| Let's continue the Retro Gaming PC Adventure(TM), shall we?
Since my first post, the machine has gone through a few minor revisions. I went with the Pentium build, and the system is coming along nicely. I'll detail some of the specs here.
Power Supply & Cooling - The PSU and fan situation is changing early next week. I am currently running off of the original AT power supply and Socket 7 fan setup. While the Pentium 100 didn't generate much heat, there have been tremendous advances in power supplies and cooling solutions over the years. I provide more details after the change.
Motherboard - Epox P55-TF - This motherboard uses the Intel i430FX chipset and contains both PCI slots and ISA slots. Deciding to go with a Pentium allowed for a lot of flexibility. The games designed for a 486 run really well, the PCI bus allows for a LOT of expansion possibilities (including various video cards), and the ISA bus allows for a lot of backward compatibility. I could put an old Adlib sound card in the machine or throw in a late nineties Plug and Play PCI card. Top this off with the ability to take larger sized hard drives, and you have a system that covers the late eighties to mid nineties quite well.
CPU - Genuine Intel Pentium 100 Mhz. The Epox motherboard and this 100 Mhz Pentium started with me. I bought them new in 1996, and they are still going strong.
Video Card - Diamond Stealth 3D Pro 2000 - S3-ViRGE chipset - If there was one thing I was missing when it came time to build the Pentium, it was a video card. I am not sure where the old ones of mine are scattered. I may have to get back up in the attic at my parents' the next time I am there and try to find some more video cards. In the meantime, this Stealth card will have to pull the weight. This particular card appears to have a few issues - either that, or I have some general system troubles that are realized thanks to the video card. Various games flash pixels of color at random times. I think perhaps the video card's RAM is a bit defective. All the more reason to find some of my other video cards.
Network Card - Linksys EtherPCI Lan II - Amazingly, I had an ethernet card in this system. Finally got around to testing this one out this weekend. Took a bit of driver hunting to get it working, but it still functions. This makes it a lot easier to dump files on it.
Sound Card - Sound Blaster 16 ISA (non Plug and Play). The ISA-based Sound Blaster 16 is a genuine Creative Labs sound card. It would seem that going with Creative Labs is the best idea as far as compatibility is concerned. Unfortunately, the truth hurts - While Creative Labs was certainly the most popular sound card manufacturer at the time, the company really skipped on quality. There are a few bugs in various DSP versions of the SB16 (including mine), and the card isn't quite perfect when it comes to Sound Blaster Pro compatibility.
Wavetable/General MIDI/Roland - Ahh yes. This aspect of classic gaming was neglected by most when it came to music in games. The primary reason for this was cost. Most people weren't going to spend a few hundred extra just to get better music synthesis on their computer. I was lucky in that I got to hear and eventually acquire a Creative Labs Wave Blaster daughtercard circa 1993/1994. I never looked back. It is hard to watch youtube footage of old games when the footage used the standard OPL3 synthesizer built into Sound Blaster cards. X-Wing and DOOM are the two that make me cringe the most.
Aside from the Wave Blaster - a General MIDI device, I have the Roland MT-32. Before General MIDI was the standard, Roland's MT-32 was used to produce sound using Linear Arithmetic synthesis. To hammer the key points quickly - The MT-32s focus was composition and music work - not for playing games. Linear Arithmetic synthesis is a different form of synthesis than General MIDI. The definitions and differences of the terms wavetable, General MIDI, and Linear Arithmetic Synthesis are often completely unknown or misunderstood.
So sound solution is - Sound Blaster 16, Wave Blaster, Roland MT-32 (external box). I recently bought a set of Logitech speakers with a subwoofer, and they seem to pair up well with the old computer.
Hard Drive - I took a 40 GB hard drive and managed to get the BIOS to recognize it as an 8.4 (largest available capacity for my 1996-dated BIOS). I formatted it FAT-32 as a single partition. This locks me out of using DOS 6.22 or earlier, but does allow for the semi-shady DOS 7.2 on the net as well as the Windows 98 Second Edition DOS that I am now running on this machine. While it is a shame that I cannot use the full capacity of the hard drive, 8.4 GB is a LOT of space for running games that were made in the 80s and early to mid 90s. I could literally fit hundreds upon hundreds of games on here.
Floppy Drives - Running dual floppies - a 3.5" drive and a 5.25" drive. Haven't tested the 5.25". It probably needs to be cleaned. The 3.5" drive was responsible for getting a lot of the early software on here. I am glad it still works and that I have a floppy drive in my Windows 7 box to help prep disks!
Optical Drive - Quite surprisingly, I am running a DVD-ROM/CD burner on this old machine! It runs well.
Monitor - I bought a pretty nice 22" Viewsonic CRT in 2004. It would be my last CRT. I couldn't manage to throw it away simply due to the cost (and it is nice for a CRT). It has fortunately found a new home with this system.
Here is the current, work-in-progress setup. Click the pictures for larger versions. Notice the original Microsoft Mouse that has yellowed with age:
In Part 3, I will detail some of the software on the machine, issues with installation, provide a few extra tidbits of information about Roland & old games, and discuss bringing an old computer up to date while still managing to keep it "old."