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Reply 20 of 166, by Shreddoc

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Cycle-accurate 'emulation' in FPGA hardware gets around all the above emulation-is-inaccurate concerns.

I know some fairly hardcore private games rooms whose owners are enthusiastically shifting machines over to it, over the past year or two.

Afaik they're (i.e the MiSTer project) not too far away from cycle-accurate 486 DX-50, on the PC side of things, and it is already by-far the best (most accurate - to the cycle!) reproduction of most 8- and 16- bit consoles.

Reply 21 of 166, by jakethompson1

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Shreddoc wrote on 2020-10-16, 18:31:

Cycle-accurate 'emulation' in FPGA hardware gets around all the above emulation-is-inaccurate concerns.

I know some fairly hardcore private games rooms whose owners are enthusiastically shifting machines over to it, over the past year or two.

Afaik they're (i.e the MiSTer project) not too far away from cycle-accurate 486 DX-50, on the PC side of things, and it is already by-far the best (most accurate - to the cycle!) reproduction of most 8- and 16- bit consoles.

I don't have the electrical background but this is something I've always kind of envisioned futuristically--what if you could just put the emulation from Bochs on a chip, or use the Dosbox code to "compile" a hardware implementation of a SoundBlaster compatible sound card, etc.
How much is the speed of FPGAs a limitation? Presumably, as they get faster, the simpler the code implementing a 486 (for example) can be, right?
Sort of like the reverse of what happens in P6 and later chips where they have a fast RISC-style core and x86 front end. You could have a dumb, straightforward implementation of an i486 on the inside, running much faster than a real 486 internally but "paced" for clock for clock accuracy as you say.

Perhaps a Dosbox could be a literal, physical product someday 😁

Reply 22 of 166, by Tetrium

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I don't worry about this as I think it's highly unlikely I will outlive all my spare parts, disasters disregarded of course.

Whats missing in your collections?
My retro rigs (old topic)
Interesting Vogons threads (links to Vogonswiki)
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Reply 24 of 166, by Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman

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kolderman wrote on 2020-10-16, 07:10:

If emulation was perfect, sure. But it actually sucks.

Of course emulation is not perfect, but saying it sucks isn't really accurate.

kolderman wrote on 2020-10-16, 07:10:

Just getting a nicely scaled full screen 2D image in dosbox is a PITA whereas my native dos pc drives the LCD perfectly.

What PITA are you talking about? I have yet to find DOS games that fail to scale properly in DOSBOX. On the other hand....
LCD monitor VGA compatibility database.
4:3 LCDs for DOS usage.
Best LCD for DOS games running on old hardware.
Widescreen monitors and 4:3 aspect ratio compatibility
thread
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On the other hand, with DOSBOX, one doesn't have to worry about monitor compatibility with older games. As long as the monitor can display the O/S, then DOSBOX will generally run fine.

DOSBox-2020-07-30-21-55-42-51.jpg
Dawn Patrol in DOSBOX.

Above is Dawn Patrol, running in DOSBOX, scaled from 640x400 to 1360x768, captured using FRAPS to preserve the upscaled resolution. I wouldn't say the scaling is bad. In fact, it looks pretty good. If I may add, Dawn Patrol (and its successor, Dawn Patrol Head to Head) is very picky about VGA card. Unless your video card is one of the few supported by the game out of the box, then you should resort to "Universal VESA driver," which requires lengthy configuration, and it doesn't always work! Based on my own experience, Dawn Patrol's Universal VESA driver works with lowly, generic, plain-vanilla SYS VGA card, but fails to work with Matrox Mystique. And that was where I gave up playing the game, only to be able to play it again many, many years later using DOSBOX.

DOSBOX, on the other hand, emulates Tseng Labs ET4000, which is one of the few VGA cards natively supported by Dawn Patrol. I goes without saying that it's much easier to play Dawn Patrol in DOSBOX instead of real hardware.

hi-octane.jpg
Hi-Octane, one of those speed-sensitive games.

Above is Hi-Octane; a hi-res (640x480), textured, non-accelerated 3D game. The game runs choppy on Pentium 100, but uncomfortably too fast on Pentium III. With DOSBOX, I have to experiment with cycle settings to obtain comfortable speed (which are core=dynamic, cputype=pentium_slow, and cycles=90000). Yet, I can imagine experimenting with DOSBOX cycles is easier than tinkering with BIOS to disable cache and/or setting CPU multiplier to slow down the game on fast system.

kolderman wrote on 2020-10-16, 07:10:

I can't imagine how much more troublesome and underperforming later win98 games are.

Be it as it may. Yet, as Cyberdyne has said, computer hardware may last 20 to 50 years from now. Many things can happen during that time. In 2003 Roland and Caroline need to set Dawn Patrol to minimal details to play it in DOSBOX with acceptable frame rate, now I could easily maximize all details while enjoying butter-smooth frame rate. During Pentium 4 era, I couldn't imagine playing 3D textured mapped VESA games in DOSBOX with acceptable frame rate --unless it's sparsely textured games like Privateer 2: The Darkening and Star Rangers, or 2.5D games like Blood and Shadow Warrior. Now I can easily play fully textured mapped games like Sandwarriors and even F-22 Lightning III with comfortable frame rate in DOSBOX, on my lowly i5 2400 CPU.

Many things can happen in 20 years, let alone 50 years, and that might be the day when one can run Windows 9x and Windows 9x games in DOSBOX with fluid performance.

kolderman wrote on 2020-10-16, 07:10:

The only valid uses cases for emulation as I can see are very early games that run too fast even on slow 386, or flight sims where you want to map controls from a modern joystick.

Ah, but joystick is actually the reason why I still keep retro hardware machines --specifically, machines old enough to accept older PCI soundcards that can accept gameport joysticks. Some old Windows games like Interactive Magic's iF-22, Novalogic's F-22 Raptor, and Hot Wheels Jetz can run flawlessly on Windows XP and Windows 7 machines (it's really nice to see iF-22 with maximized FSAA on modern GPU). Alas, those games can only detect gameport joysticks; they are totally blind to USB joysticks. Hence, those machines.

I'm just thinking: DOSBOX translates USB joystick into gameport joystick flawlessly. Alas, it only works in DOSBOX. I wonder if it's possible to use DOSBOX's joystick emulation codes to make "virtual gameport joystick" that works on modern Windows.

Never thought this thread would be that long, but now, for something different.....
Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman.

Reply 25 of 166, by Joseph_Joestar

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Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman wrote on 2020-10-17, 10:41:

On the other hand, with DOSBOX, one doesn't have to worry about monitor compatibility with older games.

Personally, I love DOSBox and use it mainly for MT-32 and GUS emulation since getting that hardware at reasonable prices is an impossible task where I live.

That said, issues with graphics scaling on real retro PCs are minimal if you use a non-widescreen LCD monitor with 1280x1024 as the native resolution. Those monitors are cheap and plentiful, and 320x200 or 640x480 games tend to scale reasonably well on them (integer scaling on the horizontal axis, mild stretching on the vertical axis). Most of these monitors also support 70Hz refresh rate over VGA input so there are no issues with frame skipping and such.

I can imagine experimenting with DOSBOX cycles is easier than tinkering with BIOS to disable cache and/or setting CPU multiplier to slow down the game on fast system.

That largely depends on the system and utilities being used. On my AthlonXP rig, I use ACPI Throttle as my primary slowdown utility. There are a lot of presets to choose from, but roughly speaking, you can switch between 386, 486 and Pentium speeds by calling a single command and selecting the relevant slowdown value.

The only work you need to do beforehand is to take some measurements when you initially try each setting, to get an estimate of their speed (it varies depending on your CPU). NSSI is an excellent benchmark program for that. Afterwards, it becomes mostly routine e.g. setting 8 = Pentium 133, setting 11 = 486 DX2 and so on. A Pentium MMX + SetMul is even more versatile as Phil demonstrates in this video.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1

Reply 27 of 166, by BitWrangler

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Unknown_K wrote on 2020-10-14, 07:13:

Electron migration is a thing for hot running CPU and GPU chips that will kill them eventually.

Well it's thing whether they're running or not really, all the electrochemical valence forces, running at the speed of molasses in the arctic are trying to make everything into an amorphous blob, no N type doping over there, no P type over here, we want it all evenly spread, thank you very much. Best you can do is get the latest NOS CPU you can find and put it under liquid nitrogen for 50 years just in case. Room temperature is quite a chemically active temperature really, things rust well, batteries work, it's well above freezing point of water. The 40C running temp is higher still, but it's not "double" in chemical terms really (Which is why science types like Kelvin)

Then we've got some faster processes known to cause problems already like the growth of whiskers on tin, antimony or other stuff around that area of the table that might be used as layers, dopants, coatings or interconnects in high end semiconductors. Running stuff regularly actually helps get rid of these, as when they are really really thin sub-hair sized they will just burn out, but let them get thicker and they may prevent operation. Mechanical shock has a non-zero chance of shifting them, but most ppl don't like to slam their hardware around, then if it was a chunky one, it might end up randomly bridging something else.

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 28 of 166, by cyclone3d

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ncmark wrote on 2021-06-11, 15:33:

The components I have the most trouble with and shortest lifespan are.........cpu coolers

Yay for crappy sleeve bearings.

Replace the failed fans with ball bearing fans and they will most likely outlast you.

There are also much higher quality non ball bearing fans such as those made by Noctua but although most of them are quiet, they don't push a ton of air.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
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Reply 29 of 166, by ncmark

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cyclone3d wrote on 2021-06-11, 18:39:
ncmark wrote on 2021-06-11, 15:33:

The components I have the most trouble with and shortest lifespan are.........cpu coolers

Yay for crappy sleeve bearings.

Actually that's not the problem. These were not cheap coolers (Nexus 3200s). But I have one that doesn't always start like it's supposed to. One freezes if it sits for too long and I have to hand-turn it to get is started. Computer kept shutting down on me until I found the problem. BUT that all it takes to fry a processor!

Reply 30 of 166, by BitWrangler

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Nobody will ever get my secret fan lube recipe, I'll take it to my grave, muhuahahaaaa!!!!

Spoiler

Well okay then, half and half moly extreme pressure/temperature bearing grease and clock oil... flush the old gunk out with alcohol or WD40 first.

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 31 of 166, by darry

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BitWrangler wrote on 2021-06-11, 21:54:

Nobody will ever get my secret fan lube recipe, I'll take it to my grave, muhuahahaaaa!!!!

Spoiler

Well okay then, half and half moly extreme pressure/temperature bearing grease and clock oil... flush the old gunk out with alcohol or WD40 first.

No anchovies ? 😉 Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference...

More on topic, I hope my spares last me a lifetime, or at least until I get forcibly housed at Shady Pines. 😉

Reply 32 of 166, by Caluser2000

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It'll never happen because I have spares for the spares. And spares for those spares. I 've gotta have spares. 😀

There's a glitch in the matrix.
A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉

Reply 33 of 166, by darry

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Caluser2000 wrote on 2021-06-11, 22:43:

It'll never happen because I have spares for the spares. And spares for those spares. I 've gotta have spares. 😀

Fellow preppers/hoarders of the world, unite . You have nothing to lose but (maybe) your time, money, living space, spouse, sanity... 😉

Reply 34 of 166, by Caluser2000

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I consider myself as a collector of antiquate computer components. CACC for short.

There's a glitch in the matrix.
A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉

Reply 35 of 166, by mothergoose729

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I really enjoy using my retro hardware but I am zen about the idea that it won't last forever. Hundreds of years from now emulation (hardware and software) will be the only way to experience this stuff, and that's ok.

Even today, DOS emulation is as good as I'll ever need it to be. Better low level emulation for classic windows hardware will come in time, and pretty soon I think someone will create a good virtual machine setup with hardware accelerated graphics and sound. The games will remain playable.

I'll be the most sad when my CRT monitor goes. Old displays are a lot more fragile and a increasingly difficult to repair and replace. Even then, I think future display tech will be a lot better at emulating the proper look. The problems with modern LCDs is that they aren't bright enough/have enough contrast, really, and they don't run at the right refresh rates, but with VRR and advancements in OLED (or micro LED) I don't think those will remain problems for long. A scanline shader that utilizes HDR is all I really need and it isn't a matter of if those things will happen but when.

Reply 36 of 166, by creepingnet

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I really don't think about it that much...I'm almost 40, I would not be surprised if at least one outlives me given how well my old boxes are holding up and how hard I still run them. I'm actually more concerned about what I'm going to do when I get too old to be lifting and carrying these beasts around the house all the time and tweaking and tuning on them.

Honestly though, if they were all to be dead, I'd just move to Emulation and cherish the memories. That's about all you can do anyway. I've already technically been through that once when I gave up on this hobby in 2011 and moved on for a year or two. Though I still think it's more likely you'll see me in the park with a solar powered new-age-storage modified NEC Versa M/75 when I'm 90 rigged up looking like some kind of Red Green Show concoction.

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Reply 37 of 166, by TheMobRules

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I have spent some time acquiring skills and tools to perform repairs on my old hardware, and I think I have enough spares for the most important stuff in case it dies irrevocably. So I'm not really concerned about running out of retro hardware.

What I've come to realize lately is how important CRT monitors are to me. I'd say they currently make about 50% of the "retro experience" for me, so it would kill a lot of my interest if I don't have them. Currently I have 4 (1 14'' and 3 17''), nothing special but with low-hour tubes and recently cleaned and refurbished with new caps. So with light use I expect them to last a while, at least until I complete most of my retro backlog.

Reply 38 of 166, by badmojo

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This used to worry me and I stockpiled stuff, but in 10 years doing the retro hardware thing I can't think of a single component that's died on me. Some things have needed some initial fixing on receiving them - bad caps or memory for example - but once they're restored and well treated then they seem to just keep working.

In saying that I still grab duplicates of my favourite hardware if I come across them.

Life? Don't talk to me about life.

Reply 39 of 166, by Shreddoc

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[puts on philosophical hat] these things sort of work in generations, don't they?

That is, for as long as 'our generations' (coinciding with certain retro decades) are still around, then a certain % of us collectively take our old gear with us through our lives, as a generally declining but self-supporting enthusiast niche - much like our own bodies, haha!

So I think we need not have an existential fear that we'll outlast our equipment. Frankly a lot of it's made mostly from things that will long outlast most of our own biological components!

When it's all truly gone - in 30, 50, 100 years - the humans really concerned with that equipment (us!!) will, sadly, be gone too. And which is the greater loss? The gear itself, or the generations of people who made it and loved it?? All wrapped up together, in the passage of time.

The only thing about which I can be certain is that our own small, special page in the book of history... is a pleasant one. That's the main thing.