Computer Collection

Over the years, I have ended up with way more computers than any sane individual should have. This is my page to show you my system specs, screenshots, and thoughts as I've ventured up and down the timeline of computing history.

This isn't an exhaustive list - I have a lot of partially complete systems and random spare parts builds with no real purpose that aren't set up, so this is really focused on anything interesting, noteworthy and/or in active use, including previously-owned systems that I have since parted with. I will try to keep this up to date, but since I'm always messing with my machines this page may deviate from reality now and then.

And yes, I know it's (still) unfinished. Blame my poor attention span.

Jump to a specific section:

Production Systems
PC Compatibles (Custom)
PC Compatibles (Branded)
PC Laptops
Radio Shack
Raspberry Pi
Silicon Graphics
Sun Microsystems
Texas Instruments

Production Systems
Gigabyte X570 Aorus Pro WiFi
AMD Ryzen 5800X @ 3.8 GHz
32GB DDR4-3200
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super, 8GB
Realtek ALC1220-VB (Onboard)
Corsair Carbide Air 540
Corsair Force MP600 NVMe SSD, 1TB
Intel 660p NVMe SSD, 2TB
Rosewill 5.25" bay card reader
Windows 10 Pro
My main workstation, and a big (VERY long-awaited) upgrade from my old FX-8350 system... I was very happy to go all-SSD this time around too! The CPU was originally a Ryzen 3700X, but when I needed to build a new workbench computer I took the opportunity to put a 5800X in and reuse the old CPU for that.

January 2020
Gigabyte B550 Aorus Pro AC
AMD Ryzen 3700X @ 3.6 GHz
16GB DDR4-3600
Nvidia GeForce 1070 Super, 8GB
Realtek ALC1220-VB (Onboard)
Cooler Master N400
Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe SSD
Lite-On iHES208 Blu-Ray
Rocketfish 3.5" bay card reader
Arch Linux
I built this machine to serve as a new workbench system for my basement, where all my retro tech is. I also used it as an opportunistic reason to upgrade my main workstation and move some old parts here :) The GTX 1070 is a bit of a questionable card... I had loaned it out to someone after upgrading and it got some kind of mysterious liquid damage (while being in a position where a spill would be impossible to reach it!?) and stopped working, but I was able to clean it up enough to get it running again. However, it now seems to stutter a lot under load and in general performs worse than it did before, somehow. I don't really have a good explanation for how that is possible, but I guess I'm going to run it for a while and see if the magic smoke comes out. It's fine for GUI usage-- not planning to game on here much if at all.

March 2022
MSI C236M Workstation
Intel Core i3-6100 @ 3.7 GHz
16GB ECC DDR4-2133
Intel HD Graphics 530 (Onboard)
Realtek ALC892 (Onboard)
Corsair 100R
Western Digital Red SATA HDD, 6TB (x1)
Seagate IronWolf SATA HDD, 6TB (x3)
All drives in RAID-10
NAS server, so I can finally stop worrying so much about drive failures. Yes, I know "RAID is not a backup" but at least it gives me a fighting chance when something does go wrong here. Over the years only one of the original WD drives has survived... kinda unusual from my experience, usually the WD stuff is really solid - but at the same time, I'm running these harder than any I've had in the past so maybe it's just wear and tear. Whatever, that's exactly why the drives are in RAID-10.
Offsite backup capability IS planned for the future.
Supermicro X8SIE
Intel Xeon X3470 @ 2.93 GHz
32GB ECC DDR3-1066
Intel HD Graphics (Onboard)
Thermaltake Commander MS-I
Epic Edition (Well... bits of one)
Crucial MX500 SATA SSD, 500GB
Seagate Barracuda SATA HDD, 2TB
VMware ESXi 6.5
A virtual machine host for small servers I need to run for my infrastructure. It's getting REALLY old unfortunately, and it's an ugly hodgepodge of random parts. I'll need completely new hardware to move past ESXi 6.5. But it's still faster, cheaper, and runs a lot cooler than my old PowerEdge 2970-- yikes! People may disagree with using VMware for the home, but it's what I'm used to from both school and work so I might as well follow the industry standard.
Intel 7th Generation NUC
Model NUC7i3BNH
Intel Core i3-7100U @ 2.4 GHz
16GB DDR4-2133
Intel HD Graphics 620 (Onboard)
Realtek (Onboard)
Samsung PM951 M.2 NVMe SSD, 256GB
Windows 10 Home
Just a tiny, power-efficient system for video content on my TV. A word of warning: If you have one of these make sure to use two DIMMs to get dual-channel memory. Otherwise it will be starved for memory bandwidth. Example: Going dual-channel took my GPU load from 100% while playing a video down to 15-20%! Now it can handle even 4K no problem.

August 2020
HP Pavilion m8430f
Asus IPIBL-LB "Benicia"
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.4 GHz
4GB DDR2-800
ATI Radeon 4670, 512MB
Realtek ALC888S (Onboard)
Sandisk SATA SSD, 128GB
X-Arcade controller
Windows 8.1
It's my MAME cabinet! This old OEM box is good enough for the job. It's a simple cabinet design built around the parts I had on hand. Whenever I upgrade the cabinet hardware, I'll probably put this system back to the way it was originally. The analog tuner is useful, but unfortunately only has Vista drivers.
Framework Laptop
Framework 11th-Gen Core
Intel Core i5-1135G7 @ 2.4 GHz
16GB DDR4-3200
13.5" IPS, 2256x1504
Intel Iris Xe (Onboard)
Intel HD Audio (Onboard)
SK Hynix Gold P31 M.2 NVMe SSD, 1TB
Windows 11 Pro
In searching for a new laptop, 5 years after my disappointing XPS 9560, I stumbled upon Framework and their mission to create a modular, repairable, upgradable laptop. Given my poor experiences with the last few laptops I've had, I decided to get one as I deeply support the concepts the Framework Laptop is built on. While Framework is a new company and it's not yet clear how things will pan out, I'm hoping that this gamble will pay off in the long run. So far, I really like it! The interchangable I/O cards are a genius idea that is great for someone like me who needs a varying range of connections. The overall build quality seems good to me and it is comfortable to use.
Literally my only real issue with it has been the screen. A 3:2 display is great, but operating systems STILL struggle with DPI scaling for these small-size, high-resolution screens, especially when it's not a simple 200% scale (like this one, where 125%-150% is ideal). Not much Framework could do about that - just going to have to wait for OS vendors to figure things out. They've only had years!

September 2022
Lenovo ThinkPad T530
Intel Core i7-3720QM @ 2.6 GHz
8GB DDR3-1333
15.6" TFT, 1600x900
Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Onboard)
Realtek ALC3202 (Onboard)
Intel 330 SATA SSD, 240GB
Western Digital Blue SATA HDD, 1TB
(via UltraBay adapter)
Arch Linux
Windows 10 Pro
I still keep this relic in service as my primary Linux laptop. Can you believe I only paid $35 for this!? (Thanks office surplus recyclers!) It's still capable enough, too. It came with the i5-3320M and I replaced the CPU with the 3720QM for a little more breathing room. I could probably stand to swap to the heatsink from the dGPU version of the laptop though, as the fan kicks on a lot now.

January 2020

PC Compatibles (Custom)
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16 GHz
8GB DDR2-800
Nvidia GeForce 9600GT, 512MB
Realtek ALC889A (Onboard)
Cooler Master Centurion 5
Western Digital SATA HDD, 250GB
Windows XP
Windows 7
Not originally mine -- never saw it in action in its heyday, but it would've been a respectable rig. Surprisingly, in 2016 it was still limping along running modern games, somehow. It's been reverted back to XP for old games now, with the PAE patch to enable the full 8GB of RAM.

AMD Athlon 64 3200+ "Newcastle"
@ 2.2 GHz
2GB DDR-400
ATI Radeon X800XL, 256MB
Sound Blaster Audigy
Antec SX1030B
Silicon Power SATA SSD, 64GB
Western Digital Blue SATA HDD, 1TB
IDE Hot-Swap Bay
Iomega Zip-250 (IDE)
Teac FD-55GFR 5.25" Floppy
3.5" Floppy
Promise SATAII150-TX4 PCI
SATA Controller
USB 2.0 Multi Card Reader
Windows XP
The best of WinXP's glory days, or least the way I remember it-- right down to the choice of case :). It gradually transformed from a very basic Athlon XP build into this. It's also used for writing floppies and other media (thanks OmniFlop!), so I've stuffed it with as many drives as possible. I am using the Promise SATA card to bypass the onboard SATA because the chipset has very poor support for newer drives.

September 2021
Rise Computer R418
IBM (Cyrix) 5x86C @ 100 MHz
64MB 72-pin FPM
Matrox MGA Millenium, 4MB
Sound Blaster 32 (CT3600) w/ 8MB RAM
Generic Baby-AT Tower
HP/Compaq Ultra320 SCSI HDD, 68GB
3.5" Floppy
Adaptec 2940UW SCSI Controller
3Com Fast Etherlink XL 3C905B-TX
OS/2 Warp 3.0 Connect
This late PCI 486 build uses a lot of workstation-y parts and an absurd amount of RAM for the time - not exactly the best choices for gaming, but I wanted to see what would happen if I offload as much stuff from the CPU as possible through high performance (for the time) graphics, storage, etc. Then I decided to just do something weird with it and put OS/2 on it. I know way too many people that claim they loved OS/2 back in the day but looking at it from a modern perspective, it just comes off as eccentric and temperamental. It was hard to install, is disorganized and it constantly feels like it's going to break. And that's WITH hardware that is apparently well-supported! Regardless, I'm going to run it on here and see if maybe after using it more I will understand what the appeal was. If not there are plenty of other operating systems that may be a good fit for this machine. WinNT? Nextstep? Really old Linux? Who knows!
Asus M5A97 R2.0
AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz
16GB DDR3-1333
AMD Radeon RX 580, 8GB
Asus Xonar DGX
Antec Three Hundred
Toshiba SATA SSD, 128GB
Western Digital Black SATA HDD, 1TB
Windows 10 Pro
Windows 8.1 Pro
Windows 7 Home Premium
This is my previous main workstation. Over time, this system gradually transformed into its current configuration, starting from an extremely unstable LGA1366 based build (Asus P6X58D-E/Core i7-930/Radeon 5870)... insert Ship of Theseus reference here. Some bits were also pilfered over time for newer builds. ♫ It's the circle of life! ♫

December 2010

June 2013

March 2019

PC Compatibles (Branded)
Dell Dimension 8250
Dell proprietary, Intel 850E based
Intel Pentium 4 HT "Northwood"
@ 3.06 GHz
512MB PC1066 RDRAM
ATI Radeon 9700 Pro, 128MB
Sound Blaster Live! Dell OEM
Western Digital IDE HDD, 200GB
3.5" Floppy
Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger"
Windows XP Home
I was just entering adolescence when this computer showed up in my house. It was a massive upgrade from the old Pentium II and had that newfangled Windows XP! I spent many hours on it in those formative years, surfing the web with the new DSL connection, playing Star Wars Battlefront, and messing around with different emulators that the old PII couldn't handle.

However, time was not kind to this machine. The Dells of this era were, frankly, complete garbage. The plastic creaked and groaned with the slightest touch, the power supply was woefully underpowered and had to be replaced under warranty, and the decision to use RDRAM killed any chance of upgrading it affordably ($200 for an extra 512MB... in 2009, six years later!?!?). It started to struggle under the weight of later XP service packs and a huge amount of bloatware which I was powerless to remove at the time since it was a shared family computer. I eventually drifted away from it towards my Athlon 64 system once I was allowed internet in my room, and it ended up in the original Basement Lab(tm) in 2009. At that point, I was messing around with Hackintoshing and turned it into a respectable OS X 10.4 system (10.5 didn't support the Radeon 9700 on Intel). That was fun! (Note that the weird "Dell OEM" Sound Blaster Live, which is a kneecapped version of the card that doesn't work with normal SBLive drivers, never worked in OS X, but a $5 USB audio adapter did the trick)

Over the years though, the thing really started to fall to bits. The fans stopped working, the front USB ports died, and the optical drives seized up. And I STILL couldn't stand that creaky plastic. I ended up scavenging the useful parts and took the rest down to electronics recycling. The CPU is in my spare CPU drawer and the Radeon got flashed to a PowerPC ROM and went into my G4 MDD. Anyone need some RDRAM?

May 2005

August 2006

April 2009
Packard Bell Legend 406CD
Packard Bell "Hillary" Series
Intel Pentium MMX @ 233MHz
via Powerleap ProMMX adapter
80MB 72-pin EDO
Cirrus Logic GD5430, 2MB (Onboard)
3dfx Voodoo, 4MB
Pine Technology PT-230X
(ESS ES1868-based)
Dreamblaster X2GS
Seagate IDE HDD, 40GB
K Hypermedia 52x IDE CD-ROM
3.5" Floppy
Zynx ZX312 PCI Ethernet
(DEC 21040-based)
MS-DOS 7.1
Windows for Workgroups 3.11
I have a long history with Packard Bells, and so I have a soft spot for these FrogDesign 3x3 cases. Thus, it was inevitable that I would end up with more than one of them. This one was supposed to have a Pentium 75 in it, but I was pleasantly surprised to open this one and find that the stock 75MHz Pentium had already been replaced with a 133. I decided to keep pushing and use some adapter magic to get a 233MMX going - this machine needs all the help it can get as it appears there is no L2 cache on the motherboard. While it is never going to be a speed demon, the 233MMX gets it up to a speed that suits my needs just fine. I even threw in a Voodoo1 for those early hardware accelerated DOS games.
Tandy 1000 RL
AMD 8086 @ 9.54MHz
Tandy Video II (Onboard)
Tandy PSSJ (Onboard)
(SN76489 compatible + DAC)
Industrial CompactFlash Card, 256MB
3.5" 720K Floppy
XT-CF Eco-Lite IDE Controller
MS-DOS 5.0
Always wanted a Tandy ever since I saw the "Tandy graphics" option in Lemmings and wondered what the hell it was. Now I have one! This thing is so tiny and adorable, and the enhanced graphics and sound over the standard PC make it a real winner. It had a 40MB "IDE-XT" drive installed when I got it, which was unsurprisingly dead. I opted not to replace it and go with the CF card which works wonderfully.
Sony Vaio PCV-RX650
Asus P4B266-LM
Intel Pentium 4 "Willamette" @ 1.6GHz
512MB DDR-266
Nvidia GeForce 3 Ti 200, 64MB
Sound Blaster Live! Value (CT4670)
Seagate IDE HDD, 80GB
3.5" Floppy
Memory Stick reader
56K PCI Winmodem
Windows XP Home
TopologiLinux 4.0
This was my grandmother's second PC, once upon a time- a follow up to her old Packard Bell now that the Internet was more of a thing. I actually used it when it was new, around late 2001 or 2002 until 2006ish, and had some files and stuff on it. I think it was actually the first Windows XP computer I ever saw. It ended up in my possession almost 20 years later, and to my surprise... all my stuff was still there. Downloads, save games, chat logs, even a hidden Linux install... perfectly frozen in time. Talk about a nostalgia trip :) I'm working on enhancing it a bit, for instance removing the RIVA TNT2 M64 video card (I can't believe it shipped with one of those in 2002!), but I'm not sure exactly what I want to use it for yet.

Fun fact: These machines will not boot if the CMOS battery is dead. I don't mean they'll power up and nothing will happen - I mean pressing the power button will do absolutely nothing. I actually thought the motherboard had died before someone tipped me off to try putting a new battery in. I've never seen that on a PC!

July 2005 (forensic reconstruction)
Leading Edge Model D
Intel 8088 @ 4.77MHz
CGA-Compatible (Onboard)
PC Speaker
Seagate ST-225 MFM HDD, 20MB
3.5" 720K Floppy
Adaptec ACB-2010A MFM Controller
MS-DOS 5.0
It's an XT clone, yay. Nothing really standout about it, but it works well. It's mostly been superceded for "really old DOS stuff" by my Tandy 1000 RL though. What impressed me most was the ST-225 hard drive. These drives are just absolute tanks -- The drive is 35+ years old and I was able to low level format it with zero bad sectors! On the other hand, I had to switch the original 360K floppy drive out, first because I don't have any other PCs with 360K drives, and second because it turned out it doesn't work reliably anyway. A 720K drive works OK and is at least intercompatible with newer machines. I do have one "ugly weird hack" on here - I wired up the PC speaker to a potentiometer taped to an ISA backplate so I can adjust the volume. It's just way too loud by default.
Packard Bell Legend 204CD
Packard Bell PB450
Intel 486DX2 @ 66MHz
24MB 72-pin FPM
Cirrus Logic GD5428, 1MB (Onboard)
Voyetra Sound144AM
(Aztech Sound Galaxy Washington 16)
Seagate IDE HDD, 540MB
3.5" Floppy
MS-DOS 6.22
Windows for Workgroups 3.11
Ah, the Legend 204CD. Literally the first PC-compatible I ever used, as my grandmother owned one. I spent many an hour playing games, drawing, listening to MIDIs, and breaking Windows.

Unfortunately, this isn't the exact same unit I used as a kid, but it's close enough to make me feel nostalgic. Packard Bell has a bad reputation among folks, but I've never had a problem with them. They may not have been the best choice compared to the competition at the time, but the computers have seemed solid enough and the parts are a good combination for retro fun. The only downside I can think of for this system in particular is that the CMOS battery is a soldered on BR1225. My preferred fix for this is to remove it and attach an external 2xAA battery pack. These provide the same 3V required, are easily replaced, and the holder can contain any potential leakage.
Gateway G6-450
Gateway Tabor 2 (Intel WS440BX)
Intel Celeron "Tualeron" @ 1.4GHz
Voltage-modded CPU via generic
"370 PGA/FC-PGA Card" Slotket
Nvidia GeForce 4 Ti 4400, 128MB
3Dfx Voodoo 2, 8MB
Ensoniq AudioPCI ES1371 (Onboard)
Sound Blaster 16 (CT2230)
Seagate IDE HDD, 80GB
Maxtor IDE HDD, 80GB
Memorex 52MAXX IDE CD-RW
Matsushita IDE DVD-ROM
3.5" Floppy
Netgear FA311 Fast Ethernet
NEC USB 2.0 PCI Card
Apacer 3.5" USB Multi Card Reader
Windows 98 SE
Ubuntu Linux 7.04/7.10
Windows XP
Red Hat Linux 9
TopologiLinux 4.0
Windows 98 FE
Literally the first computer I ever went online with. Once it became outdated, it was the first PC I personally owned... and I upgraded the hell out of it over the years. I've jammed in more drives, more cards, a series of increasingly faster CPUs and GPUs-- anything to push it to its limit. To think that it started as a Pentium II 450, with 64MB of RAM and a Riva TNT based card. These days it's my default Win98 computer and still sees a lot of use. I just absolutely love this machine and don't plan to part with it, ever.

March 2005

May 2005

July 2007

March 2010

December 2020
HP Pavilion a1130n
MSI MS-7093 "Ahi"
AMD Opteron 175 @ 2.2GHz
2GB DDR-400
ATI Radeon Xpress 200 (Onboard)
Nvidia GeForce 8400GS, 512MB
Realtek AC'97 (Onboard)
Western Digital SATA HDD, 250GB
16X-Speed IDE DVD-RW with LightScribe
3.5" Floppy
Integrated USB Multi-Card Reader
Linksys WMP54GS PCI 802.11g
Debian Linux 7.0 "Wheezy"
Arch Linux
Debian Linux 6.0 "Squeeze"
Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard"
Ubuntu Linux 7.10 "Gutsy"
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
The first PC that was wholly "mine" from the very beginning, and a big upgrade from the Gateway G6-450. I did a LOT with this computer- light gaming, development, music, mid-2000s web goodness, trying many, many operating systems... the list goes on. I upgraded it a bit over time, such as replacing the original Athlon 64 3500+ with an Opteron for dual-core (required a BIOS flash if I recall), bumping up the RAM, and adding the 8400GS to desperately escape the horrible integrated graphics. After it got replaced as my daily driver, it did Linux duties and hosted a Minecraft server for several years until increasing server requirements finally caught up with it. Unfortunately, this system has not only fallen into disuse but apparently also disrepair; last time I tried to boot it, it wouldn't POST at all. Given the manufacturing timeframe... probably capacitor plague. A sad end for a legend... until I recap it myself.

October 2005

October 2006

August 2007

October 2007

November 2008

November 2009

May 2012

July 2013
Digital Equipment Corporation DECpc 466d2 MT
Intel 486DX2 @ 66MHz
32MB 72-pin FPM
S3 924, 1MB (Onboard)
Acer Magic S20
(OPTi 929-based, WSS/SB Pro compatible)
3.5" Floppy
SMC 8013EWC Ether16 Combo (ISA)
DEC's PC line doesn't seem to be very common but I ended up with one. It has some benefits for the era, such as onboard PS/2 ports, nice industrial design and an interesting CPU board design, but it also has many downsides: weird 4.5V CMOS battery, ISA slots only, and onboard video that performs extremely poorly in DOS - we're talking half the framerate in Doom compared to other 486DX2s I have used. I haven't come to a conclusion what to do with it, but want to hold on to it as there don't seem to be many out there. Maybe a good candidate for weird OS experiments?

PC Laptops
Dell XPS 13 (9350)
Intel Core i5-6200U @ 2.8 GHz
8GB DDR4-1866 (Soldered)
13" IPS, 1920x1080
Intel HD Graphics 520 (Onboard)
Realtek ALC3246 (Onboard)
Cruical MX300 M.2 SATA SSD, 525GB
Windows 10 Pro
Antergos Linux
KDE Neon User Edition
A total Frankenstein monster - it is an XPS 13 9350 that had a broken screen in the case of an XPS 13 9343 that had a dead motherboard. And, for whatever reason you have to use USB-C Power Delivery to charge it because the actual charging port doesn't work. What a mess.

May 2018
Dell XPS 15 (9560)
Intel Core i7-7700HQ @ 2.8 GHz
16GB DDR4-2133
15" IPS, 1920x1080
Intel HD Graphics 630 (Onboard)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
Realtek ALC3266 (Onboard)
Lite-On M.2 NVMe SSD, 512GB
Windows 10 Pro
Getting this laptop, I was just happy to have a modern PC laptop again... but it really turned out to be a disappointment. It has some serious heat issues, and is notorious for throttling HARD, which dampered my enthusiasm for it from the get-go. I could potentially do a bit of work to mitigate this, but haven't gotten around to it apart from trying to band-aid the issue with some undervolting. Will I bother, though? Just like the XPS 9350 I have, the charging port failed on it, and even after a replacement it still doesn't work right so I'm stuck with USB-C Power Delivery again. Linux can't even save this thing unless I want to deal with the pain that is Optimus switchable graphics. Honestly glad it's not my main laptop any more.

Compaq Presario 2100
AMD Athlon XP-M @ 1.8? GHz
14.1" TFT, 1024x768
ATI Mobility Radeon
Conexant (Integrated)
Optical Drive (probably DVD)
This laptop was an early failure of mine, and I have few details on it now. I got it for free but it was missing a hard drive... and the entire hard drive sled with the proprietary adapter attached to it. Damn it. I could not find one affordably at the time-- probably cause I was too young and dumb at the time to figure out a good search term to turn one up. So, it never really got used and eventually was tossed out as far as I remember. I also recall it being really picky about RAM as I tried to stick 512MB in it to run a LiveCD or something, and it wouldn't boot at all. Looking back, I probably could have figured this one out if I'd put more time into it-- what a shame.

Sony VAIO PCG-F480
Intel Mobile Pentium III "Coppermine"
@ 600 MHz
15" TFT, 1024x768
NeoMagic MagicMedia 256AV, 2.5MB
Yamaha DS-XG
4X-Speed DVD-ROM
3.5" Floppy
Windows 2000 Professional
I got this for free some time back. Never got around to testing it until now, but it turns out the keyboard barely works. Most keys don't do anything-- a few work, but not enough to be usable. It wasn't an easy case of a poorly connected keyboard and I couldn't see an obvious way to get a look at the actual keyboard matrix without damaging it. Given its poor cosmetic shape I didn't want to bother putting money into finding a replacement keyboard. It's still hanging around, though-- I'm merely using it as a stand to boost a Commodore 1084S monitor up a bit. :)






NEC μPD780C @ 4MHz
(Zilog Z80 compatible)
PC-8801 V1/V2 compatible
Yamaha YM2203 "OPN" (Onboard)
Yamaha YM2608 "OPNA" (SoundBoard II)
Gotek Floppy Emulator (x2)
(FlashFloppy firmware)
N88-BASIC v2
As you may have seen, I have an interest in Japanese retro computers and games. So I guess it's no surprise I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to get a PC-88 series machine. I find these interesting because they are wildly unbalanced computers - slow business-oriented graphics which are a poor fit for games, but they still fit the later models with high-quality FM audio. Somehow, though, it works and makes for a very different and interesting experience.

While my system works, it was subjected to a hell of a lot of abuse during the shipping process, with a LOT of broken plastic-- including critical tabs used for mounting the power supply properly. I've spent some time attempting to superglue it back together, and I think I've succeeded although I worry it may be more flimsy than I think it is. Due to poor supply of 360k disks, I replaced the drives with Gotek floppy emulators with FlashFloppy firmware. This is a great solution and very convenient. I also put in a modern clone of the YM2608-based Sound Board II, created by Enhanced Ethylene Technology and Flyingharuka's Retro, and it sounds absolutely incredible in action!

Radio Shack

Raspberry Pi

Sharp X68000 XVI
Motorola 68000 @ 16 MHz
(switchable 10/16 MHz)
2MB (Onboard) +
8MB (Galspanic RAM expansion)
Yamaha YM2151 (Onboard)
OKI MSM6258 (Onboard)
Roland SC-55mkII
via Midiori MIDI expansion
microSD card, 4GB
via external SCSI2SD v5
5.25" 1.2MB Floppy (2)
Human68K 3.02
This is it -- the pinnacle of the collection. I wanted one ever since the mid 2000s when I first saw a picture. There wasn't a lot of English language information back then, just tales of excellent arcade ports and, well, Castlevania. But damn did it look cool.

Years later, I was finally able to make that dream a reality! IT WAS WORTH IT. This is such a fun machine to work with, and still feels like an unexplored frontier. I continue to enjoy the games library and the huge variety of MDX music, which is a chiptune nerd's dream. The XVI model is great for its additional functionality over the original X68000, and is probably the most verastile model in the series.

I did encounter some technical struggles early on - after a few months of ownership the onboard RAM started to go bad. I had a hard time diagnosing this but eventually figured it out by effectively manually testing the RAM using the extremely minimalistic ROM monitor over a serial port. From there, I sought some assistance in removing the soldered-on chips and replacing them with equivalent ones from an old 30-pin SIMM. Ever since, it's been smooth sailing.

I have sought out some upgrades to give myself a better experience. The first order of business was a RAM expansion. I initially found a relatively cheap 2MB card, but was later able to replace it with a newly made Galspanic 8MB board. This I/O slot memory is not quite as good as the XVI-specific internal boards which are considerably harder to source (due to lower memory speeds which can cause issues in a few titles at 16 MHz) but it's good enough for me. I also added a Midiori which is a modern MIDI card for the system. Now I can attach my Roland SC-55mkII and rock out!

Anyway TL;DR this thing rocks.

Silicon Graphics

Zilog Z80A @ 3.579 MHz
64KB +
512KB (MegaFlashROM SCC+SD)
Yamaha V9958
Yamaha YM2149 (Onboard)
Yamaha YM2413 "OPLL" (Onboard)
Yamaha YMF278 "OPL4"
via OPL4 Shockwave 2 cartridge
Konami SCC+
via MegaFlashROM SCC+SD cartridge
microSD card, 4GB
via MegaFlashROM SCC+SD cartridge
3.5" 720K Floppy
Nextor (MSX-DOS)
This MSX2+ system was one of the first Japanese computers I imported. I am very impressed with the community surrounding the system to this day, as they continue to release amazing new hardware and software to keep it alive. Of particular interest to me is the wide range of audio hardware available - with my expansions this thing has basically 4 different sound chips! The MegaFlashROM SCC+SD cartridge is also a great all-in-one device for memory expansion, mass storage and flash cart support.

The bad news is that after a few years of fun, the computer has become increasingly inoperable. It seems to be some kind of power delivery issue, as the system cuts out and/or reboots soon after booting it up. After checking suspect capacitors and finding nothing, I suspected a bad voltage regulator but my repair attempts have not helped and in fact have just made things worse. It may very well be the main power supply portion in need of a full replacement or rebuild, but I can't figure out where the problem is safely. At this point I'm just leaving it be and looking for another MSX rather than continue to try my luck with it.

Sun Microsystems
Sun Ultra 5
UltraSPARC-IIi @ 360 MHz
Sun PGX24 (Onboard)
3.5" Floppy
Solaris 8
Debian Linux 6.0 "Squeeze"
OpenBSD 6.0
Solaris 7
After starting to get into SPARC machines for a bit, I grabbed an Ultra 5 very cheaply to play around with. Easy to find, standard PC components, cute design, what's not to like?

Well, it didn't exactly turn out as I expected, and was overall a disappointment. The Ultra 5 uses IDE unlike most other Unix workstations of the time, and the disk performance suffers as a result. The implementation is really poor, and CPU-intensive. It was buckling under the weight of contemporary operating systems for like Solaris 7 or 8. I tried upgrading the CPU from 270mhz to 360mhz, doubling the RAM, and adding a PCI PGX64 framebuffer instead of the onboard chipset. I later tried a ton of different Linux and BSD variants and they all had varying issues with hardware compatibility-- often I could not get a working install, and if I got that far usually the PGX64 would not work properly (if it all) leaving only the onboard 8-bit video. That was surprising for me, considering it was a standard Sun part with a well known ATI Rage based chipset.

The closest I got to anything working well was Debian 6.0 (see the screenshot) but honestly I felt "why bother with a SPARC machine when you're just running old Linux just like you could on a PC?". So I sold it. There are better SPARC machines to mess with Solaris on, and there's no use wasting time on one of these if I'm not enjoying it.

February 2017

Texas Instruments