Gaming like it's 1999 Version 2.o

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

Dad Pun Joke Master Over Nine Thousand Meme Lord
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It's extremely rare to be lucky but it happened again. In the last few days at my employment, I was walking about the place to say goodbye when I come about an old room that, from what it seems, hasn't been checked or opened in years. And there it was sitting with enough dust on top to make you think it's a remain from Pompei. The curvy shape looks familiar ... a sight common in the 90s and some early 2000, PC cases that look boring beige but funky shape. What catches my eye immediately is the badge on the front, something that I have not seen in a very long time:
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Windows 98 is exactly what I was looking for ... I start to get excited, ideas running in my Brian like a pinball ball, I could feel my ears trembling from hitting the high score :p ... but before I go to ahead of myself I start double-checking, dusting off the literal decades of remains off the computer I start chocking ... I think to myself: So that's why Indiana Jones caught so much when he finds the stuff he is looking for.
Turning it to the side I get a shot of adrenaline and my heart starts racing:
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So it's not just a badge of a recycled PC case to be used in an office ... even the copyright year confirms that the license is given before Windows XP was a twinkle in Bill Gate's nutsack :p ... but I shake myself to reality and tell myself loudly: DOUBLE CHECK IT'S WHAT I NEED ... so I do and turn the computer another 90 degrees to see what kind of ports it has:
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Ok ... the first thing that I stick my eyeball like a fly to sugar is the video output ... and there it is full VGA card ... that means it can do games (of its era of course), so I'm on the right course, then I notice it has a sound add-in card ... that makes me realize that it's going to be a challenge to get audio output if I can't find the right driver. Then I notice 2 network cards by their Ethernet port, but one seems odd, it's smaller than I am used to but then it hit me ... the dreaded 54K modem ... ET PHONE HOME :p
And I get another piece in its puzzle of history: the electrical check sticker ... I hate those, so ugly, but it's to be expected of offices in the UK ... Last it was checked was 2003 with the next one scheduled for 2004 ... well there was no other sticker on it so they didn't make it that far? Talking to my boss he says that the computer was there before he started working there in 2006, making me think that this machine may have not felt any electrons for 17 years.

With the approval of my (now) ex-boss, I can have it since it has no value for the place ... but he was worried about any personal data on it (and given that Microsoft called Windows 98 secure if you have a user account with a passport all you need to do when you boot up the PC is click the X box instead of putting in the password and voila: you're in :p) I assured him that I can leave him the hard drive that has the data on, though he probably won't ever know what to do with it).

So here I am on my 2nd journey to gaming like it's 1999 ... through and through.
To be continued ...
 
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Some terrifying memories I have deeply repressed! My family never had a computer till something like 2003, so XP was the first system in our house growing up, but my aunt did have Windows 95, 98 and ME machines in the years preceding that. I was into poetry and Tolkien's conlangs back then, so I do remember ravaging her supply of printer ink and paper, printing out whole volumes of web pages packed with text back in the day. I actually really wish the internet still resembled the glorious free repository of everything there for the taking, if you just knew what to look for - instead of today's gatekept, curated echo chambers which somehow simultaneously make you feel like there's nothing new on the internet while trying to occupy tour every minute with some 'new' thing.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

Dad Pun Joke Master Over Nine Thousand Meme Lord
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Part 2 ...
My research has been very difficult. The Internet never forgets? Not true, as information gets older it can very easily get lost, potentially even forever. There are sites and programs to salvage and store the old information but it's an insurmountable effort to do so.
The first wall I hit was finding the information, like manual, maintenance, software, and driver support for the computer. It was not helped by the fact that this model of computer shares the name with an HP printer ... turning Google from the smartest uncle ever into those grandpas that don't know what you are talking about. So I procrastinate on that issue and turn my attention to the hardware aspect of the problem: Mentenance!

So I go blindly in with no backup and on the hope that I can remember the old ways of computer building ... before everything was standardized and pretty much plug & play.
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To my surprise the dust was not as bad as I thought it might be ... but this tends to be a sign that the computer was not used very long and it was left to its own *cough* devices *cough* (sorry, I couldn't not do it).

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My first piece of information: The motherboard is model K7M ... but no brand/maker on it. Another problem that will have to go into my pocket. And one of the first old friend shows up, dear AGP, haven't seen you since GeForce MX 440 back in high school.

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Speaking of "the old days" I was a bit taken back to find out that the power supply fan does not get its power from its own built-in board to the likes of modern power supplies. Nope, the black and green 3 pin connector take the power off the motherboard. Need to document everything to make sure I will plug in everything as it should be because I can't rely on my memories or the "modern" way of building a PC.

After taking out the angle plastic housing fan cooler for the CPU and the side-mounted power supply I have finally access to the inside ... but it's not easy because the drive cage overhangs over the motherboard ... so off I go taking everything out for cleaning and if needed repasting. While doing this delivery arrives and I got a new syringe of thermal paste and an IDE hard drive.
Yes, this PC is before the standardization of SATA connector, so I needed a Parallel ATA connection (also called IDE) where you can mount a maximum of 2 drives per cable and it HAS to be put one drive as Master (typical for hard drives) and one as Slave (usually CD or DVD drives) by using a 2 pin jumper. Also, I need to take into consideration that Windows 98 has a limit of hard drives that can be addressed per partition because of the limitation of 28-bit LBA where each sector holds 525 bytes only so the limit is 127 GB. So I got my hands on a:
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It may seem little 80GB but games back then were measured in hundreds of MB on average so it should be fine for "Hail to The King Baby" :p

For the other drives, we have the usual (Japanese branded) floppy drive:
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I can't wait to hear the sweet sounds of floppy disk loading up at the speed of grandma making a cup of tea on an old whistling teapot.

The CD-Writer drive is a nice touch though, and another confirmation that this is an 2000-era PC (check the label date):
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I was surprised that it had a DVD drive, though it's only a ROM reader so no DVD making for me ... not that there are a lot of things I could use DVD on, it would have been nice to be able to get some DVD games to play and collect:
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Now I am getting into the nitty and gritty stuff, first off the RAM:
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Now here's a company I haven't heard of in so many years, Infineon, in actuality the company was founded in 1999 so this piece of memory was pretty brand new on the market. And this goes back a lot because it's not even Double Data RAM that we have today, it's the Single Data RAM type where the memory can communicate only one way to the CPU, making the CPU wait for the data to be read before it can send any commands to write data into the RAM. The sticks are not the same so it could affect the performance, with a mismatch of 64 MB at slow 100 MHz with another 128 MB at faster 133 MHz but slower CL3 instead of CL2. Still, 196 MB RAM should still be more than enough for Windows 98 because Windows 98 had some severe hardware limitations, where 256 MB RAM was a limit to stability, where 512 MB and 1 GB RAM was so uncommon that Microsoft did not bother to optimize Windows 98 for it and peeps can get into the error of the like of NOT ENOUGH MEMORY. I will consider in the future replacing them with a dual-stick of 128 MB RAM of the same maker and model if possible.

Now to the bread and pudding of a gaming PC: THE GPU
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This beauty is nVidia's 5th GPU chipset though it wasn't called that back then, RIVA TNT2 stands for Real-time Interactive Video and Animation accelerator. It was the precursor to the first GeForce GPU, built on 250nm (which feels huge compared to today's 5nm process) it had 32MB VRAM and a clock of 100 MHz (a far cry from 8GB VRAM of today and clocks from 1.5 GHz to 2.5 GHz). Googling the model number from the top tells me it's an ASUS manufactured V3800M 32MB Riva TNT M64 Vanta, which is the lowest model of Riva TNT models.
To my surprise, the specs say it can output 1920x1200 at 32 bpp from its VGA port ... though my intention and hope is 1280x1024 or 1024x768 resolutions. This was the only item I actually managed to repaste and I am glad I did because the paste on it was drier than a holiday in the Mojave Desert because the cab driver couldn't understand my Romanian accent when I said Las Vegas ... or it could have been the mugging to the bone and dropping my ass in the literal sense of the word in the desert. :p

I may consider looking for one of the 3dfx Voodoo cards as a replacement for better image quality and performance ... though they are not easy or cheap to find.

Next up is the oh'so juicy CPU:
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And here things got a bit more interesting. It's an SECC type CPU, it's slots in like an add-on card, instead of a pin socket. This was more common for Pentium II, which was the 2nd PC I had as a kid. But instead of an Intel, it's an AMD Athlon CPU. Model number A0800 means it's an 800 MHz K7, code-named Thunderbird. Built on 180nm it had an L2 cache of 256KB but because of the size of the chip and the cache they could not integrate the cache on the die itself (as you would find with later models of the likes of AMD K9 and Pentium III/4). Once the cache was integrated on the die the packaging was moved to Socket 462 which is the more "normal" pin array grid type.
It's a bit higher than I expected, initially, I was thinking of the Intel Pentium II, running at around 200 to 300 MHz. I will have to see how this will affect some of the "ancient" games that were made in DOS for CPUs running at sub 100 MHz.
Also, this was the biggest snag I hit hardware-wise, I wanted to repaste the CPU since we are talking about 21 years of age, the old paste would be more solid than most bridges in the USA with no maintenance done on them since Rosevelt was partying in the White House. But I could not get past the indestructible casing of SECC cooling, they were designed and built to be disabled with specialized power tools that look like they might get me onto the FBI's most wanted. So I had to give up on that because I don't want to damage it.

Most of the dust was set on the motherboard and the CPU but since that's where the only PC fan was on I am not surprised, using comprised air can .. actually 2 of them ... I got most of the dust out.
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One item that I was very happy to be surprised by was the latest technology of its era: USB 1.1 ... front panel USB 1.1 no less :)

What I have, seem, to forget was that back then integrated audio was not a feature of computers or motherboards. But I am happy the PC had a Creative sound card nevertheless. Nothing fancy here like the famous SoundBlasters:
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The 2 oddities, for me, were the network cards:
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The first one is a Conexant RS56 PCI 56K Modem card which seems to date back to 2002, so it's most likely a later addition to the computer?
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The 2nd one is a more "modern" ADMtek AN938B PCI Network card with 10/100MB per second, which dates back to around 2004, possibly needed an upgrade for the office to keep up with the network requirements?
But both are pretty much useless for me since I do not intend to connect the PC to the Internet EVER ... why? I'm glad you asked, I present to you: Weird Al

Time to put everything back together ... and I hit a snag, an ancient remnant coming back to haunt me more than unsolved cases from The X-Files: a permanent standoff bolted in the case used to guide motherboards installation BUT they can open up like flowers, blocking the motherboard screw-hole to fit in and risking damage. The scratches are me trying to squeeze the standoff back together ... which mind you "they" thought it was a good idea to make it from steel:
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The only modification I made to the PC is to cut the cord of the front Parallel port because the cable was quite thick and was difficult to route ... and I have no device or interest to connect anything THAT big to the front of the PC:
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But, unfortunately, I done £$ up when putting the front panel back in because one of the screws of the parallel port snapped off ... it's not the end of the world ... just a computer with a lazy eye :p
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Everything is in its place and it looks a lot better then before:
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Cable management is a nightmare ... don't even mind the Skiddle muster rainbow colors of the cables, trying to bend those damn IDE cables is like trying to give Yoga lessons to grandparents ... either you feel something going wrong or you can hear the 999 calls in your mind. Also the atypical shape of the power supply means if it dies I might have to got to heaven to ask God for one because I doubt SATAN himself never seen one of those before :p
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Now? Things are a lot more complicated than I expected: I CAN'T FIND A BLOODY CRT MONITOR ANYWHERE ... well to an extent. These ancient mammoths are so heavy it could literally break the Royal Mail's spine if anyone tries to ship one ... so the only option is trying to find one locally. Anywhere I asked if they have one they had to go in the backroom and grab a grandpa that can remember what they are anymore :p (joking of course).
For the last 2 months, I haven't found anything. And I'm not even looking for hidden gems that can do 1600x1200 or high refresh rates like 120 Hz, any 1280x1024, or 1024x768 at 60 Hz or 75 Hz.
Other considerations I need to think of is peripherals but I am not decided on going era accurate (and very crappy) PS2 keyboard and mouse or just a typical USB keyboard and mouse ... I don't dare mention or think of wireless options unless I want to open a portal to the Multiverse and have Doctor Strange conduct a vasectomy on my madness.

I did get my hands on an OEM Windows 98 Second Edition installation CD so I am almost ready ... if not for being blind (no monitor) and armless (no peripherals). As for drivers, it's going to be a hunt down the darkest and most forgotten corners of the Internet, asking admins and servers questions that might test my madness and patience.

To be continued ...
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

Dad Pun Joke Master Over Nine Thousand Meme Lord
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Ovidiu
Some terrifying memories I have deeply repressed! My family never had a computer till something like 2003, so XP was the first system in our house growing up, but my aunt did have Windows 95, 98 and ME machines in the years preceding that. I was into poetry and Tolkien's conlangs back then, so I do remember ravaging her supply of printer ink and paper, printing out whole volumes of web pages packed with text back in the day. I actually really wish the internet still resembled the glorious free repository of everything there for the taking, if you just knew what to look for - instead of today's gatekept, curated echo chambers which somehow simultaneously make you feel like there's nothing new on the internet while trying to occupy tour every minute with some 'new' thing.
I know the feeling, my first PC was a dirt-cheap 386 PC back in 1996 and we were the first family in the apartment block to have a computer. Until 1999 when we got a Pentium II because we needed it for school at that point ... and my mom was working at (if anyone can still remember these) Internet Caffee and she got a decommissioned computer for us. Those were the most intense gaming days as a kid, discovering Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Warcraft, Sim City, Doom, Knights and Merchants, Diablo, Half-Life, etc.
Windows 98 was so bad I had to install it every 3 months because it became unstable and corrupt ... then I dared to be stupid:
https://i.ytimg.com/an_webp/SMhwddN...Kjs4ocG&rs=AOn4CLCxKvSRuDPnNcO6IuUgPAf_0UrxCA
... and accepted Weird Al's challenge and installed Windows ME/2000 ... and I have never been the same since (or so everyone keeps telling me).

I still remember ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, Alta Vista, IRC, Punkbuster, AOL, Encarta Encyclopedia before Wiki and Google existed,
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

Dad Pun Joke Master Over Nine Thousand Meme Lord
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An Athlon slocket, now that is a rarity! The TNT card wasn't bad either. And yeah, what's your boss going to do with an IDE drive?
I think he was just worried about any information (reports, emails, and other types of files and information) of the company and their clients. I can understand why and it's understandable. But I don't think he will do anything with that hard drive, the information is probably outdated, and he has about as much knowledge about tech as this guy's mustache:
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He probably just threw it in the bin after I left.
 
Last edited:

Darmok N Jalad

Temba, his aperture wide
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Tanagra (not really)
I think he was just worried about any information (reports, emails, and other types of files and information) of the company and their clients. I can understand why and it's understandable. But I don't think he will do anything with that hard drive, the information is probably outdated, and he has about as much knowledge about tech as much as this guy's mustache:
View attachment 899739
He probably just threw it in the bin after I left.
He really needs to have a better data retention policy!

I still have an Encarta 1995 cd-rom, along with some other items. I even have Links 386 on floppies...somewhere.
 

davidzvi

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I know the feeling, my first PC was a dirt-cheap 386 PC back in 1996 and we were the first family in the apartment block to have a computer. Until 1999 when we got a Pentium II because we needed it for school at that point ... and my mom was working at (if anyone can still remember these) Internet Caffee and she got a decommissioned computer for us. Those were the most intense gaming days as a kid, discovering Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Warcraft, Sim City, Doom, Knights and Merchants, Diablo, Half-Life, etc.
Windows 98 was so bad I had to install it every 3 months because it became unstable and corrupt ... then I dared to be stupid:
https://i.ytimg.com/an_webp/SMhwddN...Kjs4ocG&rs=AOn4CLCxKvSRuDPnNcO6IuUgPAf_0UrxCA
... and accepted Weird Al's challenge and installed Windows ME/2000 ... and I have never been the same since (or so everyone keeps telling me).

I still remember ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, Alta Vista, IRC, Punkbuster, AOL, Encarta Encyclopedia before Wiki and Google existed,
My first computers were always about $2500. But my brother had an original IBM PC that was about $5,000. I ended up with it and sold it just a couple years ago. It still worked and had a hard drive mounted on an ISO card, often referred to as a HardCard (but it wasn't one of the HardCard branded ones). My mother also use to sell DEC Raindow 100's (Digital Equip Co). That was early 80's.

Windows 98? Call me when you need help with DOS or Windows 3.1/3.11. Pretty sure I have actually forgotten any CP/M I might have known.
 

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