VOGONS


First post, by bZbZbZ

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So over the past year I had a few video cards die (all in separate machines... so it's not like a single bad power supply killed them). My childhood Radeon 9700 started artifacting (I understand this is common). The Radeon 9800 Pro I replaced it with then started crashing/artifacting a few months later. I also had a GeForce 8800 GTS start artifacting (not exactly a treasured item, but annoying nonetheless... and none of these cards were overclocked). I have to admit that this is has made me wary of spending a lot of time running a lot of hours on old hardware, and even had an impact on my enjoyment of the hobby in general. I haven't turned on my Pentium III / Voodoo3 machine in months (I wouldn't pay the current eBay price to buy another Voodoo3).

So what have I been using for retro PC gaming?

I found a $40 full computer (minus hard drive) with a Core i3 840 (LGA 1156), a low profile Radeon 5570 and 4GB of DDR3 memory.
I added a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 PCI and a 160GB Intel SSD (supports manual trim in Windows XP).
Then I connected to a 19" CRT running 1280x1024 85Hz, an IBM Model M keyboard, and an early USB mouse.

I'm running Windows XP SP3, ASUS had all the drivers on their website, and it absolutely flies on this hardware which of course isn't a surprise.

What HAS surprised me:

  • Most Windows 9x games either work in XP or have XP patches/workarounds (I know there are some exceptions)
  • The dinky Radeon 5570 crushes UT2004 and most similar era games with over 100fps (details maxed out, 1280x1024, 4xAA, 16xAF). I have better cards available but have been too amused by this little card to swap them in.
  • Most DOS games (I got into computers in the Win95 era so DOS isn't my prime interest nor my forte) run in DOSbox, which this system handles very well. When I fullscreen a game in DOSbox onto my 19" CRT at the game's native resolution... it's mostly just like the real thing.

I have a Pentium III / 440BX / Voodoo3 system with Windows 98SE and DOS. I have an Athlon 64 X2 / Radeon X850 AGP running XP. I had so much fun restoring these machines and setting them up in my home, and they're not going anywhere. And there are edge cases where there's no substitution. But this damn Core i3 is now what I put most of the gaming hours into.

What are your experiences? How do you balance the enjoyment of the hardware itself (collecting, building, staging, etc) with the enjoyment of actually using the computer (retro gaming for most of us, I presume). Do you worry about wearing out your antique hardware? Do you just stock drawers full of duplicate parts?

Reply 1 of 23, by TrashPanda

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My vintage machines I treat like my fully restored 2 door fast back Torana, it gets driven twice a month on the weekends its allowed to be on the road, lets me find out if any parts need maintenance or servicing but it also means the car doesnt get extra stress put on it that would come with being used daily. The vintage PCs are the same I use them sparingly, especially the older ones I have, the older equipment might not like being used everyday but I make sure to fire them up at least once a month if only to see that they still boot.

I have a Core 2 Quad monster machine that I guess isn't totally "Retro" even tho some of the parts in it are close to 12-14 years old at this point that I do use a fair bit, its a Xp/Vista/Linux/Win10 machine with a 4xSSD bay device that lets me run 4 operating systems on that one machine by turning off SSD drives I dont want to use. It does the majority of my retro software tinkering unless I need pure DOS or 32bit Win9x and its perfect for that job as the parts in it can be replaced pretty cheaply compared to the older 1990 - 2002 era hardware.

I call it the Quadzilla
-ASUS Striker II Extreme
-Core 2 Extreme QX9770 @ 4.6ghz AIO cooled
-16gb 2000 DDR3 @ 1600 - not a chance it'll run at 2000 with the OC due to the Northbridge not liking 16gb at such high speeds, with 4gb it'll happily do 2000.
-Quad SLI GTX 295 (Only under Vista and Windows 10, Win XP doesnt have support for Quad SLI)
-4 way SSD 5.25" bay device, allows SSD drives to be turned off, each drive can be setup with a different OS.
-Creative Xi-Fi Elite Pro

I have a Adaptec ASR 71605 1GB 16Port HBA RAID PCIe Controller that I want to throw in there but haven't had the time to sit down and figure out how to get it all setup or if it'll allow all 16 ports under PCIe 2.0, got several raptor drives I wouldn't mind raiding together. One day I will get around to finding out if it'll work in the Zilla, if not I can always setup a NAS box with it and the Raptors.

Quad SLI is fun but I might eventually switch them for a GTX 970 I have and use modded drivers for it under XP.

Its honestly a fun machine to use and if I didn't need my modern machine I could see myself being happy with just the Zilla.

As to duplicate parts ..ummm yes all of them except for the QX9770 and Striker II board .. its actually quite hard to buy either of them at a reasonable prices but I do have equivalent replacements that are cheaper.

*points sheepishly to shelves of parts and half built PC's

I honestly love trawling eBay and other auction sites and snapping up the deals you can find, its enjoyable even just browsing and checking out interesting and odd hardware is fun.

Im crazy not stupid, well not stupid enough to make claims that are total nonsense.

Reply 2 of 23, by Plasma

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Most of my stuff is from the 80s and 90s but I don't worry about wearing anything out. There's no point in having something if you aren't going to use it.

I guess I'm lucky because the only component failures I've had are CRTs, mechanical parts, batteries and capacitors. I have loads of spare drives and I can replace batteries/caps.

Reply 3 of 23, by TrashPanda

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Plasma wrote on 2022-01-24, 06:17:

Most of my stuff is from the 80s and 90s but I don't worry about wearing anything out. There's no point in having something if you aren't going to use it.

I guess I'm lucky because the only component failures I've had are CRTs, mechanical parts, batteries and capacitors. I have loads of spare drives and I can replace batteries/caps.

CRTs are an odd one as once they all die (and they will) we have no easy and cheap way of making more, most if not all of the equipment and expertise used to make the top end CRTs is no longer available or has been destroyed. Im sure that if there was a market for them we could remake some of it but it would be expensive and time consuming.

Im crazy not stupid, well not stupid enough to make claims that are total nonsense.

Reply 4 of 23, by Plasma

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I've had three CRTs fail but only one was completely dead. The other two have image problems which I think can be repaired but it's beyond my current skill level. I've also thought about putting LCDs in the monitor case. Not the same of course but it maintains the overall aesthetic.

Reply 5 of 23, by AppleSauce

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I guess it depends , I find servicing the machine probably the most stressful part , if I add a new bit or want to adjust something, having to open it up and sweat about hitting , breaking or ESRing anything gives me nightmares. I basically treat each card like its made of fragile glass , and since my rig is filled to the brim I have to be super careful.

I've got some valuable parts like a sb pro 2 , gravis ultrasound , voodoo 1 and nec powervr all in the same rig , and the idea of damaging any of those sends shivers down my spine.

It feels like defusing a bomb in the movies , one slip up and ya doomed.

Using old hardware can be extremely frustrating for example the cd drive is a bit of a primadonna , its a nec cdr 273 4x speed and makes a weird whirring and clicking noise.

Most of the time it loads the cd fine sometimes it refuses to recognise it and after a reboot and another attempt it suddenly decides to work. Its arguably a bit dodgy at times.

While I got into this hobby a while ago I was young and didn't really know what was desirable when it was cheap. I later decluttered and sold alot of stuff I didn't care as much for , sometimes at arguably kinda lowball prices to get the stuff I later realised I was more interested in. I dont really have much in the way of backup parts since I got the stuff I wanted kinda late when prices started creeping up.

That all said when you sit down and boot up there's some nerves at first , paranoia about wether the system will decide to fail at any given moment , but once its all up and running and you find a game you like and everything runs together like clockwork on the period correct hardware its a bit like magic , kinda feels like you've been transported back in a time a little.

Thats when I stop worrying and just enjoy the moment.

Experiencing it as it was at least somewhat meant to be, flaws and all is very satisfying.

I'd say that makes up for all the stress you go through getting to that point.

Reply 6 of 23, by TrashPanda

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How is the PowerVr ?

I agree with the feeling of relief when that Vintage DOS PC you haven't ran in 6 months powers on and bursts into life with happy beeps and floppy drive noises then sits there flashing a cursor at you waiting for your command.

Im crazy not stupid, well not stupid enough to make claims that are total nonsense.

Reply 7 of 23, by AppleSauce

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TrashPanda wrote on 2022-01-24, 07:43:

How is the PowerVr ?

I agree with the feeling of relief when that Vintage DOS PC you haven't ran in 6 months powers on and bursts into life with happy beeps and floppy drive noises then sits there flashing a cursor at you waiting for your command.

Yeah hearing the old pc rattle to life , somehow still functional and alive despite its age is an experience alright.

The powervr kinda suprised me tbh , the voodoo has better performance in tomb raider but the image quality is terrible , the vr being the little gem it is has passthrough whilst needing no cable and looks far better.

Framerate dips occasionally but tends to be reasonably smooth. I was kinda impressed.

Unfortunately its kinda wasted in dos , apparently tomb raider is the only game supported. Maybe I'll need to get win 95 working alongside dos or something.

Reply 8 of 23, by TrashPanda

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Which model is it ? 4000 XT ?

Ive tended to avoid the Kryo cards but might grab one cheap just to tinker with it and see what it can do.

Im crazy not stupid, well not stupid enough to make claims that are total nonsense.

Reply 9 of 23, by AppleSauce

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TrashPanda wrote on 2022-01-24, 08:07:

Which model is it ? 4000 XT ?

Ive tended to avoid the Kryo cards but might grab one cheap just to tinker with it and see what it can do.

PC3DEngine
Its the nec pc98 version of the pcx1

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Reply 10 of 23, by TrashPanda

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AppleSauce wrote on 2022-01-24, 08:30:
PC3DEngine Its the nec pc98 version of the pcx1 […]
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TrashPanda wrote on 2022-01-24, 08:07:

Which model is it ? 4000 XT ?

Ive tended to avoid the Kryo cards but might grab one cheap just to tinker with it and see what it can do.

PC3DEngine
Its the nec pc98 version of the pcx1

20211221_210235.jpg

Nice little card, went looking on eBay and found a Videologic Apocalypse 5D Sonic which uses the PCX2 ..for nearly 2000AUD or 1250 Euro.
Wasnt really looking for that card but it seems like a damn cool card to own too combining ET6000, PCX2 and ESS sound card all on the one board.

And here I was thinking Voodoo5 5500s were expensive.

Im crazy not stupid, well not stupid enough to make claims that are total nonsense.

Reply 11 of 23, by Joseph_Joestar

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IIRC, the Radeon 9700 was made during the capacitor plague period. Meanwhile, the 8800 GT was produced around the time when companies started switching to led-free solder, which led to many cards failing due to cracked solder joints, as the process hadn't been perfected yet.

Personally, I use all of my retro hardware until it becomes completely irreparable, CRT monitors included. As someone mentioned before, there's no point in owning it if I am not going to use it. With proper cooling and adequate storage, I expect it to last me at least another 10-20 years.

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PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1

Reply 12 of 23, by konc

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It's true that you can experience most of the windows era with much newer and less expensive or rare hardware. But as you go further back the use of real hardware becomes more and more imperative, unless you take the emulation/vm route.

Reply 13 of 23, by gerry

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your example of using a modest machine to encompass all games is similar to me

i have too many machines, unable to resist a cheap computer or stop one going into trash, i cannot use them all so they mostly sit waiting to become spare parts (i doubt they ever will)

for playing a game though a typical core duo from late 2000's with W7 and a modest graphics card covers everything from Dosbox and anything via gog up to around 2008, that's on a more modest spec than your example but its the same approach

to be honest there isn't anything tangibly much better about using a more vintage machine for games, i tend to use those to recreate OS / application combination for interest, experimentations and so on

Reply 14 of 23, by AppleSauce

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TrashPanda wrote on 2022-01-24, 08:39:
Nice little card, went looking on eBay and found a Videologic Apocalypse 5D Sonic which uses the PCX2 ..for nearly 2000AUD or 12 […]
Show full quote
AppleSauce wrote on 2022-01-24, 08:30:
PC3DEngine Its the nec pc98 version of the pcx1 […]
Show full quote
TrashPanda wrote on 2022-01-24, 08:07:

Which model is it ? 4000 XT ?

Ive tended to avoid the Kryo cards but might grab one cheap just to tinker with it and see what it can do.

PC3DEngine
Its the nec pc98 version of the pcx1

20211221_210235.jpg

Nice little card, went looking on eBay and found a Videologic Apocalypse 5D Sonic which uses the PCX2 ..for nearly 2000AUD or 1250 Euro.
Wasnt really looking for that card but it seems like a damn cool card to own too combining ET6000, PCX2 and ESS sound card all on the one board.

And here I was thinking Voodoo5 5500s were expensive.

Oh yeah apocalypse 5Ds have been in crazy collector territory for a while , 2000 is a bit rich for me though. I guess you'd have to be a hardcore collector to even consider shelling out. Another pcx2 card is the matrox m3d which goes for alot as well.

Reply 15 of 23, by AppleSauce

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2022-01-24, 09:13:

IIRC, the Radeon 9700 was made during the capacitor plague period. Meanwhile, the 8800 GT was produced around the time when companies started switching to led-free solder, which led to many cards failing due to cracked solder joints, as the process hadn't been perfected yet.

Personally, I use all of my retro hardware until it becomes completely irreparable, CRT monitors included. As someone mentioned before, there's no point in owning it if I am not going to use it. With proper cooling and adequate storage, I expect it to last me at least another 10-20 years.

I have a working 8800gts , got two from a freind because they both had artefacting problems. Reflowed them both , one died and one survived and worked again. Makes you wonder how many got thrown out.

Reply 17 of 23, by pixel_workbench

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Good point about modern hardware dying. I had a gtx980 die on me while gaming, and this is a card with modern power regulation and beefy cooling.

For retro hardware, it's fun to see what it could back in the day, but for actually playing old games, I'm more likely to go for something that runs cool and quiet while offering modern eye candy like AA and AF, and doesn't have a cult-like following or insane prices.

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Reply 18 of 23, by TrashPanda

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gerry wrote on 2022-01-24, 10:29:
your example of using a modest machine to encompass all games is similar to me […]
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your example of using a modest machine to encompass all games is similar to me

i have too many machines, unable to resist a cheap computer or stop one going into trash, i cannot use them all so they mostly sit waiting to become spare parts (i doubt they ever will)

for playing a game though a typical core duo from late 2000's with W7 and a modest graphics card covers everything from Dosbox and anything via gog up to around 2008, that's on a more modest spec than your example but its the same approach

to be honest there isn't anything tangibly much better about using a more vintage machine for games, i tend to use those to recreate OS / application combination for interest, experimentations and so on

My Core2quad was built with a .. I couldn't afford this gear then but I can now mindset, its not modest but its a fun machine to use and to generally tinker with. I loved the Core2 era so I have a lot of hardware from that period to tinker with and swap in and out to get different setups from early Core2 build right up to a final Core2quad extreme build.

My favourite GPU from that time is a 4870X2 I bought from the UK, its massive, loud, runs like lava, needs a 600 watt PSU to even boot the PC but its just got that muscle car feel to it and I love it but its impactable to run all the time. Even the Quad SLI GTX295 is quieter and cooler to run than the 4870X2.

So I do this because I enjoy the ability to tinker and new PC hardware just doesnt have that huge flexibility anymore .. you dont even need to tinker in the bios to overclock as the modern machines will do this on their own 90% of the time.

I guess im just getting old

Now get off my Lawn !

Im crazy not stupid, well not stupid enough to make claims that are total nonsense.

Reply 19 of 23, by Meatball

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So far, I haven't done much. I originally tried to make "1 machine to rule them all" with my retro hardware and that went precisely nowhere. There is always a game which won't work no matter how much tweaking is done. It's as random as the system you put together. Whatever combination of other games and hardware installed impacts this "one" game. This game needs a different machine, and of course, caused you to rebuild the original machine you tried to make it run on.

So, at this point, I test the equipment I buy and salivate about the dream machines I will one day put together before I die. It's been 4 years...

I haven't had any components die on me other than a brand new CRT which stopped working between a move. I still have it though, because I bet someone can fix it easily.

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