As I may have leaked on my latest podcast, I am attempting to rebuild an old computer so I can relive the 1990s. I want to install Windows 98 on it, and play some old games on it from time to time. I don't plan on using it any more than that (maybe a perverse desire to run other things from the time). I had some stuff lying around, and I need to buy some more.
When my uncle died about two years ago, I was able to salvage two computers. One case had an Athlon and a few drives (CD, hard, floppy). The other had a Pentium II and quite a few drives (CD, floppy, and multiple HDs). I had tried to do this when I originally got them, and I think I got as far as to install Windows on the P2, but then it died.
Due to some weird nostalgia trip of late (cause unknown), I have been wanting to finally do something with them. I have determined that the video cards probably died. The Athlon no longer shows life. The P2 turns on, but I have no video signal. I have determined that the Athlon runs (ran?) at 800 MHz, and the P2 is 300 MHz with a 66 MHz FSB.
I want to really get the P2 running, since it is the older machine. I hope that it is from a nice era between Windows XP and DOS where DOS stuff still works, but the machine overall still has a hint of modernity (like AGP and DirectX). It is also the slower machine, which can help certain aspects where things were not programmed with an awareness of Moore's Law.
The first thing I realized I needed I got last, which is OK. I have bought a RAGE 128 card off Ebay. Ironically, that is the same (or almost the same) kind of video card that came with a computer that I helped buy in 2002. After being griefed long enough by it, I destroyed it (around 2005 or so) after I upgraded to a All-In-Wonder 9600 XT.
I also wanted to get a new power supply. Luckily, I am aware that there was quite a change in PSUs around 2004 or so. It was about that time that Pentium 4s were popular, along with their electric hogging tendencies. It seemed like the whole PC industry realized that it was better to power most everything off the PSU's 12 volt rail, as opposed to the 5 or 3.3 volt rails, as had been the case up to then. I needed to get a power supply that supplied more amps to the other rails (as suitable for this vintage hardware), as opposed to the 12 volt one. There's apparently standards: ATX12V 1.x have heavy 5/3.3V rails; ATX12V 2.x have heavy 12V rails. I bought a ATX12V 1.something one.
When checking out a manual for the motherboard, I noticed that the 512 MB sticks of RAM I had are probably too far ahead of this machine's time. To be safe, I bought 2x 128 MB sticks. I know from experience that Windows 98 is OK with 24 MB; it should be thrilled with 256.
If the P2 still decides not to work, I still have a Duron CPU plus motherboard at my parents house, and I should be able to get that running with these (except RAM maybe) if this steadfastly refuses.
But all of this would not be an exact 20th century experience. I have a 15" or so CRT lying around that I plug into my server, on the off chance I have to do something that serious to it. I have a friend that has several 17" or so Dell CRT monitors just lying around his house, and I might try one of those out too. I also ordered a ball mouse and plain keyboard. Oh yes: no optical mouse sensors here, I'm going all in! If I can find any crappy "multimedia" speakers (perhaps ones that hang on the monitor), I'll get those too. I suppose it wouldn't be complete without dial-up internet, but I'm willing to let that one slide, especially since I don't have a landline.
Things should be here next week, and I'll keep you posted.