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Thread: Best computer for old DOS games

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    I think you're better off putting together the hardware yourself. In order to make good use of DOS, you really need to know things like what IRQ's are free, and how to arrange your conventional memory and such. If you're going to go the hardcore route, then you might as well go all the way and learn how to do it properly.

    Installing hardware really isn't all that hard. It's usually just a matter of stuffing the card into the computer and loading the appropriate driver. Most drivers are still readily available on the internet, even though they're 20+ years old. The main hard part is sound cards, where you need to know IRQ, DMA, I/O addresses, etc. With some cards, this kind of stuff can be set with jumpers (you might need to find a scan of the manual on the internet to find out what jumpers are what)... otherwise, sometimes the easiest way is to just guess at values until a game works, then write down those numbers on a sticky note that you keep on the computer itself so you don't forget 'em.

    --Zero

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soviet Conscript View Post
    really? well mine is comeing with a mouse/keyboard and a color monitor for $20 so i may still pick it up for the novelty of it
    If it's a Model M keyboard, that's definitely a keeper, or at least good for eBay. But the computer might as well be a doorstop.
    Quote Originally Posted by phreakindee View Post
    A PB, NEC, Compaq... something else from the time would be MUCH more doable!
    No, no, definitely not a Packard Bell.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_ro View Post
    Installing hardware really isn't all that hard.
    Oh, it's not that simple either... If you've got a random assortment of parts, there's all kinds of wacky little obscure compatibility issues that might pop up - and that's assuming all your parts are completely functional to begin with, and they might very not be.

    The first example that comes to mind is RAM - you can't just toss any old SIMMs into your available slots willy-nilly; some of the motherboards were mighty particular about exactly what went where.
    "There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." --Bertrand Russel (attributed)

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    I expect a lot of people will disagree with me, but if you want an "Out of the box" early 90's computer that you don't need to fuss with much, you might want to consider an IBM PS/1. They're small, compact, and DOS is on ROM so it boots in an instant. All the hardware is proprietary, though, so don't expect to ever upgrade it.

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    well, after a few days of playing around with the PS/2 i don't find it that horrible...but then i havn't tried playing alot on it

    it acually is a decent condition M model keyboard. i also like the monitor that came with it, its wierd but i like how easy it swivels. i've always been a sucker for desktop style pc's over towers

    i have hit a wall with its expansion bus system though. none ISA is a pain. i want to put a sound card in it but apperently they didn't make many for it

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    Yeah, the lack of expansions became the biggest reason I never got one. Somewhat ironic that some of its other aspects became "standard" like the PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports.
    PC Game Collector - DOS and beyond

    Lazy Game Reviews

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    Ya, im looking for good pc for early and mid 90's to play the classic Lucasarts games and stuff like that. I would like it to have a 5.25 inch drive also are those easy to find or harder? Goodwill maybe?
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    Quote Originally Posted by leicamaster View Post
    Ya, im looking for good pc for early and mid 90's to play the classic Lucasarts games and stuff like that.
    You've heard of ScummVM, right?
    I would like it to have a 5.25 inch drive also are those easy to find or harder? Goodwill maybe?
    The only way you'll find out is to go visit your local Goodwill and see for yourself, isn't it?

    Do you have a lot of 5.25" disks you want to use with this drive? It's not like blanks are easy to find anymore, and they were never particularly reliable.
    "There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." --Bertrand Russel (attributed)

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    I have scumm vm but i still want n original machine. I have to go to goodwill again and check
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    Quote Originally Posted by leicamaster View Post
    I have scumm vm but i still want n original machine. I have to go to goodwill again and check
    I hope your goodwill doesn't do like mine do and ship all thier computer related items to a central store. all the goodwills in my area ship all things computer related to a "goodwill computer center" in downtown Pittsburgh. up side is all the pc stuff is centralized, bad part is you have to drive into the god forsaken city that never understood the concept of street planning.

    its ok if you don't use your 5.25 drive. its like haveing a really fast car. your never going to legally be able to drive on the street at those speeds but it just makes you feel warm inside knowing you could.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soviet Conscript View Post
    I hope your goodwill doesn't do like mine do and ship all thier computer related items to a central store. all the goodwills in my area ship all things computer related to a "goodwill computer center" in downtown Pittsburgh. up side is all the pc stuff is centralized, bad part is you have to drive into the god forsaken city that never understood the concept of street planning.

    its ok if you don't use your 5.25 drive. its like haveing a really fast car. your never going to legally be able to drive on the street at those speeds but it just makes you feel warm inside knowing you could.
    My goodwill does the same thing but I know the people who work their and they call me when they get 80s computers
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    You can always hit up ebay for Socket 7 hardware. I keep a ton of it around. My current Dos/Windows98/ME gaming system I have thrown together is a Socket 7 AMD K6-3 400 mhz system. I paired it with a lan card, Geforce 256, and a AWE 32. So far it hasnt given me any problems. I use it to run stuff like Megarace, Screamers,Quake, Wolfenstien, Duke Nukem, Mortal Kombat, ect. Pretty much has me covered for DOS and Direct X gaming up to Direct X 6. Alot of Socket 7 hardware is just ATX and Micro ATX based, so you could easily use a newer style case and power supply if you need to. You can also go the Pentium 2/3 slot-1 way. 440BX was pretty reliable for its time. I have a friend who uses that platform specifically for his DOS box. Stuffs dirt cheap.

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    What's the motherboard you're using? If it's a K6-3, I reckon it must be a Super Socket 7 with AGP. (400 MHz is a little fast for older games, isn't it?)

    Also, does it have USB? If not, how do you transfer files over to it?
    "There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." --Bertrand Russel (attributed)

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    http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/...ProductID=1578

    Thats the board Im using. Yea it supports USB, but I mean, I can transfer stuff over to it via cd also. I have two cd-r burners in the system. Yea some would consider 400 mhz a bit much, but it comes in handy for Quake and alot of the other more 3d'ish Dos based games, along with Direct X based stuff. I like to use it for a large range of games.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jorpho View Post
    Do you have a lot of 5.25" disks you want to use with this drive? It's not like blanks are easy to find anymore, and they were never particularly reliable.
    Actually, my experience has been that 5.25" disks are more reliable in the long run... though most of that experience is with double density disks.

    Anyways, if you collect retail games, quite a few of them are on 5.25" disks. I have a real copy of Pools of Darkness, and it includes the game on 2 high-density 5.25" disks AND 3 double-density 3.5" disks... so in at least that case, the 5.25" disks are actually a tiny bit easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by leicamaster View Post
    I have scumm vm but i still want n original machine.
    In many respects, ScummVM actually does a better job than an original machine does... same with Exult vs. actual Ultima VII. But whatever, we're certainly not here building DOS machines because it's the practical solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by PC-ENGINE HELL View Post
    Yea some would consider 400 mhz a bit much
    Certainly no more unnecessary than 2 CD burners... what's the point of that?

    --Zero
    Last edited by Ze_ro; 01-31-2010 at 01:00 AM.

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    Burners are in there because I have more burners laying around then normal drives these days, and they tend to read short strategy disc alot better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PC-ENGINE HELL View Post
    I can transfer stuff over to it via cd also.
    I suppose that's an option if you have huge quantities of CD-Rs that you don't mind treating as a disposable commodity.
    "There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." --Bertrand Russel (attributed)

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    I've always had trouble with that myself. I can't bring myself to waste a CD when it's only 5MB worth of data. I know they're cheap, but it still bothers me at some level. CD-RW's would seem like a great idea, but I have a bad history with RW's somehow becoming unrecoverable coasters, and I no longer trust them enough to buy them.

    At one point, I tried getting a Zip drive setup going... I had found some drives at the local thrift store, and some disks, and it seemed like the perfect solution. However, I had a ton of trouble getting any of it working (possibly due to the infamous click of death, though I'm still not entirely sure). I've since found a few different mechanisms that might make things a bit easier, but past experience has really soured me on the idea.

    At another point, I put a USB add-in card into the computer, but getting USB working under DOS is a nightmare in itself. Most of the tools available are geared towards using USB hard drives, and generally don't do anything other than USB mass storage. At the time, I had no USB flash drives, but was trying to get things working with an SD card reader. It's USB mass storage, right? Shouldn't be much different from a hard drive, right? Well all I managed to accomplish was corrupting the file system on the SD card, and wasting tons of conventional memory on USB drivers.

    What I usually do is use the "split" command in Unix to break large files up into 1.4MB pieces, which I then take to the other computer on floppy disks. Once I have all the pieces, the DOS copy command can be used to recombine them. Not a particularly fun way of doing things, but at least it feels less wasteful.

    If none of those options appeal to you (which I would certainly understand!), you could always connect the DOS machine to your modern PC via the network. Set up an FTP server on your PC and use an FTP client on the DOS machine to copy the files over. Internet software for DOS can be a little dicey (and lord help you if you try it in Win 3.1), but you'd be surprised at how many ethernet card manufacturers still offer DOS drivers for their cards. I keep planning to do this some day, but my DOS machine is in the basement while the rest of my network is on the main floor, which causes some problems.

    --Zero
    Last edited by Ze_ro; 02-01-2010 at 01:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_ro View Post
    CD-RW's would seem like a great idea, but I have a bad history with RW's somehow becoming unrecoverable coasters, and I no longer trust them enoug to buy them.
    Aye, likewise.
    Most of the tools available are geared towards using USB hard drives, and generally don't do anything other than USB mass storage.
    In the limited experience I've had with them, they're not so bad. Those USB expansion cards are still $20 a pop, though. The last one I tried had some weird power consumption issues.
    At the time, I had no USB flash drives, but was trying to get things working with an SD card reader. It's USB mass storage, right? Shouldn't be much different from a hard drive, right? Well all I managed to accomplish was corrupting the file system on the SD card, and wasting tons of conventional memory on USB drivers.
    Apparently there are Compact Flash-to-IDE adapters that will work even on very, very old computers, but I've never tried them myself. Plus I reckon they might not be plug-and-play.
    Internet software for DOS can be a little dicey (and lord help you if you try it in Win 3.1)
    If you have Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, apparently it's not bad at all. But dealing with DOS drivers is just icky. You might as well try a null modem cable if you go that way - not that I had much success with that either.
    "There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." --Bertrand Russel (attributed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jorpho View Post
    Apparently there are Compact Flash-to-IDE adapters that will work even on very, very old computers, but I've never tried them myself. Plus I reckon they might not be plug-and-play.
    I've actually wanted to do this with my DOS computer for a while... take out the hard drives, and just have a CF slot on the front of the computer hooked straight into the main IDE channel. Then I could just have a CF card with an MS-DOS install, another with Win 98, and another with OS/2 for whatever reason. These days it's hard to find good deals on compact flash though, as the format is largely obsolete.

    If you have Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, apparently it's not bad at all. But dealing with DOS drivers is just icky. You might as well try a null modem cable if you go that way - not that I had much success with that either.
    Well, I lived through the early days of the internet on Win 3.1, and it was NOT fun... screwing around with Trumpet Winsock and such. I gladly would have lived entirely from the DOS command line, except Netscape only worked in Windows

    --Zero

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jorpho View Post
    I suppose that's an option if you have huge quantities of CD-Rs that you don't mind treating as a disposable commodity.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_ro View Post
    I've always had trouble with that myself. I can't bring myself to waste a CD when it's only 5MB worth of data. I know they're cheap, but it still bothers me at some level. CD-RW's would seem like a great idea, but I have a bad history with RW's somehow becoming unrecoverable coasters, and I no longer trust them enough to buy them.
    I think you guys got me all wrong here. I do have large quantities of cd-rs, but I don't treat them as disposable if I can help it. Ill only toss a disc out if its gone bad due to the ink rotting or its a bad burn, and I dont just leave the stuff laying around. The reason I use burners is because older normal cd drives tend to have a harder time reading anything burned on newer short strategy (Ritek Co. ect) disc.

    As with that, I wont burn anything on a disc unless its required, ISO, ect, or its enough data to fill up the majority of the disc. Burning off just one or two Dos games per disc would be a huge waste. Just not something Id be willing to do. On the CD-RW thing, yea I've ha d a bad history with them too. They tend to go bad early. Also, they have a knack for killing some burners quicker, so I stopped using them around 4 years ago.

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