The hardware has been given away.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Parts
- 3 Ancient notes
- 4 Motherboard research
- 5 CPU research
- 6 Video card research
- 7 Monitor research
- 8 Sound card research
- 9 KVM switch research
- 10 Other parts research
- 11 Parts I still need
- 12 Parts I want
- 13 Parts to eventually get
This is the Hardware-centric focus of my love of oldschool stuff. Oldschool emulation, namely VMWare covers much of the functionality I need, however there are some very specific environment requirements for some software and so I cannot use all Software with a virtual machine alone.
The oldschool godbox project is attached to several other projects, mainly the Legacy software archives project. It is an attempt at setting up an extremely versatile and stable hardware testbed from which I can play with all sorts of software. It could be blown completely out of proportion quite easily, so I've defined several constraints.
The goal is to have maximum hardware compatibility and stability (same thing really) with IBM software, including very old software.
I find it extremely unfortunate that true hardware-level backwards compatibility has not been approached through the use of emulation. I am a fan of the concepts embedded in the RISC processor and the Transmeta Crusoe processor and feel that these concepts could be applied at a larger scale. I feel that an combination operating system-chipset combination ought to be able to play god over it's software well enough to properly emulate all sorts of hardware platforms. It's a pipe dream. Maybe the Commodore One reprogrammable computer could do something like this one day.
VMWare has a whole-box cloning concept which I intend to look into in the future. A successfully cloned box would eliminate the need to have the hardware. However it would require the whole box to clone it in the first place, I think, so I suppose that this project has not been obsoleted.
This project was started through inspiration by such places as www.oldskool.org, but also by many emulator sites. I had a deep yearning for the days when computers were new to me. There is so much I know and understand now which I couldn't even begin to grasp back then. I was also entirely pissed off at Windows and various *nix distributions. I wanted things the way they were.. but I wanted to do it in style. If I were to build what would be considered a staggeringly amazing system back then.. I could do it with lots of footwork and a very low budget. I would be left with an oldschool "Godbox".
Ultimately, I feel that I could be at least as productive as someone on a brand new computer by hashing together a set of old, even ancient, hardware and software which is made to work in harmony. This project will finally spawn my oldschool software archive, and thereafter would step into my thesis on getting the most out of a computer.
Yes, I had a motherboard with all three.
Ancient notes ∞
- I originally approached the godbox project thinking that I needed a 386 to ensure compatibility with older software and still have good hardware. I would learn that a 486 would be even better because of the higher quality hardware, and that the turbo switch would clock it back down for compatibility with older software.
The keyboard buffer is implemented in bios, and what I arranged would allow a bios upgrade to lengthen it.
- Software keyboard buffer enhancements are flakey.
- Get some thermal compound for the CPU!
- Quiet PC products
Get a "shaker" and attach it to my chair. :)
- Maybe $20
Motherboard research ∞
- PCI wasn't fully standardized on 486's.
- One guy had a 386dx/40 onboard with a second socket for a 486!
- VLB with an AMD 386/40 soldered.
- Has a socket for a 486 upgrade (not overdrive)
Some Pentium boards supported the turbo feature.
- The Elitegroup (ECS) TS54PAIO with a Cyrix 6x86/100 let you control turbo with
control-alt-+(only in Real Mode, not in Protected Mode).
-- Reportedly slow enough for Apogee games (e.g. Dark Ages (1991 video game)).
- Reportedly doesn't like both an Adaptec 2940 together with a SoundBlaster 16 [ 1 ] worked with a SoundBlaster Live!
- The Elitegroup (ECS) TS54PAIO with a Cyrix 6x86/100 let you control turbo with
- P66 (FDIV and all) had a turbo button
- p133 with a turbo button which worked
- p166 had a turbo
Intel VX mobo that would take up to a P5-233MMX, and it had the headers for both a turbo LED and switch, and AFAIK it did work. It is in my dad's machine right now... I also used to have an** Amptron 8600B, it would also run up to a P5-233MMX, and it had a turbo button too, it actually wasn't too bad for a PC chips mobo...
VESA Local Bus (VLB) notes ∞
Note that many 486 VLB setups aren't happy with the 50mhz FSB.
The general rule with VLB was that
- 25 MHz or 33 MHz bus allows three devices
- 40 MHz allows two
50 MHz allows one
That would mean either the video card or the drive controller would have to be ISA.
CPU research ∞
- Can underclock a 486. Those have cheap hardware, good compatibility between components, integrated FPU on DX's, etc.
- CPU with a 40 MHz FSB, PCI runs at 20 MHz
- CPU with a 25 MHz FSB, PCI runs at 25 MHz
CPU with a 33 MHz FSB, PCI runs at 33 MHz
- .. therefore get a DX2-66, DX4-100, AMD 5x86-133, or Cyrix 5x86-133 [ 2 ] the fastest .
A 33 MHz 486DX running at 20 MHz needs no fans in the machine.
- HP Vectra and HP Brio don't have CPU fans
- Compaq Pentium III Katmai (550 MHz)
Dell Pentium II (300 MHz)
Video card research ∞
- Can use a Hercules emulator
- Verify VESA 2.0+ and PCI 1.0 compatibility
- Passively-cooled preferred
A primary VGA card and a secondary mono card is theoretically possible
- Even in a 286.
- Switch between two monitors:
- The MDA (Mono Display Adapter) uses different I/O and memory than VGA, so both could live together.
- DOS-based Borland integrated development environments (Turbo Pascal, Borland C++) could utilize this.
- Some debuggers (perhaps SoftICE) running on Windows 95 on a PCI machine, could display use a secondary MDA display.
Can combine a CGA ISA card and a VGA PCI card.
- Tseng Labs ET4000-2Mb VLB
- Cirrus Logic 2MB ISA
- S3 (e.g. S3 Trio64
- Very fast, and has a turbo switch.
- Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 2MB PCI
Ati Mach 32 VLB card
Diamond Viper SE PCI 4Mb
- 1600x1200x16bpp @ 75Hz
- Matrox Mystique 220
Sigma VGA Legend, 2MB
- Probably upgradable (it was top of the line in 1992)
Diamond Edge 3D
- Verge (reportedly crap)
Trident 8900C ISA video card w/1Meg
- these may be too high end:
- Overkill, but might be great for 2D graphics anyway
Matrox Millenium II PCI (MGA2)
- 2 MB
- 4 MB has Linux compatibility and better 3D than the Matrox Mystique.
- Does 8 MB exist?
- RIVA TNT
- 3dfx Interactive Voodoo2 12MB
- Graphics cards which are probably too high-end:
- Diamond Stealth II S220 PCI 4MB - p90
- Diamond Stealth 64Video PCI
Diamond Stealth 2000 PCI Video
- S3Trio64 chipset
Monitor research ∞
See also Displays
- CGA Monitor
Sound card research ∞
Gravis Ultrasound PnP PRO
KVM switch research ∞
Most will work, but make sure they are electrical and not mechanical switching. Also look at the maximum resolution supported. E.g. the Belkin omnicube 4 port
Extension Cables and switchboxes are notorious for causing ghosting or streaking on the screen. This is almost always due to an impedance mismatch at the cable connection to the extension cable or switchbox. This type of problem usually gets worse as you increase resolution or refresh rates.
Impedance miss matches will send small video ripples (for lack of a better term) up and down the video cable. These ripples are amplified by the monitor and show on the screen as very small ghost images or streaks particularly after a bright to dark, or dark to light transitions.
If you really want to use extension cables, it's best to go the BNC route. Find a cable that has a d-sub on one-end (to connect to the video card) and BNC connectors on the other. Use BNC barrel connectors to attach the extension cables together. These can be found in almost any retail electronics shop. The quality of the cable also can cause some amount of video degrading. Use high quality 75 Ohm coaxial cables. If you can't do that, then it will always be better to scrap the existing cable, and get a longer but still single-piece cable.
Other parts research ∞
- Loopback test kit
- in reach
- UPS and wake-on-LAN
- PC Speaker switch
- 320k disks
- 1.2M disks
- Higher-capacity drives can read low-capacity disks just fine.
- 5.25" drives may have issues with 320K disks formatted in a 1.2MB drive. [ 7 ] Because they use lower-powered write heads?
- https://web.archive.org/web/19991006061802/http://www.oldskool.org/shrines/lbd/ said: While the IBM floppy controller could read all of these formats, it did not have the ability to write all of them. A third-party company (usually the diskette duplication facility itself) specially prepared the diskettes using custom floppy controllers. -- Copy ][ PC Option Board, which went between the floppy drive and controller, allowing me to write those special formats -- To this day, there is only one diskette I have never been able to duplicate, even with the help of my Option Board: A Cops Copylock ][ demo diskette that I sent away for (Cops was a third-party copy-protection library you could purchase to copy-protect your own programs). I never found any programs that actually used Cops as the copy protection scheme, which was fortunate, since I couldn't copy it. :-(
BE 10 shielding - A nice spray-on resin.
- Combo floppy drives existed.
Parts I still need ∞
- in reach
- It, and it's kin, are potentially overclockable.
- A proper motherboard.. sigh
- Which is the best video card?
Which is the best network card?
- 3COM 3C509 ISA is a good network card
- 486 L2 cache (256k, and fast stuff)
- better power supply
- TODO - research brands
- GUS PnP Pro, upgraded to 8MB
- Network card
- getting this
Parts I want ∞
- custom switches
- MGA card and Mono monitor
- CGA monitor
- EGA monitor
subwoofer (I hate most of them)
Parts to eventually get ∞
- UPS with line conditioning -- See [UPS' and Line Conditioning]
HardSID quad card (drool)
- 486 ISA/PCI motherboard (something that can handle a Cyrix 133 maybe)
4x32MB = 128MB 72pin EDO RAM
- Depends on the mainboard and ram availability, EDO may be supported, but problems may exist, 70ns+ pref
ISA SB64asp (not upgradable)
- Gravis Ultrasound Pnp PRO (onboard 512k memory, upgradable to 8MB)
- Matrox Mystique 220 graphics card (the debate as to which is the best choice still continues)
PCI SCSI controller
4x8x24 Sony SCSI CDRW
9GB Quantum SCSI drive
- 2x combo 3 1/2 1.44MB + 5 1/4 1.2MB FDD drives (in reach, but kinda rare)
PCI 56k v.everything modem
- acquired - consider swapping for an external USR Courier, especially to save slots. May be unnecessary.
- acquired a 640x480x256c spare, as is another..
- My main monitor is much better and would be acceptable under a monitor switch box.
Custom tower/server case, soundproofed
- in reach
External power supply (or two), fanless
- in reach, requires research
Soundproofed HDD (custom case)
- in reach
- See Quiet computing
Keyboard/monitor switching layout
- in reach - I would need very high quality stuff which will ensure I'm not stressing the equipment out by hot swapping.
- A tweaked switch to drop turbo mode and underclock the CPU. Perhaps add an overclocking switch (needs research based on the mainboard)
- Tweaked switches a-la dongles for software awareness, so that I could switch in hardware while it's off, turn the computer on, have it poll the switch setup and configure itself accordingly.
HardSID ISA soundcard
- acquired, and I salvaged an authentic sound chip from a Commodore 64.
Network cards ∞
- DLink DE-200TP+ 10M combo card
3Com 3C509B TPO NIC (10Mb/s, full-duplex)
- A 3Com 3c905-C would be nice (PCI)
Other hardware to consider ∞
- Have to research the brand for maximum compatibility - Epson?
- Keyboard/video/etc extension cords or infrared transmitters
- acquired - I have one old 4 button Gravis gamepad which I love but never use.
- find more
Various smaller SCSI/IDE HDs
- MGA card and monitors Amber (pref)
Green monochrome monitor
- in reach
- Ugh, I played with one of these and it sucked.
- research - are there Blue mono monitors?
more parts to consider ∞
SCSI CDROM (rare?)
- in reach - HP LaserJet III
ISA floppy disk drive controller card with it's own BIOS
- In reach
2 more floppies
- In reach - 1x 720k, 1x 320k - for nostalgia
- Add-on card supplying more com/parallel ports (seems unnecessary)
- Backup hardware (spare parts since MTBF is getting near)
1541 Commodore 64 drive
- acquired, and I made a custom cable
- Hardware SCSI raid
- Hollywood PCI DVD decoder card
- SCSI DVD player
- External SCSI drive case
- TV card
possible wierdo equipment ∞
- HardSID QuadSID card (PCI)
- Linux low-level access to oldskool other platform disks
- Floppy controller + SID chip etc!
- MIDI hardware / piano keyboard
- Audio/DJ/mixing equipment
|^ 1||worked with a SoundBlaster Live!|
|^ 2||the fastest|
|^ 3||Note that older demos use special hardware tricks that might only work on an ET4000.|
|^ 4||S3 S3 Trio64 chipset|
|^ 5||was http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1292|
|^ 6||oldskool.org was looking for one|
|^ 7||Because they use lower-powered write heads?|