2012/1995 486 DX4-100 BuildLog

Creeping Net 486 started out in 2012 as a repurposing of Creeping Net XT II, which was originally Creeping Net P200MMXT back in 2004. Basically, this case has been 3 different computers on the Creeping Network. what had happened was my CAT computers 486, the original successor to the Flight 386 SX, was destroyed in a freak accident involving a cat and my desk. After 2-3 months of giving up on vintage computing, I finally decided to build another machine, even if it would be the only one.

Creeping Net 486 in it's former life as Creeping Net XT II

Creeping Net 486 was built to replace the CAT Computers 486 that got knocked down. The CAT was destroyed in a freak accident and parted out (for the most part), so I looked at my current collection at that time and knew the only case I had that I could use was the Songcheer XT case, which I like alot anyway, so I decided to start over building anoher killer 486 system using this chassis as the backbone. All the IBM and XT Clone components were removed and the machine was built into a 486 DX2-66 using a FIC 486-PVT motherboard I got on VCFED for $25.00. I had to use a DX2-66 because that was the only functional 486 chip I still had left, there was a loose pin on the CAT Computers CPU (which was the orignial DX4-100 Intel from Creeping Net 3 - the IBM PC-330) which broke off when trying to install the CPU, so I just gave up on it and used my spare DX2-66.

The system was initially rigged up with a flaky 15" HP LCD panel monitor, this was the first 486 in the fleet to start off using an LCD instead of a CRT monitor. That monitor was a total disgrace. I don't know how all the weird graphics modes tossed from the S3 805 would affect the ability to turn it on and off via the power button, but it did, and it sucked. I had to unplug the monitor, pray, then plug it back in, and hold power for 15 seconds while cursing the whole way under my breath. By late 2013 it was replaced with the Dell in the picture on the right, whcih got broken not even a month in at a drunken house party. So after that I sought out a CRT. And in early 2014, via Craigslist, I found a free 15" CTX Color CRT Monitor that lasted me about a year or two before it failed.

Things from that point up until about 2016-2017 - so I guess about a year or two, were pretty much uneventful. I was playing in a metal band, and having some medical issues at the time off/on, so I was not exactly in a "computer" mood. So it pretty much sat around. About the most that thing did during that time was I got inspired by Scott Cawthon's Five Nights at Freddy's games to take a stab at making computer games again (and of course, fading off from it as soon as I hit a roadblock). So the computer spent most of those years just churning away at Adventure Game Studio with me trying to create my own Monkey Island/FNaF (in gameplay) crossover.

Then in 2017, the major rebuild happened. The power supply failed. During that time I threw the guts into the GEM 286's case temporariliy while I gathered the information and parts to make this upgrade as productive as possible. First, I modified the motherboard to have a regular CR2032 CMOS Battery, so I did not need to toss in CMOS Settings or leave it on 24/7/365 anymore to avoid having to put in the CMOS settings anymore. Then I researched for months on CPU's and Cache RAM. This was about the point I realized that the Vintage PC had arrived - LGR, 8-bit Guy, Phil's Comptuer Lab, just to nae a few, were major names in the vintage PC game. And prices were going UP! So I could not get a genuine Intel at a reasonable price, so I bought an AMD Chip, something I almost never do. So once again I had to resort to research, weird searches, and thinking outside the box to get what I wanted. First was a new-old-stock J.D.R. MicroDevices power supply I bought from the same place I bought the case from over 10 years before - bjsurplus, which is now long gone sadly. That was a cool little California firm.

First, the CPU, AMD Am486 DX4-100 SV8, 8K L2 Cache like an older chip, but it's WRITE BACK like a Pentium. I went through two of these. The first chip died due to incorrect jumper settings from the website, thought it did, until it died about 3 minutes later, have some of the most incredible performance from a 486 I've ever seen. I think it was running at the speed for an AMD K5 PR-75 486 133MHz chip because it FLEW. Which then lead to the 0 Ohm "resistor" pack losing a pin, and then me javing to jury rig a custom home-made one made out of bent staples and later Duct-Tape (that's not yet applied in the photo) for the second chip with the correct jumper settings.

The L2 Cache RAM was upgraded to 512K which was another few weeks of testing. Then I bought 128MB of FP Parity RAM on 72 pin SIMMS, which did not work with my board, any amount over 64MB causes my board to become unstable and weird - so I went back to the same 64MB configuration I'm still using today.

With all the memory issues worked out I then turned to the HDD Controller and video card. The S3 805 got upgraded to 2MB of RAM (It originally had 1MB), the HDD controller was also swapped from a SMC chipset based VLB Card, to a PTI-255W Western Digital based card with two IDE channels. Now the mobile rack went on IDE0 Master, and the DVD-RW went on IDE1 Master, and that would speed up disk access for both by not having to jump around a master/slave relationship, and since this card had proper HDD drivers for it, I could run it flat-out with some of my faster/newer HDD. Probably my #1 tuning/tweak thing on these vintage-pc's is the #1 bottleneck in their time - the hard drive. Hard disks back in the 80's and 90's were VERY slow, that was part of why you had a LED light on the front to tell you when it was reading or writing, because you'd think the system had hung if you did not have that feature, and then reset the machine to unhang it only to corrupt and/or lose whatever it was you were working on.

While procuring more HDD, I also found another CRT monitor to replace the then logn gone CTX, this time I got a 1988 NEC MultiSync II JC-1402HWA 14" VGA/CGA/EGA monitor. All it needed was some bodge wires, and a little voltage and focus adjustment on the flyback, and it was back up and running at full capacity. So now I had a full-on retro setup that looked like something from 1988, ran like something $10000 from 1994, and was capable of doing at least 75% of the things a modern PC could do. I had created a monster truck of a PC.

Since then, it's really only been mobile rack replacements periodically because I switch drives so much. This thing runs on MS-DOS 6.22 with Windows For Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95 OSR 2.5, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows 2000 Professional, FreeDOS 1.2, FreeDOS 1.3 RC4, OS/2 2.1 with Win OS/2, Slackware Linux 96', Windows 2000 Professional. Also, the RAM is getting a little flaky on one chip because the PCB is a little too thin, so it gets loose periodically and I have to reseat it or it drops my memory around 49MB. The only other idiosyncracy is the PTI-255W sometimes comes loose from it's slot

That's not to say there have not been some pretty wacky HDD experiments going on with this thing. I have run at least 2 Solid State hard drives on it, hard drives in excess of 250GB in capacity, SATA drives with a SATA to IDE converter, old laptop drives, new laptop drives. Just the HDD experiments are worth the cost of admission alone. For things like Windows 95 I'm getting boot times in the "Seconds" instead of "minutes". Even with an ATA-133 boot time is a minute or less. That's basically 100% removal of the bottleneck, and it also means virtualizing CD-ROM drives is possible as well, so I can put less wear and tear on my aging vintage PC media.