VOGONS


First post, by songoffall

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I got some... questionable PC parts and started thinking if I should experiment with this build.

I mean, I have a Realtek RTG3105 ISA VGA card, Crystal CX4235 sound, it might be time to think of a suitable motherboard (PCChips M919 with fake cache maybe?).

This isn't a thread for stuff one might subjectively hate or stuff that was used when outdated and sucked. Or stuff that didn't work. Come on, give me your worst of the worst. Things that functioned, but you wish they didn't.

Compaq Deskpro 2000/P2 300MHz/384Mb SDRAM/ESS ES1868F/Aureal Vortex 2
Asus A7N8X-VM400/AMD Athlon XP 2ooo+/512Mb DDR DRAM/GeForce 4 MX440/Creative Audigy 2
Asus P5Q Pro/Core2 Quad Q9400/2Gb DDR2/GeForce 8800GT/Creative X-Fi

Reply 1 of 34, by dionb

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For VGA... most mid to late 1990s proprietary 3D stuff (other than GLide) comes to mind. Not only was performance underwhelming (S3 Virge...) but rendering was questionable to abominable across most of them, with Matrox Mystique lacking fogging, filtering or blending, ATi Rage not doing any texturing, Laguna3D having broken lens flare etc. etc. etc.

In terms of audio, there's not much you can do wrong with digital audio (apart from having slowdowns when doing something else at the same time, as on SB16), but any form of synthesis can be messed up abominably, and CX4235 is really bad but IMHO not the worst. The most hilarious are cards/chips that use samples to try to approximate OPL3. The otherwise excellent Ensoniq Audioscape ISA cards, Prometheus Aria and all the Ultrasounds suffer from this; the Aria is probably the cheapest to come by and has the least impressive 'normal' sound feature set.
Of course you can do wavetable synthesis very, very badly too. There's a lot of mediocre, cheap-sounding devices out there, but for really hideous, I'd vote for the AD Echo based cards, things like the Orchid Soundwave32 or - my card - the Beethoven ADSP-16. Not only does it sound tinny, but the volume levels for the samples are so off that some sounds massively clip giving you square waves where you should have had music. Also, SB support is limited to mono SB1.0, despite the card being able to do stereo 16b WSS perfectly well.

And motherboards... problem here is that 'bad' tends to mean unstable, which makes even a joke build no fun anymore. Still, there are some obvious brain-dead candidates that will be slow as hell without necessarily crashing all the time. Obvious ones are early UMA integrated video attempts, bad at the best of times, but paired with a slow EDO memory controller that struggles to feed a Pentium without having to also feed a VGA chip and crawls if it does. SiS 5511 with 6202/6205, I'm looking at you, although SiS5596 integrates same performance into a single chip to cut costs without improving anything else.
Then there's Pentium VLB, once again pairing a sub-par memory controller (OPTi really lost the ball mid 1990s) with a conceptually flawed idea. I have a P100 VLB system that is more or less on par with a 486DX4-100, only outperforming it in FPU.
More recent inherently bottlenecked things are i810 (with fixed 100MHz memory clock and shared memory between VGA and CPU) when paired with a 133MHz FSB CPU, or i845B giving a bandwidth-hungry Netburst CPU a single SDR-SDRAM channel to play with, or i845GL/GV upgrading to a single DDR-SDRAM channel (optional, could do SDR-SDRAM too), but eating half of that for (poor) VGA.
And then the ultimate in motherboard malware, i820 Rambus chipset with MTH to hook up SDR-SDRAM. Combine the worst of low SDRAM bandwidth with high RDRAM latencies, add extra latencies in translation and overall just be unstable. Although Intel recalled all MTH-equipped boards, they can still occasionally be found. And there exists an even stranger beast: an MTH-on-a-stick with a couple of 168p DIMM slots that you can insert into a RIMM slot in case an onboard MTH wasn't slow and unstable enough for you... that allows you to go for the ultimate Caminogate combo: a 3-RIMM slot i820 board with MTH on the riser. Still, this is deep in 'too unstable for life' territory so I'll stop 😜

Reply 3 of 34, by Grzyb

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Oh yeah, back in the era most users had to live with such configs...

...nowadays it's called "troll build" - Re: I wish I had discovered Windows ME sooner! 🤣

Nie tylko, jak widzicie, w tym trudność, że nie zdołacie wejść na moją górę, lecz i w tym, że ja do was cały zejść nie mogę, gdyż schodząc, gubię po drodze to, co miałem donieść.

Reply 4 of 34, by Disruptor

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Grzyb wrote on 2023-11-28, 12:28:

Oh yeah, back in the era most users had to live with such configs...

...nowadays it's called "troll build" - Re: I wish I had discovered Windows ME sooner! 🤣

Ye. Tried a build with a Covington (Pentium II Celeron without any L2 cache) and a SB16 that does not support high DMA. -- conclusion: turn off L2 cache on a Pentium II/III and 66 MHz FSB gives same results.
Or one with an AOpen AP57 motherboard (Pentium board with SiS 5571 chipset; DRAM could be used 32 bit wise, like half banks). (now at mkarcher's home)
Or a VIA C3 (so slow with its 133 MHz FSB) with an Ensoniq SoundScape (tries to emulate OPL with wavetable only, haha) and a Quantum BigFoot (5.25" hard disk at 3600 RPM). (now at mkarcher's home and the bigfoot was his idea)

Reply 5 of 34, by Shponglefan

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I saw a YouTube recently that was sort-of similar. It was about doing a minimum specification build; e.g. picking a game and then intentionally building the lowest possible specs to see how well that game would run.

I figure once I get done with my Ultimate Gaming rig series, I might start building machines that are the exact opposite. 😁

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 6 of 34, by songoffall

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dionb wrote on 2023-11-28, 12:06:

For VGA... most mid to late 1990s proprietary 3D stuff (other than GLide) comes to mind. Not only was performance underwhelming (S3 Virge...) but rendering was questionable to abominable across most of them, with Matrox Mystique lacking fogging, filtering or blending, ATi Rage not doing any texturing, Laguna3D having broken lens flare etc. etc. etc.

Thing is, those cards at least had mostly decent 2d. This Realtek, I'm afraid it's just a frame buffer with no acceleration features whatsoever.

dionb wrote on 2023-11-28, 12:06:

In terms of audio, there's not much you can do wrong with digital audio (apart from having slowdowns when doing something else at the same time, as on SB16), but any form of synthesis can be messed up abominably, and CX4235 is really bad but IMHO not the worst. The most hilarious are cards/chips that use samples to try to approximate OPL3. The otherwise excellent Ensoniq Audioscape ISA cards, Prometheus Aria and all the Ultrasounds suffer from this; the Aria is probably the cheapest to come by and has the least impressive 'normal' sound feature set.
Of course you can do wavetable synthesis very, very badly too. There's a lot of mediocre, cheap-sounding devices out there, but for really hideous, I'd vote for the AD Echo based cards, things like the Orchid Soundwave32 or - my card - the Beethoven ADSP-16. Not only does it sound tinny, but the volume levels for the samples are so off that some sounds massively clip giving you square waves where you should have had music. Also, SB support is limited to mono SB1.0, despite the card being able to do stereo 16b WSS perfectly well.

CX4235 is special to me, because it does most things well. And it even has a half-decent FM synth implementation. Except some notes are off. Very off. Enough to give you hope and then crush it when you actually try to play something.

As for Ensoniq Audioscape, I've heard it trying to do FM, and it was a crime against humanity. But otherwise it's not bad at all.

dionb wrote on 2023-11-28, 12:06:
And motherboards... problem here is that 'bad' tends to mean unstable, which makes even a joke build no fun anymore. Still, ther […]
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And motherboards... problem here is that 'bad' tends to mean unstable, which makes even a joke build no fun anymore. Still, there are some obvious brain-dead candidates that will be slow as hell without necessarily crashing all the time. Obvious ones are early UMA integrated video attempts, bad at the best of times, but paired with a slow EDO memory controller that struggles to feed a Pentium without having to also feed a VGA chip and crawls if it does. SiS 5511 with 6202/6205, I'm looking at you, although SiS5596 integrates same performance into a single chip to cut costs without improving anything else.
Then there's Pentium VLB, once again pairing a sub-par memory controller (OPTi really lost the ball mid 1990s) with a conceptually flawed idea. I have a P100 VLB system that is more or less on par with a 486DX4-100, only outperforming it in FPU.
More recent inherently bottlenecked things are i810 (with fixed 100MHz memory clock and shared memory between VGA and CPU) when paired with a 133MHz FSB CPU, or i845B giving a bandwidth-hungry Netburst CPU a single SDR-SDRAM channel to play with, or i845GL/GV upgrading to a single DDR-SDRAM channel (optional, could do SDR-SDRAM too), but eating half of that for (poor) VGA.
And then the ultimate in motherboard malware, i820 Rambus chipset with MTH to hook up SDR-SDRAM. Combine the worst of low SDRAM bandwidth with high RDRAM latencies, add extra latencies in translation and overall just be unstable. Although Intel recalled all MTH-equipped boards, they can still occasionally be found. And there exists an even stranger beast: an MTH-on-a-stick with a couple of 168p DIMM slots that you can insert into a RIMM slot in case an onboard MTH wasn't slow and unstable enough for you... that allows you to go for the ultimate Caminogate combo: a 3-RIMM slot i820 board with MTH on the riser. Still, this is deep in 'too unstable for life' territory so I'll stop 😜

You're right, unstable means I won't be able to use it, but you've given me an idea here. Missing features, like Matrox Mystique and the like, to have the games run on it, but look horrendous. That could be fun. I might also go for the early buggy Pentiums, if I can find one.

Compaq Deskpro 2000/P2 300MHz/384Mb SDRAM/ESS ES1868F/Aureal Vortex 2
Asus A7N8X-VM400/AMD Athlon XP 2ooo+/512Mb DDR DRAM/GeForce 4 MX440/Creative Audigy 2
Asus P5Q Pro/Core2 Quad Q9400/2Gb DDR2/GeForce 8800GT/Creative X-Fi

Reply 7 of 34, by Disruptor

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songoffall wrote on 2023-11-28, 14:30:

Thing is, those cards at least had mostly decent 2d. This Realtek, I'm afraid it's just a frame buffer with no acceleration features whatsoever.

Tseng Labs ET4000 is also a frame buffer card...

Reply 8 of 34, by songoffall

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Disruptor wrote on 2023-11-28, 14:40:
songoffall wrote on 2023-11-28, 14:30:

Thing is, those cards at least had mostly decent 2d. This Realtek, I'm afraid it's just a frame buffer with no acceleration features whatsoever.

Tseng Labs ET4000 is also a frame buffer card...

But it's a good frame buffer, and I remember some versions supporting hardware acceleration and working well under Windows. As for the Realtek card, well, it takes a while to update a window, and I mean a while, if we are to trust Youtube - I haven't tested the card yet.

Compaq Deskpro 2000/P2 300MHz/384Mb SDRAM/ESS ES1868F/Aureal Vortex 2
Asus A7N8X-VM400/AMD Athlon XP 2ooo+/512Mb DDR DRAM/GeForce 4 MX440/Creative Audigy 2
Asus P5Q Pro/Core2 Quad Q9400/2Gb DDR2/GeForce 8800GT/Creative X-Fi

Reply 9 of 34, by Disruptor

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songoffall wrote on 2023-11-28, 14:47:

But it's a good frame buffer, and I remember some versions supporting hardware acceleration and working well under Windows. As for the Realtek card, well, it takes a while to update a window, and I mean a while, if we are to trust Youtube - I haven't tested the card yet.

Indeed. I have an ISA ET4000/W32. Well, it makes my 386SX fly in Windows:)

Reply 10 of 34, by danieljm

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I've thought about building a "not quite good enough" system before. I've got a Socket 7 board that tops out at 200MHz instead of 233, and a Voodoo Rush which obviously needs no explanation. 😁

To complete the idea I would need to find a sound card that fails right before the finish line, but I'm not sure what that would be exactly. A SB16 with CQM instead of OPL seems like an easy choice, but maybe a little too obvious. Or maybe a PCI sound card with a good implementation of OPL, but terrible DOS compatibility. Yeah, that might be the answer. 😀

Reply 11 of 34, by songoffall

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Disruptor wrote on 2023-11-28, 15:44:
songoffall wrote on 2023-11-28, 14:47:

But it's a good frame buffer, and I remember some versions supporting hardware acceleration and working well under Windows. As for the Realtek card, well, it takes a while to update a window, and I mean a while, if we are to trust Youtube - I haven't tested the card yet.

Indeed. I have an ISA ET4000/W32. Well, it makes my 386SX fly in Windows:)

I remember Tseng Labs cards being some of the best in the pre-PCI era.

Compaq Deskpro 2000/P2 300MHz/384Mb SDRAM/ESS ES1868F/Aureal Vortex 2
Asus A7N8X-VM400/AMD Athlon XP 2ooo+/512Mb DDR DRAM/GeForce 4 MX440/Creative Audigy 2
Asus P5Q Pro/Core2 Quad Q9400/2Gb DDR2/GeForce 8800GT/Creative X-Fi

Reply 12 of 34, by songoffall

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danieljm wrote on 2023-11-28, 17:45:

I've thought about building a "not quite good enough" system before. I've got a Socket 7 board that tops out at 200MHz instead of 233, and a Voodoo Rush which obviously needs no explanation. 😁

To complete the idea I would need to find a sound card that fails right before the finish line, but I'm not sure what that would be exactly. A SB16 with CQM instead of OPL seems like an easy choice, but maybe a little too obvious. Or maybe a PCI sound card with a good implementation of OPL, but terrible DOS compatibility. Yeah, that might be the answer. 😀

Ahaha, that might actually be a very fun build 😁 I have an AGP S3 Virge, and I still can't fathom why it exists. I might just pair it with a powerful CPU, to emphasize the "decelerator" part.

Compaq Deskpro 2000/P2 300MHz/384Mb SDRAM/ESS ES1868F/Aureal Vortex 2
Asus A7N8X-VM400/AMD Athlon XP 2ooo+/512Mb DDR DRAM/GeForce 4 MX440/Creative Audigy 2
Asus P5Q Pro/Core2 Quad Q9400/2Gb DDR2/GeForce 8800GT/Creative X-Fi

Reply 14 of 34, by waterbeesje

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The thing you want should be stable, but underperforming.
Let's start with forgetting the beloved IBM PS/2 30-286, which crawls by nature.

You really should get yourself any 386SX-16 board. Without cache of course. Pair it with 512kB ram (2x256kB).
A 486SX-25 with ISA only would be ok too. Consider them both a sloth on holiday.

Your RTVGA really matches it's speed: a snail on valium. Still pretty compatible with early VGA and EGA stuff, ok support for Hercules and CGA if I recall.
Same goes for C&T 451, Oak OTI030 and Trident 8800. Bottom line would be the original IBM VGA controller, denying quite some later standards. Looking at you, model 30-286!

Just about any generic multi I/o controller may do. Getting a separate serial, parallel, fdd and HDD controller makes it cumbersome.

Assuming you won't set for an ESDI or mfm hard drive, you really should look out for a Miniscribe 8450AT 40MB stepper drive. Or any Connor CP304x 40MB drive, but that's already quite a bit faster (still not fast). Both turtles on weed, matching the snail and sloth above.

Get yourself a 720kB floppy drive. Seriously, this bottlenecks the fun. Want to use a floppy? No 1.44 here, get fiddling with other computers too get your data across on a modified set of floppy disks.

For sound, your card may be a less than ideal option, but you may consider the Avance Logic ALS100+ (yeah, I said it: the plus version which is really a minus). Yay, a 16 bit sound card! Oh wait, it's high address is mostly incompatible. While the opl2 is a cool thing on an XT, it would be a mismatch here as well.

Of course you'll need a bus mouse controller. Yeah, it should work ok but you'll get irritated as soon as you're trying to plug in a PS/2 mouse one again.

Last but not least: get a high pitch black& white screen. If you didn't get a headache already, this assures it.

Next, get the depreciated DOS 4. I never used it, but it's said to be buggy. Versions 3.3x and 5.xx would be more appropriate if you actually want to get the thing better. And windows 3.0, to fill up half the hard drive while it actually is useless: lots of programs want 3.1x and the system is too slow any way.

Stuck at 10MHz...

Reply 15 of 34, by dionb

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danieljm wrote on 2023-11-28, 17:45:

I've thought about building a "not quite good enough" system before. I've got a Socket 7 board that tops out at 200MHz instead of 233, and a Voodoo Rush which obviously needs no explanation. 😁

To complete the idea I would need to find a sound card that fails right before the finish line, but I'm not sure what that would be exactly. A SB16 with CQM instead of OPL seems like an easy choice, but maybe a little too obvious. Or maybe a PCI sound card with a good implementation of OPL, but terrible DOS compatibility. Yeah, that might be the answer. 😀

Not quite good enough sound... one of the various cards that internally supported 16b stereo but failed to be more than 8b mono SB DA compatible. Aztech 2nd gen springs to mind, as does AD Echo I mentioned earlier.

As for PCI audio... thing is PCI cards are from a period where low to mid end sound was moving from dedicated hardware to software with a DAC (AC'97...). There's less scope for crap in hardware when the crap is moved to software. I'd stick in some bad ISA card instead. Far more crappiness - and you can find poor DOS compatibility too (most cards with OPL4 spring to mind - great wavetable synth, but generally only in Windows).

Or maybe a somewhat heretic view: the Terratec AWS64XL. On paper and in the flesh one of the greatest sound cards out there, with excellent wavetable, excellent audio in and out, routing, SNR, you name it. And yet one of the biggest, worst driver hells you could imagine, with massive issues in DOS (want to work alongside another card? ha ha ha), Win9x (BSOD r us), Win2k (it might give sound. Might) etc. I recommended it for a friend back in the day who needed serious studio level stuff, but couldn't afford it. TLDR turned out a waste of money - probably due to immature WDM Win2k drivers, which he neededd due to massive RAM requirements for rendering stuff. In retro mode I found one too not too long ago. Wanted to put it in my flagship GUS + AWE + best GM and SB clone I could find build. Nope. Will put it in some build because it's so awesome, but it might just be a hardware-only show-off build 😜

Reply 16 of 34, by danieljm

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dionb wrote on 2023-11-28, 19:35:
Not quite good enough sound... one of the various cards that internally supported 16b stereo but failed to be more than 8b mono […]
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danieljm wrote on 2023-11-28, 17:45:

I've thought about building a "not quite good enough" system before. I've got a Socket 7 board that tops out at 200MHz instead of 233, and a Voodoo Rush which obviously needs no explanation. 😁

To complete the idea I would need to find a sound card that fails right before the finish line, but I'm not sure what that would be exactly. A SB16 with CQM instead of OPL seems like an easy choice, but maybe a little too obvious. Or maybe a PCI sound card with a good implementation of OPL, but terrible DOS compatibility. Yeah, that might be the answer. 😀

Not quite good enough sound... one of the various cards that internally supported 16b stereo but failed to be more than 8b mono SB DA compatible. Aztech 2nd gen springs to mind, as does AD Echo I mentioned earlier.

As for PCI audio... thing is PCI cards are from a period where low to mid end sound was moving from dedicated hardware to software with a DAC (AC'97...). There's less scope for crap in hardware when the crap is moved to software. I'd stick in some bad ISA card instead. Far more crappiness - and you can find poor DOS compatibility too (most cards with OPL4 spring to mind - great wavetable synth, but generally only in Windows).

Or maybe a somewhat heretic view: the Terratec AWS64XL. On paper and in the flesh one of the greatest sound cards out there, with excellent wavetable, excellent audio in and out, routing, SNR, you name it. And yet one of the biggest, worst driver hells you could imagine, with massive issues in DOS (want to work alongside another card? ha ha ha), Win9x (BSOD r us), Win2k (it might give sound. Might) etc. I recommended it for a friend back in the day who needed serious studio level stuff, but couldn't afford it. TLDR turned out a waste of money - probably due to immature WDM Win2k drivers, which he neededd due to massive RAM requirements for rendering stuff. In retro mode I found one too not too long ago. Wanted to put it in my flagship GUS + AWE + best GM and SB clone I could find build. Nope. Will put it in some build because it's so awesome, but it might just be a hardware-only show-off build 😜

Hmmm, I like these ideas. I don't currently have anything that fits the bill exactly, BUT I do have a different Aztech sound card that might also be pathetic in its own way. It's a Sound Galaxy NX Pro. With a name like that you'd think it would have SB Pro support, but no. The NX Pro Extra has SB Pro support, but not the regular NX Pro. Go figure.

It does support Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source, which makes it more capable and therefore slightly less desirable for this build. But that could be a sacrifice I'm willing to make. 🤣

Reply 17 of 34, by dionb

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danieljm wrote on 2023-11-28, 22:21:

[...]

Hmmm, I like these ideas. I don't currently have anything that fits the bill exactly, BUT I do have a different Aztech sound card that might also be pathetic in its own way. It's a Sound Galaxy NX Pro. With a name like that you'd think it would have SB Pro support, but no. The NX Pro Extra has SB Pro support, but not the regular NX Pro. Go figure.

It does support Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source, which makes it more capable and therefore slightly less desirable for this build. But that could be a sacrifice I'm willing to make. 🤣

You sure about that? Unless I am very badly mistaken, my 1st gen NX Pro supported SBPro 2.0 nicely. It was only the 2nd gen Aztech with AZT1605 chipset that for some reason had the SB non-pro DSP. Can't absolutely confirmed as I offloaded the NXPro after getting my Aztech Sound Galaxy Basic, which in fact did everything NX Pro did (including the Covox and DSS) but also added WSS. It definitely does SBPro 2.0 and has the same DSP as the NX Pro...

Reply 18 of 34, by danieljm

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dionb wrote on 2023-11-28, 22:48:
danieljm wrote on 2023-11-28, 22:21:

[...]

Hmmm, I like these ideas. I don't currently have anything that fits the bill exactly, BUT I do have a different Aztech sound card that might also be pathetic in its own way. It's a Sound Galaxy NX Pro. With a name like that you'd think it would have SB Pro support, but no. The NX Pro Extra has SB Pro support, but not the regular NX Pro. Go figure.

It does support Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source, which makes it more capable and therefore slightly less desirable for this build. But that could be a sacrifice I'm willing to make. 🤣

You sure about that? Unless I am very badly mistaken, my 1st gen NX Pro supported SBPro 2.0 nicely. It was only the 2nd gen Aztech with AZT1605 chipset that for some reason had the SB non-pro DSP. Can't absolutely confirmed as I offloaded the NXPro after getting my Aztech Sound Galaxy Basic, which in fact did everything NX Pro did (including the Covox and DSS) but also added WSS. It definitely does SBPro 2.0 and has the same DSP as the NX Pro...

I will admit that I haven't specifically tested SB Pro compatibility for myself, but I'm getting the info from DOS Days.

It's entirely possible I'm misunderstanding it, and if so I'd be happy that the card is SB Pro compatible and yet sad that it wouldn't make a good candidate for this ridiculous build. 😀

Reply 19 of 34, by progman.exe

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A low point of the first family PC when I was a kid was, maybe obscurely, the slow serial port.

We had a fancy 28800 modem, but the serial port was only capable of 19200bps. That was a bad design choice, but probably the shop doing it on purpose: sell their standard '486 machine, and if a person buys an extra, then they bought that extra. True compatibility? What's that now?

A purposefully bad machine should be crap in ways that peripherals are choked....

So don't have a 16550 UART, 8250 will be nice and crap (those numbers are probably wrong).

If you can some how have a parallel port that only does the most basic communication that'd be great, too.

Printing is fundamentally awful, so the machine needs the worst of that: 9 pin dot matrix, or even daisy wheel for the noise. Black ink only, of course.

A very bad scanner, a hand scanner if you can find one, none of those fancy flat-bed things. On the slow parallel, no SCSI or anything reasonable. Being able to scan (badly) in colour but never print it in colour mostly defeats the purpose of the scanner. Especially that free printer/scanner with a PC model of the late 90s was about selling ink. Luckily no one fell for that, enabling an insane market, or we'd end up in a situation where ink costs more than things like bull sperm or human blood plasma, and businesses would use DRM to protect their insane margins.

Simple joypad for games, no analogue sticks, they allow for fine control in games. None of that!

If you want colour output on paper, a plotter might be acceptably bad. The amount of space those took up, and the unreliability and cost of the proprietary pens would make for a truly terrible decision today.