Who uses real hardware?
August 28, 2021 at 2:44 am #4931
Just wondering who else here has an old machine(s) they like to play their DOS games on?
I’m maybe a little too much into old hardware hehe, and currently have 5 set up (with another one waiting for some parts). Here’s a small taster. I’ll send more pics soon 🙂
On the left we have “Mopoke” – an Atari PC3 8088 I rescued from an eWaste bin. On the right is “Shallow Blue”, a Pentium I 166 – that one gets a lot of use for this club.
superjamieParticipantAugust 28, 2021 at 7:57 am #4932
I still have a DOS-capable PC in the garage (PII300 or so) but the last time I set it up in about 2010, it was a big pest.
Figuring out the right combination of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT for different soundcards and games was so time consuming, by the time I got one or two things working I was fed up with it.
In particular I remember Boom (the Doom source port) needed some really fiddly unusual setup, perhaps due to using the Allegro library for graphics and sound.
I’ve also seen opinion that the op-amp ICs on old soundcards have started to degrade now, so listening on a genuine Soundblaster can sound a bit muffled. I’m not sure how true this is?
These days I am very thankful for DOSBox and generally for emulation.August 28, 2021 at 7:08 pm #4938
As fantastic as DOSBox is, I’m certainly all for real hardware. I’m loving the Atari branded PC. This is my main PC setup:-
Modern PC on the right, my old XP era machine on the far left, and in the middle under the desk, a metric ton of cables normally hidden by the chair + a Dell Dimension 486SX 33 + a PII 400. The PII has basically 2 sets of sound and video cards in it and a DOS/Win 98 dual boot which I can pick and choose between depending what I’m running. The Dell was something of a barn find – it was absolutely revolting when I got hold of it, including petrified chewing gum stuck in the expansion slots. Miraculously everything still worked when cleaned up.
It doesn’t get all that much use but I’ve got an old Mac set up on the left. They can be quite good fun with DOS/early Windows era gaming – e.g. playing Dark Forces in 640×480. I got the big Apple Studio monitor with the primary intention of DOS gaming but Apple being Apple, it doesn’t have all the usual controls and is set up slightly differently. It works OK most of the time but the brightness isn’t what it should be using it as a PC monitor and some DOS games you simply can’t see what you are doing. I’m loathe to get rid of it so I’ve ended up with 2 CRT’s in here and vertical stacking with my main PC monitors to fit everything in. I’ve a KVM switch to connect the two DOS machines to the other monitor.
Never been aware of any degradation with Sound Blasters myself. My ears have probably degraded more than they have so maybe I just don’t notice. I still have my original Sound Blaster 1.5 card from about 1991 working in another PC on the top floor. For these PC’s down here, I feed all the various audio outs through a little board I got off Ebay that combines 6 signals into one, then into my line in on the modern PC so that the audio comes out in one place whichever machine I’m on. There’s a Roland CM-64 + SC155 for MIDI games at the front left that feed into that as well.
If I fiddle around with caching settings in the BIOS, these two machines cover near enough everything put out during the 90s. I’ve got a few older machines upstairs for EGA and earlier. I’ll grab a picture of them next time I’m up there.
TijnKeymasterPodcasterAugust 28, 2021 at 7:58 pm #4939
Wow, this is very cool stuff you guys!
I know Florian has some real hardware laying around, perhaps he’ll post some pics.
I’ve gotten rid of all my DOS stuff years ago. Nowadays I don’t really have the space to get back into it, so I just use Dosbox on my laptop. I don’t mind it really, as long as it plays the games somewhat authentically. But I do enjoy seeing your setups. It’s great people have this stuff all well-kept and everything!August 29, 2021 at 12:08 am #4941
Nice setup pix! Cable salads tend to be unavoidable don’t they? Looking forward to seeing some of your other gear.
Here’s a bit more of my stuff:
Picture 1, living on top of each other you see “The Beige Baron”, a Pentium II 333mhz, and the same Pentium I from the last photo. Under the blue cover on the left is the Atari computer.
Picture 2 shows a (still unnamed) Compaq Deskpro 486. I’m still on the lookout for a matching monitor. Covered up is my pride and joy – a 386DX 33 called “Chip”. I’ve recently ordered a new case for it, so when that arrives I’ll post a photo of that too. (Sorry about the cat litter. I only just realised it was in the photo!)
I’m lucky I have the space for all this stuff, but as you can see I still need to get creative with how I set them up!August 29, 2021 at 8:51 am #4943
Space is definitely an issue with this hobby. When I moved house a few years back, I got somewhere literally twice the size I would otherwise have needed purely to accomodate all this stuff. The house was strangely underpriced (for reasons that still aren’t clear to me), so it barely cost any more. A big loft room for all my old systems was a must have which is where all the older DOS machines are. It’s a lot more than just PC’s in there but I’ll spare you the rest. These are all the computers running DOS:-
The monitors in here don’t neccessarily match up with the PC under them for space reasons. So the system on the right of the desk is an Amstrad PC1640 which was a common budget PC over here. It’s an 8Mhz EGA machine which is slightly too slow for most EGA games I find, so the PC driving the monitor is actually the 16Mhz 286 on the floor. That’s got my old Soundblaster and an MT32 set up.
I wanted a composite CGA setup so I fitted the Amstrad itself with a CGA card which is driving the Apple monitor on the far left that’s sat on the IIGS. The PSU driving that PC is actually built into the EGA monitor so I have to have that switched on if I’m using that setup. The IIGS under the composite monitor is connected with a SCART cable I knocked together into a TV in the corner.
The little grey machine is a Japanese FM-Towns 486SX25. They usually run Towns-OS but you can run DOS on these machines so it sort of counts as a DOS setup. It’s more or less a PC under the hood but with some bells and whistles bolted on to do things like sprite manipulation. It was one of the first machines to have a CD-ROM drive (back in 89 if you can believe it) and loads of DOS games got unique enhanced releases.
Left of that is a Tandy TX 1000 with an IBM CGA monitor. I love these old Tandy machines for the extra speaker channels and the 16 colour graphics mode. That’s probably the one I’d keep if I had to choose from all of these.August 29, 2021 at 11:13 pm #4945
Wow! Quite a complex setup you have there. I like it! The Tandy is pretty special as you say. And I’ve heard about FM-Towns, but never really seen one and didn’t know much about them. It’s a pretty cute little machine actually.
I’m quite envious of the older hardware you have. I’ve only started collecting again in the last few years after having got rid of most of my stuff, and I’m finding anything older than a Pentium I is absurdly hard to get my hands on at a reasonable price. (The Atari PC3 was a once-in-a-lifetime find I think…)
I too live in a bigger house than I really need, and also got it at a surprisingly low price, but still feel constrained for all my vintage stuff!August 31, 2021 at 7:14 am #4956
I do have tons of hardware but I don’t have the space currently for a permanent setup. Very cool stuff you guys have!August 31, 2021 at 10:56 am #4959
Thanks rnlf! I’m pretty sure I found out about DOS Game Club from watching one of your youtube videos, so I’ve already seen a bit of your hardware. I hope you get a chance to show it off again some time!
(BTW, the “new” case for my 386 arrived today. I should have some more pics soon…)September 2, 2021 at 11:22 am #5004
And as promised, here it is. “Chip”, my 386 DX-33 (on the left)
I mentioned earlier that it’s my pride and joy. That’s because I built it as a tribute to the computer I had as a kid. It’s the same (or as close as possible) as the original in all the important ways, but upgraded in all the ways I wished it had been back in the day.
The only original component is the keyboard (that’s why it’s so yellow!)
* 8MB Ram
* 120MB HDD
* Maths Co-Processor (I don’t need it, but it always bothered my that the POST screen said I didn’t have one!)
* Tseng Labs 1MB graphics card
* Creative Sound Blaster 2.0
* MS-DOS 5.0 & Windows 3.0September 2, 2021 at 11:26 am #5006
Is that yellowing or nicotine on the keyboard? Seems like it might need a little treatment (like the right monitor’s case). Pretty amazing setup. I should see if I can find some space for a permanent one here.September 2, 2021 at 11:39 am #5008
You know, we should do a special episode about DOS-era hardware. I know Tijn isn’t too interested in that, but maybe we can somehow bribe him into moderating it anyway.
Anyone interested in joining such an episode?September 2, 2021 at 11:43 am #5010
Actually… this topic is so vast, maybe a mini series is in order instead.
We could either split it up by era or by hardware component? One episode for CPU evolution, one for music and sound cards, one for graphics, connectivity and so on.September 2, 2021 at 7:42 pm #5014
I’d be up for joining. No idea how interested other people would be in it but it would be up my street. I expect I’d learn a bit along the way too.September 3, 2021 at 2:06 am #5015
I would definitely be interested in a special hardware episode or mini-series! Count me in!
As for the keyboard, it’s definitely not nicotine, it’s just 30ish years of sun (it’s been used on and off that whole time). I did retrobrite it a while ago and it looked good for a little while, but the uv has obviously penetrated pretty deeply and the yellow just bubbled back to the surface. I think it’s going to need numerous, repeated treatments.
I’m not as fussed about the monitor on the right – it’s just my backup CRT.September 3, 2021 at 10:00 am #5022
Ah, too bad with the yellowing. But still better than what I got from retrobriting my ST 🙁September 3, 2021 at 10:32 am #5025
Btw, a couple people have mentioned on IRC that they’d be interested about a hardware episode. Maybe we can widen the scope a bit and call it DOS Game Tech, also discussing things like “what on earth is config.sys and why should i care?”.
I’ll start a new thread for that and ask for questions. Some were already asked on IRC, but it would be cool to collect them and answer them in the episodes.
Evil TacoParticipantDecember 20, 2021 at 6:53 pm #5428
What a cool thread!
I have my family’s old Compaq Presario 425 but unfortunately it has some flickering issue with its built-in display and I don’t have the skills to start looking into it.December 21, 2021 at 5:00 am #5430
Evil Taco – has it always had flicker issues, or is it something that it’s developed recently? Apparently some all-in-one compaqs from that era have weird refresh rates that can cause flickering. It may be something you can fix or minimise with the right settings or drivers/software.
watchfulParticipantJanuary 15, 2022 at 3:03 pm #5530
While I’d like to play on OG hardware the noise from old HDDs, fans, and CRT whine is too much. Space is also a concern. Another concern is power draw and sustainability. Old hardware is wearing out with time and getting more expensive as the collective nostalgia ramps up.
I’m seriously considering a hybrid retro-modern machine though, as LGR appears to do sometimes, with an OG chassis and parts except for the disk and monitor. Then install a modern SDcard adapter and low-latency LCD monitor.
Or possibly an FPGA or SOC system that runs ‘natively’ yet without a lot of downsides of the originals.
DarkWhaleboneParticipantMarch 10, 2022 at 4:21 am #5826
Hey there! I use old hardware, it’s all surprisingly very cheap to get hold of, people just don’t seem to want old PC’s, which is great for the likes of us!March 10, 2022 at 10:52 pm #5832
DarkWhalebone – in my experience it’s a blessing and a curse for people like us. A large proportion of the stuff I have has been rescued from eWaste, which makes me wonder just how much more gets dumped and destroyed.
A lot of people don’t know there are even collectors out there, so if you are after something specific you have to get really lucky or pay through the nose to buy off greedy ebay sellers.
It also depends on where you live. I’m in a pretty unpopulated area where pickings are slim. I understand collectors in bigger cities are practically swimming in cheap vintage hardware!May 8, 2022 at 3:47 pm #6019
I’ve recently been piecing together the original DOS machine, an IBM 5150 which has been proving to be quite the undertaking to get fully set up and running. Nearly there now. I just got hold of the keyboard to complete the hardware set. I’ve still not got the floppy drives sorted out but have an CF hard disk installed so they aren’t strictly needed.
Provided you temper your expectations, some of the earliest DOS games are really quite good fun. I’d love to see a month covering some of the oldest titles like Round 42 here.
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