Technical Project: 1990’s Retro PC (Intel Pentium II MMX)

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Finally I finished my 1990’s Retro PC.

At first some pictures

And here the basic informations

History

A small background of the Mainboard and CPU

The Mainboard was initially used in my Vobis HighScreen Sky Celeron 300 back then. Both the RAM and the Intel Celeron 300 I kept til this day but the Celeron broke some day of unknown circumstances. So I replaced it with an Intel Pentium II MMX 350-MHz that can only run at 333 MHz due to the limitations of the Mainboard. Also the RAM wasn’t 256 MB these days but 32 or 64 MB.

The PC Case

Long story short: Basically I wanted to use the same Hightscreen SkyTower case. But because this case is extremely rare, the sellers on the internet want vast sums of money and the wood try failed, I decided to use a old case from my stock and made it 1990’s like.

Here I used my old Enermax Vostok White that I used for my HTPC back then. In the past I added some blanked insulators to it that I had remove with a lot of struggle. Bitumen can’t be removed with ease. Then I took the frame of the front (the silver one), sanded it a bit back and primed it with edding 5200 primer. At the end ich sprayed it with edding 5200 Permanent-Spray in gentian blue matt. Basically it had to have a 1990’s look but it’s now more a 2000’s look. I also done it on the power and reset button.

The power and reset LED were blue LEDs. Because some PC cases had dual color LEDs back then in green and orange color, I imported extra dual colored LEDs in green and red from England because the LEDs on our German market are all to dimm because they are made especially for model railways. As HDD LED I use a orange one from our market. In the BIOS I can choose between »single color« and »dual color«. In single color mode the LED would flash in standby, in dual color mode the board switches to the other color (green -> red). The red color isn’t also as light as the green. It’s very discreet.

As far I can remember the modding hype begun from 2001. An old video of our German PC magazine PC Games Hardware, which brings up beautiful memories in me, show that hype very well. So my mod is theoretically rather a 1990’s-2001’s Casemod. Basically I didn’t want to add a window but the left side panel had some stupid vents as you can see here, …

…but anyway I decided to add on. Here I drilled a relatively big hole on a specific place into the metal and cut the inner part out with a jigsaw. I also wanted to do it with such a edge molding like in the PCGH video, so I can clip in the window but the kind of edge molding isn’t purchasable anymore. The guys on reddit hadn’t also any clue so I decided to take a simple edge molding from our local DIY market and clued the window with silicone in. Unfortunately the silicone doesn’t hold on the smooth surface but only on the cutting edges. But that’s enough.

As lighting I used an old RGB LED strip that I got from Theo as a gift. The cable I led in the good old fashion way trough an old slot bracket that I still had in my stock from my old Akasa 7-in-1. Theoretically I could cut the plug from the cable and do a Molex solution. But it hast so be authentically as possible. 😉

Maybe you already recognized the Intel Inside Pentium II sticker on the front. I found a corp in the USA that still produce this original stickers. So I imported two stickers so it’s worth it. Ah btw.: Behind the sticker are the two unused audio jacks. 😉

The hardware by itself

Let’s start with the Power Supply. This PSU is a Chinese run-of-the-min PSU that blew up in my face in my 1. Self Made PC in the past. This is the same model. The reason are the weak and crappy Chinese capacitors. That’s why I replaced all caps with high quality one. Now it can’t theoretically blow up in my face anymore.

Regarding to the Mainboard I can’t really complain. It runs always fine and stable. But there is one thing that annoys me. The RAM check at the boot. I already enabled the “Quick Power On Self Test” but it makes still every boot up the RAM check. The last BIOS version has only a fix regarding to Windows NT 4.0. CPU and RAM working also as a charm.

But the Voodoo2 card with 12 MB VRAM that I especially bought for this Retro PC the VRAM is dieing. Lovely I already got a spare in my showcase. This card only has 8 MB VRAM but works very decent. I thought about to upgrade the VRAM on the spare card but ~10 EUR per chip doesn’t worth it. When it dies some day it died.

The USB 2.0 PCI card with NEC chipset do on Windows 98 SE also some issues. Without the USB 2.0 driver of Maximus Decim it recognizes e.g. USB sticks very well but it needs special drivers. Do I install Decim’s drivers Windows 98 SE freeze when I plug in a stick. That’s why I installed Windows 2000 Professional. But on this OS DOS gaming is a pain in the ass. And the system runs a bit slower. So I switched back to Windows 98 SE with the unofficial Service Pack 3.1 final. But this time I followed meticulously the instructions.

Btw.: I modified the card a bit. Before you had to connect only 1 USB port with a one rowed post plug. Besides this connector was soldered a full-featured USB 2.0 port. That I soldered out and soldered a pin strip in. Now I can use both USB ports on the case front.

The ISA network card gave me a bit of a headache at first. The Pros knows that the ISA bus was a pain in the ass because of lacking Plug & Play functionality. And also Plug & Play was more “Plug & Pray” back then. That’s why I had some trouble with the IRQ and the DMA. Here the LAN card struggled with with the sound codec. But after I disabled the unused serial and parallel port in the BIOS I freed some resources. Windows showed me following variables: E/A 340h, IRQ 3, DMA 3. Before it was jumpered – is guess – to IRQ 9 and DMA 5. Now I jumpered to IRQ 3 and DMA 3. After that action Windows 98 SE generated Blue Screens about NDIS and the message that the card doesn’t work properly anymore and has to be reinstalled, because I had the automatic resource configuration ticked. Set back to manual config and the card work like a charm. 🙂

Regarding to the drives, here no issue. Working just fine. The sound of the running HDD reminds me on good old times. It sounds almost like a Quantum Bigfoot. I once soldered the floppy drive to a blue LED for my 1. Self Made PC. Maybe I keep that… or maybe not… let’s see. 🙂 The SAMSUNG CD-ROM runs like at the 1. day!

Résumé

I’d be curious if I get Windows 98 SE + unofficial Service Pack and USB 2.0 to work. If yes so I got another nice Retro-PC besides my other 2. Self Made PC that I still own.

Ah and btw.: The monitor on the 1. picture is for my 2. Self Made PC. For this PC I planned a 19″ CRT from Siemens-Nixdorf. But that were to big for this table. 🙂

At last some data pics:

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