Building DOS gaming PCs

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

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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IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000

IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000

On January 29, 1984, two computers hit the market. One was Apple’s Macintosh. It needs no introduction. The other was the IBM PCjr. It was a little less successful. We’ll talk about what this has to do with the Tandy 1000 in a minute.

The PCjr is one of the biggest flops in computing history. Few people know much more about it than that. It ended up being an important computer, but it certainly didn’t meet IBM’s expectations. Read more

How we learn

An article on Lifehacker this week explained a lot about how I initially became a computer professional. Its advice was to fly by the seat of your pants, try things without guidance or manuals, not be afraid to fail occasionally, and learn before you go to sleep.

So when I spent many nights in my late teens disassembling and reassembling obsolete IBM PC/XT clones to learn how they worked, I was unwittingly doing all of it right.

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The $99 Android tablet of 2013: The Hisense Sero 7 LT (or Lite)

So when I decided to bring myself into the current decade, tablet-wise, I opted for the $150 Hisense Sero 7 Pro, though I was certainly curious about its $99 little brother. Unfortunately, information on the Sero 7 Lite hasn’t been as easy to come by–people are understandably excited about getting a Nexus 7 clone for $50 less that actually includes two desirable features that the real thing lacks. This must be what it felt like to be in the market for an IBM PC/XT when the Leading Edge Model D came out in the summer of 1985.

But of course I was still curious what $99 can buy today, so I’m glad that Ars Technica gave it a look. Read more

Where Microsoft lost its way

John C. Dvorak wrote an analysis of how Microsoft lost its way with Windows 8 this week.

All in all it sounds reasonable to me. His recollection of DOS and some DOS version 8 confused me at first, but that was what the DOS buried in Windows ME was called. But mentioning it is appropriate, because it shows how DOS faded from center stage to being barely visible in the end, to the point where it was difficult to dig it out, and that it took 15 years for it to happen. He’s completely right, that if Microsoft had pulled the plug on DOS in 1985, Windows would have failed. Read more

No, this doesn’t mean Ubuntu and Linux are giving up

This week, Mark Shuttleworth closed the longstanding Ubuntu bug #1, which simply read, “Microsoft has majority market share.” Because Microsoft didn’t lose its market share lead to Ubuntu, or Red Hat, or some other conventional Linux distribution, some people, including John C. Dvorak, are interpreting this as some kind of surrender.

I don’t see it as surrender at all. Microsoft’s dominant position, which seemed invincible in 2004 when Shuttleworth opened that bug, is slipping away. They still dominate PCs, but PCs as we know it are a shrinking part of the overall computing landscape, and the growth is all happening elsewhere.

I have (or at least had) a reputation as a Microsoft hater. That’s a vast oversimplification. I’m not anti-Microsoft. I’m pro-competition. I’m also pro-Amiga, and I’ll go to my grave maintaining that the death of Amiga set the industry back 20 years. I have Windows and Linux boxes at home, my wife has (believe it or not) an Ipad, and at work I’m more comfortable administering Linux than Windows right now, which seems a bit strange, especially considering it’s a Red Hat derivative and I haven’t touched Red Hat in what seems like 400 years.

What Shuttleworth is acknowledging is that we have something other than a duopoly again, for the first time in more than 20 years, and the industry is innovating and interesting again. Read more

A not-quite-heir to the Model M

So today I came across the story of a new Cooler Master keyboard, which claims to be very IBM Model M-like, but with modern styling and conveniences.

The verdict is that this keyboard is even stiffer than the Model M, which raises a question that not many are asking. Maybe I’m showing my age and everyone else is too young. But to me, the obvious question is how the Cooler Master CM Storm and its Cherry MX green key switches compare to the Model M’s predecessor, the IBM Model F? Read more

A cheap upgrade for obsolete computer cases

The ATX standard has changed very little in the last 15 years, which means some rather old computer cases can still accept new motherboards, as long as you also replace the power supply.

The bad news, as I stare at the case that once housed a Micron Client Pro 766 Xi (a 266 MHz Pentium II that was state of the art in 1997) is that front-mount USB ports were unheard of in those days, as were digital camera memory cards. Instead, machines of that era used obsolete floppy and Zip disks for removable storage. They also typically had more 5.25″ bays than we need today. When CD burners cost $400, most of us kept a reader in as well, to avoid wearing out expensive burners prematurely.

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The Byte digital archive

Here’s a treasure trove for retro computing enthusiasts. created the Byte digital archive. It’s exactly what it sounds like: A collection of digitized issues of Byte magazine available online, free.

Numerous archives of vintage computer magazines exist, many of which are of questionable legality so I’ll refrain from saying anything specific about that.

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