What to look for in a monitor

Most buying guides for monitors assume you’re buying a really expensive monitor for gaming. But there’s a lot more to look for than refresh rate and response time.

A good monitor can last 10 years and multiple computers, so it pays to make a good decision when buying one, even when you’re not spending $500. There can be a significant difference even between two $100 models, or between a $60 model and a $70 model, that will save you money in the long run.

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New computer, old monitor

New computer, old monitor: I see questions fairly frequently about using a new computer and older monitor together. More often than not, it’s possible to do, but you may need to know where to look for the cables and adapters you’ll need.

Here’s some help.

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Building DOS gaming PCs

The ultimate DOS gaming PC is a topic that I’ve seen come up in forums frequently, and that I’ve been asked directly a number of times. I guess since I published advice on running DOS games on Windows PCs on two continents, people figured I knew something about that. I guess I fooled them!

The trouble is that no single PC can really be the “ultimate” DOS game machine. Well, not if your goal is to be able to optimally run everything from early 1980s titles designed for the original IBM PC up to the last DOS version of Quake. I learned that the hard way in 1995 or 1996, even before Quake existed. Read more

Connect more than one game system to a TV with one HDMI port

I was reading reviews of televisions and found several televisions had negative reviews because they only had a single HDMI port. The guy who bought it had wanted to connect two game systems to it. But you usually can connect more than one game system to a TV with one HDMI port.

I’m not sure who buys a television without first making sure it has all of the inputs you’ll need in order to connect stuff to it. But this problem has a solution other than buying a more expensive TV with two HDMI ports.

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Bringing back old HDTVs

Over Thanksgiving weekend I picked up a discarded 23-inch LCD HDTV, a Samsung LN-S2341W. The television’s biggest problem, it turned out, was that it didn’t have an ATSC tuner so it couldn’t pick up over the air broadcasts after analog broadcasts came to an end in 2009. Read more

What to look for in a motherboard

I’ve been building PCs for more than 20 years and I tend to keep them a very long time, so it occurred to me that someone might be interested in what I look for in a motherboard to ensure both a long, reliable life and a long useful life.

Of course what to look for has changed to some degree over the years, but this is what I look for in the mid-2010s.

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The Post-Dispatch may be giving the wrong idea about the dollar value of vintage computers

Articles like Top 10 collectibles for value, from the Post-Dispatch this week, frequently make me nervous, mostly because of statements like this one:

[D]id you know that computer parts can bring home cash, too?

Statements like that tend to get people’s hopes up way too high. I find the timing interesting though, seeing as a TRS-80 Model 1 sold at a St. Louis estate sale this past weekend. The estate seller’s reaction? “Normally you can’t give that stuff away.”

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How the IBM PC became the de facto standard for desktop computers

I saw a question on a vintage computing forum this week: How did the IBM PC become the de facto standard for PCs, and the only desktop computer architecture from the 1980s to survive until today?

It’s a very good question, and I think there were several reasons for it. I also think without all of the reasons, the IBM PC wouldn’t have necessarily won. In some regards, of course, it was a hollow victory. IBM has been out of the PC business for a decade now. Its partners Intel and Microsoft, however, reaped the benefits time and again.

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A quick fix for the Insignia NS20EM50A13 monitor’s biggest annoyance

I’ve written about the Insignia NS20EM50A13 monitor before. It’s a reasonably good low-end monitor with the annoying tendency to change the video input back to VGA any time your system goes to sleep or changes from text to graphics mode. I accidentally discovered this week–after using the monitor for months–that if you push the OK button on the front of the monitor, it brings up the input menu, allowing you to quickly flip it back to DVI without fumbling through the menus.

I still wish the monitor would let me set the default to DVI and make it stay that way, but this is an acceptable workaround for the price, at least for me.

Follow-up on the Insignia NS20EM50A13 monitor

After about a month with an Insignia NS20EM50A13 monitor, I still mostly like it, but can note one annoyance. When booting up a system, the monitor sometimes likes to switch from the DVI input to VGA, without warning. If you happen to be sitting there when it happens, you notice it and can switch it back. But more than once I’ve rebooted, walked away, come back a few minutes later and wondered why I have a weird black screen in front of me instead of a logon screen. Read more