Monday, February 13, 2017

Retro Series Build 2: The Windows 98 Rig Part 1.

Where do you want to go today?


    Remember that particular question from anything? This was Microsoft's slogan first introduced in late 1994, but then went on till around the middle of 1999. The slogan seen the launch of two versions of the Windows Operating System, Windows 95 and Windows 98. Prior to these, Windows 3 helped propel the GUI based operating system into the mainstream. I remember my family's first computer which featured Windows 3.11. Everything was so much more accessible and you didn't have to remember command lines to make anything function. This was the selling point over the then king of operating systems MS-DOS. Just about anyone who could work a mouse and keyboard could now use a computer. While Windows 3 was leaps and bounds ahead of the MS-DOS operating system, it still needed areas of improvement. Such as program and document organization and ease of use. When Microsoft introduced Windows 95, they also introduced features we take for granted today. Inclusions such as a start menu and taskbar are common place in todays OS's. But back in 95 they were seen as revolutionary and changed computer use forever. Windows 95 also seen Microsoft's new commitment to games and the introduction of the programming platform know as Direct X. While Win 95 had some great ideas and features, it's sadly also featured a lot of bugs. The now infamous Blue Screen of Death or "BSOD" now seen today as a frowning smiley face, was much more back then. It was a diagnostics tool to tell the person trying to repair the system what went wrong. Usually displaying a long error code followed by a memory dumping message. For the everyday user this simply meant it was time to reboot the computer and hope for the best. But this seemed to be a commonplace issue with the OS and something Microsoft was keen to fix with their next release. Windows 98 was everything Windows 95 was but cleaner and much more stable. While you still will run into the occasional BSOD, they happened much less frequently. Although while still in production, Microsoft held a media event showing off some of the new features of the OS live on TV. The now famous event was ground to a halt with a BSOD during the presentation. Luckily this was before the OS was shipped and the consumer got a more polished product. For fun here is a link to check that out for yourself.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW7Rqwwth84 


    I'm sure Bill Gates gets a good laugh out of this every time he see's it. As he should, the resulting product was the staple of computer operating systems until the great Windows XP took over. Now this is of course debatable by users of the Apple platform. Which always had a large underground following but was ultimately dwarfed in sales by Windows. Apple would soon get it's revenge and take over the world as we all know today.





    So why is Windows 98 the focus and choice operating system for the second build in my retro series? Well it can run most MS-DOS applications and on up till the Windows XP era. So it covers what I feel is a good middle ground between the MS-DOS and Windows XP eras. Windows 95 is too unstable in my opinion and cant run everything as well as Windows 98 can.

   

    In the late 1990's to early 2000's, Bill Clinton was still our President. The economy was doing great and here in the United States everything was moving along nicely. Most of the parts for this build come from around this era with exception to the main storage used. For these retro builds I try to stay true to the hardware of the time for the most part. But for a main hard drive I tend to stay away from the worn out, loud, mechanical hard drives of the day. Simply because there are much more reliable means of storage today that is compatible with older systems. If you read my first article in the series, the 486 MS-DOS build. You would have seen I actually used a compact flash card instead of the old school mechanical hard drive of the era. Not much difference here, as I will be using a 120GB Kingston SSD for my main boot drive. This eliminates the worry of a used old hard drive failing on me and heck, it's silent! Also along with the current gen storage, I decided to use a modern case for this build. The BitFenix Neo is a micro ATX case that is simple and sleek. It has room for plenty of 120mm fans and a few hard drives. I wanted a case that offered more airflow than cases of the era, which most used 80mm fans for cooling. But I also wanted to keep the size down while maintaining a basic look. I felt this case suited my needs well and was not very expensive either. One last mention of current hardware will be the power supply. These computers used a standard ATX power supply so I bought a 550w Rosewill for the job. Yes this far more than required, but PSU's in this wattage range are fairly cheap so why not.


The BitFenix Neo


    The specific version of Windows 98 I will be using is Windows 98 Second Edition. This version is basically like a service pack preinstalled version of the original. Including various tweaks, refinements, and increased compatibility. Windows 98 SE is the way to go if your feeling the need to venture into the past as I have. I have actually installed onto my system the so called "Unofficial Windows 98 SE Service Pack" Which puts together various patches and fixes that were released after SE was on the market. 

 

    So that is it for part one of my retro build 2 article. Now that we have a era to work with and a OS, all that is left to do is pick out the hardware and slap it all together.  See you guys and gals very soon for part 2! The system, software, and of course the gaming! All powered by fantastic AMD hardware of the era. We will also take a moment to meet a key player in AMD today and see where his humble beginnings with the company all started. Until then...