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setaG_lliB
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Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:01 pm

I wrote about this machine a few years ago on a site called Vogons. Today as I was moving it downstairs to a new room dedicated to old school gaming and electronics, I thought I'd post the "story" here on TR.

I found this computer in the dumpster seven years ago, but it cleaned up well! This machine was crafted to handle only three things and handle them well: DOS games, Windows 9x games, and Glide supported games. I call it Bitchin'Fast! PC '99.

First, some specs:
-Base machine: Dell Dimension XPS T550
-Originally shipped with a "Katmai" core Pentium III running at 550MHz. I installed a 1.4GHz Celeron, mainly because some late-90s SVGA DOS games require an absurd number of processor ponies to sustain 60 fps (example: Screamer 2). With a maximum bus speed of 100MHz, this motherboard won't work with the PIII-S, unfortunately.
-The motherboard is a Dell-customized version of the Intel SE440-BX3 motherboard. This board lets me turn off the CPU caches for speed-sensitive games.
-512MB of CL2 PC100 SDRAM (2*256MB). The board has a memory ceiling of 768MB, but Win98 barfs with more than 512MB installed. Plus, the BIOS loosens DRAM timings with 3 DIMMs installed.
-Voodoo3 3000 AGP video card, overclocked to the speed of a V3-3500. Has 16MB of VRAM overclocked to a blistering 183MHz.
-Aureal SQ2500 Vortex 2 PCI audio
-Sound Blaster AWE64 ISA audio
-Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM HDD, original Pioneer 6x DVD-ROM drive

Here's the beast in all its glory.
Image

Mmm, cable management.
Image

Yowza! 1.4 gigahertz of power is plugged into the mobo's Slot 1 connector!
Two layers of conversion are necessary to support all this horsepower: an Asus Slotket, and a Lin-Lin FC-PGA2 socket adapter. Initially, I was worried about signal integrity, but the machine's been solid as a rock.
Image


Expansion cards:
-STB Voodoo3 AGP 3000 in the AGP slot, overclocked to the speed of a V3-3500 (183MHz core/183MHz RAM, up from 166/166). This picture is a couple of years old; I have since added a 60mm fan to the heatsink.
-3Com 10/100 NIC in PCI slot
-This machine has two sound cards! There's an Aureal Vortex 2 SQ2500 in a PCI slot, for Win98 games. Games that support the A3D API sound absolutely stunning on headphones. In fact, I'd say that A3D sounds far more convincing than early versions of EAX, like EAX 2.0 on Sound Blaster Live.
-The second sound card is a Sound Blaster AWE64, sitting in the ISA slot. I use this card in pure DOS mode.
Image

And here she is hooked up to an energy-guzzling plasma display, because LCD just doesn't do her justice. The game on the screen is Virtual On: Cyber Troopers, a 1997 Windows port of the arcade game. This game was available in 2 flavours: a hardware accelerated edition that required a PowerVR graphics card, and a software-rendered version that actually required a CPU with MMX support. The one I have is the software/MMX version, so it doesn't really make use of the Voodoo's features. However, the 1400MHz Celeron easily handles it in high-res 60fps mode. My old PII-233 certainly couldn't do that back in '97!
Image

1902 BungholioMarks, baby!
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chuckula
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:04 pm

FLASHBACKS!!!

Obligatory: Yes, but what about the performance hit from the Meltdown/Spectre patches!?!?!
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setaG_lliB
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:12 pm

chuckula wrote:
Obligatory: Yes, but what about the performance hit from the Meltdown/Spectre patches!?!?!

It no longer runs Commander Keen smoothly, but at least it's safe to use on the Internet.
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:17 pm

That is sexy as all get-out.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 6:36 pm

Party like it's 1999! I was just getting into pc gaming at that point and this thing was the stuff of my gaming dreams back in the day.
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 6:52 pm

chuckula wrote:
FLASHBACKS!!!

Obligatory: Yes, but what about the performance hit from the Meltdown/Spectre patches!?!?!


Jokes aside, I don't think there's any patches for that platform and for OS that can still run on it. Spectre/Meltdown are the least of your concerns if you intend on looking that system up to the general internet. ;)
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:35 pm

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setaG_lliB
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:36 pm

Krogoth wrote:
chuckula wrote:
FLASHBACKS!!!

Obligatory: Yes, but what about the performance hit from the Meltdown/Spectre patches!?!?!


Jokes aside, I don't think there's any patches for that platform and for OS that can still run on it. Spectre/Meltdown are the least of your concerns if you intend on looking that system up to the general internet. ;)

ruh roh!
Image

This system is actually connected to my network at all times. Mainly so that it has access to my file server. It's also nice to be able to look up game info without having to fire up another machine. I also throw small retro-themed LAN parties occasionally.

Honestly, I'm not at all worried about malware. I mean, it's Windows 98, with a generous helping of MS-DOS underneath it all. Nothing out there targets this type of machine. :)
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 9:22 pm

Wow, what version of Opera runs on Windows 98? How well does it do with Gmail? Old PCs on the internet is always interesting, if a little unsafe.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 01, 2018 9:46 pm

Seeing the 3dfx logo made me sad. And the Aureal isn't helping either
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:05 am

That’s a nice machine. What other games and programs are you running on it? Just reading about it is great nostalgia.

Names like 3dfx and Aureal... they represented a pinnacle of their field.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:35 am

-that beige case reminds me of my old (nearly indestructable) alps keyboard that I got rid of a long time ago. (..now why did I go and do a stupid thing like that? I loved that thing,.) :roll:



I always liked Windows 2000 Professional for this.. with actual USB support! (..and then stripping-out Windows Explorer for a custom shell.) I don't think I ever found a game from '95-on (to it) that didn't play well on that OS. :D


(..I have a few components that could slot into a machine like this, but my old video card isn't nearly as good.) :oops:
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 6:39 am

I still have a beige case. Until a couple of years ago it housed the system that ran my web server. It's still buried under a pile of crap in the corner of my office, where it has been for more than a half decade. When it came time to retire the server, I didn't even un-bury it; I just unplugged the extension cord that was feeding it power.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:07 am

That's awesome. How well does it play X-Wing?
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:14 am

Virtual On!

I used to play the snot out of that game. I wonder if I can still get it working. I bet I still have the disk in storage somewhere...
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:37 am

That's a lot of bungholiomarks!
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:56 am

Beautiful. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Gz.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:56 am

Nobody has figured out how to get these working on modern OS/machines?
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:52 am

Great Flash Back, excellent post.

I remember somewhere around 1998 I built a K6-2 450mhz, an ATI RagePro and a Voodoo card, and $400 cd-writer, wow good times. I loved the system it was built with money from my first job and I had it in my room while living at home, working in the day, and attending college classes at night. I was hesitant to share my precious gaming PC as it cost ~$2,000. My parents offered to pay half of the cost if I shared it and i agreed. My mom was really the only person who would have used it so it was all good. Flashbacks.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:24 pm

That 3D mark score is cool and all, but how many bungholiomarks does it score?
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setaG_lliB
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 4:06 pm

derFunkenstein wrote:
Wow, what version of Opera runs on Windows 98? How well does it do with Gmail? Old PCs on the internet is always interesting, if a little unsafe.

It's running 10.63, which is the last version of Opera that'll run on 98 without KernelEx. Gmail in basic HTML mode works great on it.

FireGryphon wrote:
That’s a nice machine. What other games and programs are you running on it? Just reading about it is great nostalgia.

Thanks! I am a little bleary-eyed right now, having been up until two in the morning last night playing Descent, Magic Carpet, and MDK 2. :lol:

CScottG wrote:
I always liked Windows 2000 Professional for this.. with actual USB support! (..and then stripping-out Windows Explorer for a custom shell.) I don't think I ever found a game from '95-on (to it) that didn't play well on that OS. :D

Windows 2000 was great! I ran 2K and 98 in a dual-boot config until 2003. The thing is, while there are Win2000 drivers available for 3dfx cards, none of them seem to be 100% compatible. The Voodoo graphics cards and Glide were pretty much designed for Win9x. With a few patches, you can get USB (and even flash drives) to work extremely well under Win98.

Usacomp2k3 wrote:
That's awesome. How well does it play X-Wing?

The Win95 version of X-Wing runs great on this machine. I never could get the DOS version working 100%, even with cache disabled.

SuperSpy wrote:
Virtual On!

I used to play the snot out of that game. I wonder if I can still get it working. I bet I still have the disk in storage somewhere...

I never could get Virtual On to work on anything newer than a Pentium III (the game complains about not having MMX). There are probably ways around that, as new CPUs do support MMX (although I believe MMX has been rolled into SSE2 since the P4, which is probably why the game can't "find" it on newer systems).

liquid_mage wrote:
Great Flash Back, excellent post.

I remember somewhere around 1998 I built a K6-2 450mhz, an ATI RagePro and a Voodoo card, and $400 cd-writer, wow good times. I loved the system it was built with money from my first job and I had it in my room while living at home, working in the day, and attending college classes at night. I was hesitant to share my precious gaming PC as it cost ~$2,000. My parents offered to pay half of the cost if I shared it and i agreed. My mom was really the only person who would have used it so it was all good. Flashbacks.

Back in 1997 I actually had a parallel port CD writer that could burn at up to 4x. You absolutely could not do anything else while it was writing discs (especially in 4x mode), or it would trash your expensive CD-R. Sometimes it made coasters when you were sitting perfectly still! 2x was a safe bet, but at that speed it took forever and a day to finish a burn.
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 02, 2018 9:29 pm

X-Wing is very picky with conventional and EMS memory allocation like most "high-end" DOS games of that era. You typically have to create and use a "special" boot disk that loads up the bare minimal to provide just enough memory to keep the game happy.

DOSBOX in its current form is almost like a running a Pentium 200 Pro/Pentium 233MMX through DOS with a modern CPU platform.
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setaG_lliB
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:59 pm

Krogoth wrote:
X-Wing is very picky with conventional and EMS memory allocation like most "high-end" DOS games of that era. You typically have to create and use a "special" boot disk that loads up the bare minimal to provide just enough memory to keep the game happy.

Hmm, so it's a memory issue, eh? All this time I was thinking it was CPU speed related, since I was getting messed up audio. The fact that disabling processor cache didn't help with the sound should've clued me in. But the Win95 version works fine, so I'll just continue using that.

DOSBOX in its current form is almost like a running a Pentium 200 Pro/Pentium 233MMX through DOS with a modern CPU platform.

And that's why DOS diehards still need a dedicated machine. There are a handful of SVGA games that won't run very smoothly on a 233MMX, unless you drop 'em down to VGA resolution. Even the 550MHz PIII that this machine originally shipped with couldn't quite hold 60 fps in a few of those late SVGA 3D games. Luckily, the 1.4GHz Celeron has no problem at all, and the games just look fabulous on a 21" CRT monitor.

I haven't used DOSBox in forever. Thinking of installing it just to see how a 4.6GHz 4930K handles Screamer 2 in SVGA. :lol:
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:12 pm

Oh man, Virtual ON makes me want to replay SHOGO M.A.D. again.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:30 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
Oh man, Virtual ON makes me want to replay SHOGO M.A.D. again.

Grrr! You just made me remember that I never did beat that last boss! He kept stepping on me! :evil:
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:47 am

kvndoom wrote:
Chrispy_ wrote:
Oh man, Virtual ON makes me want to replay SHOGO M.A.D. again.

Grrr! You just made me remember that I never did beat that last boss! He kept stepping on me! :evil:


That boss was trivial once you worked out that there was a door with a hatch in it too small for the boss but big enough for you. Pop off a couple of rockets whilst the boss runs around to the other side, and then pop back through the hatch again ;)

Just watch a youtube playthrough to get the end credits if you aren't going to play it again. IIRC the last boss and ending was pretty disappointing but the gunplay throughout the game was excellent and made the journey there more than worth it.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 09, 2018 10:35 am

Image
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Fri Mar 09, 2018 11:53 am

Chrispy_ wrote:
IIRC the last boss and ending was pretty disappointing but the gunplay throughout the game was excellent and made the journey there more than worth it.

Heh that sums up almost every FPS from the 90's.
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:18 pm

Like Rise of the Triad?
 
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Re: Bitchin'Fast! PC '99

Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:25 pm

Oh man, this is cool. And it brings back memories of my first computer.

We had a Gateway-brand PII-266 MHz, with a 66 MHz FSB and 16 MB of RAM, on a 440LX motherboard - the first PII chipset to support SDRAM and AGP.

Oh yeah, and a 4 GB hard drive. I remember that one of the first things we did was install the original Starcraft, that took up like 100 MB. I remember thinking, "Wow, 4 GB is so much! This hard drive will never be filled!"

And then we had an aftermarket PCI Voodoo3 that my brother picked up from one his friends who had upgraded to a better graphics card. Over the years, we also kept upgrading the RAM. I think we ended up somewhere around 128 MB.

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