VOGONS


First post, by ubiq

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I got into retro computing back at the beginning of this year. Very much a nostalgia thing, with the idea of building (what would have been) the system of my dreams back in the mid-late 90’s. Specifically, I wanted to build my dream Slot 1 system into the sleekest modern case out there.

I never kept any of my old hardware over the years, so I was starting from scratch. As is common, I quickly realized that there is no one system to rule them all for this period. I also started out with the idea that I would just run everything off CF/SD cards and not bother with removable media. I have since come around to the thinking that this is more trouble than it is worth, especially when I’m targeting the era of redbook CD audio.

Nevertheless, I posted a thread back in June, but I could never decide what I wanted out of that build, and ultimately decided I just was never going to be happy with that particular case.

Now, I have a few builds that I’m fairly happy with, so I’m making a new thread to post about them all. Not super worried about engagement here, just want a place to blather about what I’ve gotten up to. So I fully intend to multi-post it up here. 😉

Last edited by ubiq on 2024-02-15, 01:08. Edited 4 times in total.

Reply 1 of 39, by ubiq

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So, first up is Penny - so named because this was supposed to be a Pentium MMX build. Ultimately though, I decided to lean into a SS7 K6-2 build with this one. (Which, incidentally, is a system I never had back in the day - I stuck with Intel until 440BX ran its course and oc’ing Durons was a thing)

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Here are Penny’s specs:
Case: Fractal Design Focus G Mini
CPU: AMD K6-2 475 MHz
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-5SMM (mATX SS7, SiS 530 Chipset, Compaq OEM board)
Memory: 192MB (64 + 128 DIMMs)
Graphics: On-board PCI graphics
Voodoo 2 12MB
Sound: Sound Blaster 16 CT1790 /w DreamBlaster X2GS
Gravis Ultrasound Classic
Storage:WD Caviar 40GB IDE
Promise FastTrak S150 TX2plus /w 1TB WD Blue M.2 2280 SSD
Removable Media:LG DVD-RW IDE
GoTek USB floppy emulator

So, I really like this one: a solid Win98SE system with good DOS compatibility all the way through to Glide-era gaming. The 1TB SSD is absolutely unnecessary, but nobody stopped me and it fits in there so slickly, so here we are. If I ever find another good USB 2.0 card I’ll probably swap that in. The Voodoo 2 is also not super necessary as this build is more about doing things with the GUS, but I think it still earns its place.

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Anyway, that’s it for now - comments, criticisms, and suggestions welcome!

Reply 2 of 39, by ubiq

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Better interior angle and pic of Penny flashed up (the fan LEDs are surprisingly subtle).

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Reply 5 of 39, by H3nrik V!

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That is definitely not period correct cable management 🤣 very nice, clean build!

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

Reply 6 of 39, by ubiq

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H3nrik V! wrote on 2023-10-08, 08:01:

That is definitely not period correct cable management 🤣 very nice, clean build!

Haha yeah, I’ve come a long way…

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Honestly, back in the day “cable management” - if it meant anything at all to me - it meant tidying up behind your desk. It also didn’t even occur to me that a computer could look cool - what it did was cool and I couldn’t care less about how the beige box under my desk looked.

That said, if I could have had a computer that looks like how I can do them up now, it would have blown my little mind and I would very much have wanted. Since I only recently started collecting retro HW from scratch, it made sense to build out of modern cases. Also, where I live it’s pretty much impossible to find old AT cases.

However…. I did recently acquire a fairly crusty old beige mini tower:

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Some kind of pre-MMX Pentium system. Highlights include, broken CD-ROM, broken floppy, dead 4GB HD (yes, installed crooked with 2 screws like in the pic), missing video card, missing 3.5” slot cover, missing 3 of 4 rubber feet, and the metal cover is clearly mismatched from a different case. Or what retro enthusiasts might say: it has potential!

My most recent build was to fix this guy up. At first I was going to just get it back into period correct shape, but then... I went in a different direction. I’ll do up a post about it next.

Reply 7 of 39, by H3nrik V!

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That looks more period familiar 😀 But yeah, it wasn't a priority back then - and to be honest, there wouldn't be any greater technical reason for doing nice cable management, as powers and temperature were much more manageable. I do remember, however, that I started in the late 90s or maybe early 00s to use rounded IDE cables for looks as well as airflow. But then again, that was on overclocked hardware - it kind of made at least some sense 😀

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

Reply 8 of 39, by chinny22

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That Fractal Design case is really nice and perfect with a drive bay for both floppy and optical drive.
I like the idea of modern cases with airflow helping to keep old hardware nice and cool, even if it's not needed. Plus a window is always nice.

That said if I have an old case I'll use it. Keep it more retro, but I don't go out my way to get one.

Reply 9 of 39, by ubiq

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This isn’t what I was planning on posting about next, but I’m really excited about what I’m messing around with right now, so consider this a work in progress.

Alright, I have a Fractal Design Node 202 case that I was originally using to house a living room gaming PC. I had major heat management issues with it and eventually moved to a different case. Lately I’ve just been using the empty Node 202 as a monitor stand.

Then, I started to get sicko ideas about what kind of retro thing I could cram into it. I tried a few things, but never really had solid idea of what I wanted to do:

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Eventually, I figured it out: O.G. Pentium (P54) build. Believe it or not, this is a parts bin build, just using stuff I already had. Given that, I think I’ve stumbled on to something that I really, really like!

Start with the tiniest Socket 7 board I had and see if it fits:

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Nice. Next, add some PCI and ISA risers:

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CF Card adapter fits nicely in there too. Sound is provided by the ESS 1869 that was in that crusty P200 I posted above. I recently got a DreamBlaster S2 to check out and it looks really cute on there. ☺️

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Reply 10 of 39, by ubiq

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continued...

Video provided by a Matrox Millenium II 8MB PCI

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Rear view:

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All put together on my bench: 😊

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But wait! Look what just came in the mail yesterday: 😳

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I totally didn't have a system in mind when I put my name down for an Orpheus II, and I almost cancelled my order when I found a real GUS Classic a few months ago, but I'm really glad I didn't. This makes the build, IMO.

So, here's Carmen:
Case: Fractal Design Node 202
CPU: Pentium 90 SX968
Mobo: Zida TX100-3D (Socket 7, Via Apollo VPX/97 chipset)
Memory: 32MB DIMM
Graphics: Matrox Millenium II 8MB PCI
Sound: ESS AudioDrive 1869 /w DreamBlaster S2
Orpheus II /w DreamBlaster X2GS
Storage: 4GB CF card

I've just slapped this all together, so I wouldn't call it done. I'm considering swapping out the SFX PSU for a Pico ATX which would free up some room to try and get a proper Socket 5 mobo in there. This current config just fits so well though, I might want to just leave it alone. And yes, the Matrox card is a little newer than what I'm going for, but it's what I had.

So yeah, this already might be my favourite build yet - now I'm going to go mess around with that new Orpheus II!

Last edited by ubiq on 2023-10-19, 22:01. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 11 of 39, by ubiq

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Ok, so here is Toby, the result of the glow-up I gave that beat-up beige mini-tower.

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I replaced the broken, faceplate-missing floppy drive with a GoTek. I think they're going for a more Amiga grey/beige with these? Doesn't matter, impossible to match beiges anyway. Along the same lines, I was never going to find a replacement for the missing 3.5 bay cover, so I put some USB ports there.

Rear:

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And inside:

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Surprise, it's a Slot 1 build! Here's what I did:

Case: Generic crusty ole AT case
CPU: Pentium III 1.1GHz SL5QW
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-6BA (Intel 440BX, Slot 1)
Memory: 256 MB (2 * 128MB PC133 DIMMs)
Graphics: ASUS V8200T2 Pure GeForce3 AGP 64MB
Sound: Sound Blaster AWE64 (CT4520)
Storage: Promise FastTrak S150 TX4 (PCI SATA controller)
/w 2 * 2TB Seagate Baracuda SATA drives
Misc: USB 2.0 PCI card (NEC chipset)
Removable Media: MSI DVD-RW IDE
GoTek USB floppy emulator
Front Panel USB 2.0

So I kinda have a thing for Baby AT and mATX Slot 1 boards. 🤷‍♂️ Not a whole lot to say about this one. The ridiculous storage situation is a result of me seeing what the biggest drives it could take from my stack of retired NAS drives. And then I made a striped array with them. 😈 For the PSU, after blowing out half a pound of dust out of it, the original one seemed to be in decent enough shape, so I reused it.

No sneaky cable management shenanigans with this old case:

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'nother inside angle:

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I like this one for a solid, unassuming, utility/bench computer. Its jankiness reminds me of my old AT case that served me from 386SX through to P200 back in the day.

Reply 12 of 39, by ubiq

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Hooked up the front panel USB on Carmen: (the header is right by the serial port up top there)

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Surprisingly the legacy USB support plays nice with my KVM, and now I have USB keyboard in DOS 6.22 😁

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Reply 13 of 39, by ubiq

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Well, I got pretty tired of having a CF card as the only media for this build. Especially as the card I was using was slowly (or possibly quickly) going corrupt...

Would you believe there aren't a lot of options for fixed media storage in this case? Anyway, I managed to fit a IDE to SD card reader where case is originally designed to have a SSD:

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I actually tried an old SSD, but neither SATA to IDE option I had would have worked. One plugged into the HD and was too high for the case, the other plugs directly to the mobo's IDE header, which is in an obv no-go with this build:

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So, SD card reader it is.. for now. I have a few 2.5" IDE laptop drives on the way from a sketchy ebay seller in China and I'm hoping to be able to swap the card reader out for one, then this build will have some real fixed disk media. 😈

Still loving the Orpheus II btw, what an amazing card:

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Seriously, after fighting with a SB16+GUS in my Penny build, the Orpheus II is a breath of fresh air. None of those old soundcard issues - hissing, buzzing, hanging note bugs, weird volume levels, worn out jacks... it just works!

Oh, and I quickly got tired of not having FAT32 avail, so I installed WIN98SE:

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It's been a long long time since I've tried to have a serious DOS boot option in a WIN98 install, so I'll have to figure that out again. Can I just throw all my DOS drivers into the root config.sys and autoexec.bat that windows uses? 😰

[edit] I think the answer in my case (and probably many others) was "boot disks". Not an option with this one. 🥴

Reply 14 of 39, by ubiq

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Playing musical sound cards (heh) as I swapped my GUS Classic and ESS AudioDrive 1869 /w DreamBlaster X2GS into Carmen:

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Perfect fit, if I do say so! The Matrox card I'm using isn't really a good fit for this build because it was really intended for windows use and lacks support for a bunch of cool lower resolution modes. Tried out a the PCI Radeon 7000 that's in the pics because it was the only other PCI card I had that fit... or at least almost fit. Who puts the VGA connector right on the edge like that! (Apparently many, many do)

Anyway, using both ISA slots meant losing the CF card reader. Won't miss it, but I can't just have no removable media. Hmm...

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Yeah?

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Hrmm....

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Ok, don't laugh:

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Reply 15 of 39, by ubiq

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So yeah, I ran a microSD card extension under the bottom of the case:

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It seems to fully work, for now. I can boot DOS off it and everything:

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I just used some foam double-sided tape to tack the ribbon cable down for testing. If I actually like this, I'll figure out a better adhesive to stick it down properly.

Reply 17 of 39, by CharlieFoxtrot

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ubiq wrote on 2023-10-19, 19:30:
Ok, so here is Toby, the result of the glow-up I gave that beat-up beige mini-tower. IMG_5972.jpeg […]
Show full quote

Ok, so here is Toby, the result of the glow-up I gave that beat-up beige mini-tower.
IMG_5972.jpeg

I replaced the broken, faceplate-missing floppy drive with a GoTek. I think they're going for a more Amiga grey/beige with these? Doesn't matter, impossible to match beiges anyway. Along the same lines, I was never going to find a replacement for the missing 3.5 bay cover, so I put some USB ports there.

Rear:
IMG_5973.jpeg

And inside:
IMG_5975.jpeg

Surprise, it's a Slot 1 build! Here's what I did:

Case: Generic crusty ole AT case
CPU: Pentium III 1.1GHz SL5QW
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-6BA (Intel 440BX, Slot 1)
Memory: 256 MB (2 * 128MB PC133 DIMMs)
Graphics: ASUS V8200T2 Pure GeForce3 AGP 64MB
Sound: Sound Blaster AWE64 (CT4520)
Storage: Promise FastTrak S150 TX4 (PCI SATA controller)
/w 2 * 2TB Seagate Baracuda SATA drives
Misc: USB 2.0 PCI card (NEC chipset)
Removable Media: MSI DVD-RW IDE
GoTek USB floppy emulator
Front Panel USB 2.0

So I kinda have a thing for Baby AT and mATX Slot 1 boards. 🤷‍♂️ Not a whole lot to say about this one. The ridiculous storage situation is a result of me seeing what the biggest drives it could take from my stack of retired NAS drives. And then I made a striped array with them. 😈 For the PSU, after blowing out half a pound of dust out of it, the original one seemed to be in decent enough shape, so I reused it.

No sneaky cable management shenanigans with this old case:
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'nother inside angle:
IMG_5981.jpeg

I like this one for a solid, unassuming, utility/bench computer. Its jankiness reminds me of my old AT case that served me from 386SX through to P200 back in the day.

Hey now, did you steal my case! 😁

Seriously, I have exactly same case home! It's overall in nice condition, came with P200 and stuff, but didn't have use for it as it was. I recently installed Zida 4DPS, AMD 486-120 and some other stuff in it for high-end 486/DOS system. Haven't completed the software installation, though. Maybe something for next weekend, eh?

Reply 18 of 39, by ubiq

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bZbZbZ wrote on 2023-11-02, 21:59:

Nice systems!

That Corsair RM850X sure is a lot of power supply for that K6-2 build (Penny)...

Thanks! And haha yeah, no doubt about the PSU - it just happened to be what I had! Same could probably be said about Carmen, my little P90 system. I've managed to keep the SFX PSU in there, but I'm pretty sure I could swap it out for a pico ATX and it would be fine. I think that SFX is like a 650W too. 😅

Reply 19 of 39, by ubiq

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CharlieFoxtrot wrote on 2023-11-03, 12:41:
ubiq wrote on 2023-10-19, 19:30:
Ok, so here is Toby, the result of the glow-up I gave that beat-up beige mini-tower. IMG_5972.jpeg […]
Show full quote

Ok, so here is Toby, the result of the glow-up I gave that beat-up beige mini-tower.
IMG_5972.jpeg

I replaced the broken, faceplate-missing floppy drive with a GoTek. I think they're going for a more Amiga grey/beige with these? Doesn't matter, impossible to match beiges anyway. Along the same lines, I was never going to find a replacement for the missing 3.5 bay cover, so I put some USB ports there.

Rear:
IMG_5973.jpeg

And inside:
IMG_5975.jpeg

Surprise, it's a Slot 1 build! Here's what I did:

Case: Generic crusty ole AT case
CPU: Pentium III 1.1GHz SL5QW
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-6BA (Intel 440BX, Slot 1)
Memory: 256 MB (2 * 128MB PC133 DIMMs)
Graphics: ASUS V8200T2 Pure GeForce3 AGP 64MB
Sound: Sound Blaster AWE64 (CT4520)
Storage: Promise FastTrak S150 TX4 (PCI SATA controller)
/w 2 * 2TB Seagate Baracuda SATA drives
Misc: USB 2.0 PCI card (NEC chipset)
Removable Media: MSI DVD-RW IDE
GoTek USB floppy emulator
Front Panel USB 2.0

So I kinda have a thing for Baby AT and mATX Slot 1 boards. 🤷‍♂️ Not a whole lot to say about this one. The ridiculous storage situation is a result of me seeing what the biggest drives it could take from my stack of retired NAS drives. And then I made a striped array with them. 😈 For the PSU, after blowing out half a pound of dust out of it, the original one seemed to be in decent enough shape, so I reused it.

No sneaky cable management shenanigans with this old case:
IMG_5978.jpeg

'nother inside angle:
IMG_5981.jpeg

I like this one for a solid, unassuming, utility/bench computer. Its jankiness reminds me of my old AT case that served me from 386SX through to P200 back in the day.

Hey now, did you steal my case! 😁

Seriously, I have exactly same case home! It's overall in nice condition, came with P200 and stuff, but didn't have use for it as it was. I recently installed Zida 4DPS, AMD 486-120 and some other stuff in it for high-end 486/DOS system. Haven't completed the software installation, though. Maybe something for next weekend, eh?

Neat! I suspect my case had some of the original hardware in it when I got it, a P200 on a MSI mobo, the ESS sound card, and.. not much else.

The ESS sound card has been a fantastic discovery. I think I've finally learned a hard lesson that it's just not worth it to try and find a good SB16 that isn't compromised in some way (hanging note bugs, etc).