VOGONS


Resurection Of A Dirty Compaq

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First post, by totoro

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How is it possible to produce a machine so ugly and so irritating? I often ask when I look at it. Yes, this must be either work of art or work of a pure evil intention. It really makes me hate myself for this hobby...

First, you take a big and ugly desktop case, then screw it with Torx.
Then make some kind of Power Supply, make it in non-standard size case of course, make it to have an ATX connection to tease them, but with AT style power on control switch, place no power control circuit on the motherboard, because, who needs it, if they shall only use our great Power Supply!
Oh, let's not forget, the great computer needs great sound, let's take the great ES1868, which features bugless MPU, let's remove that MPU, because glorious sound of adlib is all that user needs! Let's call it Premiere, for giggles.
Hey, we need video! What's the greatest video chip out there? Oh, the S3! OK, let's have that, but without any ram! Because we can!
Look, do you know the worst Chipset known man? Yes, VIA! Right! let's use it then!
Let's play a trick, let's fuse the CMOS battery to some metal clips and solder it to the motherboard, then we shall write on the diagram inside the case: "User Replaceable CMOS Battery"!
And You know what really would be fun? Like the most fun they shall ever have? No, what? The BIOS partition on the user hard drive! It'll be excellent! The drive shall suffer bad sectors, shall go missing and or die! Then users shall come on their knees begging for our recovery floppies! And we shall make them juggle those around like harlequins! Whahahahaha!

Finally let's give them sturdy keyboard, with the best backplate we can find, let's make it so robust, that it would not break under any circumstances, and then use these rubber switch'es, yeah, they shall forever have these shitty keys! We will give them the cheapest mouse that we can find for free. This shall convince them to make a purchase of a life time!

Yeah, I'm talking about infamous Compaq Deskpro 2000! Which was forced on to me, by my evil evil friend, for restoration. Stay tuned, the build log shall come soon!

Last edited by totoro on 2022-09-29, 18:38. Edited 2 times in total.

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Reply 1 of 34, by H3nrik V!

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This is looking to be a popcorn worthy thread 🤣

Please use the "quote" option if asking questions to what I write - it will really up the chances of me noticing 😀

Reply 2 of 34, by totoro

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So, I hope your popcorn's ready, since I'll begin first episode by washing dirty money... ehem, by washing of the keyboard which was used to hide some dirty money!

No, that's no joke, it is really safe to hide some dirty money underneath, the keyboard is very heavy, not everyone could lift it. Besides, when it looks like this, it won't be moved without the risk of some serious infection!

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If I am to troubleshoot this system, I just have to start by washing keyboard, even if this abomination of a PC won't live, at least I'll have a heavy weapon! So, let's work! First thing is to rinse it with some water:

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Then brush and brush, and brush, and brush some more:

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And still some yuck! remain:

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And thus I had to clean each single key...

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Last edited by totoro on 2022-09-29, 17:49. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 3 of 34, by BitWrangler

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IBM started the disease, if we make it it's standard, Compaq caught it from making the first PC compatible, so they thought they were standard setter for compatibles. Then it got caught by some others like AST, NEC and DEC who thought "hey we make our own chips and boards, WE can decide what's standard." ... and they all eventually got defeated somewhat in the clone wars, and at various stages made some machines that had least had some COTS interchangable parts, but also had tendencies to revert to their old ways.

Anyway if you're General Kenobi who has led many fights with clone troopers, battle experience will let you work around some deficiencies of non-clone hardware. At first you just hate it, then in later years you laugh and go "Hah, only I have the midichlorians to take on this shit and win." and it's a game.

So, may the force be with you or some crap, I dunno why I wandered into Star Wars imagery

edit: BTW if you get a "delicates" laundry bag, you can stick keycaps in the washing machine or dishwasher and keep them together.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 4 of 34, by totoro

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Remember that black cord? I've tried to wash it too!

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Turns out, it was not black at all! Wow, it is really beige.

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And finally, it is now clean. To be fair, the dirt has done some good, it has preserved the finish of the keys quite well, also it hid some imperfections too!

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If only I could read that WARNING before hand...

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Last edited by totoro on 2022-09-29, 18:13. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 5 of 34, by totoro

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BitWrangler wrote on 2022-09-29, 17:36:

IBM started the disease, if we make it it's standard, Compaq caught it from making the first PC compatible, so they thought they were standard setter for compatibles. Then it got caught by some others like AST, NEC and DEC who thought "hey we make our own chips and boards, WE can decide what's standard." ... and they all eventually got defeated somewhat in the clone wars, and at various stages made some machines that had least had some COTS interchangable parts, but also had tendencies to revert to their old ways.

Anyway if you're General Kenobi who has led many fights with clone troopers, battle experience will let you work around some deficiencies of non-clone hardware. At first you just hate it, then in later years you laugh and go "Hah, only I have the midichlorians to take on this shit and win." and it's a game.

So, may the force be with you or some crap, I dunno why I wandered into Star Wars imagery

Well said, I love the Star Wars imagery! I think I shall really need all those midichlorians to take on this shit as I also got a DEC system from the same evil friend of mine!

edit: BTW if you get a "delicates" laundry bag, you can stick keycaps in the washing machine or dishwasher and keep them together.

Nice tip, thanks! Maybe I'll try it on a similar HP keyboard (which is not THAT dirty, but still).

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Reply 6 of 34, by totoro

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Episode 2, lets build a Power Supply!

WARNING! If you are going to mess with a Power Supply Unit, please, make sure to discharge the main capacitors, either by shorting capacitor legs with a strong resistor or, at least, by connecting the whole PSU to some motherboard (preferably one with CPU installed) without mains wire attached and then try to power on the motherboard a few times. If you accidentally touch these capacitors, they WILL ZAP YOU pretty hard, although won't be lethal. Probably.

This was, honestly, the most troublesome part of the whole build. And actually I was thinking to scrap the whole thing by dropping it off to the local recycling center or turning it into scraps. Mostly because of it's horrible PSU, which originally uses ATX connection, however, it still had those AT style live power cords going to the power switch and all this in non-standard casing. By the way, the golden rule for this build is:

I'm not going to dump any money on this thing!

Either I can rebuild it from scraps laying around the shop or it just becomes the scrap laying around the shop! And here is the problem: the only things of the original Power Supply I've got with this PC are these two metal casing parts:

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Furthermore, these are wider and taller than most standard Power Supplies that I've got, so I cannot easily fit new supply in there, and buying an original supply is out of the question. Period! The future is looking grim for an old Compaq and so it starts to lie under the table indefinitely. That is until lady luck smiles and a good friend of mine brings me a strange, but Standard Power Supply. It is strange, since it also uses the same 10cm fan as the Compaq one, It also features exactly the same kind of power connection, plus 110/220V switch. There is also a -5Volt rail present, just as in the original unit. But still, the PCB and the whole case is still quite a bit smaller. After some thought a bright idea has popped into my clumsy head! What if I'll bend and cut the case of the donor unit to fit the Compaq casing? Let's do that:

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It is not pretty, but then again, I don't care so much as to make this build pristine, important thing that it is free and it works (in the long run). And so the base fit perfectly into the Compaq casing:

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So, all I have to do now is to mount these guts of the donor supply:

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Before doing that, I've soldered an additional ground wire to the Supply and took the green PS_ON Wire from the ATX connection and routed it along with a new ground into the mechanical power switch, which will simulate the AT style Power ON procedure, but without any use of Live Wires.

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Last edited by totoro on 2022-09-30, 21:28. Edited 5 times in total.

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Reply 7 of 34, by totoro

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Before assembling everything together, I've decided to drop the Voltage for the fan a little, since it is 10cm fan, it will have a decent air flow even while spinning slower. And the more silence - the merrier!
So, I've made this very simple extension wire featuring a resistor with a calculated value to drop the Voltage to ~10V. Although it would probably be OK to drop it to 7.5-8Volts, but I do not want to spin it too slow and risk overheating the supply (especially if it'll be someone else using this PC eventually). It is important to use the resistor that can handle the wasted power and not burn out! And it is probably safer and more efficient to use a small buck converter. But these cost some money and money is not an option this time. So, the resistor it is:

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I was lucky to find some fan protection grills laying in the scrap box. Yay!

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And now, finally, it is time to assemble everything together!

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Who will say this is not an original part? And Shame on You Compaq! You got me involved into building the same ugly thing that you once did!

P.S.
It's quite funny how I've got so carried away into building this Power Supply and completely forgot to test the motherboard first! It could be dead as brick for all I knew then! Hahah

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Reply 8 of 34, by totoro

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Episode 3, motherboard review.

Let's reveal the motherboard, to be honest, I'm not fond of it at all. There is absolutely nothing nice on it. However, this could be an excellent example on how not to build a motherboard, or how to build one as cheaply as possible and then make it point to the user how cheap and stingy of a person he should be to buy this beggar of a motherboard! Nothing screams shame like empty solder pads on the PCB!

That said, let's see what I have to work with, however, I did not take any pictures of it before I've done some cleaning work on it, so my bad. At least it was not that dirty, just a little bit dusty, so it's not like you shall miss much action anyway. Just some waving with a soft brush and some blowing with a compressed air. Here it is in all it's glory!

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OK, actually I did a little bit more than just some dust cleaning. As you can see, it already has a replaceable CMOS battery socket, but more on that later. Let's talk some specs first. So it is a Socket 7 motherboard featuring VIA VT82C586B Chipset, which supports FSB of 50, 60 and 66Mhz and is able to multiply it by 2.0 to 3.5 (233Mhz max), there are also two soldered cache IC's (W25P010AD-7), if I'm not mistaken, these are standard SRAM 32KX32 7ns Chips, so that translates to 128KB each to a total of 256KB yeah, talking about being cheap... Well, at least there is slot for additional cache module (Compaq Part No. 237716-002). I already feel some shame for this slot being empty, but I'll stick to my rule of no money spent on this thing! Also, there is an integrated video chip - the glorious (probably not so much) S3 Trio64V2/GX (I wonder what GX stands for...). Right next to it lies single video memory chip (Nec D481850GF-A12) and an empty spot for missing another one. This one seems to be 128Kx32x2 so 8192KiloBits which divided by 8 reveals a whooping 1MB of video memory! Wow, this shall be enough for everybody! Yeah, not great... They even have saved the connection pins for the CPU FAN header (which I've soldered already, since I am planning to use a CPU cooler)! Not to mention no ability to setup voltage... Wow, much unimpressed.

Anyway, it looks like the CMOS battery is pretty much the only interesting topic here. It looks like They were trying to stop waste of coin cell batteries, thus decided to fuse it onto some metal clips and then solder these into the motherboard and call this "Internal Battery". While there are pins for connecting an external Lithium battery (which may leak and destroy this whole e-waste from the factory motherboard)! Furthermore it would cost much more to replace this Lithium battery than to replace the coin cell! What a crazy engineering! They have also used not so common 3pin solder points for this! Wow! For the time being I've soldered 2pin socket, that is why it is now a little bit crooked. It shall suffice until the board is tested and I'll find a proper one.

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Let's pair it with this modest Pentium 166MMX then. And answer the main question, does it work?

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Unfortunately yes, it does seem to post, so my agony shall continue...

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However, each time it turns on, there is some warning and the need to press that F1 key in order to boot. I have tried to enter BIOS, it says press F10, yet, if I press F10 - nothing happens. After a lot of pressing various common bios entering combinations it turns out, that there is simply no BIOS to enter into! Well, actually there is a BIOS, just no configuration utility/user interface to configure it. That thing apparently was placed into a Hard Drive, which incidentally is missing...

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Reply 9 of 34, by totoro

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Episode 4, restoration of a BIOS (Setup Utility).

When doing some research, I've managed to stumble on a how to post in HP User Forum and to my surprise, HP did not yet follow the trend to delete legacy stuff from their service and needed file SP15674.exe is still available. It unpacks DOS utility QRST5.EXE and a few proprietary floppy image files (CSVP._01 CSVP._02 CSVP._03). Which are used to recreate a three diagnostic floppies.

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Then I need to prepare a hard drive. As the original hard drive went missing and I hate mechanical hard drives with passion, I suppose there is no way around it, I'll have to spend some money after all. And since I'm not planning to use it as Windows PC (this should become a decent MS-DOS PC eventually), I'll use a tried and true Compact Flash instead. There for here is the exception to the golden rule:

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Before using those Compaq Diagnostic Floppies, the Hard Drive / Compact Flash Card needs to be completely empty, there should be no partitions inside, so that the Compaq Utility could create it's own few MB's worth of proprietary partition. There for I have booted a MS-DOS 6.22 install disk, then ran FDISK to delete the default partition.

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And then proceeded to use those Diagnostic Floppies. Upon booting the first diskette I was immediately greeted by a Warning! That's always a good start...

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Turns out it just wanted me to insert a 2nd diskette, insertion of the 2nd disk was rewarded by a reboot. And after that I had to cycle these floppies few more times. Ah, the good old days which I have never experienced due do being born too late. Anyway, finally, I've got an Utility Menu, from which it is possible to Exit, or to use it to actually setup and configure BIOS settings without creation of Setup Partition. Or to create that Bios Utility partition. Needless to say I've chose the latter option.

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Reply 10 of 34, by totoro

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Right after selecting an Install Computer Setup option, I was told to basically re-do the whole chore again, this time booting from the diagnostic diskette (Floppy Disk No 1). Did I not used it to boot in the 1st place??? Oh well.

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This time it was somehow able to show me a different screen and offered to manage Diagnostics partition. And thus after switching around those floppies for like two hours or so, the partition has been created. Yay!

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And... it did not work. Somehow, if I've pressed F10 to enter BIOS at boot, the computer would hang on the black screen with blinking cursor on the top left corner. Well this is odd. After scratching my head a for a little while I've figured, maybe it's just a Compact Flash thing? And sure enough, once I've booted the MS-DOS Diskette again and ran fdisk/MBR command, I was finally able to enter the BIOS! It looks like I've forgot to set CPU mull correctly, thus it reports an Intel Pentium 200MMX, well, at least we know which CPU was originally installed on it.

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And I got to say, for as much as the hardware is uninspiring, this BIOS thing is quite interesting. It does look awful lot like Windows 3.1 or so. It is very graphic and it is actually very educational, with great help articles, with a lot of tools and configuration options. It really does allow to glimpse into Plug n Pray style BIOS inner workings and it was really interesting! Plus, it is now possible to re-create those Diagnostic Floppies directly from the BIOS menu! Maybe this old dirty Compaq isn't so bad after all???

On that bombshell it is time to end, until I search for other parts to fill it with that is.

Last edited by totoro on 2022-10-02, 17:56. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 11 of 34, by Ydee

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Uh, Compaq Deskpro DP2000 - there was 5200MMX, my first PC love:) Unfortunately I don't have it anymore, but have his younger brother, Deskpro EN SFF with PII. They already have a classic BIOS and don't need a diagnostic partition to set up.
Good job on keyboard, have same, but yellow keys.

Reply 12 of 34, by chinny22

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Hey I actually really liked the DeskPro 2000 and very closely related 4000!
No sane person will disagree with you re non standard PSU or stupid battery design

But put these in their natural habit (boring run of the mill office PC) these things were great.
We had about 50, running Win98, maybe a few on Win2k or even XP towards the end (not so fun) but they were built like tanks and more reliable then some of the later P3 era stuff.

Personally I liked the case design and long preferred the HP/Compaq way of thinking with Torx screws, no annoying stripped heads. on the flip side I never liked the HDD based BIOS that your now enjoying. Each to their own I guess?
Although with your new interest in the bios and amount of work you put into that PSU, seems to me you may be turning over to the dark side....excellent... join us... become one of us

Reply 13 of 34, by totoro

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Ydee wrote on 2022-10-02, 12:06:

Good job on keyboard, have same, but yellow keys.

Thanks! These things are quite robust and really can last for quite a while 😄 Actually long time ago I had a similarly specked Compaq Laptop and it seemed to be a great one then. Certainly loved the experience.

chinny22 wrote on 2022-10-02, 14:12:
Hey I actually really liked the DeskPro 2000 and very closely related 4000! No sane person will disagree with you re non standa […]
Show full quote

Hey I actually really liked the DeskPro 2000 and very closely related 4000!
No sane person will disagree with you re non standard PSU or stupid battery design

But put these in their natural habit (boring run of the mill office PC) these things were great.
We had about 50, running Win98, maybe a few on Win2k or even XP towards the end (not so fun) but they were built like tanks and more reliable then some of the later P3 era stuff.

Personally I liked the case design and long preferred the HP/Compaq way of thinking with Torx screws, no annoying stripped heads. on the flip side I never liked the HDD based BIOS that your now enjoying. Each to their own I guess?
Although with your new interest in the bios and amount of work you put into that PSU, seems to me you may be turning over to the dark side....excellent... join us... become one of us

Hahah, thanks for invitation mate, all in due time tough, all in due time 😉

Meanwhile yes, the case is quite substantial and rather easy to work with, certainly not the worst that I've had to deal with. I am really not a fan of Desktop cases however... I kind of get the appeal when used in combination with the CRT monitor, but really I'm a tower guy through and though. And as for Torx screws, I guess they would be fine in and off themselves, but I always end up hating them, since when that occasional HP / Compaq hits the shop, all my torx tools are long gone, hidden away, snatched by somebody and / or forgotten about. And... well stripped Philips heads rarely, if ever, happen if the right size screw driver is used. Of course, a lot of people tend to use whatever they find on hand and can some times really mess them up! Either way, in this case, pretty much all the Torx screws are long gone, only but a few remain, so, they are going to be replaced by Philips ones, but I'll show some respect for Compaq spirit I've took some effort to find screws of bright light blueish color!

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Interesting, on the picture they look to be of completely standard coloring 😕 All in all I have a feeling, that having such an underwhelming hardware might have some perks, like it might be easier so actually focus less on the tinkering and more on the software side of things to mention one example.

Last edited by totoro on 2022-10-04, 18:37. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 14 of 34, by totoro

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Episode 5, preparation of the case.

It looks like the PC is almost ready to be assembled. There is a working Power Supply, the Motherboard seems to work fine and while tinkering with the BIOS recovery I also took an opportunity to do a fresh install of MS-DOS 6.22. There is also a small pile of parts which should make it into this build, but before that happens, the case needs to be prepared. It's actually in a decent shape, only has some sticker residue, some signs of leaked battery and a missing bracket for the power switch. So I've managed to rig something quickly by using some vented low profile bracket and drilling one hole into the case.

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While it is not elegant or pretty, it does the job rather well. The power switch is sturdy and in the right position for the button to work. Then I've done some cleaning with microfiber towels and some cleaning agent. While it's not shiny as new, it does look fine. The most of the cleaning effort went into cleaning it's dirty little floppy! And the front panel was pretty dusty and had some more sticky residue. Which cleaned up OK and I could test fit a Motherboard, a PSU and a Power Switch.

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Reply 15 of 34, by totoro

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Episode 6, parts and upgrades.

Now a bit tedious part. In order to once again be a proper office beige box from ~25 years ago, it needs some proper parts. Also, I would like to improve it just a tiny bit. So I went through my boxes and drawers, and other stashes of parts and found some stuff, which, I think, would be appropriate for a computer like this one.

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As you can see these parts are just as uninteresting and unexciting as the box it self. Which is good, it was not designed to be a great computer in the first place and really, no amount of parts would make it such. Anyway, let's talk about it.

Memory

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Actually I've spent quite a while testing various memory configurations on this thing and I have to say, this is one picky bastard of a PC when it comes to memory! Basically the more memory I've tried to put in it, the more upset it got. Looks like it is mostly happy with anything bellow 128MB, there for let's go with period correct 98MB of SD-RAM sold in 1998, at least it'll make a wooden joke 😄

Video Card

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If somebody at Compaq, involved in making this PC, would have decided not to be so stingy with the Video Memory and would have used 2 megs instead of 1, I would not have any issues to actually use the integrated card. And I've actually tried to. I ran into issues in some DOS games, when 1 meg of video ram was an issue, especially the great Duke 3D, some textures were missing or blinking, sometimes there, sometimes not. At least it can be disabled in the BIOS. There for, I'll use pretty much the same S3 video card, but with 2 megs instead of 1. This card actually performs surprisingly well for DOS and offers great compatibility with software and games. However, depending on the manufacturer and the Video BIOS version, and the like. Some of these might not play well with LCD monitors, some games would go out of sync, sometimes it would look weird and so on. But on CRT these are always great experience!

Sound

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If you want MIDI audio experience while playing DOS games, then Compaq has managed to screw you up real good with this one! Not only they have removed the Gameport/MPU interface without leaving any chance of soldering it back in, but they also did not actually managed to disable them properly. There for, if you use external card for that, welcome to the resource conflict galore! Then to add some insult to injury, the MPU interface that they have removed was really one of the better ones! Haha, you stingy bastards, who buy the cheapest models! No MIDI for you! But otherwise, this is actually a pretty good card. It offers great compatibility with both Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 (New version) and the original ESS AudioDrive. It has it's own authentic ESS FM synth, which really does sound very nice. The drivers are also very easy to use and do not waste any precious memory! I'm missing the original Compaq PC speaker contraption tough.

Storage

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For storage I will be using these Kingston 512MB CF cards, just because I have a big stash of them. They are not ideal for such build, however, really, for Pentium DOS builds it would be much better to use 2 gig CF cards, since Pentium can handle newer games, which tend to take a few hundreds of megs each, so I'll probably have to make a card for each bigger game and a card with those older, smaller games. Fine by me. One thing to be cautious when using these cheap CF adapters from Ali Express with love, is that they can some times allow to insert the card backwards... Just don't ask me how I know.

Also I have managed to find a rather nice 36x CD-Rom drive, which is direct drive and aesthetically looks a lot like the drives offered back the day by Compaq. I'll combine it with a classic Mitsumi 3.5" Floppy drive.

Cooling

Initially I have used a Socket 462/370 heat sink, however, it looks weird to me, so I've found a Socket7 heat-sink with fan. It is a bit too tall, so fan would not fit. Only Compaq would leave a lot of unused space directly in front of the front air went, but would place the CPU in tightest space under the 3.5" drive bay! I sometimes really wonder, what were those guys smoking??? Anyway, I think, I can manage to mount this little fan on the side of the heat-sink. At least the motherboard provides 5Volts as well as 12Volts through the fan pins. So I can run this little fan from the 5Volts and it still spins fast enough while being completely inaudible.

P.S.
I have also found a proper CPU for this box. A Pentium 200MMX. I think it should be appropriate, since the box probably shipped with exactly the same CPU long time ago. Also, this one features a locked multiplier, so it's like meant to be, a real Compaq Special! A locked CPU in the motherboard with a set mull switch! By the time I've done, I'll probably shall be a master of their drunken ways!

Last edited by totoro on 2022-10-04, 19:51. Edited 15 times in total.

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Reply 16 of 34, by totoro

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Fun fact! While playing with various RAM configurations I ran into some weird things, one of them was this message while trying to enter the BIOS Setup Utility, so my hunch was right! They did used actual Windows installation for that BIOS thing!

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Reply 17 of 34, by chinny22

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totoro wrote on 2022-10-04, 17:31:

I'm missing the original Compaq PC speaker contraption tough.

My turn for a fun fact 😉
Never knew XP had installation music until I installed it on one of these.
Was running the PC up at the users as they were away kicked off the install and walked away knowing it would be a while.
Few hrs later I get a call from the person sitting at the next desk asking I could shut the damn thing up!
I came round and laughed, obviously it was the first time I'd installed XP on a computer that happened to have a native support for the sound card and the poor guys had been listing to the music for last few hours!

Always did wonder if BIOS was real windows or made to look very much like it (but not enough to investigate it) still, thanks for the answer guess I won't be stuck in limbo when I die now trying to finding the answer

Reply 18 of 34, by totoro

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Good one mate, actually I have learned the same thing and on some Compaq as well! I had to re-install Windows XP for my client and it also had some kind of ESS Sound Card which was detected natively and then it went on playing the intro tune and I was like "wow, this thing sounds nice!" 😄

Last edited by totoro on 2022-10-05, 18:24. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 19 of 34, by totoro

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Episode 7, let's finish!

With all these parts I was able to finally finish the build. The assembly went very smoothly as it should (given the amount that was spent on testing and evaluating various parts before hand).

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There is, however, one more thing to do! As this case cover is in pretty sorry state. There are a lot of scratches or we could say "war scars" collected over the years from being stored in wherever fate has hid it from the e-waste sorting centers... Yeah, it probably would use some fresh paint, but I'm not up for spending more money or much time with it.

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There for I've dig out some left over vinyl wrap and as a slight tribute to the LGR, I went on with it. Thus I here by present to you a Combat Compaq!

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I am still to write conclusion for this build, but until I do, please enjoy it, this giant shitbox in full glory!

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