My x86 Retro-Computers


The x86 platform is one of the most widespread hardware platforms nowadays. Therefore most of old x86 hardware is dumped unreviewed. Usually it is assumed that due to upward compatibility most of the software from the early days still runs today. That is in part true for modest applications since emulators as DosBox appeared. On the other hand there is hardware that isn't emulated and software that does not run on modern systems. Reasons may be the compareable high speed, missing required hardware or a missing required software platform.

My IBM PC System/2


CPU: AMD 386DX-40 with Cyrix FasMath CX83D87-40-GP
Mainboard: SiS chipset
RAM: 32 MB (8 x 4 MB SIMM)
Graphics cards:
 TSENG ET4000 with 1 MB and Truecolor DAC (image similar)
 Number Nine GXiTC with Acumos2 VGA part 512 kB and TIGA with 4 MB framebuffer and 1 MB instruction RAM.
Network card: 3Com Etherlink III
Primax Altrasound (identical to GUS CD3) with 1 MB
Terratec EWS64S with 18 MB
Mass storage: Adaptec 1542B with Micropolis 4421 HDD (1 GB useable)
5.25" and 3.5" HD disk drive attached to the Adaptec controller
Serial/Parallel port card with 16450 UARTs.
Sony CDU-33A doublespeed CD-ROM on proprietary controller card.
Seventeam ST-221WHT AT power supply

This system has MS-DOS 6.x running and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 utilizing the TIGA graphics for video mode.
The card is set to 1280x1024 at 64K colors with full 2D acceleration. This looks quite impressive for a 386 class system.
In DOS the TSENG ET4000 is used and the sound cards give support for all important standards for games.

CPU: AMD 386DX-40 with i387-33
Mainboard: ETEQ386-8
RAM: 32 MB (8 x 4 MB SIMM)
Graphics card: TSENG ET4000 with 1 MB and Truecolor DAC (image similar)
Network card: 3Com 3C509b / 10 MBit/s (image similar)
Soundcards: SoundBlaster 16 ASP (DSP 4.05) with WaveBlaster (CT1900) and Gravis Ultrasound PnP with 8 MB
HDD: Quantum Fireball 1280A, Samsung SHD-30560A
CD: Sony CDU-33A double speed drive on proprietary controller
Disk: 3.5" and 5.25" drive

This is one of these rock solid running 386 systems.
The system features a common SB16 / GUS combination. The GUS-PnP gives full hardware acceleration for sound playback and the SB16 Sound Blaster compatibility.
The Waveblaster wavetable board uses 4 MB ROM and the Proteus Soundengine and has beside the GM sound set also a MT-32 compatible sound set.
Since the BIOS got the 504 MB CHS limit I was thinking of replacing the IDE drive with a SCSI drive. On the other hand all the DOS stuff doesn't require large HDDs, so I left it with the two drives and used Stacker 4.1 disk compression on the secondary.
The chipset has 64 kB L2-Cache that caches up to 16 MB. Though this does not hurt DOS games as there are not much DOS games that run on a 386DX-40 and require more than 16 MB. In case of doubt, there is a XMS Ramdrive with the size of 16 MB loaded in the top area of the memory that covers the uncached area.
MS-DOS 6 and Win95a runs fine, XTC-Player with GUS PnP support, several oldschool DOS demos.
Ofcourse the Win95 has the cacheable size problem too, but 32 MB for Win95 is still better than 16 MB (and its rather unhurried anyway)

CPU: AMD 386DX-40 with ULSI 3C87-40
Mainboard: unknown Ali M1429 / M1431 chipset, 64 kB cache
RAM: 16 MB (4 x 4 MB SIMM)
Graphics card: ATI VGA Wonder XL with 1 MB, Busmouse disabled
Network card: 3Com 3C509b
Sound: Ensoniq Soundscape 2000, Primax Music Sound (100% Gravis Ultrasound rebuild) with 1 MB
HDD: Quantum Fireball 1280AT
Disk: 5.25" and 3.5"


I got a Compaq Presario CDS-520. This computer looks like a big version of a mac-classic.
It has an integrated 14 inch CRT and speakers.

CPU: AMD 486SX2-66
Mainboard: Compaq
RAM: 52 MB
Graphics card: local bus Cirrus Logic GD5424 with 512 kB
Network card: 3Com Etherlink III 3C509b / 10 MBit/s
Soundcards: ESS 688 (onboard) and Gravis Utrasound ACE
Modem: as ISA card
HDD: ~2 GB
CD: IDE 8x speed?
Disk: 3.5"

MS-DOS 6 Compaq edition / Window for Workgroups 3.11
The 486SX2-66 runs Descent very well and appears to be in integer benchmarks just 10% slower than a 486DX2-66 (Norton Utilities 7 Sysinfo)

Socket 7-System

CPU: AMD K6 233 MHz
Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-586HX (image similar)
Graphics card: Innovision Mighty Banshee
Network card: Realtek 8139C / 100 MBit/s
Soundcards: EWS64XL with Roland Sound Canvas SCB-55, Gravis Ultrasound Classic Rev. 3.4, Roland MT-32 1st gen.
HDD:  4 GB Sandisk Compactflash on CF to IDE adapter
CD: Plextor UltraPlex 40x  SCSI drive on a Adaptec PCI SCSI controller
Disk: 3.5" drive

Rather silent PC for old DOS games and scene demos. It features all important sound card standards of this time. The Banshee has the new 2D core from 3dfx and is one of the fastest 2D-cards (in VESA modes) in DOS.
The Pentium systems with the HX chipset are quite matured. It has the fast PCI local bus, 2 channel IDE onboard and usually 3 or more ISA-Slots and some even have USB.
So the hardware is between the old DOS era and the Windows era.
MS-DOS 6 and Win98SE runs fine.


CPU: Intel Pentium 166 MMX
Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-586HX (image similar)
Graphics card: Elsa Victory Erazor (Riva 128 with 4 MB SGRAM and TV In/Out), 3Dfx Voodoo 1
Network card: Realtek 8139C / 100 MBit/s
Soundcards: Guillemot Maxi Sound 64 Home Studio with Yamaha DB60XG wavetable, Primax Altrasound (this is a 100% rebuild of a Gravis Ultrasound with additional Mixer IC, later called GUS CD3)
Controller: Highpoint HPT370/372 UDMA controller
HDD: IBM-DJNA-351520, IBM-DTLA-305040
CD: Pioneer DVD-A04SZ Slot-In drive
Disk: 3.5" and 5.25" drive

This is basically a second PC for old DOS games and scene demos and resembles overall my PC-system I bought in 1996. It features a bit different sound card setup as the other socket 7 system.
Running MS-DOS 7.10 and NT4 Pro. With the amount of memory even a slightly tuned Firefox 2.0.23 runs fine (flash disabled).  A Pentium 166 MMX is just slow enough that the Day of the Tentacle iMuse soundengine doesn't bug out.

AMD K6-2+ System

CPU: AMD K6-2+ 570 at 600 MHz (6 x 100 MHz)
Mainboard: ASUS P5A Rev. 1.04
Graphics card: NVidia Quadro 2 Pro, 3dfx Vooodoo2 SLI 12 MB
Network card: Realtek 8139C
Soundcard: Terratec Base 1 with WT64 wavetable upgrade and Radio module
Storage: Adaptec 2940UW with Quantum Atlas 10K II 18.2 GB
Power Supply: Raptoxx RT-350

Commodore PC-I

This is a Commodore PC-I
CPU: Siemens 8088 (4.77 MHz)
Mainboard: Commodore Custom Made Mainboard
RAM: 512 kB
Graphics: Motorola 6845 CRT controller for text mode and Paradise PVC2 for CGA / Plantronics? with 32 kB
Sound: incredible Speaker
HDD: None
Disk: 5.25" DD drive internally (160 kB)
3.5" DD Amiga drive externally (720 kB)

As commodore was always going for cheap hardware it's a rather limited system. MS-DOS 3.3+ runs fine, Textadventures, Space Quest 1 and 2, Lemmings in CGA rather slow, Rogue ofcourse.
The external drive connector allows to use Amiga disk drives. Requires an XT capable/switchable keyboard, when using AT-keyboard.

The Athlon

CPU: Athlon 650 MHz (Slot-A)
Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-7IXE
RAM: 512 MB SDRAM (due to Win98SE)
Graphics: Voodoo 3 3500 , Matrox m3D with PowerVR PCX2
Video: Hauppauge WinTV PCI
Sound: Terratec EWS64 XL
Network: Realtek 8139C
HDD:  2 GB Sandisk Compactflash on CF to IDE adapter

This system runs Win98SE. The main purpose is to give a video/audio frontend for my C64 (and other homecomputer systems) and a transfer PC to and from old systems (C64 / Amiga).
The BT878 based Hauppauge card is quite compatible in processing more exotic video signals.
The trick does the DScaler  TV-application that decodes 50 Hz progressive signal correctly to the screen. In addition the CRT monitor is set to 50 Hz refresh using a third party tool for Voodoo3 (alternativly PowerStrip) when C64-Video is shown. The EWS64XL is good enough to record quality C64 SID-sound and can render some after effects like Reverb/Chorus/Echo on the signal. A nice side effect of the overall system is that Unreal, Unreal Tournament and other older 3D-games run fine even when using SGL API.

The Pentium III

CPU: Pentium III 650 MHz (Slot-1)
Mainboard: HP Vectra VL I Series 8 with i440ZX chipset
Graphics: Matrox G200 onboard with 8 MB, 3dfx Voodoo2 SLI 12 MB
Sound: Terratec EWS64 XL with Roland SCB-55
Network: 3Com Etherlink III
HDD: Quantum Fireball ES 6.4 GB

* A very useful tool is a external multichannel mixer to mix the sound sources from the different cards. Also IBM M-series keyboards, Trinitron CRTs and parallel port ZIP-drives are versatile.
Hardware Gallery x86
IBM PC System/2 8580
CBM Rechner
HP Gallery
Originale / Verpackungen
Curriculum Vitae
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