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Retro Legend Acquired


Android Expert
Jan 23, 2013
So, one of the things I've been doing to help with scratching the PC building itch and to help soothe nostalgia, is to have some operating system specific builds for authenticity. But also, to give me a chance to make something (relatively) OP, so that I can experience the era in a level of fidelity that I probably couldn't have even fathomed back in the day. So, to that end, wherever possible if I have a specific OS in mind, I try to search for hardware that might have been at the final end of being supported in it with drivers, to yield some crazy performance. The longer term goal, if ISP metrics ever allow, would then be to be able to capture and stream gameplay from said project PCs to share, and maybe speedrun, and be able to show off how good a given game *can* look on the right setup.

So, been on a long road at least for the 98 machine. But one thing I never dreamed about, especially with present scarcity, is that I'd end up having a flagship GPU in one. In short, one of my earlier cards for this project was a Radeon X800xl. Seems the final driver from ATI for Windows 9* added beta level support for the x### series. Now, normally I can recall vividly how radeon drivers saying "beta" means "yeah, this crap ain't working." But since trying to get a 9800 series was a lot more expensive and risky (given how many I had fail on me, when they were *new*), I needed to at least try. And it works a lot better than I thought it would.

Anyways... Remember the Phantom edition? I sure do. If I recall, there were even some states that were looking into investigating whether ATI was ever actually making any of these; it was that bad. So I had no illusions of ever seeing or finding one; much less owning one.

And, here we are.

Never thought I'd see the day. And while I still want a 3080 or 6800xt for my main PC, this feels like a bit of a win for the retro goodness. Just felt like sharing.


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That’s some serious hard work and I appreciate the attention to detail to achieve a crazy result. Kudos.

View attachment 158870
Wasn't sure if this crowd would have some interested in retro PC building. Glad I decided to dip my toes and find out. :D

Anyways, for those wondering, the specs of Gyarados:
  • Athlon 64 3700+ (socket 939)
  • MSI k8n neo2 platinum
  • 2 * 256mb Mushkin PC 3500 RAM ( @ DDR 400 )
  • Now, Radeon X850 XT Platinum edition
  • Sound blaster Audigy
  • Zyxel g-220 v2 USB WiFi adapter
  • Dell P190S monitormonitor
  • An SD to ide adapter, with a 128gb SD card for boot drive
  • Ide DVD drive
  • Floppy disk & flash card combo drive
Some notes, in no particular order:
  • Definitely want to find a replacement, better cooler for the X850; yes, the existing cooler works well enough. The start-up whine kinda hurts my ears though. Not ruling out liquid cooling, but just don't know if I want to deal with a second custom loop on a non-main PC. Mostly don't know how frequently I'd want to maintain it.
  • Annoyingly the onboard gigabit has no Windows 98 drivers. The chipset nic detected and installed fine, thankfully. Was more surprised to find out one of my old USB WiFi adapters had competent Windows 98 drivers, lol
  • Unofficial service pack 3 is the only reason I dare take it online, lol. Kind of a surprise how much still works.
  • More pleased this ultra rare edition card is one where everything works. My previous X800 xl, and a (maybe) working(?) X850 XT I had previously attempted, would whine for drivers for a Rage Theater chip, but for one card it whined about resource conflicts, forcing me to disable it; the other just straight up didn't have the chip in question but still behaved like it did. This XT pe has it and it installed and seems to work as it should. At least, no resource conflicts to report.
  • To think, all this started because I found an Aureal vortex 2 in my wife's pc parts stash, and the only feature complete drivers I could find were for Windows 9x. Objectively, A3D audio was pretty awesome when I was able to enable it. :D However, that poor card suffered a rather tragic accident forcing a replacement sound card. And safe to say, no onboard audio from anyone worked right. To that end, last I looked into it, everything up to the Audigy 2 ZS does have Win9x drivers. And the original Audigy had really good VxD drivers from Creative for their final release. Couple that with being supported by the Daniel K drivers all the way up to Windows 10, and these old Audigys are amazing dedicated sound cards for the sheer breadth of OS support possible. Do I miss A3D? Yeah, a bit. But when comparing the $90+ asking price for another Vortex 2 versus the maybe $20 (if not less) for an Audigy? And the performance jump with an Audigy? Yeah, it's kind of too much of a no-brainer to go with Creative nowadays.
  • At this point, the only thing that I could really bump up would be the CPU. That said, a 4000+ is only a 200mhz clock speed bump from what I have now, and well... people are asking wayyy too much for the higher clocked single core Opterons for socket 939.
  • For those curious, the image of the test bench is the platform that used to be Magikarp, its predecessor. So you could say, upgrading the platform provided enough of a performance increase that the build (drum roll) evolved :p
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I miss the old days with computers.

I always hated computers, mind you- but I did help out a friend when he built an amazing (for its time) system.

He had overclocked it to its limit, and it got hot.
Really HOT.
So it was decided to try liquid cooling it.

A metal working friend supplied a block of aluminum that had a 'U' drilled through it, and my buddy affixed it to the heat transfer device (the proper name of which escapes me) that he had put on the back of the chips to protect.

A fish tank pump moved the fluid through an external heater core (from a 1978 Blazer) that had two computer fans blowing through it.

It really was amazing, as he had a program that monitored the temperature at multiple places and displayed this info on a small toolbar along the bottom of the screen.
To watch the temps rise then have him flip the switch to the pump (which also activated the fans on the heater core) and see the temps drop like a rock was quite satisfying.
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I miss the old days with computers.

So do I occasionally, and is one reason why I bought a C64 Mini last year. https://retrogames.biz/thec64-mini
The Commodore 64 was one of my first computers. :)

I always hated computers, mind you- but I did help out a friend when he built an amazing (for its time) system.

I did my own PC builds from 1990, right through to about 2006. And then I went to laptops then, mainly MacBooks. I've got no interest in old(retro) PC technology now though, and have absolutely no desire to use Windows 98 or something.
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The Commodore was a huge hit in its day, and I had one as well.

Wound up with a tape drive, two 5¼ inch floppy disk drives, a modem (that never even got used once), a slow, loud as hell printer, and even an extra keyboard for parts.

Remember how they used to 'lock up', totally freezing and the only way out was to turn it off and back on?

The issue was the heat build up.
The engineers thought they were smart by putting reflective coated cardboard inside to reflect heat away from sensitive areas- but they were not smart enough to see that this cardboard actually blocked off at least one of the only air vents in the bottom.

The solution was to open the keyboard and completely remove this heat shield. No more freezing up.

Typical, engineers getting paid big money only to get showed up by 12 year old kids with some common sense (and a screwdriver).

I remember printing out letters to companies, and I would feed that printer nice, heavy, watercoloring paper.
It made the people that got my letters think that I was some high fallooting adult, because of the computer print on high quality paper.

Computer printing was all very new to the general population at the time, and none were wise to the fact that I had stacks of watercoloring paper left over from when I was a little kid.

Remember Print Shop?
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Wanted to insure such a rare card would last me a good, long time. So besides water cooling, a big passive heatsink seemed like the right idea. Wanted to do it before the original blower heatsink gave out or something terrible.

Installation was fiddly for sure. But it does work, and I didn't lose any performance in 3dmark from it. But having to go back to the stock cooler on the CPU sucks. Why? The GPU heatsink would hit the other cooler I previously had in this setup. Also just glad I had a pack of those small heatsinks for memory and stuff. I needed a set to put on the ram chips of the card. Fit perfectly, but used up my stock for that size. Oh, well.


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