM PSU's either, my daily driver HP Proliant has a Corsair PSU even(the ML 115 had a poor history with it's stock unit).

I find dell psu's to be excellent units, heavy and great internals. I don't trust go, but I'll buy used dell psu's all day long, and Lenovo psu's they are also good quality.

Phenom II X4 840T @ 4ghz - ASUS M3N72D-SLI - GTX 560 Ti- 4GB DDR2 1066 - 1TB HDD - Windows XP
Pentium 4 3.4C - MSI 865PE NEO2 - x850 XT PE - 2GB DDR 400 - 500GB HDD - Windows XP
Duron 1600 - ASUS A7N8X - 512MB DDR 266 - Radeon 8500 LE

Reply 12 of 22, by imi

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
dionb wrote on 2020-05-23, 17:29:

There's a lot to be said for low-end builds, both because they were far more representative of what most people actually bought and used

yes and no ^^

I had a 386DX40 which is pretty high end for a 386, but I was using it in 1996 still... which is uh... pretty low end for the time ^^

so while it is true that not everyone had the fastest hardware of it's class... by the time it was acquired or used it could have already been cheap and "low end".
so someone who got a shiny new "low end" pentium system in 1996 had a PC that was magnitudes faster than my "high-end" 386 ^^

so it's equally representative imo.

Reply 13 of 22, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
BSA Starfire wrote on 2020-05-23, 17:41:

Agreed on the power supply thing! That's another thing I DON'T cheap out on. I'm not that trusting on OEM PSU's either, my daily driver HP Proliant has a Corsair PSU even(the ML 115 had a poor history with it's stock unit).

Thing about PSUs is that there has always been a very limited number of factories making them and lots of companies sticking their sticker on other people's design. Corsair, for example, doesn't make anything themselves. That means that two different Corsair PSUs could be from totally different manufacturers with very different quality. OEMs certainly didn't always choose good PSUs, but frequently they did. Dell, Compaq but even bottom-feeders like Packard Bell frequently put good stuff in their systems. I don't care whether an FSP PSU has FSP, AOpen, Packard Bell or Sparkle stickers, it's usually good quality. With PSUs (as with RAM) I far prefer to choose based on the component manufacturer than on whoever sticks their label on top.

imi wrote on 2020-05-25, 12:49:
[...] […]
Show full quote

[...]

yes and no ^^

I had a 386DX40 which is pretty high end for a 386, but I was using it in 1996 still... which is uh... pretty low end for the time ^^

so while it is true that not everyone had the fastest hardware of it's class... by the time it was acquired or used it could have already been cheap and "low end".
so someone who got a shiny new "low end" pentium system in 1996 had a PC that was magnitudes faster than my "high-end" 386 ^^

so it's equally representative imo.

386DX-40 is a special case because it had such a long lifetime. Most high-end stuff was high-end for much shorter periods and therefore didn't sell much. How many Pentium 3-1000 systems with Voodoo5-5500 did you see being sold between 2001 and 2005? There's a reason those V5-5500 (and Gf3Ti500, and similar top-model cards, and Harris 286-25 CPUs and Raptor X HDDs) are relatively rare.

Reply 14 of 22, by Caluser2000

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
Jo22 wrote on 2020-05-25, 12:31:
Caluser2000 wrote on 2020-05-23, 15:07:

GeoWorks Pro 1.2 works just fine on my XT-Turbo with 640k. Can even log in to my Linux box with GeoComm

PC/GEOS also runs on type writers..

With ram.

Your point was what exactly?

There's a glitch in the matrix.

Reply 15 of 22, by darry

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
Caluser2000 wrote on Yesterday, 05:27:
Jo22 wrote on 2020-05-25, 12:31:
Caluser2000 wrote on 2020-05-23, 15:07:

GeoWorks Pro 1.2 works just fine on my XT-Turbo with 640k. Can even log in to my Linux box with GeoComm

PC/GEOS also runs on type writers..

With ram.

Your point was what exactly?

His point is likely that PEN/GEOS (PC/GEOS 2.0) did run on actual electronic typewriters from the likes of Brother . That probably qualifies as low end compared to a PC .
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEOS_(16- ... ing_System

Reply 16 of 22, by Cloudschatze

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

I waste an inordinate amount of time trying to make low-end systems do things they ought not, despite having an abundance of more-capable hardware. In my case, there tends to be some redeeming or unique feature of the particular system involved that makes the effort worthwhile.

Here's a recent example involving a budget-model 286 with just 1MB of RAM, hamstrung by a single (8-bit) ISA slot, and lacking a discrete sound/MIDI card:

https://youtu.be/6qigDyrBC5k

Reply 17 of 22, by Miphee

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

I love early generation computers, that's something very similar.
I value a socket 1 486 SX16 over a 486 DX4 any time.
I love the old 8 bit ISA while 16 bit does nothing for me.
Noisy MFM drives? Sign me right up!
Complicated early proprietary IBM computers are my weakness.

Reply 18 of 22, by Tetrium

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

One of my most used retro rigs was my Celeron 400 s370 440LX board with PCI TNT2 M64 and 192MB-orso SDRAM (running at 66MHz) 🤣
The majority of rigs that I build did not even contain any of the high end parts

toastdieb wrote on 2020-05-23, 19:03:

One thing that I find interesting is comparing one hardware generation's low-end vs the top-tier performance of a previous generation, so I like to cobble together spare parts not good enough for "high-end" builds and just put them towards lower-power applications. That Allendale Pentium build may not be so great by the standards of the Win 7 era, but it'll do some damage vs XP era applications! My Mendocino Celeron build can be easily outpaced by my Pent 3 build in 98SE games, but I'll bet it can whip if used as a straight DOS 7.1 machine!

Same thing for me here, like building rigs with 7600GS and 6800 or with GF3 Ti200 (the lower end GF3) and GF4 MX or comparing GF2 MX200 with TNT2.
I've always preferred to get the second best and skip the top end products, even though I have used some top end parts, like GF5900U and Tualatin 1400.

Granted, it isn't all necessarily the slowest that I find interesting, but it did include the 486SX-16, the Pentium 60MHz and the Vanta

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
Report spammers here!

Reply 19 of 22, by darry

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

I like the high end stuff, but I always skip the thermally compromised designs, unless I can overcompensate somehow with extreme but still quiet air cooling (think huge slow turning fans)

For example, extremely power-hungry and hot top of the line Pentium 4 CPUs are not my thing. Video cards with TDPs above 175 or so Watts do not do it for me either . 10K or 15K RPM drives are not for me (heat and noise) .

This applies to the retro and modern gear I have .

EDIT : I get as high end as I can afford without going to extremes . Extremes often sacrifice reliability for performance . I value reliability . I will also prefer to use a next generation second best part in a previous generation build if it is better than the previous generation top of the line (and obviously still compatible for the purpose I have in mind).

Period correctness is not my thing either . No PC of mine was ever "period correct" as I upgraded progressively over time . IMHO, the very concept only makes sense for someone who believes in buying a given pre-assembled machine and never upgrading until it's time to buy the next one . This is not my case .

TLDR : The point of the hardware is running software as "well" (this can be subjective) as possible . Hardware is a means to an end (a fun one, though). This is my opinion, at least .

Last edited by darry on 2020-05-27, 04:07. Edited 1 time in total.