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What are you running on your machines?

TheDantee

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Jul 26, 2023
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Ontario, Canada
As I recently posted to reddit a similar question here. I didn't get many responses, I decided to further expand this question into a dedicated thread so hopefully I can get more answers.

I want to know what your doing with your vintage machines, do you guys just install an OS and say its breathing new life into the machine and then put it back on the shelf or do you actually daily drive it or use if often? If so for what?


Are you guys running any of these older desktops/servers as some sorry of automated server tasks? I can't seem to find much use for my powermacs outside of tinkering.

Please share what you are using your vintage systems for and what you have, Desktop screenshots of your GUI are also appreciated if using it as a desktop/laptop. Most importantly have fun sharing!
 

seaken

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Jun 20, 2016
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535
Location
Shokan, New York
I don't really categorize a lot the computers on that Reddit as vintage. Retro or old maybe. You might find that a lot of folks here don't use GUI's like you might find on your PowerMac desktops. My computers start with a few 8-bit machines, either running CP/M or Basic, or a home/gaming system. But the ones I "use" the most are from the PC/XT/AT generations.

My Packard Bell VX88 is used as my dual floppy DOS and CP/M-86 machine. I use it for testing software that was mainly floppy based in the early days of DOS.

My Tandy 1000HD is used for testing Tandy Color Graphics and Sound. I used it to test software and games that use those features on the Tandy 1000 that were first introduced with the failed IBM PC Jr.

My IBM XT-286 is an AT class machine but I use it manly to stand in for an IBM PC, which I do not yet own. I use it for playing around with early DOS software on both Monochrome and CGA monitors. It has feature where I can have both types of monitors at the same time and switch back and forth. Interesting for learning about early multi monitor use in the office. I also have it working with an old MFM style hard drive and controller. I have installed the GEOS gui and run it in CGA black and white 640x320 mode with a track pad mouse. Not as useful as text mode DOS but interesting as a gimmick.

My NEC PowerMate 286 is used to experiment with early DOS and DOS competitors like DR-DOS, Concurrent DOS, GEM, and Windows 1 and 2. I also installed Windows 3.1. I use it to learn about software made for DOS and Windows in the early days before the 386 machines. Many of these programs do use a GUI of some sort. Usually Windows but sometimes it is it's own GUI running on top of DOS. I connect this machine to printers and others computers through the parallel and serial ports. I learned how to set up XT-IDE and use Compact Flash drives in place of actual spinning hard drives.

My IBM PS/1 is my 386sx and runs DOS 5.0 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11. I have it connected to other machines using the serial ports and use Laplink or FTP to move software around. I tried running OS/2 2.1 but it ran very sluggish so I replace it with WfW 3.11 which runs fine. I use this system for software that was mainly for VGA at 640x480. The 386 was the first to really start taking advantage of extra memory so I experiment with memory managers like QEMM and Desqview.

My Gateway 2000 486DX2/66 is where I experiment with multi-booting using System Commander and early Windows 95, OS/2 2.11, DOS 5.0 and Wfw 3.11. I use it to help move files around my lab as a Tweener using both Laplink and WinFTP. It is connected to an SVGA monitor and 256 colors so I use it to experiment with software made to run at 800x600x 256. I also use it for CD-ROM based software and it has a Sound Blaster sound card and I can learn about setting up sound in DOS, Windows 3.x, OS/2 and Win95.

My Micron Millennium P75 has been upgrade to a P133 and I run Windows 98SE. I use this mostly for experimenting with some games and networking. This is my first system that I only use a GUI on. This is where I experiment with software that was never meant for old DOS computers. Windows only.

Starting with my IBM Aptiva 2139 P-II 350 I start experimenting with Linux. I run a version of Puppy Linux and multi boot with OS/2 3.0 and Windows 2000.

I use a Compaq Deskpro P-III 1.0 Ghz machine as my regular test bed for light versions of Linux. I use it regularly but not a daily driver. I use both GUI's, like X-windows and IceWM, and terminal based systems. I connect to the internet and web in both the GUI and at the terminal in text mode.

I have several Pentium 4 and Dual Core intel machines running both Linux and Windows XP. They are capable of standing in as a daily driver for most things except modern video.

I have three or four G4 macs and one Power Computting MAC clone. I use those to learn about Apple's old operating systems. I also run some Debian Linux on and old PowerMac. These MACs do not get used much since I tend to prefer IBM/MS stuff.

As you can see I use my old computers to learn about the history of PC computing starting around the late 70's into the early 2000's. For me, it's not about putting them to use as much as it is about appreciating what they capable of and watching the progression of the technology as time went by.

I do use some old computers as my daily drivers using Linux. Mostly from about the 2010's and after Windows 8.1. They are still useful machines and since MS dropped support for them I switched them over to Linux for modern computing tasks such as watching TV, radio, Youtube, Google, etc.

Seaken
 
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rlauzon

Experienced Member
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Feb 18, 2018
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223
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Grand Rapids, MI
I want to know what your doing with your vintage machines, do you guys just install an OS and say its breathing new life into the machine and then put it back on the shelf or do you actually daily drive it or use if often? If so for what?
I usually try to install the OS version that the machine originally came with (or one that was normally used with it).

My Commodores (PET, 64, Plus/4), TRS-80 Model I and Model 102 had no "OS" that was loaded from media. So what's there is what you get.

My TRS-80 Model 4P is running LDOS 6.31 (which was the latest you could run).
My Kaypro 4/83 runs CP/M 2.2g (which I think was the only OS you could run on it).
My Tandy 1100FD has MS-DOS 3.2 loaded in ROM, but you can boot any version from the floppy drive. But it has only 1 floppy drive, so booting something else is cumbersome.
My other MS-DOS machines run 2.11, 3.3 and 6.22 - which were all period correct.

None are my daily driver, though. I'm a "software engineer" so none of those would work for that.
But I do call BBSs from one of my vintage machines each day (I try to rotate through each machine).

And I do play the old games on them from time to time, depending on the time that I can find. Plus, I find doing word processing (just some fun stories) on them is refreshing.

Are you guys running any of these older desktops/servers as some sorry of automated server tasks? I can't seem to find much use for my powermacs outside of tinkering.
No. For the simple reason that I want them to last as long as possible. There's too high a probability that a power hit would ruin one. While many of the components of a vintage machine are still being made today, nearly everyone had at least 1 chip that was proprietary and cannot be replaced.

Please share what you are using your vintage systems for and what you have, Desktop screenshots of your GUI are also appreciated if using it as a desktop/laptop. Most importantly have fun sharing!
GUI? If a machine has a GUI, it's not vintage.
 

Kelly Gray

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Apr 26, 2023
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Location
Toronto, Canada
I have a C64 that I occasionally pull out for games, but most of the systems I have are not really usable on a day to day basis.
I have an Epson HX-20 that can do some text editing, and a Tandy Model 100 that sees occasional use as a portable terminal.
The rest of what I have are single board trainer systems like the Intel SDK-85 and the Motorola MEX68KECB that are more for learning how to use the hardware than for running applications.
 

Kelly Gray

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Apr 26, 2023
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Location
Toronto, Canada
Welcome to the forum @Kelly Gray !

How did you find out about us?

- Alex
Hi Alex.
I've known about VCF for years. Pre-Covid there was talk of the Toronto Pet Users Group hosting a 'VCF North' event along with our annual 'World of Commodore' event.
I've been lurking in the Forums since last April, but haven't posted until now because I didn't really have a lot to add to the conversations.
 

eLearning

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Jul 31, 2023
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My IBM system P servers are running IBM AIX V5.3 ; two IBM AS/400 minis run OS/400 V3R1 & V5R3

One DIY PC running hackintosh Ventura

Company Business HP laptop run Windows 10,and my personal macbook pro runs macOS Ventura.
 

ThinkpadIL

Member
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Feb 15, 2021
Messages
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For me my vintage machines are something in between tinkering toys, pieces of art and museum items. And I'm glad that I have no need in using them for any practical task since from a practical point of view those pieces of old junk are really awful in comparison with contemporary machines.
 

rlauzon

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2018
Messages
223
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
For me my vintage machines are something in between tinkering toys, pieces of art and museum items. And I'm glad that I have no need in using them for any practical task since from a practical point of view those pieces of old junk are really awful in comparison with contemporary machines.

There was an old semi-joke about giving web developers a slow machine and a slow network connection. If you did that, then they would build web sites that were responsive and loaded efficiently on the slower hardware/connection which most customers had.

In my previous company, a junior programmer decided it was OK to send 1GB files into a system that was designed to process 1MB files. Needless to say, he gummed things up and was legitimately confused as to why the resources simply weren't there. But he had never worked with a resource-constrained system, so never bothered to ask if it was going to be a problem.

And while the definition of "resource constrained" has changed over the years, computers still don't have unlimited resources and we still need to think about resource usage.

So some of these systems might have a use in a higher level computing class where you need to use
1. A non-graphical editor
2. To create a program
3. To process a data file that won't fit into memory.
 

ThinkpadIL

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Joined
Feb 15, 2021
Messages
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There was an old semi-joke about giving web developers a slow machine and a slow network connection. If you did that, then they would build web sites that were responsive and loaded efficiently on the slower hardware/connection which most customers had.

In my previous company, a junior programmer decided it was OK to send 1GB files into a system that was designed to process 1MB files. Needless to say, he gummed things up and was legitimately confused as to why the resources simply weren't there. But he had never worked with a resource-constrained system, so never bothered to ask if it was going to be a problem.

And while the definition of "resource constrained" has changed over the years, computers still don't have unlimited resources and we still need to think about resource usage.

So some of these systems might have a use in a higher level computing class where you need to use
1. A non-graphical editor
2. To create a program
3. To process a data file that won't fit into memory.

It's not about resources, it's about convenience. GUI is the most natural interface for human being. By the way GUI was on purpose designed to replace old fashioned command line one, since GUI is the most convenient and the most natural way of interaction between man and machine.

So, you may use your old machine in many tasks, but it will be a painful and ineffective way of doing things. That's why vintage machines are perfectly suitable to serve as tinkering toys and museum items.
 

Wolhess

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Jul 22, 2023
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Hi, I bought my first computer in 1982. It was a Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. My first program was a Basic program with which I could record the costs for buying and operating my car and display the statistical data on the screen. I used the system until 1984. Then it was neatly stowed away and in 2017 I rediscovered the computer in a cupboard in the basement and put it into operation. Since then I have rediscovered my old program for car cost statistics and I still use it alongside an Excel list on my modern computer with the same data and calculations. I changed the program from the original data storage with two cassette recorders to disk storage and added a print function. Since the fall of 2017, I have expanded the Texas Instruments computer with pretty much all the extensions I could find and also purchased 10 additional computer consoles.

I added a system with the p-code system and UCSD Pascal.
I run a BBS system with Telnet access on two consoles with the so-called tipi extension, 32K RAM, and the editor/assembler module with an additional 8K memory extension. One system in English, the other in German.

I wanted to be able to access and start all my programs, games and applications directly on the old computer, just like on a modern computer. That's why I wrote a menu program, in Extended Basic, with which I can access almost any number of programs in connection with the TIPI extension and start almost all programs and games via a menu interface. For this program I used Extended Basic and then compiled the most important parts of the program into assembler code.

My latest project is the provisioning of a WEB server. A TI-99/4a can access a WEB server with the TIPI extension and a special WEB browser and display the WEB pages with text and block graphics. To do this, the HTML code must have a specific format. But it works surprisingly well and quickly.

I also sometimes use Microsoft's Multiplan spreadsheet on my TI computer.

And of course the many hundreds of games out there. Although I'm not a good computer gamer, it's great fun at times.
 
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rlauzon

Experienced Member
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Feb 18, 2018
Messages
223
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
It's not about resources, it's about convenience. GUI is the most natural interface for human being. By the way GUI was on purpose designed to replace old fashioned command line one, since GUI is the most convenient and the most natural way of interaction between man and machine.

So, you may use your old machine in many tasks, but it will be a painful and ineffective way of doing things. That's why vintage machines are perfectly suitable to serve as tinkering toys and museum items.

You completely missed my point.
 

Wolhess

Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2023
Messages
12
And while the definition of "resource constrained" has changed over the years, computers still don't have unlimited resources and we still need to think about resource usage.
A modern computer greatly facilitates the development of new programs. But once you've developed on an old, very limited system, I think you're more efficient with the resources you have available on a modern computer.
Unfortunately, most of the young developers only know the convenience of modern development systems.
 

hush

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2022
Messages
302
Location
MD, USA
i generally try and use my machines when i have the time and motivation to do so! my brain makes it hard to focus on one thing for too long so i tend to jump between multiple projects, often within the same day, always when i hit a roadblock. as long as i am making progress i will keep going. sometimes i put machines aside for a while for one reason or another, but i do my best to give them some love now and again.
  • WOOYOO (DEC PDP11/83) almost exclusively runs RSX11M+, but i have disk images for 2.11BSD and ULTRIX-11 as well, i mostly poke around at XLISP and RSX11 in general here as i am trying to learn all i can
  • AVEL (IBM AS/400e model 170) runs OS/400 V4R4, i am currently working on an inventory/ITAM system in RPG/400 to better keep track of what parts i have. once it is finished i will release it as open-source software
  • RYDER (DEC Personal Workstation 600au) runs VMS and netBSD, i am currently trying to get X working on netBSD so i can use it as a graphical workstation
  • SOMI (Sun Ultra 60 Elite3D) runs netBSD, it was running nicely as a graphical workstation but died overnight when i tried building www/midori :( i'll have it back up and running soon, though
  • DAIFUKU (DECmate II) is a work in progress, i have it booting OS/278 but not WPS/278, currently on-and-off trying to wrangle two goteks into simulating an RX50 but it's been going poorly
i have a few other machines in my collection but those are the ones i use most often
 

Abmvk

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2023
Messages
53
Location
Netherlands
Vintage:
  • Casio FX-702P: my daily calculator, if I need one these days, no specific OS or other software
  • Casio FX-880P: just playing with it as it is new (for me), no specific OS or other software
  • Sharp PC-1500: on the shelf, no specific OS or other software
  • TRS 80 Model 1: rebuilding, purpose to use for Z80 assembler and games, NEW/DOS 80
  • Z88: on the shelf at the moment, updated OS, not much time to play with yet
  • Psion 5mx: on the shelf, EPOC
  • Mega 2 ST: gaming, want to try M68000 assembler, TOS
  • Dell Precision M60: only use is moving files to floppy for the ST, Windows 95
  • Commodore 64: rebuilding, purpose games and maybe learning 6502 assembler, no specific software yet
Not so vintage:
  • MacBook Air M2: daily office work, MacOS, Teams, connector to office
  • iPad Pro M1: everything, including connection to headless Pi 4B, iPadOS
  • 2 x headless Raspberry Pi 4B: coding, learning Rust, playing around, Pi OS 64
  • Raspberry Pi 400: main second screen, GitHub, ChatGPT, Reddit, TRS-80 emulator, Pi OS 64
  • Raspberry Pi 400: playing with wifi and hack-tools, Kali Linux
 
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hard_fault

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May 18, 2010
Messages
34
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Michigan, United States
When time allows... I'll admit, I'm doing a fair bit of game playing. However, that itself is not very fulfilling, so an increasingly larger chunk of time spent with my old machines nowadays involves learning to program with them. I like the quaint programming environments, or lack thereof even, of old timey hardware.

Having a lot of fun right now exploring the internals of my Tandy 1000 TL in ASM plus C. There's seemingly infinite entertainment value in these machines when you start messing around under the hood. There's joy in making ancient silicon work, there's sadness in escaped magic smoke, there's... anger on Ebay, there's comedy in watching code fail spectacularly.

There's several other computers in the collection that I intend on trying out some coding on, such as the C64, the Apple II and IIGS, the Atari 400, and the Mac SE.
 

CommodoreZ

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May 18, 2007
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Z Labs.
The short answer for most everything I tend to focus on is play games and tinker in BASIC.

Typically, when I want to play with a VIC-20, I pick one off the shelf, plug it in, attach a few peripherals, and load up one of a few pieces of software: a game, a terminal program, test a new add-on, or experiment in BASIC. I've also spent time writing software using modern tools for the VIC, using it mostly as a test platform. Lately, my focus has been on the Super Expander cartridge, trying out the graphics modes:
vicmyst.gif


My C64s, PET-2001, and 128D get similar usage as the VICs do, but to a much lesser extent.

I spent a good few months repairing a 486 laptop last year, off and on until it ran Windows 95 reliably. When all was said and done, it took turns taking a prime spot on my desk to be used for primitive web communications or playing games. The past few months, it's lived on my workbench to act as a serial terminal.

My Ohio Scientific machines are more often than not in a state of hardware tinkering or repair. Same goes for my Nova 1200. Both of which, when stable? You guessed it, running BASIC.
 
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