Building a Pentium-era Retro PC, Part 1

I was cleaning my ‘junkyard’ and came across some of the floppies and CDs from my first PC computer, and I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to play some of those old games on a real PC of that era, instead of using something like DosBox? Plus, it would allow me to get away from Amiga for a little while, which has been getting most of my attention lately. Of course, being the hoarder that I am, I was positive I already have most if not all of the hardware required. So, after a quick check with the very knowledgeable people on the vogons.org forum about appropriate pieces & bits, I went junk-diving (or, in this case loft-diving), and look what I dug out:

Mini-tower PC Retro-PC porn Turbo!

Score!Β This is pretty close to my first PC, which was something like a Pentium 200 (possibly MMX), with 16MB of memory, an S3 Trio64 graphics card and a Creative SoundBlaster 16. Notice the nice sticker I made (does the sticker remind anyone of anything, possibly this?) – this computer did run some old version of Slackware Linux and was used for a long time as a gateway/router box, with every slot filled with a NIC. It also had some Cisco iOSΒ (Cisco, not Apple iOS!) emulator installed, I think it was Quagga (isn’t that a weird name for a project!).

Anyway, this box currently has inside:

  1. MSI MS5170 motherboard – nice MB with AT & ATX style power connectors, both EDO & SDRAM slots, four PCI slots and three ISA slots; Intel chipset, which could mean that only 64MB of memory is cacheable
  2. some unnamed power supply – works, and that’s what matters now
  3. 16MB of EDO DRAM
  4. Intel Pentium 233MMX
  5. some CDROM drive, some floppy drive, both working
  6. harddisk that will be replaced
  7. Turbo button, which, if you are not familiar with it, makes the PC go turbo fast! πŸ˜‰

Here’s the other hardware I found:

3com 3C509B ISA network card

3com 3C509B ISA network card

3COM 3C905C PCI network card

3COM 3C905C PCI network card

Two 3COM network cards, if possible the old ISA card will be used as it supposedly uses less precious memory in DOS than newer PCI cards. Plus, it has a BNC connector, that has to count for something!

S3 VirgeDX PCI graphics card

S3 VirgeDX PCI graphics card

ATi Rage3D ii+ PCI graphics card

ATi Rage3D ii+ PCI graphics card

Two graphics cards, with the S3 VirgeDX being the preferred one because of better compatibility for DOS games.

And, last but not least, two crown jewels of my findings:

3Dfx Voodoo2 PCI card

3Dfx Voodoo2 PCI card

A 3Dfx Voodoo2! I had no idea I still had this, I thought I sold it ages ago. Well, I’m glad now that I didn’t, it will sure be a nice addition to my setup, although I’m still not too sure how much use will it get in a Pentium-era PC, maybe it would fit better in a Pentium3 setup (which I plan to do next, since I have parts for that too!).

Creative SoundBlaster AWE64 Gold ISA soundcard

Creative SoundBlaster AWE64 Gold ISA soundcard

Aaaaand … one of THE soundcards you wanted to have (but, at least in my case, didn’t) – the Creative SoundBlaster AWE64 Gold! This is perfect for my build, good compatibility with older Soundblasters & Adlib, and hopefully more sound quality than some of the previous Soundblasters. As for OPL compatibility, well I’ll see how it fares. Hopefully, I’ll be mostly using my external Roland SoundCanvas SC-55 for most games (and no, I don’t intend to get a MT-32, they are too pricey these days).

Besides the hardware already mentioned, I also have a ‘new’ CDROM drive and an 8GB Western Digital ‘DeathStar’ harddrive.

Having picked appropriate hardware, next up is software. I’m planning to use some form of DOS, probably the latest 6.22 version, together with Windows 98 SE. I just have to remember how to install these two so both OSes are available. If Win98 will be too much for this PC, I’ll have to find a version of Windows 95 somewhere.

To be continued!

2 thoughts on “Building a Pentium-era Retro PC, Part 1

  1. Nice build πŸ™‚ I built something ~similar a year ago, namely:

    P233 MMX
    Asus mobo
    32MB ram
    S3 1MB pci graphics
    SB 16 Value
    8GB cf as hdd
    DOS 6.22

    ..and last, but not least… *drum roll*

    Roland CM-500 (MT-32 compatible) via SoftMPU (the real Roland compatible midi pci cards are wayyy too expensive).

    SB midi out -> Roland, Roland audio out -> SB line-in, SB-phones -> speakers (levels are set via SB software mixer) πŸ˜€

    Btw, if you’re having too fast computer for some older games, disabling caches from bios has ~the following effect:

    Internal cache disabled: ~486DX 33 Mhz
    Internal + external caches disabled: ~386 33 Mhz

  2. chaos says:

    Yours is a nice build also!

    Wow, the CM-500 seems great, I didn’t even know it existed. Envious! I would love to get a MT-32 or something similar, but current prices are just crazy.

    Also, that’s some audio routing you have going on πŸ˜‰ I have a problem with this myself – I’m currently using a Technics receiver for my audio needs, but if I’ll add two ‘retro’ PCs + SC-55, there won’t be enough inputs available. I was looking for some cheap stereo mixers, but it seems there simply are *no* cheap mixers anywhere. I guess I’ll have to build one myself πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the cache tip, I’m sure that will come handy!

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