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

william degnan billdegnan at
Fri Jun 3 10:21:59 CDT 2016

On Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 11:11 AM, Swift Griggs <swiftgriggs at> wrote:

> 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
> standard.
> > 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...
> ugh.
> > 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
> Dell:
> 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
>    hand.
> 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.
> -Swift
All of the "new" Dell stuff should not cloud the fact that "old" Dell was
superior to anyone else in 1990/93 cost vs. performance.  I was a hardware
evaluator back then I got regular shipments of machines put them all to the
test next to each other, benchmarking, etc.  Fun job.

The disappointment many of us here felt about how Dell changed into a
faceless corporate giant with off-shore support, proprietary "getting
started" or you're bricked CDs and all that. I feel for you.  Just
remembering the good old days.

I think in fact that Dell's success back then was specifically because they
were the best clone maker.  Compaq and IBM were waaaay more propietary back
then, Even Gateway and PB were proprietary compared to Dell.

There are also comments about EISA and that bus.  If you like it the
quality is there, I just get nervous if am recommending ONE 3686/486 system
as the OP asked to keep.  I'd want something generic of high quality - to
me, then, that was DELL

@ BillDeg:
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