What does a Sound Blaster do?

What does a Sound Blaster do?

There was a time when the Sound Blaster, and its manufacturer, Creative Labs, were household names. Today the product is a bit marginalized, even though it’s historically very significant. What does a Sound Blaster do, and should you care?

A Sound Blaster provides audio capability for a PC, usually slightly better than what comes built into modern PCs. Before sound came standard, Sound Blaster was the most popular and best supported type of sound card.

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SD to IDE performance

SD to IDE performance

Working IDE hard drives are getting harder to find. Compact Flash cards, the easiest modern substitute, aren’t all that easy to find anymore either. That got me looking at SD to IDE adapters, which convert cheap, readily available SD cards to a legacy IDE interface. This is convenient, but how’s the performance?

It turns out there are three limiting factors in SD to IDE performance: Card speed, adapter speed, and IDE bus speed. But since seek times on SD cards is lower, you can still see a performance improvement over a mechanical drive even if the transfer rates are disappointing. This is especially true of legacy systems that don’t have pre-emptive multitasking.

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Using an NE2000 network card in DOS

Using an NE2000 network card in DOS

If you have a mystery ISA network card with no recognizable brand name on it, chances are it’s an NE2000 clone of some sort. These cards were common in their day, but difficult to get working if you don’t have the original disks and manual. Here are some tips for using an NE2000 network card in DOS without them.

And these tips are helpful for using other cards in DOS as well, especially what you can do with the card once you have it up and running.

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Matching Commodore breadbin beige

Matching Commodore breadbin beige

I don’t think it’s any great secret that RAL 1019 is the color of the Commodore 64 breadbin and its matching peripherals. But what can you do in parts of the world where you can’t find RAL 1019 in spray cans? Here are some other tips for matching Commodore breadbin beige.

There are several reasons to want to match old computer colors. Maybe you want to paint a damaged case, or maybe you’re building a peripheral for it and want a vintage color for it. Fortunately there are some off-the-shelf matches that are fairly close, including in the Krylon Fusion line, which bond well to plastic.

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Gotek floppy emulator for retro PCs

Gotek floppy emulator for retro PCs

Gotek floppy emulators are a useful piece of hardware, especially for retro PCs. The problem is they suffer from poor documentation. If you mess around with old PCs a lot, a Gotek is a must-have.

A Gotek floppy emulator is a drop-in replacement for 3.5-inch floppy drives that reads images off a USB flash drive. The Gotek can cycle through 1000 disk images on the USB drive by pressing buttons on its front panel. Goteks are really designed and marketed with vintage music equipment in mind, but they benefit old PCs too, for exactly the same reason.

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Optimizing DOS memory

Optimizing DOS memory

After watching some 486 build videos, it became clear to me that optimizing DOS memory is a lost art. Yes, I made some boot menus and custom DOS boot disks in my day, but for power users, that was usually a last resort. Memory managers usually free up more than 600K of conventional memory so DOS programs run great. Here’s how to use them.

The key is using HIMEM.SYS and EMM386.EXE in your config.sys with certain recommended parameters. These programs move device drivers and memory-resident utilities out of conventional memory to make room for memory-hungry DOS programs. Using HIMEM.SYS and EMM386.EXE is a bit of a lost art, so let’s see if we can un-lose it.

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PC DOS vs MS-DOS

PC DOS vs MS-DOS

DOS was a bit of an oddity, in that you could buy it from either Microsoft or IBM. The two were never quite identical, but were always mostly interchangeable. The differences grew larger at version 6, but they were still more alike than different. Let’s take a look at PC DOS vs MS-DOS.

IBM and Microsoft collaborated on DOS, and both had the right to market it. IBM sold its version as PC DOS, while Microsoft sold its version as MS-DOS. And for a time, IBM was happy just to sell PC DOS to owners of true-blue IBM PCs. But in 1993 it changed.

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What is retro in computers?

What is retro in computers?

What is retro in computers? It’s a fair question, because there’s a fine line between junk and treasure when it comes to old computers. And the answer definitely depends on who you ask. It means the computer is old enough to be collectible, but there’s no universal standard for “old enough.”

As a general rule, if it’s obsolete and no longer being made, someone considers it retro. But not necessarily everyone will, so there certainly are degrees of retro when it comes to computers.

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