VOGONS


First post, by WDStudios

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Some of you may remember that, a while back, I posted a thread asking how much interest there was in making new hardware that replicated ye olde Win98-compatible hardware, so that people wouldn't have to dick around with emulators, virtual machines, third-party hacks, that sort of thing. It got derailed by trolls polemicists who insisted on arguing about the technical details of a project that literally did not have any technical details to argue about, and was ultimately locked by a moderator who did not understand the difference between calling a response stupid and calling a person stupid. After that, I took a break from this forum, and I'm glad that I did, because I've learned some stuff about how such a project would or wouldn't work.

First, I was recently investigating the NES/SNES/Genesis clone market and learned about the Gamerz Tek Minigen and Analogue Mega SG. The Minigen is powered by either a TCT-6801 or a TCT-6803, depending on who you ask, and from what I've been able to gather, both chips are basically the entire Genesis crammed onto a single system-on-a-chip. I consider it very interesting that someone would create a new SOC that replicates a legacy system - and that such chips are apparently profitable enough to be made year after year. The Analogue Mega SG, on the other hand, is powered by FPGAs that have been programmed to replicate Genesis hardware. Upon learning this, I decided to contact a hardware guy that I know and ask about the possibility of replicating the AMD K7/K8 architecture on an off-the-shelf FPGA. His response was that such a chip would be able to achieve "a couple hundred MHZ. Maybe a little faster", and that interconnect delays, rather than voltage or heat output, was the limiting factor. An FPGA-based solution simply isn't an option for a project like this.

A few days or maybe a week later, as part of a research rabbit hole that started with looking for information on the Voodoo5, I went digging for information about the very last chipsets that were made for the K7 (nForce2 and KT880) and the first ones that were made for the K8 (nForce3 and K8T800). I think I was trying to find out if there was ever a GeForce FX 5-based IGP. I couldn't find one; as far as I can tell, nVidia went straight from the nForce 2 with its GeForce 4 MX IGP to the nForce 400 with its GeForce 6100 and 6150 IGPs. However, that doesn't mean I came up empty-handed. I ended up learning something that evaded me back in the day when I was building K7 systems: the K7 was choking on its 400 mhz front-side bus. The only K7 systems that benefited from dual-channel DDR-400 were the ones that had integrated graphics, where one memory channel was reserved for the CPU and the other for the northbridge/IGP. That was when I began to suspect a huge flaw in any kind of "Win98 mini" approach that involved putting a full-blown Radeon 9800 or Geforce 5950 in the CPU package: I hadn't considered graphics memory bandwidth, like, at all. After a little bit of searching, I was able to find some pretty shocking numbers. A 400 MHz front-side bus translates into 3.2 GB/sec of bandwidth. The graphics memory bandwidth on a discrete GeForce 5950? 30.4 GB/sec, almost ten times as much! Using a Pentium 4 with an 800 MHZ bus reduces that difference to five times as much, and the 1 GHz Hypertransport bus used by the last Win98-compatible K8 chipsets still offers only a fraction of the needed bandwidth. This lays bare a crucial design consideration: no matter the fabrication process, the clock speed, the cooling solution, or anything else, achieving the performance of a dedicated graphics card requires dedicated graphics memory.

Now I'm wondering what the best way would be to handle both the normal system memory and the graphics memory for a "Win98 mini". For example, there are normally 8-16 memory chips per DIMM, and although those chips could be put on the motherboard instead, the amount of real estate that they'd occupy is quite a bit bigger than the space occupied by a DIMM slot. However, that's all due to the memory demands and fabrication processes of any given time. Given that a half-gig is now the *minimum* size of a single memory chip, and given the low memory requirements of Win98 and compatible games, does it make sense to bother with DIMM slots at all? Or would it be better to just put two memory chips on the motherboard (one per channel) and call it a day? Can the GPU and dedicated graphics memory be put on the motherboard as well, or would an AGP slot and discrete card be necessary?

(yes, NOW it's appropriate to argue technical details)

Since people like posting system specs:

LGA 2011
Core i7 Sandy Bridge @ 3.6 ghz
4 GB of RAM in quad-channel
Geforce GTX 780
1600 x 1200 monitor
Dual-booting WinXP Integral Edition and Win7 Pro 64-bit
-----
XP compatibility is the hill that I will die on.

Reply 1 of 18, by SScorpio

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Welcome back and thank you for researching your ideas. There was a lot of noise to signal ratio in the previous thread, but I feel a lot of what you are presenting was brought up as issues there.

If you are going for a mini system, having any type of standard slot even DIMMs would eliminate the ability to have a small system. You might get away with SO-DIMM as those are made for laptops so they can be used for more slim designs. But if you are going for ease of use, why wouldn't you just solder the RAM directly to the board. That's exactly what all other mini-systems do, and it gives you a standard in terms of capacity and timings.

Additionally, an ISA, PCI, or AGP slot just blows away the ability to have a small system due to the size of the cards you'd want to install in them. Did you see the more recent WeeCee information? That uses a different form factor but does provide an ISA bus, but it requires the creation of new boards. So if you need to be able to design and create your own boards from scratch.

But even the WeeCee doesn't fully meet what you are asking for, the processor while running at 800Mhz when compared to Intel hardware runs around Pentium 200Mhz performance. It also doesn't have any type of 3D acceleration as the main component is made for industrial systems which have no need to run games.

In terms of processors as you saw FPGAs can do almost anything, but an FPGA with enough capacity would be in the multi-thousands of dollars. The MiSTer project does have Saturn and original Playstation cores being created right now. So early 32bit consoles with primitive 3D are possible. But it will probably be at least 5-10 years before a better chip is affordable that can dive into the PS2 and Xbox era, and end of the day the Xbox was a P3 733 with a custom Geforce 3 card that had early Geforce 4 style pixel shaders. Which seems to be close to the performance you are targetting.

Those SOC for the clone consoles are all much simpler designs than what you are going for. But they all are inaccurate compared to original systems and a full Win98 era x86 computer with 3D acceleration is vastly more complex. The NES chip, I believe was originally created in the late 80s by some Russians and was used to create and sell clone consoles. It's now used in tons of devices. The Genesis chips you mention were created by TechToy of Brazile who holds Sega publishing rights there and still sells Genesis systems in stores to this day. Trying to create any new SOC is a very labor-intensive project, but there are hobbyists doing just that. Going back to the MiSTer, the NeoGeo core was created as the developer was attempting to fully document the entire system, and create the design to fabricate new replacement chips to keep original systems going.

I wish you luck in the project, and suggest if this is interesting that you might look into taking classes in electronics and hardware design. It can be a interesting and well paying career. And help you develop the skills you'll need to mark progress on this project.

Reply 2 of 18, by debs3759

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Have you looked into the Fit-PC range of miniature PCs? Not easy to find, but tiny 😀

See my graphics card database at www.gpuzoo.com
Constantly being worked on. Feel free to message me with any corrections or details of cards you would like me to research and add.

Reply 3 of 18, by WDStudios

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SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-05, 16:10:

But if you are going for ease of use, why wouldn't you just solder the RAM directly to the board.

That's... exactly what I'm asking?

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-05, 16:10:

Additionally, an ISA, PCI, or AGP slot just blows away the ability to have a small system due to the size of the cards you'd want to install in them.

I suppose that depends on how you define "small" and "system" (are we talking about just the board or a complete box?), and on whether the slot is occupied or not. An empty PCI or AGP slot only fundamentally requires that the board and enclosure be at least 4-5 inches in at least one direction, and even a low-profile mini-ITX enclosure would be an acceptable size if it was the best way to satisfy other design priorities.

The biggest argument in favor of an AGP slot would be flexibility for different market segments. A base system could be made with a K7 CPU and nForce2/GeForce4 IGP for the light gaming and Raspberry Pi markets, and then for the people who want to play Far Cry at maximum settings, they could plug in whatever vintage AGP card they want, or a cheap clone of the Geforce 5950 could be made and offered.

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-05, 16:10:

But even the WeeCee doesn't fully meet what you are asking for, the processor while running at 800Mhz when compared to Intel hardware runs around Pentium 200Mhz performance. It also doesn't have any type of 3D acceleration

That right there is the biggest difference between the Weecee and the project I'm describing. One of the most important goals here is Direct3D and OpenGL support so that late '90s first-person shooters like Jedi Knight, Quake II, Blood II, Unreal, Half-Life etc. look their best with linear filtering, colored lighting etc., and games from Quake III onward are playable at all. It's not just a shooter issue, either. Star Trek Armada II, for example, is a real-time strategy game, and it requires Direct3D 8.0

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-05, 16:10:

Those SOC for the clone consoles are all much simpler designs than what you are going for. But they all are inaccurate compared to original systems and a full Win98 era x86 computer with 3D acceleration is vastly more complex. The NES chip, I believe was originally created in the late 80s by some Russians and was used to create and sell clone consoles. It's now used in tons of devices. The Genesis chips you mention were created by TechToy of Brazile who holds Sega publishing rights there and still sells Genesis systems in stores to this day. Trying to create any new SOC is a very labor-intensive project

Yeah, I'm pretty sure than an SOC simply isn't a viable way to do this, and not just for labor reasons, nor for the memory-bandwidth reasons mentioned in the first post. During my Voodoo5 rabbit-hole trip, I learned that the Radeons never supported table fog or 8-bit palettized textures, so getting certain old games to look right while still supporting DirectX 8/9 would require targeting the Geforce 3-5 series. Now that AMD owns what's left of nVidia's old rival ATI, the chances of getting an SOC with both an Athlon and a Geforce on it are... uh... nonexistent. Pentium 4 + GeForce might have worked, if not for labor and memory-bandwidth reasons, but we all know the P4 was the media editing chip and the Athlon was the 3D gaming and CAD chip.

This would be, at minimum, a 2-chip design, and more likely a 3-chip design due to no company at the time putting an IGP, Northbridge, and Southbridge on a single die.

debs3759 wrote on 2021-12-05, 22:00:

Have you looked into the Fit-PC range of miniature PCs?

The first fit-PC was released in 2007, after Win98 long-term support had expired and LONG after most vendors had stopped making hardware for which Win98 drivers existed.

Since people like posting system specs:

LGA 2011
Core i7 Sandy Bridge @ 3.6 ghz
4 GB of RAM in quad-channel
Geforce GTX 780
1600 x 1200 monitor
Dual-booting WinXP Integral Edition and Win7 Pro 64-bit
-----
XP compatibility is the hill that I will die on.

Reply 4 of 18, by Plasma

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I don't think a "Win98 mini" makes sense right now. You can easily run Windows 98 on a Pentium 4 system. People are still unloading those for $50. Slap in whatever 3D card you want and you're done.

I doubt you could manufacture an equivalent mini system for less than $500. Who would buy one at that price point?

Maybe a decade in the future it will be a better idea. When capable FPGAs are less expensive, and the supply of cheap old parts starts to dry up.

Reply 5 of 18, by Deksor

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SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-05, 16:10:
Welcome back and thank you for researching your ideas. There was a lot of noise to signal ratio in the previous thread, but I fe […]
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Welcome back and thank you for researching your ideas. There was a lot of noise to signal ratio in the previous thread, but I feel a lot of what you are presenting was brought up as issues there.

If you are going for a mini system, having any type of standard slot even DIMMs would eliminate the ability to have a small system. You might get away with SO-DIMM as those are made for laptops so they can be used for more slim designs. But if you are going for ease of use, why wouldn't you just solder the RAM directly to the board. That's exactly what all other mini-systems do, and it gives you a standard in terms of capacity and timings.

Additionally, an ISA, PCI, or AGP slot just blows away the ability to have a small system due to the size of the cards you'd want to install in them. Did you see the more recent WeeCee information? That uses a different form factor but does provide an ISA bus, but it requires the creation of new boards. So if you need to be able to design and create your own boards from scratch.

But even the WeeCee doesn't fully meet what you are asking for, the processor while running at 800Mhz when compared to Intel hardware runs around Pentium 200Mhz performance. It also doesn't have any type of 3D acceleration as the main component is made for industrial systems which have no need to run games.

In terms of processors as you saw FPGAs can do almost anything, but an FPGA with enough capacity would be in the multi-thousands of dollars. The MiSTer project does have Saturn and original Playstation cores being created right now. So early 32bit consoles with primitive 3D are possible. But it will probably be at least 5-10 years before a better chip is affordable that can dive into the PS2 and Xbox era, and end of the day the Xbox was a P3 733 with a custom Geforce 3 card that had early Geforce 4 style pixel shaders. Which seems to be close to the performance you are targetting.

Those SOC for the clone consoles are all much simpler designs than what you are going for. But they all are inaccurate compared to original systems and a full Win98 era x86 computer with 3D acceleration is vastly more complex. The NES chip, I believe was originally created in the late 80s by some Russians and was used to create and sell clone consoles. It's now used in tons of devices. The Genesis chips you mention were created by TechToy of Brazile who holds Sega publishing rights there and still sells Genesis systems in stores to this day. Trying to create any new SOC is a very labor-intensive project, but there are hobbyists doing just that. Going back to the MiSTer, the NeoGeo core was created as the developer was attempting to fully document the entire system, and create the design to fabricate new replacement chips to keep original systems going.

I wish you luck in the project, and suggest if this is interesting that you might look into taking classes in electronics and hardware design. It can be a interesting and well paying career. And help you develop the skills you'll need to mark progress on this project.

Speaking of the weecee, I wonder if it'd be possible to take an off the shelf GPU that's still produced and """just""" write a windows 9x driver for it if necessary.

The current weecee relies on one chip that's not manufactured anymore (the crystal audio chip) but readily available in the NOS market. Maybe a similar thing could be done for the video ? (iirc the fx5200 GPU is readily available as well)

Trying to identify old hardware ? Visit Ultimate Retro - Project's thread The Ultimate Retro project - a stason.org/TH99 alternative

Reply 6 of 18, by WDStudios

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Plasma wrote on 2021-12-06, 02:02:

I don't think a "Win98 mini" makes sense right now. You can easily run Windows 98 on a Pentium 4 system. People are still unloading those for $50.

After God knows how much electromigration they've already suffered? They could burn out at any moment. There is a need for fresh silicon.

Plasma wrote on 2021-12-06, 02:02:

I doubt you could manufacture an equivalent mini system for less than $500. Who would buy one at that price point?

A $500 price tag would be unacceptable. Anything over $300 would be a red flag, and a sign that design priorities need to be re-evaluated and features need to be cut.

In a similar vein, the Analogue Mega SG costs more than an actual Model 1 Sega Genesis because the designers threw in a bunch of unnecessary crap that the Genesis never had. That mistake must not be repeated.

Deksor wrote on 2021-12-06, 09:08:

I wonder if it'd be possible to take an off the shelf GPU that's still produced and """just""" write a windows 9x driver for it if necessary.

Writing new Win98 drivers for current hardware was a possibility already discussed in the previous thread on this subject. The big disadvantages are that new GPUs don't support table fog or 8-bit paletted textures, and that they are currently the victims of a semiconductor shortage. A project that doesn't need to compete with crypto miners for parts would be preferable.

Deksor wrote on 2021-12-06, 09:08:

The current weecee relies on one chip that's not manufactured anymore (the crystal audio chip) but readily available in the NOS market. Maybe a similar thing could be done for the video ? (iirc the fx5200 GPU is readily available as well)

One of the top search results for "geforce fx 5200 market" was a Youtube video explaining why it was Nvidia's WORST. CARD. EVER. I guess that's why there was never an FX 5-based IGP?

Since people like posting system specs:

LGA 2011
Core i7 Sandy Bridge @ 3.6 ghz
4 GB of RAM in quad-channel
Geforce GTX 780
1600 x 1200 monitor
Dual-booting WinXP Integral Edition and Win7 Pro 64-bit
-----
XP compatibility is the hill that I will die on.

Reply 7 of 18, by Deksor

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I wasn't thinking of just Nvidia/AMD GPUs, maybe some low end smartphone chip can be interfaced through PCI and supports the right things ?
Anything low end these days would be much better than what's been made at the time and it would never compete with crypto miners (nobody mines on gt730 cards as far as I know even though they're readily available)

Trying to identify old hardware ? Visit Ultimate Retro - Project's thread The Ultimate Retro project - a stason.org/TH99 alternative

Reply 8 of 18, by Plasma

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WDStudios wrote on 2021-12-06, 12:03:
Plasma wrote on 2021-12-06, 02:02:

I don't think a "Win98 mini" makes sense right now. You can easily run Windows 98 on a Pentium 4 system. People are still unloading those for $50.

After God knows how much electromigration they've already suffered? They could burn out at any moment. There is a need for fresh silicon.

I don't think there is currently a need. Otherwise working systems would be selling for more than $50. Supply and demand.

Reply 9 of 18, by SScorpio

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Deksor wrote on 2021-12-06, 12:40:

I wasn't thinking of just Nvidia/AMD GPUs, maybe some low end smartphone chip can be interfaced through PCI and supports the right things ?
Anything low end these days would be much better than what's been made at the time and it would never compete with crypto miners (nobody mines on gt730 cards as far as I know even though they're readily available)

It might be possible to take a modern GPU, put it on a custom card, integrate a PCI-E to PCI bridge. And then finally right completely new Win98 drivers for it. This project will require thousands of hours of work and have an audience in the dozens.

You also ruled out using any SOCs, so are looking at possibly a Pentium 4 which are large, draw lots of power, and generate a ton of heat. You are also looking to have an AGP slot and those cards are quite large and also draw a lot of power. I believe it's safe to say a mini Raspberry Pi size/styled device isn't possible for something that would natively run Win98. This takes us back to the topics of emulation and virtual machines that were mentioned in the other thread.

Since the last thread Valve did throw their hat back into the PC hardware ring and announce the SteamDeck. That will have SteamOS 3.0 running on it. One of Valve's goals is to have every piece of software sold on Steam be able to run on it. That's a crazy goal, but SteamOS is Linux-based and uses a project called Proton. Steam sells both DOS and WIn9X era games on it, and for those to be supposed would mean support in Proton. You could fork SteamOS or roll your own distro that includes Proton configured and ready to go. You'd want to create a custom interface to make installing and configuring new games easy. Install this OS on a mini PC like one of the BeeLinks and there you go.

Reply 10 of 18, by BitWrangler

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There's dozens of x86 boards on the market that would be suitable with some attention to drivers or use of a virtual machine that still used v86 mode for near native speed. up-board, udoo bolt, Aaeon boards. It's like being a cat owner though, the bowl is full but the critter is still whining for another fill out of the same damn bag.

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 11 of 18, by WDStudios

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I've been asking myself recently, "wasn't there also a Radeon IGP at around this time, before the X200 chipset?" It took me a few days to confirm but yes, there was a Radeon 9100 IGP. It comes with two pieces of bad news: one, it only existed for Intel sockets, not AMD. Second, it didn't support DirectX 9.0, only 8.1

This creates a bit of a gap in terms of integrated graphics options. On the one hand, we have the nForce2 GeForce MX 4 IGP and Radeon 9100 IGP, neither of which supports DirectX 9. On the other hand, we have the nForce 400 Geforce 6100 IGP and the Radeon X200 IGP, neither of which officially supports Win98 (or table fog, or 8-bit textures). Either a dedicated GPU would need to be part of the design, or at least one of the compatibility goals would need to be sacrificed.

Hell, ignore the whole project. Just try finding a graphics card that supports DX9, table fog, and 8-bit textures, and doesn't suffer the vsync bug that causes GeForce cards to glitch out when trying to run Blood II in Direct3d rendering mode. Just give me a graphics card that correctly runs Thief, Blood II, and any DirectX 9 game. What are we looking at? A Matrox Parhelia? Wasn't there another company that VERY briefly competed with both ATI and nVidia in the mid-2000s, and release only one generation of cards, the best of which was dual-GPU and still underperformed the single-GPU cards from ATI and nVidia? Help me out here guys.

EDIT: It was the XGI Volari series! XGI apparently got reacquired by its former parent company SiS in 2010, so SiS would be the company to talk to about fabbing new Volari chips for use in a project like this. I'll create a new thread for the questions that I have about Volaris.

Deksor wrote on 2021-12-06, 12:40:

I wasn't thinking of just Nvidia/AMD GPUs, maybe some low end smartphone chip can be interfaced through PCI and supports the right things ?

How many currently manufactured smartphone chips support Win98?

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-07, 01:21:

It might be possible to take a modern GPU, put it on a custom card, integrate a PCI-E to PCI bridge. And then finally right completely new Win98 drivers for it.

Writing new Win98 drivers eliminates the need for any kind of custom hardware at all. At that point, we're basically asking ourselves what the best enclosure would be to use with the VIA EPIA-E900. It's not out of the question, but it does mean losing access to everyone's precious table fog and 8-bit textures.

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-07, 01:21:

You also ruled out using any SOCs

Not quite. I just don't think it's a viable approach if the performance of a period-appropriate discrete graphics card is a goal. This goal could be sacrificed for the sake of getting a low-cost, proof-of-concept product onto the market, which could pave the way for something more advanced.

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-07, 01:21:

so are looking at possibly a Pentium 4 which are large, draw lots of power, and generate a ton of heat.

They certainly were/did back then. Newer fabrication nodes should help with that, but I've already said that the Athlon XP or 64 is a more logical target. I unfortunately don't know what chipsets were used in the Pentium-M desktop motherboards, or whether Win98 drivers existed for them or not.

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-07, 01:21:

You are also looking to have an AGP slot

Only if dedicated graphics hardware can't be crammed onto the motherboard.

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-07, 01:21:

I believe it's safe to say a mini Raspberry Pi size/styled device isn't possible for something that would natively run Win98.

I believe the Weecee proves otherwise. The question is how to implement hardware 3D acceleration.

SScorpio wrote on 2021-12-07, 01:21:

Since the last thread Valve did throw their hat back into the PC hardware ring and announce the SteamDeck. That will have SteamOS 3.0 running on it. One of Valve's goals is to have every piece of software sold on Steam be able to run on it.

Emphasis mine.

BitWrangler wrote on 2021-12-07, 17:21:

There's dozens of x86 boards on the market that would be suitable with some attention to drivers

Again degenerating the discussion into "what would be the best enclosure to use with the VIA EPIA-E900?", and again sacrificing table fog and 8-bit textures.

BitWrangler wrote on 2021-12-07, 17:21:

or use of a virtual machine that still used v86 mode for near native speed.

🤣. Speed is far from the biggest problem with virtual machines.

Since people like posting system specs:

LGA 2011
Core i7 Sandy Bridge @ 3.6 ghz
4 GB of RAM in quad-channel
Geforce GTX 780
1600 x 1200 monitor
Dual-booting WinXP Integral Edition and Win7 Pro 64-bit
-----
XP compatibility is the hill that I will die on.

Reply 12 of 18, by kdr

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WDStudios wrote on 2021-12-07, 20:00:

Writing new Win98 drivers eliminates the need for any kind of custom hardware at all. At that point, we're basically asking ourselves what the best enclosure would be to use with the VIA EPIA-E900. It's not out of the question, but it does mean losing access to everyone's precious table fog and 8-bit textures.

...

Again degenerating the discussion into "what would be the best enclosure to use with the VIA EPIA-E900?", and again sacrificing table fog and 8-bit textures.

Since you're not going to achieve Win98 levels of CPU and GPU performance out of an FPGA solution, and there aren't any magical unicorn hardware solutions out there, I think your only option is to make a modern CPU and GPU work in Win98 i.e. writing new drivers for existing hardware.

From what I can tell, discrete GPUs went through three stages: full fixed-function pipeline (your classic DirectX 7 cards with table fog / 8-bit textures / etc), then fixed-function pipeline with programmable shaders (DirectX 9+ era) and finally ended up in the modern world where GPUs are just somewhat specialised CPUs with a bit of extra hardware support for common graphics stuff.

That means supporting all the classic fixed-function features in a modern GPU is purely a software problem: give the GPU cores the right program to execute, and they can calculate table fog and work with 8-bit textures and do anything else that's needed to exactly emulate (yes there's that dirty word) what genuine DX7 hardware is doing. So you "just" have to write a DX7 driver for a modern GPU and include the appropriate "shaders".

The right hardware to use for this endeavour would be an Intel CPU with integrated graphics. The reason is that Intel has actually released full documentation on how to program their GPU cores, which as it turns out are just a gigantic multicore CPU with a super weird instruction set, and they include a separate VGA hardware block which is basically an enhanced Cirrus Logic GD542x SVGA core. I think it even still has all the oldskool 2D accelerator stuff present in the hardware. You'd probably want to look at Atom processors since they are essentially an SoC where you just add memory and now you've got a complete x86 system. And no real need (for now) to spin up custom hardware because Atom SBCs are plentiful.

Reply 13 of 18, by WDStudios

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See now THAT'S the kind of detailed analysis that I was hoping to provoke with this thread. I didn't understand half of it, but I'm very glad you provided it 😀

I'll look into the XGI Volari situation for a while and then probably mull things over for another few weeks.

kdr wrote on 2021-12-07, 20:42:

That means supporting all the classic fixed-function features in a modern GPU is purely a software problem: give the GPU cores the right program to execute, and they can calculate table fog and work with 8-bit textures and do anything else that's needed to exactly emulate (yes there's that dirty word) what genuine DX7 hardware is doing.

Oh, it's fine if it's just a GPU emulating another GPU. I'm only opposed to the whole-system kind of emulation where it takes a 16-core Ryzen threadripper just to do what a 90 mhz Pentium used to do.

Since people like posting system specs:

LGA 2011
Core i7 Sandy Bridge @ 3.6 ghz
4 GB of RAM in quad-channel
Geforce GTX 780
1600 x 1200 monitor
Dual-booting WinXP Integral Edition and Win7 Pro 64-bit
-----
XP compatibility is the hill that I will die on.

Reply 14 of 18, by Jasin Natael

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Plasma wrote on 2021-12-06, 15:37:
WDStudios wrote on 2021-12-06, 12:03:
Plasma wrote on 2021-12-06, 02:02:

I don't think a "Win98 mini" makes sense right now. You can easily run Windows 98 on a Pentium 4 system. People are still unloading those for $50.

After God knows how much electromigration they've already suffered? They could burn out at any moment. There is a need for fresh silicon.

I don't think there is currently a need. Otherwise working systems would be selling for more than $50. Supply and demand.

I agree. OEM P4sand even Athlon 64 systems are literally like VD.
Shit is everywhere.

Reply 15 of 18, by SScorpio

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Jasin Natael wrote on 2022-05-20, 21:12:

I agree. OEM P4sand even Athlon 64 systems are literally like VD.
Shit is everywhere.

It used to be the same with P2/3, Pentiums, 486s, etc. Give it 5-10 years and supply will begin to dry up.

The next jump in hardware is then to XP which has a very wide range of hardware you could use, and it's mainly EAX HD that isn't available on modern systems. After that most things are just forward compatible.

Reply 16 of 18, by Jasin Natael

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SScorpio wrote on 2022-05-21, 13:59:
Jasin Natael wrote on 2022-05-20, 21:12:

I agree. OEM P4sand even Athlon 64 systems are literally like VD.
Shit is everywhere.

It used to be the same with P2/3, Pentiums, 486s, etc. Give it 5-10 years and supply will begin to dry up.

The next jump in hardware is then to XP which has a very wide range of hardware you could use, and it's mainly EAX HD that isn't available on modern systems. After that most things are just forward compatible.

That could be true.
I guess I am just old, I have minimal nostalgia for Windows XP era stuff. I guess it really is "retro" at this point. But I just can't really bring myself to care much for that era for whatever reason.

Reply 17 of 18, by Jo22

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Jasin Natael wrote on 2022-05-23, 13:28:
SScorpio wrote on 2022-05-21, 13:59:
Jasin Natael wrote on 2022-05-20, 21:12:

I agree. OEM P4sand even Athlon 64 systems are literally like VD.
Shit is everywhere.

It used to be the same with P2/3, Pentiums, 486s, etc. Give it 5-10 years and supply will begin to dry up.

The next jump in hardware is then to XP which has a very wide range of hardware you could use, and it's mainly EAX HD that isn't available on modern systems. After that most things are just forward compatible.

That could be true.
I guess I am just old, I have minimal nostalgia for Windows XP era stuff. I guess it really is "retro" at this point. But I just can't really bring myself to care much for that era for whatever reason.

There were times when people struggled to accept that a boring beige 486 PC, a nameless PC clone, could ever be as historically important as an Apple II, C64, Amiga, ZX Spectrum etc.
In the museum, how could dare they to put such a windoze PC next to one of these classics?! Sacrilege.

Same happens now with XP PCs, then Vista/7 era systems.
A part of me hopes that I won't be there when Windows 10/11 will be old enough to cause nostalgia to people. Poor souls, victims. 😔

Edit: Oddly, though, I constantly find myself using Win XP for certain tasks.
Be it on VMs or old notebooks.
The workflow seems to work most natural here. Things just work, Windows doesn't get into the way.
Neither 98SE or 7/8/10/11 provided that. Windows XP simply was the least annoying, I suppose.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 18 of 18, by jazper

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Ok your best bet would be to use an embedded platform like a nuc or ryzen V2000 and create win98 drivers for it. Anything is possible with time and money.

Cyclone V range FPGAs could "emulate" 486 devices, and you could use some of the more expensive FPGAs to emulate up to K7ish without too much drama, but the hardware alone is $1000s (the chip you'd need for any reasonable speed, as a minimum, would be something like this https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/ro … 1508C7/12613852 )

Your problem is market. The market for this stuff is small at best, microscopic most probably. The cost (time/money) of creating new hardware for 98/2000 era stuff is just too high to do it outside of hobby scenarios where you need someone who is good at electronics and programming and has the time (in their 20s, or 70s) to do it.

The way to approach this then would be to start with a modern low end cpu like an atom or even basic low level available modern cpu on a module - but doing this in small volume you're looking at a minimum of $500~ per board