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Ultra-Retro Extreme Capability and Compatibility Build

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Aegir

New Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
It begins.

The components have already been shipped, and now I must simply wait for the glorious day that they arrive.

Hours upon hours of searching has yielded me the Jetway 663AS Ultra Motherboard. A Socket 462 aka Socket A motherboard equipped with the VT82C686B chipset. Yes, the 686B, not the older 686A chip. This means one thing: Barton. I now have access to the ultimate class of Athlon XP CPUs.

Of course this is normally easy, because loads of motherboards have the 686B chipset.

But the 663AS Ultra has one other little feature that takes it beyond the normal confines of this mundane reality: It has an ISA slot.

Yes, an ancient ISA slot -and- the 686B chipset.

Upon a hill there is a knight in shining armor, ready to go to battle. Is he holding a sword? No. A longbow? No. A lance? No.
He is holding a semi-automatic machine gun, and that's just bad-***, and that's exactly the feeling I get from such an advanced motherboard with such an old slot. But it's what I need for that sweet DOS midi music.

The ISA soundcard I found is an old Labway with the fabled ES1869F chip. This ES1869F is apparently pretty darn compatible, with nice sound, including some more advanced features like possessing an IDE port for a CD-ROM drive, and even a wavetable header for a daughterboard. Nifty.

Equipped to that wondrous 663AS Ultra motherboard will be the Athlon XP 2900+. Why 2900? Because it's actually newer than the 3200+ series. I took a look at the stepping codes, and it seems to be the same chip, only a higher stepping code. The 3200+ is AQXEA but the 2900+ is AQYHA. Well, those letters are further into the alphabet, right?

It's also released in 2004, rather than 2003 as the 3200+ is. But because of its lower designation as 2900+, the price on a certain auction website was considerably cheaper. Jackpot.

The ISA slot was a necessary feature. I found about 3 motherboards with both ISA and the 686B chip, and one was garbage, the other was expensive garbage. Now my computer is ready for DOS. Sweet.

Of course there must be a GPU too. The GeForce FX 5600 Ultra is using the NV31, which is apparently more compatible than its slightly more powerful NV36 FX cards. Something about shadows not working in Splinter Cell on newer FX cards. So again, because of the lower FX number, 5600 instead of a 5700 or 5800, I got it for much cheaper, yet due to the compatibility aspects I'm taking into account, it's actually better for me. Perfect.

But what about disk drives? Of course I'm planning to use DOS and Windows 98, so that gives me some troubles when it comes to disk compatibility. DOS has a disk size limit of 8 GB and Win98 has a disk size limit of 128 GB. Give or take. My solution was simple: Use a 120 GB SSD with a SATA to IDE adapter for Win98, to give me that deliciously sublime speed and low latency, and for DOS? Heh. I went to the extreme when it came to that. DOM. Disk-On-Module. A little gadget that fits directly into the 40 pin motherboard port for an IDE cable, so I have a sleek, sexy, and low latency drive that's 4 GB. 2GB for DOS and its utilities, and 2GB for the games. Bingo.

The only solution that might be better could be a CompactFlash card and adapter. But that's money I'm just not interested in spending yet. I'm a geek, but not necessarily wealthy. Someday though.

What about the RAM? Just some cheap 64MB modules. I already have a 128MB stick, but truth be told, I needed the RAM in smaller sizes so that I can pull them out for smooth DOS compatibility. This old PC133 RAM is cheap, so I'll just get more if I need it. For now, 64MBx3 modules is good enough for just about anything, even classics like System Shock and Deus Ex. Sweet.

But those more advanced games like Descent 3 or Freespace might need a bit more.

The PSU is the cheapest box from a reputable brand I could find. 430W thing from Thermaltake. Ugh. I had a bad feeling about buying a used PSU, but I still feel a bit uneasy. I hope it has more than just 12v rail support. I won't know until I try it. It can't be helped.

The monitor is the highest end 1024x768 LCD I could fine. 1505FP by Dell. Well, it turns out CRTs are both expensive and insanely rare these days, so I'm very sadly out of luck there. I also hear, "CRT nerds know the best models and snap them up the second they appear on those auction websites or used hardware stores." So I guess I did the best I could, especially considering my prime objective:


All-In-On Semi-Arcade Ultra-Retro Machine.

I want to build the most sublime and insane case. Some sort of old style terminal, but made of a dark maple wood frame, and surrounded by transparent acrylic panels. The LCD sits on top of the motherboard chamber, and the whole thing stands upon extendable legs, so you can use it even while standing. Pure madness, but absolutely glorious.

I've attached a roughly drawn concept art of this idea. Green is LCD, violet is storage chamber or CRT upgrade room, yellow is the keyboard, blue is the pop-out mouse/joystick tray, white represents the extendable legs, and red is the motherboard chamber. Beautiful, right?

However, my true issue is cooling. And that's why I'm here. I've heard you guys are geniuses when it comes to cooling, and so I wonder if you have any advice for cooling a Socket A CPU. I noticed that my motherboard has four holes around the CPU socket, possibly for mounting an aftermarket heatsink. But it hasn't arrived yet, so I can't know for sure.

Either way, if you have any advice, ideas, or comments on this build, let me know.

Aegir out.
 

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Mr.Scott

Beamed Me Up!
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Through board mounting for aftermarket heatsinks is an adventure at best on socket A. Not all heatsinks will clear every obstruction around the socket area, pending the board. I would stick with the standard socket clip mounting type. For socket A of that vintage, I would look for a Thermalright product. SP-97, SI-97A, SLK800, SLK900. Those are about the best you could get. After those, a Thermaltake product. One of the Volcano varieties will be fine.

Some info about steppings for you:
The five letter stepping is actually coordinates on the wafer that the processor came from. It doesn't designate whether it 'newer' or not. The 4 digit number after the stepping is the production date, in week and year.
Your assessment was correct anyway. AQYHA is the better stepping.

Socket A processors all have locked multipliers after 0339, so you're better off to get the fastest (highest multiplier) that you can find/afford. That being the case, and knowing that your board only supports up to 133 bus processors, I would suggest a 2800+ Barton core with a native bus of 133 and a multiplier of 16x. That would give you a stock speed of 2133.
http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K7/AMD-Athlon XP 2800+ - AXDA2800DKV4C.html

This is the fastest CPU your board will support.
 
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Aegir

Aegir

New Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
Aww gee, now that I've done the FSB and multiplier math, I see that you're right. Well, at least there's a clear upgrade path now, eh? I sorta knew I'd be locked out of some of the higher speeds, with just a 133 FSB, but I didn't take the multiplier into account correctly. Thanks for the correction.

I thought I did a lot of research, but I suppose experience helps. And the price difference begins to make sense too. The 2900+ was rather cheap. A bittersweet mistake I suppose, considering I have a harsh budget for this entire build in the first place.

If you have any links to information regarding stepping codes, let me know. I tried to find some additional information, but it seemed rather scarce.

-

Upon searching I can't actually find the 16x Barton anywhere to buy. Ouch. Now that I understand the multiplier aspect, I still can see that I could have done better. Tsk. I'm still learning it seems.
 
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Aegir

Aegir

New Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
Mid-west USA.

Any help would be great, because I'm already looking into absurdities like "you can use a precision scalpel to carefully cut the L5 nano-wires to disable the default multiplier lock" or whatever other madness I might get up to unsupervised. Something about a 9-volt battery and burning out a bridge. =p
 

Mr.Scott

Beamed Me Up!
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Mid-west USA.

Any help would be great, because I'm already looking into absurdities like "you can use a precision scalpel to carefully cut the L5 nano-wires to disable the default multiplier lock" or whatever other madness I might get up to unsupervised. Something about a 9-volt battery and burning out a bridge. =p

That's actually not an absurdity. That is called the 'mobile' mod. It is essentially making your AXP into a XP-M. Done it more times than I can count.
There is a pencil mod also.
I will check in my boxes. I'm pretty sure I can set you up with a CPU and heatsink.

- - - Auto-Merged Double Post - - -

Mr. Scott is our overclocking archivist and archaeologist.

LOL. Thanks, but not really that elaborate.
I'm just an old enthusiast with about 2 decades worth of hardware and experience.
 
OP
Aegir

Aegir

New Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
You've actually done it? Wow. I'm not afraid to try it, considering the motherboard I got is coming with some dusty old Duron, so at least I can take some risks.
To be honest, this sort of thing is so incredibly fun that even if the surgery goes wrong, I'll still have a great time and a great learning experience.

If you want to send me any old hardware, send me a PM and I can get you my details.
 

Mr.Scott

Beamed Me Up!
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Back in the day, if you wanted to overclock seriously it was the only way.
I will PM you shortly. :)
 
OP
Aegir

Aegir

New Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
Part II: Initial Testing and Measuring

Successful POST!

I've finally received all my components, although Mr. Scott seems to be absent currently, so I've yet to even send him a shipping address.

None the less, using the equipment I currently have, I plugged it all in while it sat happily in a cardboard box and turned it on.

The Power On Self Test was a success and everything showed up in the BIOS correctly. A shining victory so far. My next step is to install an operating system. Although first I think I'll go off to a home construction hardware store first, to purchase some wood. I've decided on 18x24 inch acrylic plates, held in place by 2x2 wooden posts, sanded and finished to a smooth, shining dark.

The legs of this machine will certainly be adjustable, although because I couldn't find any decent prebuilt tripods that can support more than 30 pounds, I suppose I'll just build the legs myself, and use a wingnut assembly to make them adjustable.

Anyways, so far so good. I'll take some pictures during construction if anyone's interested.
Lemme know if there's anything else I should be aware of when it comes to custom cases and whatnot.

I'm not exactly an expert. =p
 

Culbrelai

Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2012
Wow, rare to see vintage builds on this forum. Sweet.

About the HDD situation if you have a conventional PCI slot on the board there is an amazing solution.

There exists PCI Sata controllers with drivers for Windows 98. Not sure if it would work in pure DOS, but I have a setup with a modern SATA SSD (128gb ofc) and Windows 98 boots off it just fine in my nostalgic Micron Millenia MXE

Just went through my purchase history
It’s this one if your interested

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B002EL4RL6?psc=1&ref=ppx_pop_mob_b_asin_title

The absolute meme of using an SSD with Windows 98 is quite the feeling lmao.
 
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Aegir

Aegir

New Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
Ohhh, that'd be an idea, although I wonder if there's a speed difference between using a SATA to IDE converter vs using that PCI card.
The thing I'd be worried about is the fact that the PCI buses are shared with each other, so reading from an SSD at top speed could limit the bandwidth of a graphics card.

Well, I'm not an expert, but that's what I've been hearing.

Either way, both IDE and PCI are capped at 133 MB/s, so the absolute memetic of an SSD on DOS or Windows 98 is serious no matter which way I go.


What I've been pondering is a SunPCI card. Just for fun, I mean. Look it up on Wikipedia and give me your opinions if you'd like. I dunno if it's even compatible though. Some need a PCI-X slot, but the old ones look to be normal PCI compatible.
 

RJARRRPCGP

Member
Joined
May 30, 2004
The worst problem that you're likely to encounter: Bad caps! Usually the caps, even better ones (but still not the best) still would have been bad many moons ago, usually by the earlier-2010s. :(

Sadly, my 2004 Asus A7N8X-X was confirmed to have a sudden cap failure in the mid-2010s. The Chemi-con KZGs, suddenly bulged and leaked when the tower that it was in, was just sitting on a floor! :eek:

Chemi-con's KZG series were notorious for bulging and leaking when sitting, especially on 2004 motherboards, apparently!

But, I heard that Chemi-con possibly fixed that for 2008 and later.
 

David

Forums Super Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2001
I'm enjoying this thread, not least because this sounds awfully like the first machine I ever built - although I had the Jetway 663AS Pro board and a Duron 600 MHz. I did not get far with overclocking on that board ...

Are you using an AGP card for graphics? Would this not mitigate any issues with saturating the PCI bus? Not sure how closely they are linked.
 

Voodoo Rufus

Powder Junkie Moderator
Joined
Sep 20, 2001
Mr. Scott managed to rustle some of my old brain cells. I have a trove of Socket A cooling devices I should make a small museum out of.

The stepping codes he gave do make sense if I remember right. Some of the Baron XP-Mobile chips were multiplier unlocked from AMD. Made for super easy overclocking.
 

Mr.Scott

Beamed Me Up!
Joined
Jun 9, 2013
Mr. Scott managed to rustle some of my old brain cells. I have a trove of Socket A cooling devices I should make a small museum out of.

The stepping codes he gave do make sense if I remember right. Some of the Baron XP-Mobile chips were multiplier unlocked from AMD. Made for super easy overclocking.

Lol, I do pretty good with the 3 brain cells I have left. :)

All XP-M's are multi unlocked. You just have to have a board with multi control in the bios.
Regular AXP processors were unlocked up to 0339 (39th week of 2003). After that, almost none were unlocked.
You can bridge mod or pin mod any of them, as long as your board is not a NF2 board. The mods don't work on Nvidia chipsets.