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Introducing myself, and my (long) vintage computer story

badmofo

Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
36
Location
Melbourne, Australia
I hope this is the right section, it seemed the most appropriate!

I'm a long time lurker here and thought it was high time I introduce myself and showed off my current vintage PC's. I emphasise current because they seem to change fairly regularly – I upgrade this, I downgrade that. To my surprise a small, nostalgia driven project to recreate my childhood computer has turned into a full blown hobby.

A year ago my mother dropped off a box of old photos, and one of them showed my 14 year-old self hunched happily in front of my first love - a 486SX-33. I’d had access to computers for years before that (my father’s MicroBee, friend’s 286 / 386 machines, etc) but the SX-33 was the first computer that was truly mine, and – at the risk of sounding overly dramatic – it changed my life.

My father bought it for me in early ’94; a cheap ($2000!) no-name clone from one of those fly by night dealers who probably disappeared before we’d even unloaded the heavy cardboard boxes from the back of our rusty old Nissan. I don’t remember the exact specs, but it was a vesa local bus system. 4mb RAM, 270MB HDD, 14” CRT, etc. Not a bad system for the price.

Pretty much all of my software was pirated I have to admit so I didn’t have any manuals, but by trial and error I learnt DOS memory management, X-Tree, and of course all the fatality moves in Mortal Kombat. It was a magical machine, and my “playing” with it taught me skills which serve me well to this day (thanks for nothing, high school). Over the years I added a Sound Blaster, another 4mb RAM, and a hand-me-down 486DX2-66 Overdrive chip.

But at that point my memory fails. Something better must have come along, and I assume I gave the 486 away, or just threw it out in the hard rubbish. I hadn’t given it any thought at all until I saw that photo, when the memories came flooding back.

My humble plan was to hop onto eBay, find a similarly spec’d machine, buy it for a couple of bucks, take delivery of it the following week, stroll down memory lane, and then what? Chuck it in the shed maybe? I was amazed to find that a) forget buying a whole system, even parts are hard to come by, and b) when they are listed, sellers want outrageous amounts of cash for them.

I scoured the web for months – simply finding an AT case took ages. I got a CPU here, an IO card there, and at some stage over the course of my search – perhaps because of their scarcity - I started to think of these old machines as sacred beige relics. I became a collector. I’d spot abandoned computers from miles away; my wife and children rolling their eyes as I slammed on the brakes and hauled them into the car. Before I knew it I had a shed full of random socket 7’s, Pentium 3’s, etc. But I still didn’t have my 486.

Family and friends began tactfully suggesting I had enough old computers. “Do you really need all of those?” they’d ask. To appease them I gathered up a few of the rustier boxes and took them to the local recycle centre.

And that’s when it happened - I found the mother load!

Out the back of the recycle centre were pallets of old PC’s, all destined for scrapping via the ‘ByteBack’ program; a local computer recycling organisation. “So this is where they all are.” I said, trying to control my breathing as I sneakily filled my car with them.

More eye rolling ensued when I arrived home with twice as many computers than I’d left with, but nothing could dampen my excitement. I’ve since been back every other weekend and found several 486’s, a couple of 386’s, and more socket 7’s than you could poke a stick at. It’s a gold mine!

With a selection of rescued hardware and bits bought from eBay, I’ve put together the following couple of systems to satisfy my nostalgia trip (which has since expanded to cover the Windows 95 period as well).

A 486SX-33: VLB motherboard with the OPTI 495SLC chipset. 8mb RAM, Cirrus Logic GD5428 VLB video, 270 Western Digital Caviar HDD, Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 + Music Quest MPU-401 port to drive an MT-32.

IMG_2727.jpg


IMG_2737.jpg



And for Windows 95, a socket 7 Pentium 166MMX. 32mb RAM, 2 gig HDD, Sound Blaster 16 + Roland SCC-1 for General MIDI. Ark Logic (ARK2000MT chipset) PCI video card + a Voodoo 2, 12MB 3d card:

IMG_2653.jpg



One of my other favourite recycle centre rescues is this cool little 386, all complete and runs like a dream:

2012-05-14221804.jpg


IMG_2661.jpg



It’s such a shame that people don’t think to sell these things before chucking them on the scrapheap. They’ve held onto them for so long just to waste them now? I guess they don’t know that some people still value them.
 
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tone76

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
16
Location
Adelaide, Australia
Welcome! I can relate to your post ... I have a bad habit of rooting around through hard rubbish collections looking for old PCs; that annoys my wife no end!! ;) I had to cull a fair bit of my collection before moving house, but it was mainly Pentiums. My initial plan was to have as many PCs running as many operating systems as possible; but then I decided that my collection needed to be a little more targeted and perhaps more esoteric.

It is sad that pre-Pentium PCs are getting harder to find. I'm sure there are still quite a few lurking in cupboards in various offices and homes around the place. I always keep my eyes open at garage sales. I'm going to have to work out where my nearest recycling centre is and start hanging out there I think!
 

DOS lives on!!

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2011
Messages
2,303
Location
East Tennessee
There's an introductions subforum on here...:) But someone'll move it, we've got the best moderators around.

Welcome to the forums!
I too get the, "How many this time?" question every time I come back from going to yard sales each Saturday. Although I was extremely excited when I came back with an XT and boxloads of software one Saturday. Our local recycling center has a don't-take-anything policy. But I haven't seen a computer pile there (yet). Might have to look at the one in the next town over. Our town's E-Waste event is when I can really go cherry-picking for goodies. I run the event, so I can make it out of there with a carload of computers and parts. My big score this year was my 5170.

Nice collection you've got there too. I do like the computers that have the vertical floppy drive. Definetely a early 90s thing. Have fun and enjoy it here!
 

barythrin

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 5, 2005
Messages
6,256
Location
Texas
Nice and welcome! Crazy how it all ends up isn't it? I can't recall when my hobby went truly retro (probably only when I found some cheap Apple II systems for $5 each a long time ago). That was sort of the perk at the time, systems I hadn't played with and couldn't afford and being able to run around town and come home with a functional setup for $20 or so. I'm going to bow my head in shame for a sec and ask what game that is? It looks like Ultima but I don't recall a face being in the upper corner. My excuse will be that I only really played the later than U6 ultima on a b&w Zenith 486 laptop (something I do actually want to acquire still).. actually I can't 100% recall if it was a 386 or 486 but I think with the stuff I was running on it, it was probably a 486 white ZDS system. I digress from my story though ;-)

Congrats on the find(s)! Pretty cool that vintage/obsolete gear seems to run so well still. Something I certainly can't say in 20 years from now about our current technology.
 

themikepeng

Experienced Member
Joined
May 17, 2012
Messages
71
Location
San Diego, CA
My story is exactly the same!!! I could almost not find a 486 at all on ebay! There still aren't any local places that I know of with 486 computers, but I got one on ebay. It was just bad luck again and again, the once or twice someone put a 486 on craigslist some (insert name) always takes it before me, on ebay I always lose bidding! My family's first computer was a 486dx4 in spring 95, it was thrown out before I started collecting computers. only thing salvaged was the cpu, but there were only 4 or 5 ridiculously priced socket 3 boards on ebay. From when I started collecting computers, I could not get over the loss so I started looking on ebay and craigslist. Just like you, I got parts here and there, first a 250mb hard drive, then a power supply ,then a sb16, 72 pin memory, but I could not get a working motherboard. From a 486 board that broke almost immediately I got an I/O card and VGA card. Finally I decided my hunt needed to end after 2 YEARS, so I bought a 486 off ebay for $80. I have to admit that most of my software is pirated too =D
 

themikepeng

Experienced Member
Joined
May 17, 2012
Messages
71
Location
San Diego, CA
It’s such a shame that people don’t think to sell these things before chucking them on the scrapheap. They’ve held onto them for so long just to waste them now? I guess they don’t know that some people still value them.[/QUOTE]

Agreed
 

tezza

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2007
Messages
4,720
Location
New Zealand
Welcome to the forums.

I can relate to wanting the first computer you really owned. Luckily I never parted with mine (in fact I acquired several spares)!

I also have good memories of a 486-DX 66 machine, which I used to use at work in the early 90s. It's taken me until now to finally acquire that processor and a matching motherboard again. There is a certain irony to it, as I threw out a couple of complete 486-DX 66 systems in 2006! That was before I started collecting vintage computers (apart from my SYstem 80) and my mindset at that stage was that these were just trash taking up room.

I think you still need to be targetted and selective though, otherwise extreme collecting can start to negatively impact on your life and relationships. Then it can be a problem. I try to stick to what I consider late 70's-early 90's classic models, and can easily part with Wintel and Mac machines from the 90s and upwards.

Tez
 

badmofo

Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
36
Location
Melbourne, Australia
The game is Ultima 7, the face in the corner is an NPC I was chatting to. Great game!

Yes def. have to be selective, I sometimes look at Amigas and Sega Master Systems on eBay and think they'd be fun to play with. But I don't have enough time / space for what I have, so a line must be drawn!

I'd like to play with a PCI Socket 3 motherboard at some stage, replace the Pentium II machine I threw out about a year ago (what was I thinking?!), and spend a bit of time messing around with my Pentium 3, Windows 98 setup at some stage too.

I need more hours in the day.
 

sirwiggum

Experienced Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Messages
68
I was tempted by an Amstrad MegaPC, a Mega Drive and 386 in one. But had to stop.

My own first PC was a Dec PC LPV+ 433 (486 SX 33 mhz).
4MB RAM, 170HDD. WFW 3.11 (it was destined to be a corporate PC but strangely had no NIC).

Upgraded with a sound card and CD ROM (Encarta 95 and Grolier helped with many a research homework).

Put another 8MB RAM in and then doublespaced the HDD to put Win95 on. Ran like a dog.

Then bought a Cyrix 686 233 chip. Very unreliable. Win98 had a tendency for the Kernel32.dll to fall over at any moment. But thats a bit off topic in this forum.

To me the early to mid 90s were the last of the interesting PCs. After that they became a commodity, an appliance and lost their appeal somewhat.
 
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
33
Location
Devon, UK
Hi, good to see another collector from Australia, I'm another new guy here. You always have a special connection to the first computer you owned, and there's nothing like going back to it. I had a 486SX 33MHz running Windows 3.11 (for word groups!), made by Packard Bell. It was a great machine, so I can understand your attachment to it.

A Brit Downunder
www.abritdownunder.org
 

tezza

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2007
Messages
4,720
Location
New Zealand
Hi! Out of interest, how do you find Australia with regard to finding vintage hardware? Was it easier in the UK?

I'm not sure about Australia, but here in New Zealand the situation is like this.

PETS, TRS-80 Models, Atari 400/800, Mac 128ks, Lisas, Apple II, System 80s - Rare
BBCs, Apple II+/IIes, Vic 20s, ZX-81, Early Macs, Amiga 1000s/2000s - Seen occassionally
ZX Spectrums, Commodore 64s - relatively common
Amiga 500s. - Swimming in them!

What are also RARE are the 8-bit CP/M machines and genuine IBM PCs and ATs. The latter were very expensive and by the time NZ businesses were buying these sort of machine the PC clone makers were in high gear and could land stuff here at nearly 1/2 the price. Also, being business machines, they were often scrapped rather than shoved in some attic as many home machines were.

386s and 486s...getting hard to find as complete units but occassionally show up.

Tez
 

nigwil

Experienced Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2009
Messages
175
Location
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
I'm not sure about Australia, but here in New Zealand the situation is like this.

PETS, TRS-80 Models, Atari 400/800, Mac 128ks, Lisas, Apple II, System 80s - Rare
BBCs, Apple II+/IIes, Vic 20s, ZX-81, Early Macs, Amiga 1000s/2000s - Seen occassionally
ZX Spectrums, Commodore 64s - relatively common
Amiga 500s. - Swimming in them!

What are also RARE are the 8-bit CP/M machines and genuine IBM PCs and ATs.

386s and 486s...getting hard to find as complete units but occassionally show up.

Tez

Tezzas analysis of the NZ situation equally applies to Australia from my experience, Macintosh could be more common here due to the larger education market. The 8-bit world has been kept alive by the many enthusiasts of retro-gaming, but once you step into business, technical computing etc you are into single digit quantities with survival dependent on reluctance to drag the heavy monsters to the curb.

Of course many systems did not make it to Australia in large numbers (1980s workstations, NeXT etc), with so many years passed and the recent voracious eWaste trawling by the scrappers, all contributing to the scarcity.
 

Scott Kevill

Experienced Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2011
Messages
60
Location
Perth, Australia
Ahh, the Microbee. A very cool little machine. I don't quite have the same attachment to them as I have to TRS-80s, but I always liked them. Do you still have it?
 

Caluser2000

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2010
Messages
4,718
Location
New Zealand
My own first PC was a Dec PC LPV+ 433 (486 SX 33 mhz).
4MB RAM, 170HDD. WFW 3.11 (it was destined to be a corporate PC but strangely had no NIC).
Solid machines indeed. I've got a LPV+ 425 that the previous owner upgraded to a dx2/66 and added sound card along with a cdrom. I added a nic. With 16megs of ram runs OS/2 v3 Connect, on a 350meg drive, very well. Recently replaced the RTC so all good for another few decades. Still got the original 170meg drive in another machine.

As Tezza has mentioned Amigas seem to be a dime a dozen at the moment with some silly pricing to boot.
 
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themikepeng

Experienced Member
Joined
May 17, 2012
Messages
71
Location
San Diego, CA
Hi! Out of interest, how do you find Australia with regard to finding vintage hardware? Was it easier in the UK?

I bet AYWHERE is easier than San Diego.
Apple II, 512k, Mac SE etc. Here and there
Commodore rare
Any PCs older than windows 98, IBM, 286, 386, 486 none that I know of
 

barythrin

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 5, 2005
Messages
6,256
Location
Texas
Really?! I figured CA would be the most prevalent amount of treasures (lol I had a good typo trashures) being near the start of so many things. Of course I guess a lot of folks there are probably keeping it in their garage/collection of personal accomplishments too.

Down here there's a sprinkle of everything. TI's are too common to really have much interest or value to most, lots of Commodore 64s and some Vics and Apple II/Mac systems pop up. Others are less common but what is common is the bad price that makes it prohibitive.
 
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