Topics

 

2D and 3D Graphics Card Technology - how things have changed over the years! Let's explore the journey from the start of the VESA VBE standards through to graphics acceleration and then to the 3D era.

80386 Motherboard revival ! - Blowing off the cobwebs and getting some life back into a 30-year old motherboard. Fun times!

Advent of a New Media: CD-ROM - A history of the DOS PC "multimedia" era as it moved from magnetic to optical media. The CD-ROM revolutionised how we store and retrieve vast quantities of data - it led to a sea-change in gaming genres and 3D hardware.

AGP and PCI Cards in DOS - A few tools and notes on DOS compatibility when using more modern PCI and AGP graphics cards.

BASIC - A brief guide to the BASIC language interpreter that came on ROM (Cassette BASIC) with the IBM PC and XT, and how it evolved from that into QBASIC and GW-BASIC.

BIOS Settings Explained - Here we try to give you a down-to-earth description of some of the cryptic settings you'll find under the hood of your BIOS menus.

Cache - A description of L1, L2, and L3 caches and what was used in each generation.

CGA Simulators - A look at the most popular CGA simulator utilities for Hercules graphics card owners - lots of [green]-screenshots and scores!

Compact Flash Card as a Hard Disk - replace your aging mechanical hard disk for something a little more solid state (and faster!)

CPU Upgrade Options by Generation - Some information on how to get next-gen performance using your existing motherboard, I look at each generation of CPU and what can be done to eek out a little more juice rather than buying a whole new PC.

DCS 80286 Motherboard review - A deep dive with this G2 chipset-based 286 motherboard from 1988.

DOS 8.3 Filenames - An explanation of the filename length restrictions that exist in DOS.

DOS Games - How to run DOS games on the original hardware. Use this and its linked pages as a "go to" guide to get your favourite games up and running again. Lots of game setup advice, copy protection information, minimum and recommended system requirements, where save games are stored, and more. Click here if you want to view the list of games by release year.

DOS Laptops - Not everyone has the space for a big beige box to run old DOS applications or play old games. A laptop might be just the solution, but which one?

DOS Partitions and Logical Drives - An explanation of how hard disks are divided into chunks for use with DOS.

DOS Startup - A guide to the DOS startup process. Details of the Power-On-Self-Test (POST), through to bootstrapping and system configuration files, CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. Both IBM PC DOS and Microsoft MS-DOS are covered.

Faraday FE2010A Chipset - An XT single-chip chipset in the last years of the XT-compatibles.

Fastest CPUs in Each Generation - An more condensed page to help you pick the best-performing CPU for your retro PC.

FAT (File Allocation Table) - Details about the DOS filesystem that is used to store files and directories on floppy disks and hard disks.

FIC-486-VIP-IO2 Motherboard Review - I take a deep dive into this interesting ISA/VESA Local Bus/PCI motherboard from 1995.

Floppy Drives - A historical guide to the humble floppy disk drive - the various formats and capacities, popular brands, how the data is stored on the disk, understanding tracks and sectors, daisy-chaining, etc. There's also quite an extensive list of makes and models along with their specifications.

Front Side Bus - A brief explanation of a PC's front side bus.

Graphics Cards - PC graphics card and display standards, plus information on multisync/multiscan monitors. This article talks about how performance of a graphics card changed from being CPU-centric to GPU. Want to know what a RAMDAC is? What was VESA? It's all in here. Read this in conjunction with the Monitors article further down for a complete picture :-o)

Hard Disks - A historical guide to hard disk drives, the encoding methods used to store data, and approximate hard disk capacities throughout the DOS time period. This article also discusses the limits imposed by BIOS, the ATA interface, and operating system, which can prevent the use of larger capacity hard disks on older PCs.

History of DOS - An account of how various flavours of the venerable Disk Operation System came to be.

I/O Addresses, IRQs and DMA Channels - What these mean and how to avoid hardware conflicts in your PC.

Laptop Displays - A delve into the murky world of laptop display technology.

Memory - An account of the various memory technologies used in personal computers.

MIDI - Answers questions such as "What is MIDI?" and "Why do I need it?". Details of MIDI support in PCs and compatibles, including pre-MIDI sample-based audio from the likes of Roland's MT-32, how to connect MIDI devices to your PC, and the capabilities certain MIDI devices have. This article also includes an extensive list of hardware and software (mostly games) that use MIDI.

MIDI With DOSBox - Instructions on how to configure your physical MIDI hardware to work with DOSBox on a modern PC, so you don't have to emulate.

Socket 3 Motherboard Review - An interesting mainboard from early 1995, the FIC 486-VIP-IO2 has support for ISA, VLB and PCI. It supports up to 1 MB of L2 cache and up to 128 MB of memory. I test this out using a variety of CPUs ranging from a 486SX-25 up to the mighty Cyrix 5x86 and AMD X5-133.

NEAT Chipset - The New Enhanced AT chipset was a first in several ways. It launched the philosophy of having tight integration of components on groups of dedicated chips (these days called a chipset), as well as the first BIOS firmware programs used to configure the PC.

Networking in DOS - I use a variety of network cards (both ISA and PCI) along with packet drivers and a handy TCP/IP stack called mTCP to connect a couple of retro DOS PCs to my network [and from there to the Internet!]

OPTi 386/486 Hybrid Motherboard Review - I investigate the capabilities of this OPTi-chipset board I picked up in March 2021.

Parallel Port Sound Cards - I recently ordered the parallel port sound card bundle from Serdashop, so I've done a bit of background digging on these and older parallel port sound hardware. Once the items arrive I'll do a full review.

PC Buses Explained - A summary of the various buses found on PC motherboards.

PC Prices in 1982 - An attempt to catalogue typical prices of PCs and components in 1982.

Socket 7 and Super Socket 7 - the best platform for DOS gaming!

Sound Blaster 16 on an XT or 286 - Some tricks and utilities to getting a very cheap but good sound card running on 8-bit and early 16-bit PCs.

Sound Cards - A list of sound cards and their manufacturers. This article will hopfully be useful for anyone trying to identify an unknown sound card, or is looking to buy one but doesn't know the specifications. Where appropriate, I've also included anecdotal comments on the quality of the cards, for what they're worth.

TSRS - Terminate and Stay Resident programs

Typical PCs per Year - A look into what a typical PC looked like each year, what components were provided as standard including hard disk sizes, graphics capability, monitor sizes, bundled software and so on. I've done some background research into typical new prices of PCs and their peripherals, which is an interesting read (I think).

USB Support in DOS - Yes, by using an AHCI driver you can access USB drives from DOS! It's easy to setup, and you can download everything you need from here. This is for "mass storage" devices only (meaning USB stick/key/pen drive). It won't work for USB printers, USB sound cards, USB floppy drives or CD-ROMs.

XT and AT Keyboards - We go through the differences and how they signal.

XT Clone Restoration Project - Bringing together all the bits that made up my very first PC and restoring it to its original glory.