Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Reflections of

A couple weeks back now, I saw a cardboard box on the side of the road (by somebody’s driveway) upon which someone had scrawled F R E E, in black marker, which had what could only be a keyboard protruding out of it.

Since I was in no real hurry, I decided to pull over, stop, and take a quick look, and see what else was in the box.
(One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure – they say.)

Sure enough: it was a keyboard I’d seen; and the box was full of old computer stuff — a couple more keyboards, a joystick, some floppy discs (still in the cellophane), several mice, and other parts and pieces and doodads. A look at the connecting plugs (and the floppies) told me this stuff dated to the first generation of personal computers — and should have been recycled long ago. Absolutely useless.

I was just about to walk away when I noticed that a bit behind the box was a stack of jewel cases. These jewel cases contained CD’s. The CD’s were install discs for —

  • Star Wars X-Wing Alliance
  • B-17
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III
  • F-22 Lightning 2
  • Comanche 3
  • Operation Flashpoint
  • Homeworld
  • and several other games from that era..

Brings back some memories, doesn’t it? (Well, for some of you, anyway.) These games also date from the first generation — and were written in DOS, if you can believe that.
In spite of the fact that these games are too old to play properly on modern machines, I took some of them. Maybe I could get them to work..

There are methods for getting old games to play on modern machines. My How To for that is here, Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated), which sometimes work.

But for several of these titles (um.. most of these titles) they did not, and if I wanted to proceed in my efforts I would have had to start using virtual environments. But instead, I did what I have not done in ages – I went into the T4E Museum Of Computers and pulled down a 1st Generation computer, and “fired it up”.

This bad boy is a Celeron 333 MHz, that has a whopping 64 Megabytes of RAM, a massive 4 Gigabyte hard drive, and runs the smooth and stable Windows 98 Second Edition. (It even has – hold on to your hats, USB ports!)

Ahhh.. the days of AUTOEXEC.BAT. I had almost forgotten..

[a brief aside: Now.. if you have read this far, I feel I have to be a little clearer, and more precise — the actual “first generation of PC’s” — the Pentium 286, 386, and 486 era, did not have “graphical” user interfaces, nor “video games” as we think of them. No “icons”. Instead, you typed in things like “cd c:\programs\lotus\”. What I meant by “1st Gen” was when people started actually buying PC’s to have in their home..]

I had – also – almost forgotten how slow, and incapable these machines, and Windows 98 were/are. And how many hurdles you had to jump through to get a graphics adapter to work. Can you believe there are people out there advocating going back and running Windows 98.. because Microsoft OSes “have become too ‘bloated’, slow, and unresponsive”? And I still see people who take pains to set their machines to have the “classic” look (spartan) shown above.

Sorry.. I am long-winded today. Back to the story. So installed some of these old games (or, tried to) and went through multiple (slow) reboots, a couple of BSOD‘s, etc., and I came away from it all with one word at the forefront of my mind –> LAME.

I hurried back to my 64-bit Win machine, used my wireless mouse to double-click the icon for Call of Duty Black Ops, and chuckled as I realized my machine has twice as much RAM as the the old PC has hard drive. And my game looks like this..

So there you have it: LAME vs less-lame. The old and the new. Night and day.

I really had forgotten Windows 98. I remembered it being better.. somehow. And the games too. I thought they were “cool”… and I suppose they were. In their day. Now? LAME. (I could only stand to play Heroes for a few minutes.. It was a bit like watching Pong.)

Related reading:

* It is time to face facts and finally dump Windows XP.

* A trip back to the land of Mega

Sorry if I angered anyone. That was not my intent. The above is just my “humble opinion”. My point is, we have evolved and advanced — and the past is, frequently, nostalgia at best. (Again, MHO.)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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June 16, 2011 - Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech | , , , , ,

12 Comments »

  1. Nice article, Paul.

    I remember loading games off a cassette tape player and sitting there mezmerised by all the coloured lines flashing across the screen, accompanied by that infernal screeching. lolol

    Thanks for the memories. :-)

    Like

    Comment by Paul Andrew Russell | June 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Paul Andrew Russell,
      You wouldn’t be referring to 8 baud modems.. would you?

      Yikes.

      Good to see you here again. Hope all is “groovy” w/you and yours.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | June 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. Paul,

    Huh. MS- DOS from version 4 onward, was driven by a GUI. As well, I fondly recall using a GUI called GEM which was brilliant for it’s time (1984). Additional GUIs were available from such companies as IBM, Xerox, QuarterDeck, VisiCorp, and others – all in the early 1980s. In fact, GEM had Windows, up to version 3.1, beat hands down, for both stability and functionality. It was with some reluctance I finally made the switch to Windows – driven by application need more so than by functionality.

    All of the above (including Windows), were quite capable of running on a 286 (8088), with 640 K of memory – yes, 640 Kilobytes (not 640 MB).

    As for games, I recall playing a game (Miner 49’er), in 64 colors on a TI -99A (in 1981), with 16K of memory that, apart from the graphics, was the equal in terms of playability of any Internet game today – Angry Birds comes to mind.

    I think it’s important to remember, that without these precursor machines, operating systems, bolt-on applications, etc. you wouldn’t be playing Call of Duty today. Nostalgia it may be – but the development of these early machines was nothing short of phenomenal technological breakthroughs. Present day machines did not magically arise from the dust – the magic of today’s computing owes everything to the long line of brilliant minds who set it all in motion.

    A final point – my first 386 was built as a “heavy duty” network server, and served well in that capacity – based on the needs of the day.

    Bill

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | June 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Bill Mullins,
      You’ll get no rebuttal from me, only agreement.

      I’ll only say the article was not intended to be a even a brief history of either personal computers, nor video games. Only a personal reminiscence – as it had been a very, very long time since I installed programs in Win 98.. and seen prompts asking me to install DirectX 7. (Just like I could not remember seeing 4 BSOD’s in the same day.. )

      It is very nice seeing your name here again – and as I said to Paul – I do hope all is “groovy” with you.

      Folks, if you are not familiar with Bill Mullins, he writes a series which is not only Top Notch (and was the first website I listed in my Blogroll) but should IMHO be “required reading” for anyone using the Internet these days.

      If you have not done so, or done so recently, please visit Tech Thoughts, won’t you? (find out why I call him the “hardest working man in the tech blog business”..)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | June 16, 2011 | Reply

      • Paul,

        Well there ya go – now you have part of my back story. :)

        Incidentally, I drop by everyday. Three years on, you’re still one of my “must reads”. Longevity to the max!

        Bill

        Like

        Comment by Bill Mullins | June 16, 2011 | Reply

        • Bill,
          Thank you.

          Both for contributing your experience, and for your kind words – they go a long way in charging my “blogger’s batteries”!

          Like

          Comment by techpaul | June 16, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hey Paul. I came here following the link you provided in a recent comment to your “Corel’s WordPerfect (Updated)* post.” Your mention of the old games reminded me of a search for one that came free of charge with one of the older versions of Windows. I don’t remember its name, but it was a really cool, space plane / fighter jet simulation hybrid that I used to play for hours on end! I tried doing a search, but couldn’t find the right parameters to use. Do you remember the game I’m talking about? Better yet, do you know how I can get a copy and make it work on my Windows 7 machine?

    Like

    Comment by IzaakMak | September 16, 2011 | Reply

    • IzaacMak,
      I don’t remember any decent games (and that sounds like the type I would call ‘decent’) coming free with Windows.. but PC makers have – for years – put Polar Penguins and other such *stuff* on machines..

      My initial reaction was that you are describing X-wing (a Star Wars title..), and I don’t know how eagerly I can recommend trying to get old DOS-based games installed and running, but my How To for that is here: Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated).

      As for the game title, I will submit your question to some folks I know, and get back to you.. (and readers may know..?)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | September 16, 2011 | Reply

      • Maybe this additional, and somewhat embarrassing, info will help. I’m pretty sure it was installed on my old 486 system when I upgraded from Windows 3.11 using a set of install disks my friend let me copy. :shock: :oops:

        I’m not even sure what version I was installing. Windows 95 perhaps?

        Like

        Comment by IzaakMak | September 16, 2011 | Reply

        • IzaakMak,
          Perhaps the game you are trying to think of was part of the “Windows Entertainment Pack” (that was for Windows 3.11.)

          I found a site you may want to explore, here (read, then click the “Games” button) .. but I think I can save you a lot of headache by discouraging you from attempting to run 16-bit programs on a modern machine, and encouraging you to leave it a “happy memory”. (That goes double if your machine is a 64-bit.)

          Like

          Comment by techpaul | September 16, 2011 | Reply

          • Thanks Paul, but it wasn’t there. I do have a 64 bit machine, with problems if you’ll recall, so your advise about avoiding trouble sounds like something I shouldn’t ignore. Thanks again!

            Like

            Comment by IzaakMak | September 16, 2011 | Reply

            • IzaakMak,
              Well.. I think “hassle” and “headache” are more apt than “trouble”.

              I mean.. installing a virtual machine program, loading it with some ancient OS (or trying DOSBox), and installing an old game.. in the hopes that it will work.. That’s fine if you have lots of spare time.

              Unfortunately, I have not heard back with any suggestions for which game it is you are trying to remember…

              Like

              Comment by techpaul | September 16, 2011 | Reply


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