Well, here we are, we finally made it to the present day, the start of my retro computing hobby. Prior to this, my hobby-related time on weekends was pretty much spent on software projects here and there (more on those in the future!), but with this hobby, we’re now focused on hardware projects.. and retro software projects. Let’s give a tour of how it started and where it’s going.
So, it all started with a post in a retro computing Facebook group about two years ago. The post was of a 486 system that The Obsolete Geek had recently built. I commented on it, something to the effect of “so jealous of that system.” Next thing you know, The Obsolete Geek sent me an IM and ask “Want me to build one for you? There are plenty of parts at Computer Reset!” My response: “I’d love that!” And so, on 5/30/2019, a very lovely 486 DX4/100 arrived! This lovely machine has a VLB video controller and IDE controller… and a beautiful speed readout LED on the front!! It’s a great retro case, and one that I remember a premium builder using back in the day. I’ve done a few upgrades to this machine, including a Sound Blaster AWE 64, 5.25″ FDD (from Computer Reset!), CD-ROM drive, and a network card, since all of my retro machines are on the network!
Now, fair to say, as soon as this machine was in the works, I got the bug and got it bad! A very nice Pentium II 400Mhz and Gateway Pentium III system showed up on Facebook Marketplace. I bought both of them 🙂 The Pentium II system reminded me of a certain model generic case I had used back in the day from MultiWave Direct. The Gateway Pentium III was a crapshoot, but for $20 bucks I figured why not.. and it even had an internal Iomega Zip drive! Well worth it.
What came next? A very scruffy Compaq Deskpro 6000 Pentium 200Mhz system that I saw on eBay. I saw its potential. It cleanup up beautifully. This machine is reminiscent of the Compaq Deskpros that I repaired during that one summer that I worked at The Data Place as covered in an earlier chapter. I love this machine, with all of its Deskpro quirkiness, including an F10 setup partition, and… no built in game port??? Of course not, it’s business class.. who games at work anyway? 😉
At this point, my first month of retro collecting was complete. I think I was already in deep trouble!
Next up, I took a trip to Kemner’s Surplus in Pottstown, PA. I mean this in the nicest way, but I don’t think that anything that makes it to Kemner’s ever made it out alive… or at a price that matched its actual value. I picked up a Tandy 2000 system and a Packard Bell Multimedia C110. The Tandy 2000 was eventually sent to another famous YouTuber for repair, but it was too far gone to salvage, I imagine it has been tossed. The Packard Bell Multimedia C110 got working again with the help of a new motherboard, and is on display in my basement!
A few weeks later, I was visiting my parents, and my brother said “Hey! I found something that we picked up as part of a lot from an estate sale!” He brought me an AST Premium Exec 386SX/25 Color. Nice little machine! I have spent way too much money on getting a good working power adapter for this system. I bought many broken adapters in attempt to find a working one and have lots of broken parts. That reminds me, I need to talk to Monotech, I sent him one of the broken ones to fix!
Next up, I got a beautiful PS/2 Model 30 286 in the mail, a Computer Reset find from The Obsolete Geek! What a wonderful little machine this is! I put an XT IDE-CF adapter in it, and it works great, it’s a very capable little 286. I later obtained a nice Model M to accompany it and a nice 8512 monitor!
Next up, I, myself made a trip to Computer Reset! I found a super nice Gateway 2000 486DX2/66 and a nice Pentium 233 MHz system with an Enlight case, along with the 8512, some floppy drives, and some new in box mice! The rule at CR is that you always buy 2 of anything so that you get something that works 🙂 I brought everything home with me in my luggage except the 8512. And boy did I pay the price on excess baggage weight!! The Obsolete Geek also sent me home with a PC Convertible that I was able to carry on the airplane!
At this point, everything still fit in one picture, I know this because I took one on 8/9/2019. Oh, this wouldn’t last for long..
Also, at this point, I started to buy some Xircom Pocket Ethernet III adapters. As noted above, my passion has always been to have my PCs networked. An upcoming video on the channel will cover al of my different Xircom network adapters.
Since I was starting to amass a nice collection, I figured it was time to set up a “display” in the basement. Featured are the Pentium II, the Packard Bell Multimedia C110, the Gateway 2000 486DX2/66, and the Compaq Deskpro 6000. Why not the 486 DX4/100? Oh, that machine has a permanent place on my desk upstairs! With the machines downstairs, I started having retro gaming parties!!
What came next? Well, either a curse or a blessing: on 10/2/2019, so arrived my first Compaq LTE 5000 series, and it happened to be a 5100. Beautiful little machine! I took it to a meetup in Texas, and TSA had something to say about its battery pack when it passed through the scanner!
Not long after buying the LTE 5100, I bought another machine that I always wanted in my collection: a Tandy 1000, and this happened to be an HX. What I had really wanted was a Tandy 1000 SX, but have actually come to accept that my HX, complete with CM-11 monitor, has actually been a better choice! I LOVE IT! All of the good work of Cybernatic Systems and Monotech have given me excellent expandability for this machine. I have great respect for those who make modern parts to add new capabilities to retro systems.
And not long after buying the Tandy 1000 HX, I bought a Compaq LTE 5380. I think we can quickly see where this is going… because not long after I bought an LTE 5250. Oh my. A common phrase you will here when packages come in the mail here: “Another Compaq?”
My next acquisition was something I found in my parent’s storage area: a Dell Dimension 2400. As much as they are loathed, we have proven on RetroTech Chris that these make good retro rigs 😉
Next purchase? A Gateway 2000 486/33C tower! It’s a beauty, but boy is it tall. When I drove over an hour to pick it up from a guy clearing out his house prepping for a move, he said to me “You drove HOW LONG to get this?” Yes. Yes I did 🙂 This machine had a VARTA’d motherboard, but I popped in a generic 386/486 motherboard, and it’s equally as nice as the original!
And the final purchase of 2019? I drove from DC to Richmond, VA to pick up a Packard Bell Legend Supreme 1125. A very anemic Pentium system with ZERO expansion, but it had that classic Packard Bell monitor. The only problem? It did not come from a smoke free home, and my home is a smoke free home 🙁 In any event, maybe it will work itself out over time, I still do use it, but once it warms up, you definitely can tell 🙂
Okay, this has gotten long enough. But I did want to say, more than anything, pictures and videos have served as GREAT reference points for documenting this chapter!! I’d certainly get parts of it wrong without them.
In the next chapter, we’ll talk about the year 2020, which meant more collecting, more LTE 5000 series, and the start of RetroTech Chris