Chapter One: December 2018
- CPU: i486 DX/50
- Mainboard: QDI V4P895 256kB Cache (a very nice and stable board!)
- Graphics Card: STB Lightspeed VL 2MB (ET4000 W32p)
- RAM: 16MB 60ns FPM
- LAN: 3COM Etherlink III
- Sound 1: SB16 (CT1740) DSP 4.05 + Roland SCB55
- Sound 2: GUS Max
- SCSI Controller: Adaptec 1542CP ISA
- I/O Controller: Goldstar Prime 2 ISA
- HDD: IBM DCAS 4,3GB SCSI
- CD: Toshiba XM3501B SCSI extern
- Floppy: 3,5” + 5 ¼”
- Housing: Highscreen Colani Compact III
CPU: i486 DX/50
The goal was the challenge of a real 50MHz System with FSB=CPU. It should have a smell of high end which lead to an original i486DX 50MHz, no question.
Mainboard: QDI V4P895
The age of 486 was accompanied by several sorts and improvements of the bus systems (ISA, EISA, MCA, VLB and PCI). For me the VLB is a trademark of the 486, so my Socket 3 must have VLB. I don’t like VIP boards – from each village a cow, but nothing right. On the other hand, in my case, the 386 and 486 age was characterized by OPTI chipsets, so I want to have one system with an OPTI chipset. Good, that the OPTI895 is a fast and stable chipset with all necessary features. The QDI is a very good and compatible board with support of all known socket3 CPUs. And, very important, it has a good architecture, that supports more than three extra long cards and has a socket for coin cell (no Dallas or NiCd). I used for mine 12ns 32k8 cache chips.
Disadvantages are the missing support of 1024kB cache, no PS/2 mouse and the ugly AMI WinBIOS (but with all necessary features)
Graphics Card: STB Lightspeed 2MB (ET4000 W32p)
Nice and fast card for DOS. As a child I wanted this card, now I have one. Very compatible in DOS (except BattleChess 4000), but only poor refresh rates in Windows. This card has a 135MHz RAMDAC, but in Windows in 800x600x16bpp I got only 70Hz. Seems to be an issue with the driver. I tested several drivers, but found none with more than 70Hz support. And very important, this card supports 50MHz FSB without a WS.
RAM: 16MB with 60ns and Parity
16MB are more than enough for DOS and Windows 3.1. For 50MHz I need a fast (60ns) part and for high end one with parity, check! Tested with ctramtst.exe – superior stability.
LAN: 3COM Etherlink III
If an ISA LAN, the a 3COM. I don’t know why, but I ever want a 3COM, but never gave the money for that. Now 3COM is cheap and easy to get.
Sound 1: SB16 + Roland SCB-55
Sound is a very difficult thing. There is no perfect solution because of the several standards and some bugs in the implementation (e.g. HNB in SB16/AWE32). My sound solution should support an original OPL3 and an original GM. Because the games were programmed (mostly) with the references (Creative and Roland), you should have the reference if you want to have the experience the developer intended. For SBPro, SB16 and OPL support I take a SB16 (yes I know, no stereo in SBPro mode) without the HNB, means a DSP version 4.05, and for GM support I need a Roland solution. I don’t like the external “set-top-boxes” from Roland because it makes it more complicate to take my Retro out of the cabinet and play a game. Luckily the SB16 has a Wavetable header and there are solutions from Roland available for (SCB-7 and SCB-55). One big advantage of the CT1740 is the “plug and pray” free configuration. Set the jumpers to the needed positions and you need no TSR for initialization. On the other hand you have no problems with reshuffled resources if any PnP Tool makes botch. I was a fan of Jumper in this time, because plug and play caused many problems and bad surprises. And in the end I need no TSR which costs valuable kB of conventional RAM.
Sound 2: GUS max
The GUS was not really necessary but I always wanted to hear the Demo “Second Reality” with the original. And yes it sounds noticeable better than on SB. The GUS has a high coolness factor, but in the most games the sound of my SB16+Roland feels much better. Formal for the high end character I spend my GUS the upgrade to 1MB.
SCSI Controller: Adaptec 1542CP
I have many good experiences with SCSI. I started my SCSI career in 1994 with the CD-ROM (Toshiba XM3501B) and a Mustek scanner. If you follow the (simple) rules, it is very reliable with very few problems (e.g. no capacity limit by MB BIOS), and by the way, very fast (e.g. lesser CPU load). My high end system must get a SCSI system. Because of the 50MHz FSB a second VLB card is forbidden, so I took the latest ISA version. Adaptec has a good performance and currently a very good driver and BIOS support for their old components. Additional it gives me the elegant availability to add an external CD-ROM without violating my design-housing.
I/O Controller: Goldstar Prime2
I need one for the serial and parallel ports, had no preferences. But this one is good documented and reliable.
HDD: IBM DCAS 4,3GB
An old PC must have a spinning, clicking and rumbling Harddisk. In my Retro is no place for a Flash Disk. This special disk is my own, old disk from my earlier Socket 5 Pentium. With 4GB the size is sufficient to cover all my old stuff (ca. 1,7GB).
CD-ROM: Toshiba XM3501B
A very solid high-end CD-ROM with caddy from 1994. It reads the current AZO-CD-Rs from Verbatim. Especially the caddy is a very nice high end feature with a unique experience of this time. I own one in the end 1994 and scrapped it in the early 2000er as I switched from SCSI to SATA. This one I received via ebay. The external housing I “borrowed” from a Yamaha burner.
Floppy: 3 ½” + 5 ¼”
For my typical 486 I need both. Especially the reliability of the 5 ¼” disks was the reason why I kept this drive long time into the Pentium age. And I like the Floppy seeking while boot-up with both drives.
Housing: Highscreen Colani Compact III
This housing is from the German dealer Vobis with their trademark Highscreen. Especially this design, made by Luigi Colani, polarized the people. It has several functional disadvantages (function follows design), but it flashed me in my childhood and I was jealous of a friend who had one. Now I got one, uniformly yellowed in very good condition from ebay, very nice. The removable IDE-HDD case is used to store the keys for Keyboard and HDD.