Baby steps: CF card adapter

In my previous work installing the system to an IDE-CF adapter, I’ve just been using one that I had lying around. This cheap-o adapter has only 2 mounting holes, and appears to be designed for some sort of permanent install in a 2.5″ drive bay or something. Obviously, I needed something better for a permanent solution.

That solution arrived today in the form of this adapter which mounts to a rear expansion card slot. This allows the card to protrude from the rear, and I’ll be able to swap / remove it without opening the case. Yay!

Unfortunately (there’s always an “unfortunately”, isn’t there?) this required installing a longer IDE cable than the one the machine came with. I discovered that I’m down to my last IDE ribbon cable, somehow. Luckily it was long enough, so I’m saved for the moment.

I installed the adapter in the “reserved” slot below the graphics card. I was never going to use this slot, anyway, as I wanted the space for a future GPU upgrade that required a fan. The adapter is pretty short, and hopefully I’ll still have clearance for that future upgrade. At least for now, though, this is a much better solution and finally allows me to close the case on this beauty.

Cards, cards, and MOAR CARDS!

Ah, that’s more like it. Feels good to get a few more cards into this thing. From top to bottom, we have:

  • Creative Nvidia TNT2 32MB AGP Graphics
  • Linksys LNE100TX PCI Ethernet
  • Adaptec 29160N SCSI Host Adapter
  • Creative AWE-32 ISA Sound Card w/ 8MB RAM

And I still have one PCI/ISA (combo) slot left. Technically I have one more PCI slot, but it’s right up against the AGP slot and I want to leave room for a fan-cooled GPU in the future, so I’m declaring that slot “off limits” to cards.

The GPU I talked about in the previous post. The Ethernet card was just a PCI card I had lying around and it should do the job. Plus it’s got a socket for a boot ROM in case I want to burn an iPXE netboot ROM for it (or any other ROM shenanigans I want to undertake). Somehow I’ve managed to acquire two Adaptec 29160 SCSI adapters, so it’s obvious I should shove one of them into this GP6.

The AWE-32 is, I believe, the only component I still have from my original Windows 98 machine. It came in a 486 that I bought for a family member and I’ve held onto it for ~25 years. Until now, it’s been housed in my Compaq Deskpro 386/20e. I had to dig that desktop out of the depths of my shelves to liberate it. It’s quite a lovely machine (yellowing aside) and pretty easy to get inside to swap cards.

I need to find a card to replace it, so again – back into the tub. I came up with these two ISA cards (I thought I had more, honestly): An Ensoniq Soundscape VIVO 90, and a Creative VIBA 16 Sound Blaster card. The Compaq is already set up for SB drivers, so I’ll pop the VIBRA 16 in here for now. It’s an incredibly budget card, but it will do in a pinch.

The AWE-32 is an amazing card. While it had a (crappy) on-board ROM wavetable instrument set, it also supported up to 12MB of sample RAM via 30-pin SIMM slots, similar to the Gravis Ultrasound. Unfortunately, not a lot of games (or demos) supported this card, so I mostly use it for a couple of MOD players that do support it. I have 8MB in this card at the moment. Funny thing about this AWE-32: When it was in the Compaq Deskpro, it had more RAM on it than the system it was installed in. 🤣

Isn’t it beautiful?

Decision 1: Video card

Decisions, decisions. As I said in my previous post, my original Win98 machine had a Voodoo Banshee card in it. A Quantum-3D Obsidian, in fact (why did I get rid of that card?!?). But, no longer having that card, I need to decide what to install in this machine. I’m not wanting to spend a ton on this project right now, and I have a few decent cards on hand, so – into the box I go!

I quick dive into the sea of shiney comes up with 4 cards (the original ATI Rage is on the left): A Matrox Millennium.. 2? I think. A 32MB Nvidia Riva TNT2 AGP, and a 256MB PNY Nvidia GeForce FX5200 AGP. Also, whilst not technically a graphics card, I found I had this ATI video input card, complete with breakout cable, which might be a fun addition.

Obviously, the FX5200 is the clear winner here. This chipset get a lot of hate on forums, YouTube, etc., but I don’t think it’s a bad card, unless you expect too much out of it. However, this card needs some work before I can use it, as shown by Bulgey McBulge-face here

So, for now at least, in goes the TNT2.

This is a Creative-branded card, so it fits well with all the other Creative devices that will live in this box (it also has an on-board Creative/Ensoniq AudioPCI chipset, which is a nice surprise). Ah, back when GPUs had 2 pixel shaders. 🤣

I’ll get some caps on order to fix the FX5200 at a later date.

RC 2021/10 – Windows 98 Gaming PC Build

Hello world! I’m back for another Retrochallenge! Gosh, it’s been a while.

As luck would have it, about 2 weeks before the start of RC21/10, I picked up a lovely Gateway 2000 GP6-400 PC. It seems that, in vintage computing, I’ve come to adore all the brands that I hated before (Compaq, IBM, Crappard-Hell, etc.) but Gateway 2000 is a brand I’ve always loved. I acquired a “Gateway” (post-rebrand) P4 tower a few years ago, but this one, being a proper bovine-bearing “Gateway 2000” I could not pass up. I mean…. Cowbox!

The 1998 Gateway 2000 logo with the word "Gateway" in green and an abstract cow-print isometric box above it.

The machine powers up, and doesn’t sound too rough. Looks like it’s been picked over for cards already — all they left in was an AGP ATI 3D Rage Pro Turbo. The hard drive had been pulled as well, but I threw in my old WD Caviar 4GB for the time being.

Luckily, I have a pretty good selection of cards that can probably find a good home in this machine.

Plastic tub containing lots of PC expansion cards in anti-static bags.
ACME Tub-o-Expansion-Cards™

So – yeah, I’m ready to build me a solid Windows 98 Gaming PC again! Through my college days, I started with a Pentium 133, then upgraded annually to a K6, K6-2, and K6-3 – with appropriate improvements in RAM and HDD as well. Eventually, I would up w/ a giant tower sporting a Voodoo Banshee (which I sadly, did not keep) and a Creative Sound Blaster AWE32 (which I did keep). I’m excited to play some Unreal, Winquake, and Final Fantasy 7 (yes, I had the PC port) again. My plans for this machine so far are:

  • A good cleaning
  • Video card upgrade
  • Compact Flash storage
  • Network card (on-board LAN still wasn’t a thing in 1998)
  • Sound Blaster AWE-32 (this one has on-board sound, but I love my AWE-32)
  • SCSI controller (not so much for gaming, but imaging some of my old SCSI drives)
  • Improved cooling (this one only has the PSU fan)
  • Maybe even an OEM Win98 install? (I have a few restore CDs lying around)

We’ll see what eventually becomes of this machine. Stay tuned!

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