First post, by vetz
Thought it was time for me to make a thread in here 😀 Wall of text / lots of photos incoming!
The background of this computer is like many other vintage computer, it has some notalgia value for me. This is the original computer I played all most of my games in the late nineties. My father was given this computer for free from his work in the beginning of 1997 and it was the main family computer all up until january of 2000. I then got myself a brand new computer, but my father kept it as his personal one all up until 2004 when it had become too slow for all the internet website cluthering. You can say that flash killed this machine. When he got a new one it stood almost unused for some years until I recently took it out, did some more upgrades and put it into use as my main DOS / early Win9x computer.
Lets take a look at the original specs. It came with:
- Intel MMX 166mhz processor
32MB of SDRAM (2x16MB and 16 of them being integrated in the MB)
2MB S3 Trio64V+ (integrated)
ESS Audiodrive 1888 (integrated)
16X CD-ROM drive
33.6k ISA modem
2.1GB 5.25 inch Quantum Bigfoot harddrive (click for photo)
The original monitor, which I still use is a Panasonic 17" with built-in speakers and microphone. Also the keyboard are original with its divided spacebar, but I've replaced the mouse as the original ballmouse was worn out a long time ago. The original specs aren't that bad and the video card has excellent DOS support. The ESS audiodrive is a bit worse, with the worst part being that it can't play from two programs at the same time in Windows. Also I had some issues with the Soundblaster emulation back in the days. It was a bit ahead of it's time with 2 USB ports on the backside. This is the earliest computer I've seen that have had this, as it first came on the marked in late 1996.
- I've replaced the original 16x CD-ROM since it stopped working.
On the front you have some buttons for CD-ROM control, as well as a big sleep button. There are also shortcut buttons for telephone and fax from when this computer had modem installed and a shortcut button for the custom Compaq software. Notice the lack of power button and restart. Yes that is right! To turn this computer on you have to reach on the backside of the machine and hit the PSU powerswitch. This has always annoyed me. Same goes for restarts. If CTRL + ALT + DEL doesn't help you out then you have to turn it off and on again with the same switch. I guess Compaq thought that the computer would never crash and that people would just put it in sleep mode whenever they were done working with it. On the top you find room for 5 CD-ROM jewel cases, which is kinda neat detail.
- Back of the machine (At the time this picture was taken I had a S3 Virge card installed instead of the Matrox card. This was due to me testing if Destruction Derby for the S3 Virge would work on this machine instead of my 440bx system.)
- Sidecover removed.
- MB layout and jumpers. 200mhz maximum setting.
- Expansion bay on the way out.
- Almost everything taken out.
- Documentation, restore CD and bundled OEM software
The computer is almost completely proprietary with a motherboard with almost everything integrated. The videocard, soundcard and even 16MB of RAM are integrated. The case is proprietary with non-standard harddrive installation next to the powersupply, special floppy disk mounting and it also has a removable expantion card bay on a riser card. Probably the only thing that is mounted as normal are the CD-ROM and the power supply. The removable expantion bay contains 3 PCI slots and 4 ISA slots, but you can only use 6 of them at the same time. It is a pain to remove it and put it back in as you have to watch for the harddrive cables and powercables when you slide it back in. You also need to use some force to get it properly into its socket on the motherboard. This was worse when it was new, but after all these years the force you need to use has become more manageble. I am worried that the expantion card socket might get worn out and stop working if this continues so I try to avoid doing unessecary hardware swapping on it. I have recently built a new 440bx system that is much easier to work with for hardware testing.
- From top to bottom:
- Audio Excel 310 ISA w/ NEC XR385
- 2x Creative Voodoo 2 12MB in SLI
- Matrox Millennium 4 MB
- Intel PRO100 Etherlink ISA
- - 2x 32MB SDRAM PC66 + 16MB Integrated RAM = 80 MB (maximum supported)
- Evergreen Spectra
So over the the upgrades. The first upgrade I ever got was a Orchid Righteous Voodoo graphics card. I kept it for almost two years before I upgraded it to a Creative Voodoo 2. Later I added 32 MB more RAM to a total of 64, overclocked the CPU to the maximum of 200mhz, added an extra 6.4GB harddrive and a 3Com Etherlink II 10mbit ethernet network card so I could join LAN parties with it. This was the configuration of the computer up until recently when I completely reworked the machine. I added a Matrox Millennium 4MB card for when I connect my 19" LCD or Sony 19" CRT screen, and another Voodoo2 for SLI. The network card got replaced with a 100mbit Intel ISA card and the RAM increased to 80mb. I also added a Audio Excel 310 soundcard as it has excellent Soundblaster 16 emulation, good software, and attached a Yamaha DXG60 (NEC XR385) clone daughtercard for MIDI music to it. If I wish I can also connect my Roland SC-55mkII or MT-100 to the ESS Audiodrive's MPU/joystick port.
On the processor side I've installed a Evergreen Spectra adapter which upgrades the CPU to a AMD K6-II 400 mhz. This upgrade doesn't give much more performance increase over the original processor, but the added 3Dnow support is nice for the games that supports it. Also it is friggin awesome as this more than likely makes it the fastest Presario 4766 in the whole world. On the harddrive part I've removed the original Quantum drive as it was way too noisy and just kept the Western Digital one at 6.4gb. It is enough for my use. I have Windows98SE installed along with variety of bootdiscs available for pure DOS mode (if I need more conventional memory for some games). The BIOS that comes with this computer is a complete joke. You can't almost change anything in it.
All in all this computer has its flaws. Mostly the lack of powerbutton and reset button on the front annoys me. The lack of BIOS features along with the case that isn't exactly "user" friendly also adds in. Beside this it works with almost all software and games and it has some nostalgic value for me. It is also different in both looks and features compared to the standard ATX/AT machine. It is also fun to max it out like I have done. Sure, I could probably add a faster Voodoo3 or 4,5 PCI card, but having a pair of Voodoo2 in SLI I find more kick ass. A K6-III processor could also work in theory, given the BIOS will accept it, but then I need a compatible socket adapter which is very hard to get hold of today.