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Retro Computers?


Gloves
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Administrator · Posted

I've been feeling an itch lately to play some older PC games and don't get me wrong GOG and DOSBox are cool and all, but... there's something DIFFERENT about playing on original hardware, we all know it.

So that got me to thinking - does anyone here have a "retro" PC for playing older games on? Let's say pre-2010 at the least. I'm feeling like I wanna play the Might and Magic games of old again, for instance.

It'd be nigh-on impossible for me personally to get a setup going like I'd want due to lack of space, but I'm still curious regardless if anyone else has an old PC setup going these days, what it looks like if so, and how you like it (and whether you even use it!).

Anybody?

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Administrator · Posted
Just now, MrPeaPod said:

It's funny that you say pre 2010 is retro. I bought my personal computer when I moved out in 2008. Still works like a charm

That's like... at LEAST. I'm personally thinking more early 2000's. The main game I wanna play for instance is from 1999.

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Homebrew Team · Posted

I built one in the last year or so.  Do it. 

I decided on windows 98 SE  / DOS build with 3-1/2" and 5-1/4" floppy drives based on what I wanted to do with it. 

@KHAN Games helped me with selecting the parts.  Selected a AMD K2 processor and built around that.  I used a modern case and modern power supply, and the rest was used parts.  Due to limited space, I used a scaler (Extron VSC-500) so I could use my PVM as a monitor. 

For ease of setup, I bought a floppy emulator (the image with a red number on the display), so I could install DOS very easy.  The rabbit hole goes deep with wave table chips for your sound card or DOS Wifi adapters,etc.  There are still BBS servers in use.

IMG_c30i5w.thumb.jpg.a450cd3383802b242b43485172d57565.jpg  IMG_-6y7lye.thumb.jpg.5ba0cb2e0e4d5e4e6693f0533776c438.jpg

 

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54 minutes ago, Gloves said:

I've been feeling an itch lately to play some older PC games and don't get me wrong GOG and DOSBox are cool and all, but... there's something DIFFERENT about playing on original hardware, we all know it.

So that got me to thinking - does anyone here have a "retro" PC for playing older games on? Let's say pre-2010 at the least. I'm feeling like I wanna play the Might and Magic games of old again, for instance.

It'd be nigh-on impossible for me personally to get a setup going like I'd want due to lack of space, but I'm still curious regardless if anyone else has an old PC setup going these days, what it looks like if so, and how you like it (and whether you even use it!).

Anybody?

I have to disagree that there is much different about playing PC games on older hardware versus newer, beyond the monitor.

If you want to emulate the old school feel, just set up a 15" CRT as a second screen through your VGA port, and get a classic IBM mechanical keyboard and, if you're feeling particularly masochistic, a ball-mouse to match.

The only "space" issue is whether you can fit a small CRT on your desk.  

 

The reality of the older era of PC games is that NOBODY had the same system configuration as anybody else, so no two people had an identical gaming experience, even with the same game, due to a host of differences that impacted frame rates, load times, input quality, etc.

So in all seriousness, you're best best is to just settle for making it "look old" with the monitor, and "feel old" with the period-correct keyboard and mouse.

Under the hood doesn't matter as long as you have DOSBox properly configured -- if you want to go REALLY deep into it, you could probably either mask the DOSBox with a front-end that looks like old Windows, or take it a level further and nest all of your DOS games into a DOSBox hosted implementation of DOS Shell.

But don't sweat the hardware... not worth the trouble IMO, and NOT a parallel for the differences between authentic console play and emulation where there are tactile and analog elements being lost.

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DOSBox definitely isn’t the same because it just works, lol. Old computers are a hassle in every way. If you (or your games) don’t like your DirectX version what do you do. Uninstall DirectX? Can’t. You reinstall Windows! Then you boot up Quake and realize you tricked out a Pentium II with era appropriate gear to play Quake at 35fps 512x384 resolution with a trackball mouse.

I’m giving the worst case scenario, but rarely do I find my old PCs the best way to play. They’re more fun in a tinkering sense.

Edited by DefaultGen
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Homebrew Team · Posted

Gloves don't let these people talk you out of it.  Play those games in those single digits fps glory.

DOS box isn't perfect.  Can't install windows on it.  3DFX emulation is in alpha.  Sound emulation is 80-95 % depending on card type.  90% compatibility with their game list.

Build you period PC with all the blinking lights, turbo switches, and clicking drives you want.  Confusing trouble shooting.  Hard to reach jumpers.  Why?  Because you can and you want to.

Drop mad money on Rolland sound equipment and IBM mechanical keyboards.

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4 minutes ago, Deadeye said:

Gloves don't let these people talk you out of it.  Play those games in those single digits fps glory.

DOS box isn't perfect.  Can't install windows on it.  3DFX emulation is in alpha.  Sound emulation is 80-95 % depending on card type.  90% compatibility with their game list.

Build you period PC with all the blinking lights, turbo switches, and clicking drives you want.  Confusing trouble shooting.  Hard to reach jumpers.  Why?  Because you can and you want to.

Drop mad money on Rolland sound equipment and IBM mechanical keyboards.

If his will can be shaken by someone whining about trackball mice and DirectX, he’s not allowed to build an old computer.

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4 minutes ago, Deadeye said:

Gloves don't let these people talk you out of it.  Play those games in those single digits fps glory.

DOS box isn't perfect.  Can't install windows on it.  3DFX emulation is in alpha.  Sound emulation is 80-95 % depending on card type.  90% compatibility with their game list.

Those compatibility numbers are probably better than most people managed on real hardware back-in-the-day 😛

It took a special kind of patience to get everything configured correctly and then cook up game-specific versions of autoexec.bat...

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Sigh I've wanted one, ruled out a total PC as well...space.  Then I was thinking laptop and I found a quality one, the Toshiba Satellite, around a P100 class type as they're about as far back as you can go where you can get a TFT panel and not one of those previously blurry messes if it scrolls in the least bit (which is why WIndows use to have that 'mouse trails' option back at Ver3 so you could at least find it.  The model I think has the CDT to it, your choice on number (the T is the TFT, S is for the old style that sucks.)

Ultimately I posed within the last week a question about this stuff on a group, and I got into a long evening with an aussie over messenger and he convinced me into setting up a third option, PCem.  A very easy to setup PC emulator, has a hell of a lot of BIOS options all found in another package, original free to use bios choices no less.  Obviously going with an OS, well that's legal to illegal if you own it or not.  I tried out my 3rd model of PC as i recalled it was just fast enough not to foul up early 90s games that didn't speed check (like Wing Commander) but fast enough to plow through anything DOS based and much of the Win98 era too.  I had DOS 6.22+Win3.x to start, but ultimately I picked a slightly nicer bios allowing me to simulate a P100 with 256(vs128)MB of RAM and I kept it at a 1GB HDD.  TO be honest in either case i was just shocked.

When you click start on it, it fired up the original BIOS the old PC did have and ran all its logical checks, then the autoexec.bat and config.sys took off doing their loads and boom, DOS (or Win98 booting) and it runs specifically to a precise point whatever parts you chose.  It was the first time in over a decade I could actually fire up and natively touch the likes of Sim Tower (and City Classic), HI-Octane for DOS, and other haters of DOSbox.)  It's all contained, starts, runs, and ends as if you were using a 2nd PC sitting on your desktop entirely independent of the hardware you use.

There's a heap of choices dozens of classic video cards up into the TNT/Voodoo2 era there, CPUs from the 4 known makers and clock speeds on that going into the hundreds at least I saw.  Might be worth a look as it's free to try and runs accurately too.  I was surprised what DOS commands after 20 years I was remembering and using like nothing changed.

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Oh and just to break it up now I'm skimming others posts.  I saw some pissy games pop up I actually did throw on here like Quake.  I've got it running in that classic resolution and pulling access to my optical drive which it thinks is a 24x CDROM and I had the awesome Quake CD soundtrack blaring large while playing out most of the entire E1 on standard difficulty.

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Editorials Team · Posted
1 hour ago, Deadeye said:

All that troubleshooting and tinkering is half the fun 🤷‍♂️

If you are on board with the statement above, building an old computer is for you.

After work, the kids, the wife, and the house, I don't need anymore jobs for a hobby 😄

Yes I just called my wife work.  Don't tell her.

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Administrator · Posted

Gloves have you tried VirtualBox and/or virtual machines?  That is what I use to play older games and it works really really well.  You can install DOS, Windows, etc etc.  I have a virtual machine with DOS, one with Windows 3.1, another with Windows 95, and they all work great.  You can use virtual floppy disks and virtual CD images to load content, and once you get the hang of it, it's really easy and you can swap between virtual machines.

If the extent of your diving into emulation here is DOSBox alone, consider that there are other options.  Virtual machines aren't perfect, but if you have a really good computer, it should be able to handle just about anything you throw at it.  

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Member · Posted
9 hours ago, Deadeye said:

All that troubleshooting and tinkering is half the fun 🤷‍♂️

You mean screaming at your computer because Windows 98 decided to take a dump and your eight hour progress disappeared in a blue screen?  Because that's what I remember from PC gaming back in the day. 😛 Those days are rightfully in the past. Those early Win9x builds were seriously shitty, we just put up with it because nothing else would play the games (aside from a few on Mac, which had its own laundry list of issues.)

In all seriousness, if Gloves wants to do the tinkering and what not, sure. And I get that you can have a (somewhat) more stable experience nowadays if set up right.

But for the rest of us, a modern PC will deliver 99% of the 80s/90s/00s PC gaming experience with like 1% or less of the hassle. As Arch said, just hook up retro peripherals and you got most of the feel.

Edited by Tulpa
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I've thought about it a few times, but only for a few minutes before coming to my senses.  I haven't given much thought to what I would consider a "retro" computer, but it would at the very least need to include a 3.5" floppy drive, but of course not so old that it doesn't also have a CD ROM drive.  

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Administrator · Posted
2 hours ago, spacepup said:

Gloves have you tried VirtualBox and/or virtual machines?  That is what I use to play older games and it works really really well.  You can install DOS, Windows, etc etc.  I have a virtual machine with DOS, one with Windows 3.1, another with Windows 95, and they all work great.  You can use virtual floppy disks and virtual CD images to load content, and once you get the hang of it, it's really easy and you can swap between virtual machines.

If the extent of your diving into emulation here is DOSBox alone, consider that there are other options.  Virtual machines aren't perfect, but if you have a really good computer, it should be able to handle just about anything you throw at it.  

I use VMs in my daily work life, I'm quite familiar with them.

Alas, what I'm looking for is that physical look & feel. The curve and glow of the CRT, etc.. No virtualization will change that I'm using a wireless mouse on a wireless charging mousepad with a fancy new mechanical keyboard and playing games on a super-ultra-wide monitor.

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Administrator · Posted

Oh, well, nevermind then 🙂

If having the old stuff is your thing, great.  The practicality and convenience of using modern hardware makes it worth the trade-off for me personally, but it's really just personal preference.  Good luck to you in finding the right retro setup.

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50 minutes ago, Gloves said:

I use VMs in my daily work life, I'm quite familiar with them.

Alas, what I'm looking for is that physical look & feel. The curve and glow of the CRT, etc.. No virtualization will change that I'm using a wireless mouse on a wireless charging mousepad with a fancy new mechanical keyboard and playing games on a super-ultra-wide monitor.

Then just attach a 15" CRT with a VGA cable and hook up an old IBM clicky-keyboard and 2-button ball-mouse 😛  "Look and feel" is the absolute easiest part to do 😛

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Administrator · Posted
3 minutes ago, arch_8ngel said:

Then just attach a 15" CRT with a VGA cable and hook up an old IBM clicky-keyboard and 2-button ball-mouse 😛  "Look and feel" is the absolute easiest part to do 😛

Yeah I never said it had to be hard lol. I'm saying I ain't got the spaaaaace, son.

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Member · Posted

I don’t have much of anything set up right now due to budget-driven renovation delays, but yes I have an old computer for games. It’s a Gateway minitower with a 433MHz Celery, 96MB RAM, and Windows 95. I have a PS/2 optical mouse and a giant clicky IBM keyboard. 

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PCEM is a great way to experience DOS and Windows 9x from a gaming point of view. It works extremely well.

I have a few vintage setups from the XT era to the 2000s. My main rig has been a Socket A setup for a while now but I just recently picked up a Slot 1 based MATX board with an onboard Voodoo 3 I'm itching to test out.

Space is an issue, I had a spare room set up for gaming until a friend was made homeless recently. I'm letting him stay for a while and have it all in storage atm.

Edited by Cepp
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