Sometimes when you go through a pile of old parts, you find a diamond in the rough. An Aztech sound card is a great example. They sound like they ought to be standard fare ’90s junk, with poor compatibility and poor sound quality. But it turns out they have a genuine Yamaha OPL3 chip in them. They may be the cheapest way to get a real OPL3 left.
The Intel 386 SX CPU quickly replaced the 286 CPU in the early 1990s. For a time, it was a very popular CPU, especially for people who were wanting to run Microsoft Windows. Yet the two CPUs run at nearly identical speed. So what was the big deal? The 286 vs 386SX argument could be confusing in 1991, and it’s not much clearer today.
A coworker asked me what the difference was between the Apple Macintosh and the Lisa. Admittedly, it’s hard to compare and contrast the two. But the Lisa was more than just an expensive Macintosh. Let’s take a look at the Apple Macintosh vs Lisa.
People of a certain age will remember the once common practice of blowing into Nintendo cartridges to make them work better. To people not of that age, it might seem strange. So, did blowing into a Nintendo cartridge work? And if it did, why do people like me recommend not doing it?
MS-DOS 6 introduced a boot menu capability, a capability PC DOS inherited. This capability had the potential to eliminate custom boot floppies, but not a lot of people used it in my experience. I have them set up on my retro PCs to good effect. So here’s the DOS boot menu explained, with a useful example.
It happens on all old computers, and even some not-so-old computers. The rubber pads that sit on the bottom of Commodore 64s to protect the desk surface and keep it from sliding around can fall off, liquify, or otherwise go missing. But even though the last ever C-64 was built sometime in early 1994, you can still get Commodore 64 replacement rubber feet. Here’s how.
I wanted a mouse for my IBM 5170 and my 386DX-33 systems, but both of them need a serial mouse. I mean old school RS-232 serial, not USB. Finding a serial optical mouse isn’t easy. Plus I wanted something that would look the part. I got an early 90s Microsoft mouse that matches the end of the 286/386 era, but it worked badly. So I had to learn again how to refurbish a vintage ball mouse.
The IBM 5170 PC/AT is a very popular retro PC, for several reasons. It was the last of the open architecture IBM PCs. And from 1984 to about mid-1987, it was the fastest and most expensive IBM PC. It wasn’t the fastest PC in its category. Compaq took care of that. But if you wanted true blue IBM, this was the machine. It was also controversial, both in its heyday and even today. Let’s talk about why.
In the summer of 2021, Youtuber Adrian Black was restoring an IBM 5170. And he lamented that he wasn’t able to get all of the original parts working together and have a machine that would do what he wanted. It wasn’t a pure IBM 5170 anymore. One of the things he did was put a Phoenix BIOS in it, which received mixed reactions. But that brought to mind another option someone who needed to soup up a 5170 in the late 80s could have used: MR BIOS. What was MR BIOS?
FTP is a useful way to get files to your retro PCs once you put them on your network. You can use a GUI FTP client, but command line FTP isn’t hard and doesn’t require you to install anything additional. Here’s how to use command line FTP.