LOAF Fixes the Computer of Tomorrow

Discussion in 'General Wing Commander Chat' started by Bandit LOAF, May 31, 2012.

  1. Mace

    Mace Vice Admiral

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    - Serial and parallel were universal with all manufactors
    - USB should be ok too, but could differ, but with some pages you can easily rewire the connector on the mainboard's side.
    - PS/2 I never had a use for in the AT days, but you could always use the serial or USB ports for mouse.
    - This board says it supports P55C. but was created before 1996, before the MMX standard was set, and in practice they do not support the voltage req's for MMX-class cpu's, good chance it would not work.
    - And 128MB in SIMM is insane, considering those systems commonly shipped with 8MB ram. You can not mix SIMM and DIMM due to different voltages on the memory controller; High-capacity memory modules from that era do exist, but would be a rare find.

    Some details on the board:
    http://www.recycledgoods.com/zoom.aspx?productID=21868
    - As you can tell from the pictures, while technically it could handle 2 168-pin dimmbanks. Most models on the net only have one slot.
    - The long brown slot next to the CPU socket is an extra "pipeline" cache slot, if you can find a module for it, I recommend you put one in, it adds up to 512kb of L2 cache memory, greatly enhancing performance in 3D games.
     
  2. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    Amazingly, there's a USB connector for this specific motherboard on eBay for six bucks. So that's one I don't have to worry about! And I can scavenge the serial and parallel breakouts from the computer that started this thread... so it WAS good for something. (I bet my dad has a drawer full of them, too...)

    A serial mouse is actually better, since I can integrate it right with the throttle (until I'm thinking about attaching this to the KVM switch with Karga and friends, anyway. Gah.) I don't think I have one that works, though, I'll have to eBay a nice one. (... okay, I'll be honest, I do have a serial mouse that works... it's shaped like a hamburger...)

    Interesting! I'm certainly not attached to MMX, so I guess I don't have a good reason to want it. (It looks like a Pentium from that era will set be back about five dollars total, so I guess I can afford to make a mistake or two, too.)

    I think that's the specific board I bought! They were listing it for $85 on eBay, I Best Offered $50 for it and woke up this morning the owner of a P5TVX AT!

    The piepline cache sounds like a great thing to track down. Is this what I'm looking for? (Am I reading the specs right, there's 256KB onboard and I add another 256KB with the card?) http://www.ebay.com/itm/Memory-256K...Module-237716-001-/250763654104#ht_891wt_2446

    Is there some advantage to using the DIMMs instead of the SIMMs? Could I just get four of these? http://memoryx.com/efa-p5tvx-at-simm-ram-memory-upgrade.php

    Anyway, thanks for all your help, I really appreciate it!
     
  3. Mace

    Mace Vice Admiral

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    That cache module should work! Excellent find!. And as for the memory, you don't need that much RAM to run software from those days anyway, but the DIMM slot won't get you more then 64MB max.. so you are better of buying exactly that set to reach the maximum of 128MB!

    Using PCI, you now have a choice of lots of videocards!
     
  4. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    You have a good point... I just see all those slots and want to fill them. Makes you feel wealthy remembering how much it would have cost in 1995. :) I actually need to do some research first, I think Privateer 2 specifically may wig out if you have too much RAM.

    Yeah! Although I can't think of anything especially exciting to do. Karga will be shedding his second video card, a S3 Trio 64V+, and I know that works with the VFX1 so maybe that's all I need.
     
  5. Mace

    Mace Vice Admiral

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    Well, you can actually add ram to most of those S3 cards, lol
     
  6. Sheppard

    Sheppard 2nd Lieutenant

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    Are these hours roughly correct for L&Y?

    "Mon 09.30 AM - 06.30 PM
    Tue 06.30 AM - 06.30 PM
    Wed Closed
    Thu 09.30 AM - 06.30 PM
    Fri 09.30 AM - 06.30 PM
    Sat 09.30 PM - 06.30 PM
    Sun Closed"

    Even for me, the drive is a bit over an hour to get there, so I'd like to be sure that she'll be open when I go down.
     
  7. Madman

    Madman Vice Admiral

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    The company I was thinking of was tyan, I can't remember the board I had but the special thing was it had slots for both memory types (SIMM and DIMM), I got one to avoid having to do a major upgrade in one go (and because i wanted my GUS, voodoo3 and audigy to play together)
    This kind of thing is what I would plump for: http://www.tyan.com/archive/products/html/trinity100at.html

    The advantage of the cyrixes over the intel chips is that the front side bus is slower (actually a downside, but bear with me!) what that means is that the processor has a higher multiplier to reach the stated clock speed. so it's much easier to drop the multiplier to slow the system down (if it has a 50Mhz fsb and runs with a 5x multiplier, you can get most of the way to your 386 with setting the multiplier to 1x).
     
  8. Sheppard

    Sheppard 2nd Lieutenant

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    I drove down to L&Y's today, left the house at 12PM, got there at 1PM, and didn't leave until about 4:15 PM or so...and in turn didn't get home until about 6:00~ PM due to the rush hour traffic on I-95/270/495 going back home.

    But man. Loaf does not exaggerate about the old software selection at L&Y's. Holy crapnit!

    I must shake my fist ceremonially at LOAF and the others for clearing out the Origin section -- I was only able to find a WC2 Deluxe CDROM Boxed copy, and a Strike Commander Boxed Speech Pack; along with a jewel case copy of Super Wing Commander for the 3DO.
     
  9. Sheppard

    Sheppard 2nd Lieutenant

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    So....Word of warning for anyone visiting L&Y's....do not expect much from the CD-Jewel Case-only shelves. I'm finding a significant proportion of discs from that area are heavily scratched, to the point where I fear for data integrity during reads.
     
  10. Mace

    Mace Vice Admiral

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    Any news on putting the retro machine together?
     
  11. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    Time to play catch up! Well, it's a long update, anyway; the actual computer is still just a collection of lifeless pieces. But there's plenty of old computer part porn... and some big news at the end of the story! So, let's get to it. WARNING: this post contains many, many unnecessary pictures of Legos.

    I know I haven't posted to this thread in nearly a month. I will admit that progress has been slow (for reasons detailed below)... but I haven't been entirely gone. If you follow me on various social networks then you've seen some of these pictures before. But now you can see them again... with your OWN eyes! (But you'll die.) In fact, though, you SHOULD follow me on various social networks: banditloaf on Twitter, banditloaf on Tumblr and hah-hah-trick-question-I-don't-have-one-because-I'm-a-dude on Pinterest.

    Let me first tell you the parts I don't have yet. The big one is the hard drive. Hades came up with an incredibly cool solution: use an IDE-to-CompactFlash adapter instead of an old hard drive. As far as a computer from 1995 is concerned, a CF card is an IDE drive. I have this (plus an 8 gig CF card and a gaggle of IDE cables) in my Amazon cart waiting for me to be willing to burn forty dollars http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000T9QQP0/ I'd like to replace Karga's hard drive with one as well. It's such a cool idea, being able to pop out your retro computer's whole hard drive and put it in your pocket (or have multiple drives! Suddenly the Wing Commander computer becomes the Sierra computer...)

    And then I will need a new PCI graphics card (with a VESA feature connector) and a 3.5"/5.25" disk drive. I have these on Karga already, but I'd rather duplicate them than strip him for parts (for reasons that will become clear shortly.)

    So, what parts have shown up since mid-June?

    First up, a power supply. The interesting thing here is that I was able to walk into a regular human store and buy an AT power supply in 2012. The Microcenter (like Compusa but good; like Frys but bad) in Rockville stocked them. I used their online pickup system and was somewhat disappointed that the salesperson had absolutely no reaction to the fact that he was handing me a power supply designed for IBM ATs and stegosaurii.

    [​IMG]

    While I was in line waiting to pick up my power supply I noticed this poster on the wall. It seemed appropriate. Also, why did anyone ever print this ever, ever? (Cut to a teenage girl's bedroom in the 1980s with the Mark Dean poster on her wall and a Tiger Beat with Steve Wozniak on the cover.)

    [​IMG]

    Next up, the cache card (yes, check it, I discovered Instagram.) The funny thing about the cache card was that the first one I ordered on eBay got me a message from the seller... they were sorry, they couldn't locate the item in their stock... and furthermore they couldn't figure out what it was in the first place. So they gave me my three dollars back and I bought another one:

    [​IMG]

    And here's a pile of AT-style motherboard breakout thingamajigs! I was terrified of these initially, but now I kind of love the idea of having some control over what the back of my computer looks like. Two serial ports next to each other?! You're living the dream, LOAF.

    [​IMG]

    ... and an artsy picture of my Pentium 120 CPU! Why did it take so long to get to me? Turns out, the same reason there's a label in Hebrew... it came all the way from Israel! I can't figure out how the six dollars I paid for the thing could ever make that trip profitable, but here we are.

    [​IMG]

    And here's the big enchilada (which is actually fairly small, as enchiladas go,) the P5TVX AT motherboard!

    [​IMG]

    So everything was going well, parts were stacking up, things were coming together. Until the case arrived. Now, guard your eyes because this thing is freaking huge. Is it too huge? I don't know, I think it's completely rad. It fits under my desk... barely.

    [​IMG]

    BUT... IT WAS MISSING PARTS. Yes, this is the horror that has delayed this project and depressed me: my case didn't come with its promised wheels (or key or mounting screws or slot covers.) I e-mailed the seller and they said they would take care of it and... nothing. In fifteen years (?!) of eBay I have NEVER had a bad experience, but I opened a case on this and it was just so frustratingly depressing. I'd e-mail the guy every few days and he'd say he sent the missing parts and then he'd ask me to check inside the case for them again and then he'd say he was sending the parts. There was no continuity and I figured I was screwed. To make matters worse, it's the same guy who sells all the cool turbo/mhz display cases on eBay so I couldn't just get another one.

    And them WHAM POW K'PLOW BOOM SMASH DRANG, there was a WEIRD GIANT STORM. You know, the one that destroyed the entire east coast of the United States and forced us all to descend into inhuman savagery just to survive. I'm not exaggerating when I say the DC suburbs suddenly felt a lot like Fallout 3... except you still couldn't bring food on the Metro. There was one point where we drove through my home town at night and a single grocery store had power because of a generator... and they had big floodlights outside... and there were just swarms of people ambling around outside in the darkness. It looked just like a zombie movie. They say the storm was a "derecho," but I'm PRETTY SURE they made that up because no one in the world has ever heard that term before this. (I had no idea it was a big storm when it was happening. Lots of lightning, but it didnt' feel out of the ordinary until the next morning.)

    Anyway, yeah, I lost power. For a week.

    The first day, my buddy John and I drove down to NoVA to see how the world looked. We found that Tyson's Corner had power and that the regular hoards of unpleasant rich people hadn't descended on it yet... so I bought an airplane at the Lego store. Then we drove around until we discovered.... this place:

    [​IMG]

    Starland! A warehouse of old console games hidden in an office park near Dulles. It was VERY cool and John spend several hundred dollars on Sega Saturn games. No unusual Wing Commander games, but it got me thinking about consoles... and I'll certainly head back there when it's time to get old Playstation memory cards and so forth.

    [​IMG]

    So, yeah, no power for a week. And it was really hot -- 103+ out. Everyone was melting and our frozen pizzas were spoiling and our cats enjoyed being petted with wet washcloths. And NO INTERNET. Day three, I decided to open the window in the dining room and build my Lego airplane.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Yay! It's a Sopwith Camel, the first official Wings of Glory Lego kit. It's huge and super fancy, with a flight stick that actually controls the rudders with the rigging.

    [​IMG]

    Day four, still no power. So I started to build another giant Lego kit.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    A space shuttle! Just like the one the Avatar flies in Ultima I.

    [​IMG]

    Day five... still no power. Spirits sagging. Another Lego kit?

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It's a VW Microbus (full of weird Lego jokes)! There's some history to this one: I bought it the day I started working on Bertha and it actually shows up in the very first posts about that computer. This was also the same day I met this girl who... well, it's a weird cosmic vortex in time. AND THIS STUPID BUS IS FULL OF MEMORIES OKAY? Also it was really hot out.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Chloe is very impressed with the array of Legos (actually, she is angry that they are taking up the table she uses for watching birds out the window.)

    [​IMG]

    ... but poor Grey Cat could not stand the heat and was found floating upside down in her tank.

    Anyway, I was now officially out of giant Lego kits. Okay, that's not true, I have a bunch of Star Wars ones but I was loathe to put together 3000 pieces of all-grey Star Destroyer in the dark. But I digress. What snaps together and is even better than Legos? Awww yeah:

    [​IMG]

    The new motherboard with the RAM, cache card, processor and (for good measure) an LAPC-I in place! And just like that I was back!

    When I got back online I decided to start doing weird, unnecessary computer things. First, I happened to read the Wikipedia entry on the AWE64 Gold. In short, you could upgrade an AWE32 by adding extra DRAM to the sockets on the board. Creative PS/2'd it up for the AWE64 and designed it so that it only accepted proprietary SIMMs they sold you for more money (NO DRM)... which means that, today, adding memory to an AWE64 is difficult. Or is it? No, because an engineer designed something called a SIMMCONN that lets you use add ordinary RAM instead of Creative Labs Fancy RAM.

    And the Wikipedia linked me to his site: http://simmconn.tripod.com/ Now, take a look at that: does it look like a website from... you now, the 21st century? It does not. It's HTML 1.0 or something and it's hosted on Tripod. Probably a leftover from the distant path? Well, I was high enough on ELECTRICITY that I decided to throw $15 at it. Sure enough, not three days later this showed up in the mail:

    [​IMG]

    What that does not solve, however, is the problem of why I would need to add 28 megabytes of RAM to my Sound Blaster in the first place. Here's the truth: I have absolutely no need to add 28 megabytes of RAM to my Sound Blaster. But it's so cooooool.

    Next up, I decided to see if I could track down the special CD-ROM needed to use the Creative Labs 3DO Blaster that I spoke of at the start of this thread. I didn't HAVE a 3DO Blaster... or the $1000 they were going for on eBay when they did show up... but you know, better safe than sorry? And maybe the universe would reward my boldness. You know, like that condom you had in your wallet from Wing Commander II to the Wing Commander movie.

    Short story even shorter, CR-563Bs are readily available in a variety of places. I got mine for $1.95 from a computer recycling site. (If you want one, though, get it now: the 3DO community recently discovered that you can wangle the laser apparatus out of them to replace the one on a 3DO console when they go bad. So, rabid 3DO crazies are going to eat up the supply. If that is a group of people that exists. And it probably isn't.)

    [​IMG]

    Okay, so here's where my story goes all Penthouse Forum. LOAF Computer Thread, I never thought it would happen to me but...

    The CR-563B on my mind, I decided to search around for 3DO Blasters. Huh, one sold in May for $980... and someone at a 3DO forum sold someone else one for 750 British Money Units... on one hand, discouraging but on the other hand at least they're floating around. And I can put aside a little money for this if I get the chance.

    Then I decided to search Yahoo Japan. Background: in Japan everything is the opposite of America and Yahoo Auctions forced eBay to go out of business. Really really really. Anyway, back in 2003 I got a little bit addicted to buying Japanese Wing Commander stuff through an awesome deputy service called Celga (the ladies who run it are so sweet, I got Christmas cards from them for a while.) So I was familiar with how to bid on the auctions and how to get stuff to me and blah blah blah.

    But anyway, YES A LISTING FOR A 3DO BLASTER. Four days to go and it's at 1,000 yen; roughly twelve bucks. No bids. Maybe they aren't as sought after in Japan? Maybe the people scouring the Earth for them don't know about Japan? It was worth a shot; I re-registered with Celga, buy-it-now'd a few WC items I'd been thinking of (a SWC phone card! a second copy of the PSX WC3 guide so Pix can scan it!) and I bid $200 on the 3DO Blaster.

    Let me tell you: it was a long four days. The auction ended at 9 AM on Thursday and I didn't sleep a wink that night. And it's good I didn't because I was outbid at about four hours left. Celga says you need twelve hours left to place a bid, but I gave it a shot and upped my offer to $300. And they immediately sent me an e-mail saying that was fine, but... no joy. Would I like to try again? Sure, $400. Three hours left. No dice, outbid. The lady at Celga suggested trying $450 and I said no, too rich for my blood.

    Five seconds later I e-mailed her again: nevermind, go for broke. Bam, she was right and we broke out: $441 with a couple hours to go. They were long, long hours (Interesting cultural note: you can't snipe auctions in Japan. A last minute bid extends the time of the auction to be fair to everyone.) I forced myself to only check once an hour after that last bid for some reason. Got to work, acted busy for a little while and checked one final time. Still on, 30 seconds left... and I own a 3DO Blaster!

    [​IMG]

    So, yeah, this is going to be a pretty great project. It'll be weeks and weeks before it gets here, but it's SUCH A COOL ELABORATE PROCESS. You need the right drive... and I need to get a Sound Blaster AWE32 with a Panasonic connector (this was back before motherboards had multiple IDE tubes, so you'd plug your CD-ROM... which at the time would be one of several propietary connectors... into your sound card)... and I need to look at installing Windows 3.11J in case this Japanese 3DO Blaster wants that... it's going to be AWESOME. (And yes, I checked, the 3DO Blaster isn't region locked, it'll play both American and Japanese 3DO titles.)

    The 3DO Blaster will go in Karga, since that's where there's a free slot... and because the new computer's VESA connector is already used by the VFX-1. But it all works out!

    But also let me just freak out one more time: A 3DO BLASTER! YES YES YES YES WOO YES WOO. This is the coolest possible rare piece of hardware ever! How incredibly rad is a computer setup that has a virtual reality helmet and an entire 3DO inside it?! Impossibly, impossibly cool, my friends.

    One more thing to think about. A gchat conversation sparked something I'd thought about years ago: modding the keyboard. I'd really, really like to make my IBM Model M look like the Wing Commander Prophecy keyboard cover. Colorful, with custom buttons and a cool circuit board background. I'm thinking replace the key caps with blank colored ones, have clear stickers printed to go over top of them where needed and then paint/mod the frame. I mocked up what the colors should look like and it has me interested:

    [​IMG]

    So that's on the burner, too!

    Then: I got an e-mail from eBay on Thursday morning that they needed me to either close or escalate my case because it was taking so long. Dang, I don't really want to hurt some guy's business... but I'd really like my computer parts or my hundred dollars back. I resolved to do it. Then, when I got home:

    [​IMG]

    YES!

    Now my computer area is an enormous mess of cables, books and DVDs right now. My project this weekend is to clean it up again. I have big plastic bins to store excess stuff in. Hold me to this, I'll have pictures on Monday!
     
  12. SpaceDrake

    SpaceDrake Rear Admiral

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    That's amazing. Also, I was about to wig out a little bit and warn you that the software for that might not play nice on anything remotely resembling a western-developed OS, but I got DOS/V confused with NEC's proprietary PC-98 hardware/OS frankenstein:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOS/V

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PC-9801

    You are very lucky that you picked up the right kind of card. Old PC hardware in Japan can be confusing as hell to anyone outside of it, because prior to 1995 or so they used their own particular brands of madness. (Which is actually why the PC scene in Japan is so weak these days, but I digress.)
     
  13. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    Hah yes, DOS/V is MS-DOS with some Japanese alphabet support. It sounds like it shouldn't be a problem!

    I actually really want an NEC to play the PC-9821 port of Wing Commander Armada with, though. The cost of shipping one to the US is probably going to be prohibitive. So that (and an FM Towns!) are going to be the very last things I look at for my dream Wing Commander setup.
     
  14. capi3101

    capi3101 Rear Admiral

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    I've heard the term "derecho" before; it's a real term. What it means is a hell of a lot of straight-line wind damage over a huge area; it's a squall line where the winds are gusting over hurricane force over most of the length of the line. "'Derecho' comes from the Spanish word for "straight" (as compared to 'tornado', which is a twisted wind)".

    It's what most lay-people would call a "Class Five shitstorm".

    I probably do have an unfair advantage here: I know I've mentioned my journalism master's on these boards before, but I'm not sure I've ever mentioned the bachelor's in meteorology...

    (Yeah, out of that post, that's the part I'm gonna pick on.)
     
  15. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    Just a short update for today: I went on a bit of an eBay spree last night, ordering an Epson SD-800 dual floppy drive, an S3 Trio64V+ and a Sound Blaster AWE32 with a Panasonic CD-ROM interface. The dual floppy drives seem to be getting rare; good thing they're invincible! But pick one up now if you're interested in doing this...

    The CR-563-B CD-ROM arrived in the mail this morning. The seller crammed the box full of random diskettes and bits of other hardware for some reason, so now I have another co0y of DOS 6.22, an ISA IDE interface card and the drivers, manuals and registration cards for several other models of CD-ROM (but not this one.) This is how I get to be a hoarder, people, stuff like this.

    [​IMG]

    (they seem to be getting rare! good they're invincible)

    Just in case there was any question, I was not serious about it being a made up term. :) (That said, our local news is now amusingly panic-y about EVERYTHING. Today I got a text alert that the rain currently happening could lead to "significant puddling.")
     
  16. capi3101

    capi3101 Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, we get that a lot in this part of the world - some natural disaster happens, next thing you know the news is jumping when the President doesn't have a healthy morning bowel movement...
     
  17. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    Oh gosh, no! Do they know what caused it? Maybe he ate a joghurt beyond the expiry date? They gotta do something!
     
  18. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    I promised a weekend of desk cleaning and... I delivered! In the past two months Karga's area has gone from being crammed with stuff in an organized fashion to being... just a pile of cables and trash. Like one of those hoarding shows. This is what we were dealing with:

    [​IMG]

    So Saturday morning I got up, surveyed the pile and... went out to buy this year's Star Trek Hallmark ornaments. It's a terrible burden, having a complete collection of Star Trek ornaments. You can never stop buying them. Two hours later, I was home and started digging into the mess. Here's one of my early discoveries:

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    The Wing Commander Prophecy soundtrack... on casette? Did people even still listen to casettes in 1997? No, no they did not. But apparently they did in... Thailand? Yup, I imported this sucker. I was starting to make progress when... my friend John called and asked if I wanted to go to Starland again. He has a crush on the girl who works there? Never one to turn down a trip to a video game store in another state instead of cleaning up an impossibly giant mess, I said yes.

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    I found a copy of Ultima 4! I didn't buy it because if I wait a little while it'll be free. :)

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    I did buy this array of games: Wing Commander IV, Dune 2000 and Star Trek: Invasion. And there's a fortuitous copy of Cool Spot for the Genesis, for a friend. The whole afternoon left me pretty content.

    So here's the next phase of the mess, starting to look... like a desk:

    [​IMG]

    And now, some other treasures found in the depths. First off, a page of bad poetry written in Elementary school on an Apple ][:

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    And the entirely amazing Engrish box for a motorized toy worm:

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    ... and Bruce Willis' album?

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    ... and the video game of NBC's ER?

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    But after much digging and rearranging and throwing away I finally made it HERE:

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    YEAH! Now I have a workspace to put together the new computer and shelves to store things like... Wing Commander-related game consoles!

    Here's a super cool hip internet picstitch of all the progress together:

    [​IMG]

    I'll leave you with one beauty shot. This is the Sega CDX, which I'll be using to play Wing Commander for the Sega CD. The CDX is wonderful. If you've ever seen a Sega CD attached to a Genesis you're probably aware that they're approximately twelve feet wide. The CDX is a single unit of both together and it's the size of a slightly fat discman!

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Kyle Maverick

    Kyle Maverick Rear Admiral

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    I have copies of that Bruce Willis album, on vinyl and CD.

    Did I really just admit to that?
     
  20. SpaceDrake

    SpaceDrake Rear Admiral

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    So is there anything to update on this? Is LOAF still waiting for parts to come in? Has the 3DO arrived? Has it set fire to Karga yet? :V
     

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