ESS Audiodrive: An underrated retro sound card

ESS Audiodrive: An underrated retro sound card

Recently I’ve heard a few people singing the virtues of the ESS Audiodrive, a budget sound card from the 1990s. It turns out that in several regards, especially if you want to run older software, the ESS Audiodrive is a better Sound Blaster than the Sound Blaster 16.

The ESS Audiodrive is a 16-bit ISA sound card that can emulate older Sound Blasters. Some late 90s software supports it natively, but older DOS games use it as a Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, or Ad Lib.

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Using a Sound Blaster 16 on a 286

Using a Sound Blaster 16 on a 286

I wanted to play 1990-era games on my 286 that don’t run right on my 486, but that meant I needed a sound card. Early PC sound cards are very expensive, so I wanted a cheaper alternative. Here’s how I got a Sound Blaster 16 to work on a 286.

Creative’s DOS drivers for the Sound Blaster 16 require a 386. But the hardware functions properly on earlier PCs, so you can use them on a 286 or even an XT-class PC with a third-party driver.

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5.25 floppy drive maintenance

5.25 floppy drive maintenance

It’s been a long time since 5.25-inch floppy drives were mainstream. But a lot of them can still work today with a little bit of cleaning and lubrication. Here’s a quick guide to 5.25 floppy drive maintenance.

Cleaning the heads, then cleaning and lubricating the rails is usually all it takes to get a 5.25-inch drive working well. Using the right cleaner and lubricating sparingly is the key to doing more good than harm.

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What is MS-DOS?

What is MS-DOS?

What is MS-DOS? I guess the question dates itself, or rather, the person who asked it. DOS is obsolete today, but was so important in the 80s and 90s that people assume you know what it was.

MS-DOS was the operating system PCs used before Windows. It was the first popular 16-bit operating system, and was the dominant operating system of the 1980s and early 1990s. It did not multitask.

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First 486 computer: The Apricot VX FT

First 486 computer: The Apricot VX FT

It’s fairly common knowledge that Compaq made the first 386-based computer, but what about the 486? What was the first 486 computer? When did the first 486 computer come out? And why have you never heard of it?

The first 486 computer was the Apricot VX FT, a line of servers announced in June 1989, with general availability later that year. They were expensive and they were only marketed as servers, so that’s why they aren’t as well known as the Compaq Deskpro 386.

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VGA connector doesn’t fit? Here’s why.

VGA connector doesn’t fit? Here’s why.

I dusted off my 486 the other weekend because I had some 90s nostalgia. And just like the 90s, I immediately ran into some trouble. The VGA connector didn’t fit on the 15-inch 4:3 LCD monitor I wanted to use. If your VGA connector doesn’t fit, you probably have the same problem I had.

VGA connectors used to leave out pin 9 as a key pin, to keep you from plugging the wrong kind of cable into the connector and damaging the connector. Modern VGA cables use pin 9, so if your cable doesn’t fit, check to see if the port has 14 pins or 15. A 14-pin VGA cable is almost a must-have if you travel and give presentations a lot, or are into retro computers.

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