Thought I'd share a couple of computer projects.

Discussion in 'Video Games and Technology' started by Streck, May 16, 2012.

  1. Streck

    Streck <B><FONT COLOR="#FF0000">QED</B></FONT> Veteran

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    First off: "Why not just use DOSBox or whatever?"

    Answer: "Not the point."

    There. Now that that's established, onward!

    The goal here was to assemble two machines: one for Win9x gaming, one for MS-DOS gaming.

    I'll cover the Win98 machine first. As intially received, it was a stock Dell Dimension XPS D333, given up by a friend's aunt:

    Pentium II (Deschutes) 333 MHz
    64 MB RAM
    ATI Xpert 98
    Turtle Beach Montego
    5 GB drive
    Windows 98 SE


    Final specs:

    Celeron (Mendocino) 500 MHz
    128 MB RAM
    ATI Xpert 98 + Voodoo2 x2 (SLI)
    Sound Blaster Live! CT4760
    5 GB, 20 GB drives
    Windows 98 SE


    Both Voodoo2 cards are 12 MB Diamond Monster 3D IIs. To complete the Voodoo2 SLI configuration, I had to win two eBay auctions, one for the bare Diamond cards and one for a complete package of a 3dfx-branded V2 1000 that included the critical VGA passthrough and SLI ribbon cables. One side project down the road might be to see if I can get the 3dfx and Diamond cards working together in SLI by using the pure 3dfx reference drivers.

    Replacing the Turtle Beach sound card was a no-brainer. I considered the AWE32 and AWE64 at first, but then realized that I'd want an EAX-capable card for EAX-capable games, and under Windows I'd much prefer PCI than ISA anyway. Aureal 3D had its well-deserved allure, but EAX's support was far more widespread.

    The additional RAM was from a Compaq Deskpro EP C500 that I got from a coworker a few months ago, and the Celeron came from the same place. Big, big thanks to this 13-year-old Earthlink page for walking me through the slocket and BIOS upgrade prerequisites. Configuring all the jumpers on the slocket (various combos for 66/100/133 MHz FSB, Intel/AMD/Cyrix, 1/2 CPUs) was a real hoot. Apparently I can go all the way up to a Coppermine Celeron 766 MHz if I can find a slocket with a voltage regulator, but no higher, since the 440LX mobo uses a 66 MHz FSB and Celerons faster than 766 use a 100 MHz FSB.

    My worries about obtaining drivers for all this hardware turned out to be unfounded. It was absurdly easy to find not only zips but ISOs of the original driver CDs that generous folks had thrown up on filesharing sites. So far the 200W PSU that came with the Dell has supported all of this - the new CPU, all the PCI cards, the additional HD - without complaint.

    Please excuse the quality of these cell phone shots.

    Hardware

    Diamond Monster 3D IIs
    http://i.imgur.com/8wK5q.jpg

    3dfx V2 1000 with cables
    http://i.imgur.com/DQo1V.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/vHjzL.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/1YwVf.jpg

    Sound Blaster Live! CT4760
    http://i.imgur.com/6X8B5.jpg

    Early interior shots - I hadn't yet replaced the Pentium II at this point
    http://i.imgur.com/QdR6o.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/qJnsi.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/yqzJU.jpg

    Case front - you can see my sole concession to modern(ish) computing, the optical drive
    http://i.imgur.com/rp7lU.jpg

    doing doing doing DOING!
    http://i.imgur.com/LrRrX.jpg

    Huge 3Com NIC added
    http://i.imgur.com/dEOTs.jpg

    Rear ports - pretty sparse, huh? Also note the VGA passthrough cable
    http://i.imgur.com/perhp.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/eohzz.jpg - full house after adding the NIC!

    Celeron 500
    http://i.imgur.com/aFSKe.jpg

    Complete system with all upgrades - note the slocket!
    http://i.imgur.com/BiKCP.jpg

    Software/Games

    Win98 desktop - find where it stopped being my friend's aunt's computer and started being mine
    http://i.imgur.com/FD0BL.png

    Monster 3D config menus
    http://i.imgur.com/bFfOs.png

    Deus Ex
    http://i.imgur.com/8eIZ5.png

    Half-Life
    http://i.imgur.com/Mr355.png

    Quake 2
    http://i.imgur.com/6S9Fc.jpg

    System Shock 2
    http://i.imgur.com/hyWxE.png
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  2. Streck

    Streck <B><FONT COLOR="#FF0000">QED</B></FONT> Veteran

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    And now, the MS-DOS machine!

    As received, a Pentium 133 MHz with 16 MB RAM and an Mwave modem/sound card combo. The CPU and RAM were sufficient for the period of games I wanted to run (roughly 1990-1995), but the Mwave would never do. I ripped that shit out and stuck in both a Sound Blaster 16 and Gravis UltraSound. A PCI S3 ViRGE supplanted the integrated video.

    Case front
    http://i.imgur.com/8LSjl.jpg

    Gravis UltraSound
    http://i.imgur.com/TNRJ7.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/M2RnZ.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/prh80.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/6vnCH.jpg - "Voila, the GF1."
    http://i.imgur.com/m3ERG.jpg - 256 KB standard, expandable to 1 MB
    http://i.imgur.com/JQhbI.jpg - installation disks

    Interior - note the OPTi chipset and ISA riser
    http://i.imgur.com/gPLge.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/XwXdG.jpg

    Gravis setup!
    http://i.imgur.com/uR3EJ.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/j6UYW.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/w2c6v.jpg

    Not shown is the Intel EtherExpress NIC that I added later. It had a BNC port, an RJ45 port, and a freaking AUI port. Microsoft wrote a simple networking client for MS-DOS - and I rediscovered something that I knew once upon a time, which was that you don't even need TCP/IP for MS filesharing. NWLink (MS's implementation of IPX/SPX) works just fine!

    The most thrilling part of both these projects has been trawling through old websites and forum threads, collecting critical information and comparing my experiences to those of '90s nerds, many of whom have probably left video games behind. The ease of finding the information, the sheer immediacy of its availability, have helped to seal the little time-bubble in which I'm giggling like a pimply teenager.

    My next step is to get some benchmarking software installed so I can get some proper numbers.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  3. McBradders

    McBradders James Franco Club! Moderator

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    Jebus Streck, you are insane. INSANE.

    Good work.
     
  4. Blackout32

    Blackout32 Subdivisions

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    I hadn't seen or worked on nothing like this in a long long time. Thanks for sharing and is that CPU a slot 1 CPU pentium 2 btw.
     
  5. RabidYak

    RabidYak Go Ninja Go Ninja Go

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    Awesome stuff, but surely having all that RAM in the DOS machine takes away the authentic experience of fighting the memory management every time you want to play a new game? :p 

    Aureal soundcards were the bomb, I totally resented having to replace my Vortex when Creative brought them out and killed driver support. The shit hot Altec Lansing speakers I got with the card lasted a decade thougth and eventually managed to replace them with an eyewatering expensive modern equivelent from thier mid-00s range.
     
  6. Streck

    Streck <B><FONT COLOR="#FF0000">QED</B></FONT> Veteran

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    Nope! Remember, DOS assigns most of that as expanded memory. The 640 KB limit of conventional memory still applies. So I still have to REM out the mouse, CD-ROM, etc. in my startup files depending on what I want to run.

    I'm curious enough about A3D that I may yet pick up an Aureal card just to see the difference in games that support it, since, unlike EAX, it was genuine positional audio.
     
  7. Tripredacus

    Tripredacus K-Mart-ian Legend

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    Good to see you can use your Voodoo card. I keep a Win98 PC around, but when its board died and I replaced it, I found the new board had a different AGP slot than my Voodoo 5500 used. :( 

    Here are my Win98 PC's specs.

    board: Intel D850MV
    RAM: 768MB RDRAM PC800
    CPU: Pentium 4 2.0GHz
    Video: ATI Radeon 9600 XT 256MB AGP
    Sound: Creative Sound Blaster Live PCI
    HDDs: 20GB WD, 20GB Maxtor
    CD: 48x Compaq "Spare" CD-ROM ATAPI
    PSU: Antec 400W ATX
    OS: Windows 98 FE (modified)

    But it works with DOS also... you could have gotten the best of both worlds by using an upgrade path like I did...

    1. Install DOS 5.0
    2. Install Windows 95 B
    3. Update to Windows 98
     
  8. RabidYak

    RabidYak Go Ninja Go Ninja Go

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    Ahhh, yes. I remember still doing that stuff manually even after they added memmaker in DOS 6. I don't know whether I was using it wrong or not, but I could never get good enougth results out of it.

    I haven't touched any of it since XP came out and only ever went over it after that when I had to sit througth a hilariously dated A+ about 7 years ago.

    I remember my card having great audio clarity for the time as well, certainly better then the Soundblaster Live I had afterwards. I had an Audigy 2 after the Live that blew up just after the warrenty period expired, which I never bothered replacing as it was around the time onboard started being good enougth.

    My memory on videocards is a bit sketchy thougth, I think that the Xpert 98 was the first seperate one we had and that was followed by a Geforce 2 in the next computer. I remember haveing a second hand PowerVR card around the time as well, that might have replaced the Xpert after that computer was relegated to the bedroom. Never had 3DFX thougth, probably out of our price range at the begining and didn't have the money to jump on until the writing was on the wall.

    I remember buying Sin and being gutted to find out that the sys reqs were inexplicably much higher for the full game then they were for the demo. I was even more gutted when I finally got to play it on the next computer and found that the the game actually sucked after the first 2 levels.
     

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