(Note: I know, I know. This kind of blurs the PC gaming Epoch argument. Should this be the first Epoch? No…consider this our pre-history, if you will.)
If you were to go back and define when PC gaming started, when would you choose? I’m not talking about clones or ports from other platforms: real-life, bonafide made-for-PC goodness.
Would it be 1989 with the release of SimCity? Not a bad choice, I suppose. SimCity was an awesome game that took advantage of the power and flexibility of a PC. Perhaps Civilization in 1991? Or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis in ’92?
The Year of the Linux Desktop?
I’ve been a Linux user since 1998. I’ve also been a Linux sysadmin by trade for most of my career. So naturally, I’ve always been one to avidly track the inroads that Linux has made into the consumer market.
At the turn of the century, the whole “Year of Desktop Linux” thing was beginning to pick up steam. Read any PC publication around that time and you’ll notice a stunning amount of vitriol towards Microsoft (Micro$oft) by readers and commenters. Heck, even the writers of the articles themselves had a decidedly anti-Microsoft attitude. There are a lot of reasons that this attitude existed, but the core of it was the Microsoft controlled the desktop PC market. If you were using a computer, you were using Windows. The hardware vendors were locked in. The software vendors were locked in. So, by extension, the users were locked in.
Having recently acquired quite a few old IBM machines, I’ve been working at getting them all restored and tested. There was quite a variety of machines, from 286’s to Pentiums. However, the ones that interested me the most were the various different 486’s. These weren’t IBM MicroChannel, instead opting for industry standard ISA ports. That means it’s quite a bit easier to swap parts in and out of them
This particular beast is the PS/ValuePoint 433DX/Si. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? The ValuePoint series was IBM’s answer to the “IBM-Compatible” market. It’d be an article in and of itself to explain what was happening, but the short answer is that other manufacturers were beating IBM at its own game. The PS/2, while a hit with businesses, was very expensive and contained what was essentially a proprietary bus interface (the aforementioned MicroChannel). In the home and small business market, consumers couldn’t afford the PS/2. Companies like Compaq and Packard Bell swooped in and serviced that clientele. IBM wanted back in.
Sound Canvas? What is this magical thing?
As I’ve begun to delve into the world of retro-PC hardware, I have found things both familiar and new. For instance, while I’ve been a fan of Doom since the original release in 1993, I had never experienced the soundtrack the way it was SUPPOSED to sound.
Now, when I first played Doom all those years ago, I didn’t even have a sound card. I fell in love with the way the game played and only later got to hear the soundtrack (and the effects), when I had upgraded to a Pentium 75 with a Sound Blaster 16. Somehow, adding music to the game made it a more visceral experience. Also, it’s no secret that Doom has some of the most iconic PC music ever written, instantly recognizable to (probably) millions.