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Allure of retro computing

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First post, by ncmark

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Just curious - what do you think is the allure of retro computing? Just like tinkering? Maybe older systems gave you more control over things? Does it take you back to an earlier time in your life? All of the above?

Reply 1 of 20, by Caluser2000

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Getting this on sold ystems other folk say it can't be done 😉

I absolutely enjoy bring an old system back to life and playing around with ye olde operating systems like OS/2 Warp etc.

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 2 of 20, by cyclone3d

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I like playing with tweaking systems, the absolute massive number of different sound and video cards as well as making these old systems run faster than you could back in the day.

Things like power supplies and coolers are infinitely better than they were back then. Same for storage. Having retro systems running on solid state storage is just pure awesomeness.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
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Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 3 of 20, by Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman

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ncmark wrote on 2021-06-18, 00:29:

Just curious - what do you think is the allure of retro computing? Just like tinkering? Maybe older systems gave you more control over things? Does it take you back to an earlier time in your life? All of the above?

Building old computers to play old games with "maximum system requirements." Although, as CPU is getting faster, and playing old games in DOSBOX is getting smoother, I actually see less and less reason to play games using actual retro PC. DOSBOX, Munt, software MIDI synthesizer, and great-sounding soundfonts is enough to play the majority of the old games I like with full bells and whistles. Plus, DOSBOX has nice smoothing options like 2xsai, which is my most favorite when playing DOS games which has 320x200 resolution. As CPU is getting faster, I actually prefer playing Jane's ATF in DOSBOX, instead of Jane's Fighters Anthology on Windows XP, since the former allows you to play the game in 1080p resolution.

Retro systems have their own appeal, though, like real 3dfx graphics and Aureal 3D. For Windows-based old games, retro PCs are still irreplaceable. Besides, it is always fun to install and run old Windows versions on PCs that are faster than they were when the O/S was released on the first place. It's always a blast to install and run Windows 98 on fast Pentium III or Pentium 4 system, regardless of whether you're going to play games on it or not.

Also, since I'm also an audio enthusiasts, it's always a blast to find certain retro computer hardware that unintentionally match particular vintage audio gears. An example is quadraphonic (instead of 5.1) output of Aureal 3D and early SoundBlaster Live! sound cards, which perfectly matches vintage quadraphonic receiver/decoder like Sansui QS or ElectroVoice EVX-44.

Take a look at this goodie I found on ebay, for example:

Rotel-RV-555.jpg
A stereo receiver with strangely familiar shape...

Rotel RV-555 stereo receiver, produced between 1978-1981. I haven't checked the dimensions thoroughly, but doesn't it remind you of PC mid tower cases of 486/Pentium I era? Imagine building a retro PC with beige mid tower case and old CRT monitor, with the mid tower case sitting on the right of the monitor, and this receiver on its left. I bet it sounds nicer than typical PC loudspeakers of that era, not to mention it's a receiver, so it comes with FM radio and other goodies.

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

Reply 4 of 20, by chinny22

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Tinkering and escaping back to earlier/simpler times are definitely the main motivations.

Not been able to afford current hardware even before the currant crazy prices helps keep me where I belong.

Reply 5 of 20, by Miphee

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I'm into collecting and I'm a compulsive buyer. Me like, me buy.
My goal is very simple: collect every type/model/production of CPUs that have ever been made. (or die trying)

Reply 6 of 20, by Almoststew1990

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For me I seem to like maximising old systems and using them for things they probably shouldn't be fast enough to do. A Core 2 Quad playing GTA 5 on Windows 10. My i7 860 playing Red Dead 2 and Cyberpunk 2077. Playing multicore friendly XP games on a dual pentium 3 system (this doesn't work very well).

My next system I want is a dual socket 604 system with either 4c 8t or 8c 8t and a modern GPU. Maybe Socket 771 - I need to do some research.

Otherwise it's the tinkering I guess.

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | AMD 6800XT | 2Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
AMD DX2-80 | 16MB RAM | STB LIghtspeed 128 | AWE32 CT3910
I have a vacancy for a main Windows 98 PC

Reply 7 of 20, by kolderman

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Seeing games run perfectly on period correct hardware when they face no end of problems on modern hardware, if they run at all. Knowing that this combination of old parts is the only way to experience the game, and the experience would essentially be lost otherwise, is pretty cool.

Reply 8 of 20, by gaffa2002

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At first, it was to run older games that could not run well on modern machines, but this is becoming less and less of a problem thanks to DOSBOX and PCEm for the early Win 95 stuff. Now it's mostly for the nostalgia factor, just to remember and feel how the games actually ran when I first played them, same reason I still keep old video game consoles around.

I'm not much of a hardware person (I like the theory behind it, but have no patience to tinker with parts and benchmark things), so for the sake of sanity I'm happy having a single retro machine covering 90-2000 period. My personal way of putting it is:

Pre 80's --> Lot of different architectures, too much to handle. Better to use emulators.

90-2000--> PCs became more of a standard, we had the transition from games fully using DOS to fully using Windows. A single PC can cover that range with compromises, plus this is the time I started messing with computers so that's my favorite one.

Post 2000s --> Games abandoned DOS and started using standardized APIs for graphics and sound, I didn't see any drastic changes since then aside from the screen aspect ratio. Usually those don't offer much trouble running under modern windows.

Of course there are exceptions for all periods, but in general that's the rule I tend to follow.

LO-RES, HI-FUN

My DOS/ Win98 PC specs

EP-7KXA Motherboard
Athlon Thunderbird 750mhz
256Mb PC100 RAM
Geforce 4 MX440 64MB AGP
Sound Blaster AWE 64 CT4500 (ISA)
32GB HDD

Reply 9 of 20, by creepingnet

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For me it was because I wanted an inexpensive computer with internet access back in 2001, and 486's were now the butt of jokes at the time, so I knew I could pick one up dirt cheap, "Hot Rod" it just barely enough to be a usable "Daily Driver". I never thought I'd end up owning over 50-60ish vintage PC's in the span of 20 years as a result - with some Macs and true classic platforms sprinkled in for good measure out of curiosity.

Basically, my initial goal was websites, e-mail, IRC, with some DOS and Windows games thrown in. Eventually I found I really enjoyed tuning and tweaking these machines to perfection just as much as I enjoy using them. Plus, in the early 2000's, your average I.T. Person did not know much about old computers as they tend to now. I got so much crap from people like "You can't put a 486 on the internet" and "What are you going to run? Pong?". So I started exploiting software and hardware upgrades and tricks to make these things perform functions I don't think the industry ever intended for an aging, then decade-old 486 to do. Soon tuning and tweaking and pushing the limits of the hardware became my passed time. It was fun to roam into someone who cast-me off months before and then shock the heck out of them because here I have a 486 DX4 with 64MB of RAM, Windows 98 SE, a CD-RW burner, and it's doing all the stuff their $1500 Compaq could do, and evne then some by way of obscure hardware just a few people knew about on the internet - like TV Capture, or multitrack digital audio.

These days I prefer to keep a small pool of vintage PC's and see how close to daily drivers I can push them. My NEC Versa Laptops get used as much as or even more than my modern computers do, and It's not just for gaming. I surf the web in Links, download files of all types, talk on IRCJR, visit BBS via Telnet, connect to open un-encrypted hotspots and do some of this out in public as well (aware of security risks so I conduct my behavior online accordingly). I also still game on them, usually preferring my 486 class machines to the rest, though sometimes I like to break out the Tandy 1000A if I'm running something XT Class and unthrottled, or something without SOundBlaster Support but does have TANDY support.

~The Creeping Network~
My Website - https://sites.google.com/site/thecreepingnetwork/home - ending 9/2021
My Youtube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/creepingnet
NEW WEBSITE - 9/2021 https://creepingnet.neocities.org/

Reply 10 of 20, by Joseph_Joestar

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For me, it's about building a machine that I wanted but couldn't afford back in the day. Top of the line components, almost fully maxed out for its time.

And then using it to play games from that time period at the best possible settings.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 VirgeDX / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 11 of 20, by drosse1meyer

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Often times it was much more of a challenge to get things working back in the day. (And to this day as well, even with great resources such as this site.) So to me, a lot of it is being successful in this regard, and learning along the way.

Reply 12 of 20, by chrismeyer6

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For me it's fun playing my old games as well as getting to play with hardware I wanted as a kid but couldn't afford and now the real fun is sharing all of it the hardware and games with my two sons and having a great family time with it.

Reply 13 of 20, by mothergoose729

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I have said this a couple times on the forums already, I didn't grow up with old DOS machines. The first experiences I had with computers was with an old box style imac they had in every classroom in America. I would go to the computer labs in elementary school to play leapstart games on windows 95/98 machines. The DOS prompt was something I had only seen in movies. My first personal computer was a low cost dell machine in 2005 that I used to play warcraft 3 and Age of Empires and the like. I kept that same computer until I was a senior in highschool before I bought modern computer parts with my own money - a core2 based machine that I built in 2008.

I got into emulation sometime around 2012 and for a long time I was only into that. At first it was about reliving my childhood through games, then it became about collecting and building the ultimate games machines that could play very nearly anything, and later on I started to explore more deeply console libraries and experience things I never had experience with in my youth. Finally I started collecting real hardware. That led me here. I just wanted to build a no fuss DOS machine just to have it.

That was almost three years ago. The reason I have stuck around so long and didn't just build a SS7 machine inspired by Phil's computer lab was because the depth and breath of retro hardware is so interesting. I don't know what it is exactly, but learning and playing with all the quirky hardware and weird software that was made for it is endlessly fascinating. The first twenty years of the personal computer revolution are filled with so many weird and fun things. In some ways that bad ideas are more interesting than the good ones. Figuring out where stuff came from and why is interesting.

Modern hardware and software is so smooth and uniform that it often feels boring and stale. Newer games have much better designed interfaces and borrow heavily from well established mechanics. I am not going to argue that games in the past are better than games in the present because most of the time they really aren't. But they are so much more varied and different from each other. There is something oddly satisfying about mastering the mechanics of early 3d games and getting proficient at them for their own sake. Occasionally, because modern games suffer from group think and have a tendency to develop "monocultures of design" sometimes older games really did do something that was interesting and better and, for the time being anyway, feels a bit left behind in the past. It kind feels like digging for treasure, and when you discover a real gem (like Sokoban or Star Control II) it's like you have recovered something valuable from a lost time. Then there is the music, (especially midi music), and glorious pixel art, and so much more. Hell, I even oddly enjoy patching games and forcing them to work despite how much they may protest. It's a lot of stuff, probably difficult to explain to someone who isn't into the hobby, but stuff I imagine all of us can probably relate too.

Reply 14 of 20, by Unknown_K

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Around 20 years ago I purchased an old Mac Quadra 950 just to mess around with old video editing software which I found interesting (from reading magazines). Since I never had a Mac of any type and found it interesting I ended up purchasing a Powermac 8500 shortly later to support the old Quadra. The 8500 at the time was highly upgradable so I snagged 2x128MB RAM, an IDE PCI card and HD, an 8MB Graphics card, plus a G3-400 CPU upgrade and ran OS 9.1. Around that time 68K gear was pretty much junk and ebay was still in its garage sale phase so I started getting more and more old macs to rebuild and play with.

Since I found upgrading 68K macs fun I decided to get into Amigas (I was a PC person ever since I sold my C64 to get a 286 Packard Bell for college). Starting with an A500 I learned how it operated and connected it to a PC via null modem cable to download games to floppy to play around. This started me into retro gaming on Amiga and eventually an Atari ST as well. Since I was into old games again I purchased a C128 from ebay and ended up getting a bunch of C64 gear off of freecycle.

I had kept my old DOS games (tossed the boxes like an idiot) so I started buying old 386/486 era PC gear on ebay and snagged whatever people were tossing at the time (2003 and after). I had always been into VLB cards and started collecting them, especially items I never had back in the 90's. I also got into EISA for the first time and collected motherboards and cards. Around 2005 or so I got into IBM PS/2 machines and their assorted MCA cards. Later on I started collecting newer PC stuff and started collecting PCI and AGP graphics cards for gaming and CAD.

I also started collecting old game consoles I used to like playing on (Atari 2600, 5200, Colecovision)

I had the bug of collecting upgrade cards and ended up filling up the basement with machines and cards I liked to play around with plus a bunch of video editing gear for multiple platforms I liked setting up and testing.

So I started out with 1 purpose to mess around with video capture and ended up sparking an interest in a bunch of different hardware and software (got into collecting applications and OS like OS/2 and Windows 3.11). I like tinkering and collecting cards more then using every single machine I own. I view the collection like a library when I fell like doing something I grab the appropriate machine and play around. Its nice messing around with different platforms I didn't own back in the day or cards and software I liked but were too expensive to buy or just didn't have a use for. Most of my collection was cheap or free because I collected back when people on freecycle looked at you funny when a grown mac collected what they considered obsolete junk. You would go to pick up one thing and they would dump all kinds of other gear on you. And also ebay was cheap and shipping was much cheaper then today.

Price of retro gear have gone up quite a bit so these days I tend to collect more modern junk nobody wants and GPUs too old to play new games. Still have all the old gear I collected and still mess with it.

Collector of old computers, hardware, and software

Reply 15 of 20, by DaveJustDave

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kolderman wrote on 2021-06-18, 10:53:

Seeing games run perfectly on period correct hardware when they face no end of problems on modern hardware, if they run at all. Knowing that this combination of old parts is the only way to experience the game, and the experience would essentially be lost otherwise, is pretty cool.

Thats why I'm so happy with my 5170. Purchased new in box a couple of years ago, upgraded with period correct IBM EGA Adapter, IBM 5154 EGA monitor. I play a lot of Sierra SCI games in EGA with a real Roland MT32 and it is just the perfect bite of nostalgia when i need it.

download/file.php?mode=view&id=112758

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I have no clue what I'm doing! If you want to watch me fumble through all my retro projects, you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrDavejustdave

Reply 16 of 20, by keenmaster486

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Because I don't want to use a semi-truck to drive to the grocery store, which is what doing most regular computing tasks short of modern web browsing with a modern computer is like.

We have 1000x the computing power we did 20 years ago, yet we perform all of the same tasks and use up all that computing power just for fancy graphical tricks and huge bloated scripting libraries because developers are lazy.

There are a few things the average consumer actually needs modern computing power for, such as games, video editing, photo editing, etc., but the rest is bloat.

If I want to write a simple document, I'm going to do it with Microsoft Word '97 on my Pentium MMX with 64 MB of RAM, not MS Word "365" with a subscription payment on Windows 10 that uses 1000x the resources to do the same task, but somehow even slower if you control for disk speed.

I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.
World's foremost 486 enjoyer.

Reply 17 of 20, by cyclone3d

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Subscription stuff is super lame. That being said, Office 2016 and 2019 (standalone version of 365) is really nice.

Office 2010 and 2013 had some major issues with very large Word documents in that if you inserted pictures into the documents a decent amount of the time, when you tried to print those documents, the pictures would not print.

It is possible to run at least Office '97 and 2000 in Windows 7 and I would guess 8/8.1 and 10 as well. I had to do this when I was working on converting some old Access DBs to the newer format.

I have my documentation on how to do that around somewhere.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 18 of 20, by Byrd

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Playing with the computers I could never afford as a kid proves appealing, and specifically the simple nature and design of vintage Apple hardware.

I like my modern tech, but also like to see vintage hardware doing pretty much the same thing (playing music, games, DTP, productivity applications), but the difference is I have more control over the software and hardware I can use.

Not enjoying the whole "subscription as a service" push right now.

Reply 19 of 20, by Pentium Baron

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For me it's fascination with artefacts of the past. Some collect ancient pottery or paintings - for me those are just boring dead things. On the other hand a CPU is a little machine with millions of parts, maybe it's been sitting dormant in somebody drawer for 30 years but when plugged into a mobo it awakens and comes ALIVE. Still gives me goosebumps everytime. But's it's also nostalgia, not idle nostalgia, but an active, forceful act of escapism to a better, simpler place. And while time travel is likely not possible we can cheat a little by building these time capsules, period correct artefacts from the past. And as other have already noted running games on period correct hardware is a thing of unmatched beauty and purity.

Retro business software junkie. Currently rocking Macola Accounting + Symantec Time Line