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Springbok
August 22nd, 2013, 10:35 AM
Hey guys,

So I am trying to recapture some of my childhood/college years. I was wondering which vintage PC config you would suggest that I get. I am looking for something that will run a VGA card preferably. It will primarily be used to play the old classic games, like Space Quest, Lesuire Suite Larry, Police Quest etc. I might dabble into some programming as well, but mainly it will be for fun and tinkering. The IBM 5170 is obviously one of the first, but I believe they are tough to find with a VGA card. Haven't done the research yet, but don't know if the early ones can simply be fitted with a VGA. Then there is the IBM PS/2 Model 30. I believe it is not as collectible as the 5170. Don't know if I want to go to 386/486 processors, unless you suggest that for a vintage PC. I do know I don't really want a 8088/86 processor.

Along with the PC, I would need a VGA monitor. If I am going to go IBM, I would like to match styles. I know they make the IBM 8513 and 8512 monitors, which are of the PS/2 style. Do they make IBM VGA's for the 5170?

Any case. Just looking for some suggestions from people here, since I am new to vintage computing.

Thanks in advance.

Stone
August 22nd, 2013, 10:57 AM
Anything will run a VGA card, even an XT.

Do you want an IBM or a clone?

If you want an IBM a 386/486 would indicate a PS/2 and all that microchannel (crap). So a 286 might be the way to go.

And then there are clones........

Springbok
August 22nd, 2013, 11:01 AM
286 it is then. That is what I was leaning towards. Which would you suggest? It would be "cool" to have an old-school IBM. I actually really like the 5170 look, but they are hard to find (even on eBay). Are there any clones worth 286 collecting?

Springbok
August 22nd, 2013, 11:03 AM
PS: There are these 2 items on eBay

http://www.ebay.com/itm/IBM-Type-8512-Color-Display-CRT-monitor-Nov-1987-Working-/200953563971?pt=Computer_Monitors&hash=item2ec9c40b43

http://www.ebay.com/itm/IBM-PS-2-Model-30-8530-T31-30g-HDD-Floppy-Disk-Drive-Vintage-Powers-up-/400554297115?pt=US_Vintage_Computers_Mainframes&
hash=item5d42e5871b
The PC looks in pretty good shape

Springbok
August 22nd, 2013, 11:09 AM
Sorry, don't think I understood your post. Are you saying to avoid the PS/2 or to avoid the PS/2 386 and 486 models?

Stone
August 22nd, 2013, 11:23 AM
Sorry, don't think I understood your post. Are you saying to avoid the PS/2 or to avoid the PS/2 386 and 486 models?I am no fan of microchannel and that's due largely but not entirely to it's relative scarcity of parts.

If you're gonna go clone you can look at 286/386/486. Either way, a clone or a 5170 has got ISA architecture and, IMO, that is a big plus.

krebizfan
August 22nd, 2013, 11:28 AM
PS/2's can have some issues. Frequently, the floppy drive and hard disk are not common models which makes replacement of failed hardware complex or expensive. The RAM SIMMs differ from the typical RAM of the time. Microchannel cards tend to be very pricey and rare.

The cheapest method for getting a VGA system that runs the software you indicate is to find a 386 AT clone. A 286 clone or genuine IBM 5170 will cost more but 16-bit VGA cards are still easy to find. Note that the high-res remakes and sequels Sierra released starting in 1993 require a 386. For programming, get a 386; good debuggers really benefit from a 386.

pearce_jj
August 22nd, 2013, 11:31 AM
Watch out when buying a 286 that you get what you want - there were many XT systems with 286 processors, i.e. having only 8-bit expansion slots and really just using the 286 as a kind of souped-up 8086. For example Tandy 1000TL. The true AT-class systems are much faster.

Also re fixed disks, many 286's had RLL drives were generally slower than the later IDE drives, which boasted faster seek times. In either case they'll probably be dead or have very limited life in them. Fortunately anything with a 16-bit ATA interface (i.e. and IDE port) can be hooked up to a current SATA drive (SSD even) via a simple IDE to SATA adapter off eBay. Replacing an RLL drive will probably mean first getting a 16-bit IDE controller, not that those are expensive fortunately.

barythrin
August 22nd, 2013, 11:34 AM
Stone's just warning you that the IBM PS/2 line will use MCA cards which as he said are hard to find. Nothing wrong with them but since they're harder to find (not the winner of the technology mainstream) they get more expensive for not much reason. Any system will do what you want pretty well though, it just depends on the game(s) and how new they were. Do you remember what year(s) you played those games? Leisure Suit Larry comes to mind as one that's spanned a decade or so of development and may have higher system requirements than we are considering with a 5170. There are also some generic IBM looking cases, keep in mind they're heavy though so even if you found one cheap it'd cost $60 or something to ship it across town or further ;-)

While I always love the physical hardware (the true experience for any collector or die hard) you could also emulate most of those pretty well on current hardware with dosbox or any other computer emulator (Virtual PC is free although a bit crappier once Microsoft bought it, bochs, QEMU all free and pretty good emulation).

Hatta
August 22nd, 2013, 11:58 AM
For early VGA era stuff, I'd recommend one of the later Tandys. My 2500SX/20 is about perfect for what you want to do. Comes with built in VGA and PS/2 ports, has 16 bit ISA slots, and an onboard IDE controller. It is a 386, but it's one of the slower ones. I generally play anything that requires an AT on this computer, and anything that requires an XT on my 1000TX.

vwestlife
August 22nd, 2013, 11:58 AM
I have a NEC PowerMate SX/16 that I'm thinking of selling if the OP is interested. It's only a 386SX-16 with 1 MB of RAM, but it has onboard VGA, and that's good enough to play '80s and early '90s DOS games. I have a Sound Blaster Pro clone sound card installed, and it comes with the original NEC clicky keyboard. PM me if you're interested.

Chuckster_in_Jax
August 22nd, 2013, 12:11 PM
I am recommending a 486 computer, especially since you are wanting to play games. To me, only text based games ran decently on a PC\XT or At machine. A 386 may be OK, but performance for games didn't get very good until the 486 machines came out.

Cloudschatze
August 22nd, 2013, 12:28 PM
I recommend a Tandy 1000 RLX...

http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?16546-Best-PC-for-Vintage-Gaming&p=108037#post108037

Stone
August 22nd, 2013, 01:11 PM
Like barythrin said, I'm using DOSBox and ProGammaX on my modern computer to run all my old DOS games and APPS, as well. And, IMO, they run even better than they do on the machines they were originally for, too. :-)

Also, not all Tandys are 100% IBM compatible like the real clones are. They may be able to run all the IBM software but some of them cannot use all the standard ISA expansion cards and require proprietary hardware making them as problematic as the PS/2s in that respect.

vwestlife
August 22nd, 2013, 02:54 PM
I recommend a Tandy 1000 RLX...

http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?16546-Best-PC-for-Vintage-Gaming&p=108037#post108037

The 1000RLX would be great, if you could actually find one! Aside from the dirty, overpriced, untested one that's been on eBay forever, they never show up. A 1000TL/2 with a VGA card would give you the same capabilities and more expandability as the RLX, although even that model is quite rare (and the 1000TL/3 seems like vaporware, because I've never even seen a photo of one!).

SpidersWeb
August 22nd, 2013, 03:29 PM
I'd just get a 386DX or 486 clone. Just a standard "AT" style home build type that were common.
Price is silly, but it's this kind of thing I'm talking about: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Generic-486DX-33-Intel-486DX-33-4MB-Ram-425MB-HDD-Tower-PC-/261260401841?pt=Desktop_PCs&hash=item3cd4555cb1


A nice 486 will run anything from Leisure Suit Larry to Doom, and if it's a standard one:

- nice easy to use BIOS setup with IDE auto-detection etc
- 1.44 support off the mark plus support for custom hard drive entries normally.
- easy to find parts - IO controllers, Video Cards, Sound Cards, Hard Drives
- if anything fails, you replace just that part, not proprietary parts (motherboard, PSU, etc)
- you'll still be running DOS, and you can throw in a 5.25" floppy to make it feel more vintage ;) That also makes the future easier if you plan on buying an older machine like an XT or AT.

It may not be as unique or interesting as machines like the Tandy series, or an original IBM, but it'll give you much less challenges and play the games you want how you want to.

Although whatever you buy, people here will always be happy to help you out with it.
I'd recommend a 5170 + 8513 over a Model 30-286 personally. Proprietary parts just make it more expensive and painful when/if something goes wrong.

Edit: good lord, finding a complete 486 on ebay is crazy price :( I got given my last one, and the one before that I paid $1.

bettablue
August 22nd, 2013, 07:01 PM
Of course, all of the older computer equipment has their own pluses, and minuses. The IBM 5153 is a 5153, which will allow 16 color, and the IBM 5154 will allow the use of GA color palette. One thing to take into account; the IBM 5154 vga card and monitor combination are quite expensive for what you get in return. The cheapest vga card was pretty cheap, but the monitor display I've seen on E-Bay went for about $300.00. So that's something to take into account. Just food for thought. Hope this helps.

vwestlife
August 22nd, 2013, 07:07 PM
The frustrating thing is that even well into the 386 era, many DOS games were still speed-sensitive, and thus will play too fast on a 486. For example, to get this lovely game of Frog Volleyball to play at a reasonable speed on my Gateway 486DX-33, I had to switch it into non-turbo mode:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxul47ei5Uo

SpidersWeb
August 22nd, 2013, 07:19 PM
Of course, all of the older computer equipment has their own pluses, and minuses. The IBM 5153 is a 5153, which will allow 16 color, and the IBM 5154 will allow the use of GA color palette. One thing to take into account; the IBM 5154 vga card and monitor combination are quite expensive for what you get in return. The cheapest vga card was pretty cheap, but the monitor display I've seen on E-Bay went for about $300.00. So that's something to take into account. Just food for thought. Hope this helps.

IBM 5154 is actually EGA.
VGA is a step up from that and thankfully a lot cheaper/easier to come by. I'd love a nice EGA setup though.

Caluser2000
August 22nd, 2013, 09:48 PM
Edit: good lord, finding a complete 486 on ebay is crazy price :( I got given my last one, and the one before that I paid $1.Makes $30-60 ones on TardMe look damn good though ah?

Caluser2000
August 22nd, 2013, 09:50 PM
The frustrating thing is that even well into the 386 era, many DOS games were still speed-sensitive, and thus will play too fast on a 486. For example, to get this lovely game of Frog Volleyball to play at a reasonable speed on my Gateway 486DX-33, I had to switch it into non-turbo mode:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxul47ei5UoIsn't that exactly what the selection switch/bios setting is for? That SX offer is a goody though.

Springbok
August 23rd, 2013, 04:06 AM
Thanks for all the advice guys. I just bought this. Pretty excited. Did I get a good deal? I will be sending him a pre-paid shipping label, since I get discounted shipping through my company. Will probably cost me no more than $20 to ship UPS ground.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/221270928473

PS: A note from the seller....

"Yesterday i was reading about error 165 that i mentioned in the add, It turned out that it's a card configuration mismatch, I found out that the system had 2 additional cards installed, An extra memory expansion card and i believe a token ring card that didn't have drivers installed, Once i removed them both the system booted to PC-DOS, Then after that i was able to access and scan the hard drive and it came out clean, So that means the hard drive is fully functional and not defective as i mentioned in the post"

Caluser2000
August 23rd, 2013, 10:55 AM
As long as your happy with the purchase that is all that really matters. Have fun and enjoy.

Mad-Mike
August 23rd, 2013, 11:11 AM
IBM Model 70 386 - those are tanks! I used to have one way back around 2002, me and a friend found it in the woods under a tree full of spiders, roley poleys, and pine needles. I had seen it there exposed to mother nature for 2 years before I "rescued" it. Only thing I had to replace was the hard disk. Wish I still had it just for that story alone.

I think the error is not caused by lack of a driver, but by the option diskette for the card(s). IBM PS/2 systems tend to like keeping a catalog of all of their hardware in the BIOS I believe.....even the ISA models. I had an IBM PS/2 Model 30 286 that threw an Error 165 on POST every time because I had a Diamond Telecommander 2300 14.4K Modem/SoundCard combo in it (which I used a lot with NetTamer and games). It might throw errors but it will run just fine. The way to get rid of the errors is to get the option diskettes for those cards and use them.

Also, if the CMOS battery is dead, just take the battery to Radio Shack or a battery specialty place, they still sell the camera batteries the PS/2 Model 70 used there and at other places, I recall buying one at Wal-Mart back in 2005 for $8. They may still sell them, it's been awhile.

Also, the game Tank Wars programmed by Scott Morse was created on one of those.

Have Fun

vwestlife
August 23rd, 2013, 03:39 PM
Since you got your PS/2 with an XGA (1024x768 ) capable monitor, look for an XGA2 card. They should be readily available on eBay. Also if you want to add a CD-ROM drive, the easiest option is an external parallel port drive. Of course it won't be as fast as a SCSI drive, but for installing software to the hard drive, it'll work just fine.

Unfortunately, MCA sound cards are hard to find. The MCA Sound Blaster card is extremely rare and highly sought after. IBM made several of their own MCA sound cards, such as the M-Audio Capture and Playback Adapter, which is more common and cheaper to find, but finding and installing the correct Reference Disk and Windows 3.x drivers can be a hassle, and it does not have Sound Blaster compatibility, so DOS games won't recognize it. Here was one PS/2 enthusiast's epic adventure of installing an M-ACPA card in his Model 80:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfLtaKSZgoA

Trixter
August 30th, 2013, 09:05 PM
Thanks for all the advice guys. I just bought this. Pretty excited. Did I get a good deal?

A good deal in working order, sure. An MCA machine for gaming is a puzzling choice though; you can't add a sound card to it since it's microchannel. (There are MCA sound boards but they are crazy rare and expensive, and didn't work as well as their ISA counterparts). If you run across any games that support the Covox Speech Thing, that might be worth tracking down; you'l get speech and digitized sound effects through the device, which connects to your parallel port (I'm assuming you don't need it for printing).

The PS/2 line, like many (most?) IBM hardware products, are tanks. Very well built and last a long time. The keyboard and display are comfortable enough to be in front of for hours at a time, so in those respects, you made a good choice.