thinking of the "ultimate" retro x86 PCs - what bits to seek/keep^M ?

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Fri Jun 3 10:11:44 CDT 2016

On Fri, 3 Jun 2016, Sam O'nella wrote:
> I'm a bit surprised at the recommendation of Dell but maybe they weren't 
> playing all their proprietary games yet.

I was a little surprised, too. However, different strokes for different 
folks, I suppose. My experience with Dell machines mostly mirrors yours. 
However, I did have a core2 class Optiplex desktop that was very solid and 

> I've seen where they rewired a nonstandard power connector so you'd fry 
> it replacing it with a standard power supply or fry your other system 
> using one of their power supplies but can't remember if that was at or 
> atx.

Wow, that's nasty. You'd hope they didn't do that on purpose but if so... 

> Seen where they did something stupid and notched their ram so it had to 
> be registered memory.

I ran into this with one of their workstations. I can't remember the 
model, either, though.

> Either way. They quickly became a vendor i lost trust in but maybe lots 
> of vendors also did that and i just ended up working on their problems 
> the most. 

For me there were two things that made me have a fairly low opinion of 

1. When they offshored their support folks, brought some back, then 
   offshored again. The couple times I had to call support due to firmware 
   issues on the old 2650, I could only talk to folks who could speak 
   broken English, and knew almost nothing about the subject matter at 

2. When I worked at Oracle, we deployed thousands of Dells (about 30k over 
   5 years IIRC). The out-of-box failures were numerous and painful 
   (because I had to RMA, re-pack, and ship the damn things back). 

> Mca and vlb cards are harder to come by and fetch a higher price range 
> vs isa/Eisa or pci. 

Fortunately, I have a decent collection of interface cards, though I might 
still settle on something new if there is a compelling reason. 

> Definitely stay away from Cyrix processors. Most computer stores i knew 
> in the 486 era wouldn't even sell them or take them as trade ins. 
> Comparability issues and overheating seemed to be common features.

I know that was the case with the so-called 5x86 (586). It had straight-up 
bugs in the silicon, IIRC. However, the 486 models I had were very solid 
and quite fast for the money. These days, however, I'd probably go the 
Intel route.

> Interesting comments on parallel drives. They're nice for compatibility 
> on multiple systems but much slower than their scsi sisters.

Sooooo much slower. When I'm forced to use an LPT port for transferring 
data on those old machines, I'd use Laplink. I was always disappointed 
with parallel port devices, because they never seemed able to reach the 
same transfer speeds as Laplink and other direct-cable software. 


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