Reply 20 of 52, by jakethompson1
If you've never built an old system before I'd do a Socket 7, Slot 1, or Socket 370 first. Because they have PCI, onboard IDE, likely ATX power, and perhaps even ATX form factor, you bypass a lot of the issues. It really depends on how much 90s hardware background you have. If "FPM vs. EDO," "IRQ conflict," and "black next to black" don't all mean something to you, I'd definitely do a later machine first.
I don't know much about the games you posted but hope someone would mention if any have any speed problems with later machines like a Pentium being too fast.
If you want to plow ahead with building a 486 anyway, I just did one recently. It can be both interesting and frustrating.
I got everything from eBay, Digi-Key or from old parts I still had.
I got a VLB motherboard that can only handle 5-volt cpus. It came with 256 kilobytes of L2 cache already on board. It came with the NiCd battery already removed so there was no corrosion. It came with a manual, and had a ready-to-use external battery connector where I could connect a 3xAA battery holder I got from Digi-Key. So I didn't have to do any soldering or hacking of Dallas chips that you read about.
I put in a Cyrix 486DX2-80 CPU. I was careful to get one that can handle 5 volts as once you get beyond 486DX2-66, most can't. I had to read the manual to know how to set everything up for 40 MHz.
I put in two, 72-pin, 60 nanosecond, FPM 16MB SIMMs. You would simplify your RAM decisions by going with Socket 7 or later.
I got an I/O card with a UMC chipset. This provides serial, parallel, game (disabled), floppy, and IDE. It has special drivers you load in order to make the IDE actually take advantage of VLB or otherwise it runs at ISA speeds. Getting a PCI 486 motherboard ($$$ from what I see) or just doing a Socket 7 or later build avoids IO cards.
I got a Trident 9440 VLB VGA card, which was a cheap budget card at the time. You can get a fancier ones but in my observation VLB automatically makes cards more expensive.
I'm using a serial mouse as that's all I have without resorting to converters. Many AT socket 7 boards have PS/2 mouse connectors, and ATX boards all do.
I put in a NE2000-compatible, non-PnP ISA ethernet card that I had to manually set to IO 300h and IRQ 10, knowing what I could and couldn't set it to and why. If you haven't dealt with manual ISA resource assignment perhaps build a PCI retro machine first.
I put in a Yamaha OPL3-SAx sound card, which gets its IRQ and other settings from a DOS configuration utility that runs on every boot.
Finally, I had to decide whether to find an AT form factor case (expensive and yellowed plastic) that the board was designed to fit, or adapt an ATX case to fit my AT motherboard. I did the latter as I've done it before. There are adapters to convert ATX power supply to AT. The only complication is converting the power switch from momentary (circuit opens when you let go) to latching (toggles on and off). I used an E-Switch power switch from Digi-Key that came with no wires attached, so I had to solder wires to two of the contacts to make my new power switch. You could also forego this, and just use the switch on the back of the powersupply.