back to article These days you can teach old tech a bunch of new tricks

The retro computing hobby is always throwing up innovative ideas and methods… such as a CGA card with HDMI output, new 8088 PC systems, or drivers to enable full hardware-accelerated 3D for Windows 98 in a VM. The Reg FOSS desk never ceases to be amazed at the creativity of the community who are into vintage computing – and …

  1. jake Silver badge

    A first?

    "We enjoyed running the venerable Windows ME"

    That must be the first time those words have ever appeared in that order anywhere.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: A first?

      Indeed. How could anyone "enjoy" that POS. If you want to run software from that era, put it on Windows 98 SE.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: A first?

        Umm, I did... If only because it was the only one of the 9x variants that didn't cause me endless headaches related to the various newfangled bits of USB-connected hardware I'd accumulated by that point in time. I tried every trick I knew/could find online to get 98SE running smoothly on that PC, but it wasn't until I took the gamble on ME that the damn thing actually started working as it ought to have done all along.

      2. Ideasource Bronze badge

        Re: A first?

        Under the hood ME was better.

        The insecurities was in the Shell calls to IE.

        I remember all three of us's had their own problems and the only way to get the best stable system was to create a hybrid using Windows millennium kernel and accompanying low-level parts of the OS with the windows 95 and '98se shell files.

        98lite did it nicely for you, and also would let you modularly select the components that were installed allowing trimming whatever was irrelevant to your case use.

        I remember the blazing fast 40 MB win9x installs.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: A first?

          ME was shit, under the hood or otherwise.

          If you absolutely have to run Windows software of the era, use NT4 or Win2K.

          1. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: A first?

            @jake "If you absolutely have to run Windows software of the era, use NT4 or Win2K"

            Not for games. 3D games would not run on NT4 due lack of DirectX support but chances are most would probably run on Win2K as it had the same level of DirectX support as win 95, 98 and ME. But most games of that period were targeted for win 95, 98 and ME and not claimed to work on NT4 or Win2K.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: A first?

              I'm pretty sure Doom was running on NT4 with DirectX support by the end 1995, about half a year before the OS was released officially.

              Not being a gamer, I might be wrong ... but being a sysadmin who had to justify network traffic on Beta test equipment, I don't think I am.

              1. Falmari Silver badge

                Re: A first?

                jake I should of written 'NT4 due to limited DirectX support' not 'lack of'. So Doom may have run depends on what level of DirectX it needed. At the time DirectX on NT4 was not common code there was a limited NT4 version and a 95 etc version. DirectX was not the only reason a game may not run on NT4 for instance NT4 was true 32bit, 95 etc were 16/32.

                Then of course more so than today game coders tried to squeeze every last bit of performance out of the PC chances are they would do something that would not be compatible with NT4 or Win2x. As I said most games never included NT4 as a supported platform though I do remember seeing a couple that included Win2x support.

                Doom was probably my first experience of multi player gaming that was in 95, 4 of us played it over the company's network, the main reason we stayed late in the office, it certainly wasn't to code.

                1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

                  Re: A first?

                  [Author here]

                  > Doom was probably my first experience of multi player gaming that was in 95

                  You didn't need W95 for that.

                  Doom 1 & 2 were originally DOS games, and could do 4-player deathmatch over DOS so long as you had a network card driver and IPX loaded. The rest of the network stack (IOW the actual client, the redirector) was not required.

                  1. Falmari Silver badge

                    Re: A first?

                    When I said 95 I meant 1995 not W95. :)

              2. Binraider Silver badge

                Re: A first?

                At the time, as both gamer and programmer, I kept no less than three os around. 98SE for loads of stuff that didn't work elsewhere, 2K and Mandrake.

                No question NT and 2K were superior systems but games compatibility was not a highlight.

      3. bpfh

        Re: A first?

        I was surprised at my first job where everyone was talking about maintaining POS hardware, and thought that was a bit rough for a S&P 500 company, until I found out it meant "point of sale"...

      4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: A first?

        I must admit I didn't use it too much, but I did have ME on one of the systems that the kids used to game on.

        I came by it because I had a system that was originally 95, which had had a new Mobo, CPU and graphics card, but I did not want to spend a lot on a new version of Windows, and 95 wasn't hacking it.

        When ME got a bad rep. I picked up an upgrade version quite cheaply, and upgraded the '95 system to ME, so that all of my boys had a system to play 3D games on (I think the flavour of the time was Counterstrike battles). It complemented an XP system and a 98SE system (it actually had a better processor and graphics card than the 98SE system because of physical limitations, so it was a toss up which kid used which system)

        It wasn't used for any heavy applications other than games, but I don't remember there being any frequent complaints about things not working, or crashing so I can't think it was that bad.

    2. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: A first?

      • Masochists enjoy pain.
      • Windows [ME] is pain.
      • Therefore, masochists enjoy Windows [ME].
      • QED

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: A first?

        masochists enjoy Windows

        "Hurt me" says the masochist.

        "No" says the sadist as he gives them a linux box instead..

    3. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

      Re: A first?

      "We enjoyed running the venerable Windows ME"

      Like Lu Tze, Windows ME has never been venerable except in cases of bad spelling.

      1. ITMA Silver badge

        Re: A first?

        Venereal perhaps.

        Take some antibiotics, that should sort it out for you.

    4. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: A first?

      Everyone knows that the correct spelling is Windows? Meh.

      1. Code For Broke Bronze badge

        Re: A first?

        "We enjoyed running the venereal Windows ME"?

        1. Rafael #872397

          Re: A first?

          "We enjoyed running the vetust Windows ME"?

    5. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: A first?

      I never used it, but from what I remember (and have read) ME was only around for a year before XP came out anyway.

      The only reason I can think of that they bothered at all was that they'd originally planned for the next mainstream version of Windows to be based on Windows NT rather than the ancient-and-no-longer-fit-for-purpose DOS codebase. The next NT-based OS was eventually became Windows 2000, but the legacy compatibility still wasn't good enough to have it replace 98 SE completely.

      So presumably they felt the need to release *something* and the still-DOS-based ME came out as a pointless stopgap until Windows XP (which *was* NT-based) came out.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: A first?

        ME came out 3 months before 2k; thus explaining it's contemporary title of "Mistake Edition". ME was a horribly defective pain in the ass. 2K worked quite nicely out of the box, and the major change from 2K to XP was the bright green and blue interface, which especially in the early years was commonly disabled in favour of the original grey interface to reduce resource requirements so it ran programs better.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A first?

          According to Wikipedia, Windows 2000's retail release was February 2000 and ME's was in September 2000, i.e. seven months after.

          Regardless, yeah, as far as I'm aware, XP was essentially 2000 with more consumer-friendly design and better compatibility.

          The default colour scheme is, and always was, awful, and I much preferred the light green one. Even the silver one was better.

          1. captain veg Silver badge

            Re: A first?

            Windows 2000 was supposed to be the unified replacement for both the NTDLL and VMM/VxD lines, but they couldn't get it out in time to justify the millenium theme. Hence the last gasp of the 9x series, with a different Y2K-themed name.


        2. nightflier

          Re: A first?

          The major change from 2K to XP was the addition of product activation. The new theme was there only to obscure and justify the "upgrade".

      2. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: A first?

        MS at the time was clearly operating as a number of separate silos. That may, perhaps, have been related to the stack ranking system: in any case the teams were obviously competing rather than working to a common goal. This showed up in other areas as well: MS office was built for compatibility with SQL Server 7, and the required functionality was destroyed for SQL Server 2000.

    6. Old Man Ted

      Re: A first?

      My Me systems Motherboard has blown one of its capacitors and at 79 going on to 80 later this year, us pre atomic age group are going blind deaf and stupid, this is only trouble this venerable system has ex pc has ever had it runs a flat screen View-sonic 24" in and with the original video card bought with the unit in a box bought in about 97 or 88. It was still used up to July to play Morrowind Doom etc. and settlers 1, 2 &3 the kid from over the road (11 years old) wants me to repair it so he can play the original War craft KKND and other dos games off the floppy drives which still work. I am now limited to using dos box tried to emulate to install early 98 and me but had no joy with Win 10 or the dreaded 11, might dig around in the garage and pull an old pc out from a collection of Black boxes which my son donated to me in the late 90 when he moved out and I got my garage back.

    7. bpfh

      Re: A first?

      Windows ME - Masochistic Edition. Problems easily fixed by an upgrade to Windows 2000....

    8. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: A first?

      [Author here]

      > A first?

      A few comments.

      1. ME was all right once all the main updates were installed. Nowadays most are bundled in an unofficial service pack. That was the first thing I installed after the OS.

      2. As other commenters noted, it has better driver support in some areas. It supports Firewire and USB mass storage out of the box. 98 does neither.

      3. I blame false memory syndrome but 98SE was not all that good. I supported the evil thing.

      4. I figured starting from the most modern possible baseline would help. (It didn't.)

  2. trevorde Silver badge

    Regrets? I've had a few...

    Was given a 21 inch, high res (1600x1200) CRT monitor from work, many years ago. I ended up giving it away after a year once LCD flat screens became affordable. Now it's probably worth more than the LCD which replaced it.

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Regrets? I've had a few...

      I used to have several pallets of working CRT monitors knocking around about 10 to 15 years ago and you couldn't give them away back then, I wish I had the storage spare to have kept hold of them as now they have become back in fashion for retro games enthusiasts, I could be flogging them and making some decent profit.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Regrets? I've had a few...

        I could be flogging them and making some decent profit.

        I hung onto a 20 something inch CRT for many years simply because of a desire to delay the hernia caused through removing it. You do remember the things weighed something like 40KG each? Moving those around were worse jobs that shifting photocopiers; at least those come with handles in sensible places!

        I would imagine that the postage would be prohibitive with selling them, and anybody turning up would be quite inclined to say "F*&£ THAT" upon trying to lift one given the sheer weight and lopsided weight distribution.

        1. Bebu Silver badge

          weighed something like 40KG each.

          "F*&£ THAT"

          The SGI and Sony branded 21+" monitors were a challenge. Fortunately the office chair seat's pneumatic lift could read the desk's height where these sods could be shimmied onto the chair. Lower chair's seat and push seat to destination and drop monitor from the chair onto some cardboard (for the sake of appearances) and "F*&£ THAT."

          Sad to say buggered more office chairs than these monitors :( Most monitors were still working when the great scouring occurred which followed manglement's discovery that LCDs used less energy (and presumably had a lower TCO.)

          The crt screen glass was quite pretty when faceted. My father used to try out the fancy new facets using this glass as it was freely available from the local refuse tip, was easy to cut and polish and had a decent refractive index. The tip workers used a decent length of reo rod to prod the tube into imploding.

    2. Mage

      Re: 21 inch, high res

      I doubt it's valuable. I sent 3 off 19" 4:3 CRTs that were 1600 x 1200 and could do 1920x1080 with reduced scan height for correct 16:9 aspect.

      No-one wanted them.

      We have some lovely Benq QHD screens with VGA, DVI & HDMI. They work well at any game resolution on a VGA 3D card. Under €200.

      Currently I use a 23.5" UHD with DP and HDMI. Under €300.

      The HD and 4K TV sets with HDMI work well with cheap adaptors off Amazon and eBay.

      All HDMI out:

      1) Composite in. NTSC or PAL

      2) Component in needing progressive. Some DVD players.

      3) Component and Y/C in that works with S-VHS Y/C or DVD Component.

      4) VGA in and HD HDMI with a 3.5mm jack audio in for sound on HDMI.

      CGA can easily be adapted to composite or Y/C as it's basically an RGB version of NTSC using an old console RGB to composite adaptor.

      EGA can be adapted to a VGA connector. So actually can CGA, MDA and Hercules, but few VGA inputs will take those signals.

      CGA, MDA, Hercules or EGA can be adapted to component. A decent component to HDMI can take interlace or progressive.

      Some HD & 4K TVs that have no analogue inputs still have an analogue tuner for RF, though those are usually PAL or NTSC, never both unlike composite & Y/C inputs.

      It's only in last few years that the picture quality on decent LCDs has surpassed the top of range CRTs. My Samsung & LG 4K screens are as relaxing as eink to read. flicker free and can be calibrated for photoediting.

      1. ibmalone

        Re: 21 inch, high res

        One question is whether these adapters that output RGB can emulate composite artifact colours. As someone who grew up on playing whatever older games we could get our hands on on an EGA system that put out RGB I remember various CGA games that had apparently wacky colour palettes (cyan and magenta in particular), discovering years later that these would have actually shown up as much more sensible colours on a composite (probably NTSC) system. Different from dithering, certain patterns would display as completely different colours, I think some emulators can simulate the effect.

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: 21 inch, high res

          Yup, the effects of these inherent flaws of CRT based displays on how retro software looked on such displays are something that really shouldn't be overlooked, because if you do then you may be left wondering why you ever thought the retro systems looked good. Even just the addition of scanline gaps can make a huge difference to how older graphics appear on newer displays, let alone attempting to accurately simulate all the other things CRTs used to do to the pixel data you sent them.

        2. Simon Harris

          Re: 21 inch, high res

          Apparently this is how it all started out

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Regrets? I've had a few...

      Was given a 21 inch, high res (1600x1200) CRT monitor from work, many years ago

      I still have a 21" Sun CRT upstairs in the computer room. Until this Saturday when I'll be tidying up all the cruft, recabling with the new KVM and, potentially, switching to the new OPNSense firewall from my old Sophos UTM running on an old HP Microserver..

      I'd hoped that my shiny new (well reconditioned) storage server would also be going in but the supplier had forgotten to test the drive backplane - which didn't work. So they are building me a replacement.

  3. Mage

    Direct 3D

    Virtual box took away Direct 3D oprion on XP. Some very modest games like Scrabble used it.Going back to the earlier Vbox on Linux seems nearly impossible due to the older libraries the last Virtual Box with XP 3D. Of course these stupidly coded old games don't work on Windows 7 or Windows 10, either real HW or VM.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Direct 3D

      [Author here]

      > Virtual box took away Direct 3D oprion on XP.

      Which version? Did you perhaps upgrade from Vbox 6 to 7, and not update the drivers in the guest?

      To install the WinNT 3D drivers in a guest, start the guest in Safe Mode and install from there. If you update the host hypervisor, also update the guest additions.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The insides of a CRT are not to be trifled with. This was instilled in us during Genius Training, hence the acronym BOBSMEDS:

    Buddy - no work alone

    Off - machine off

    Bling - remove jewelry

    Strap - remove ESD strap

    Mat - remove grounding snap from ESD mat


    Discharge CRT immediately

    Safety - resume ESD SAFETY guideline

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: BOBSMEDS

      You missed something important -- only use one hand for probing / working on kit. Also, remember that a discharged capacitor can recover significant voltage after a minute or so, especially if its a large electrolytic. A lot of damage from electric shock comes not from the actual shock but from causing a person to leap about, crash into things, drop things and so on. Its also useful to approach the unknown -- it should be dead but.... --- with the back of your index finger so any shock will curl the finger away from the source. (....and under no circumstances grab hold of anything you're not 100% sure of).

      The EHT supply for color CRTs is 25kV with enough current to kill. Its well encapsulated in newer monitors compared to a nice vintage color TV (with live chassis to add to the fun) but still needs to be treated with a lot of respect. The tube itself is quite a large capacitor and can recover a significant voltage after disconnection. The jolt you can get from this won't kill you but it could cause you to drop the CRT -- outside the case a CRT can be quite explosive (implosive) when broken.

      (FWIW -- I've not had an electric shock for many years and I don't miss them one bit.)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: BOBSMEDS

        "I've not had an electric shock for many years and I don't miss them one bit."

        You had to say it in public, didn't you. Hopefully the Prince of Darkness has pity and won't bite too hard ...

  5. Richard Tobin

    PCs? That's nothing

    There are people out there making adaptors to connect BBC Micros to HDMI monitors:

    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: PCs? That's nothing

      It's not real if it's not plugged into a MicroVitec CUB.

      That aside, isn't the problem with connecting 8-bit computers to higher-resolution, pin-sharp displays in general that it simply emphasises the lower-resolution blockiness of the graphics that was hidden on smaller displays and by analogue artifacting and degradation?

      I find that games often look *worse* under emulators for this reason.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: PCs? That's nothing

        "It's not real if it's not plugged into a MicroVitec CUB."

        And not unless you also give yourself a static discharge zap reaching for the monitor controls, thanks to that lovely armour-plated metal case... Happy days!

        Absolutely 100% on the need to try replicating the flaws of CRTs when doing any sort of retro computing - even using stuff like Amiga Workbench, where you might think displaying it on a crystal clear LCD would be benefical, just feels a bit off due to how completely solid it looks, without even the faintest hint of a scanline or phosphor triad outline to help break up the endless swathes of unchanging colour. And when you get into gaming where the truly talented artists would have made full use of the CRT artefacts when designing the sprites, seeing them rendered as a collection of perfectly square pixels, each completely uniform in colour across its entire surface area, and each completely uniform compared to other pixels of the same colour, makes you wonder how you ever thought this stuff looked good.

  6. Steve Graham

    Booting DOS?

    Just as a matter of interest, why can't you boot DOS on a UEFI machine? (In spite of the length of my grey beard, I am UEFI newbie, having acquired my first such PC only a couple of months ago.)

    1. the reluctant commentard

      Re: Booting DOS?

      I'm no expert either, but I believe it is because DOS uses functions provided by the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) to drive the hardware. UEFI doesn't have such functions, so DOS can't work. See for instance

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        Re: Booting DOS?

        Yes, MS-DOS used BIOS calls for much of its work.

        This is where the copying of CP/M came in useful, as many of the calls were similar enough that you could write one piece of code to run on both. I used to demonstrate this on an Epson Qx-16 as it had both Z80 and the NEC equivalent to 8080 processors. Running CP/M-80 and MS-DOS 2.x.

        1986 - now that does make me feel old!

        1. Simon Harris

          Re: Booting DOS?

          Interestingly the NEC V20 could emulate an 8080 in hardware, as well as being a slightly enhanced 8088. In theory it could run CP/M programs natively, as CP/M was written for the 8080, although in practice after the Z80 came out later versions of CP/M and its applications started to use the Z80 extensions to the 8080 instruction set, which the V20 didn’t have.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Booting DOS?

      [Author here]

      The BIOS stuff others have offered is correct, but only part of the story.

      DOS is a Real Mode OS. It must start in Real Mode and nothing else.

      UEFI stubs start in protect mode and there's no other route. So it's impossible to boot a DOS based OS except in a VM because the CPU is in the wrong mode to execute the OS kernel.

      I theorise that it might be possible to create a 386 memory manager that could load first and then load DOS, but nobody has those skills any more and nobody wants to try.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Booting DOS?

        The BIOS stuff can only be correct for the very early stage of bootstrapping since DOS could, and did, replace the BIOS routines with code loaded off the boot medium (i.e IBMBIO.COM or IO.SYS).


        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Booting DOS?

          [Author here]

          > DOS could, and did, replace the BIOS routines with code loaded off the boot medium

          That's a different kind of BIOS, named misleadingly for historical reasons inherited from CP/M, in which the BIOS was not firmware.

          No, DOS does not replace the PC BIOS. Yes, DOS does need a BIOS to run.

  7. ChrisC Silver badge

    "to run most games you needed a 3D accelerator. If you run Windows 9x in a VM, you don't get that"

    Not sure if this particular VM still works given how many versions of VirtualBox have come and gone since I first set it up, but it certainly *used* to be the case that you could do this with a bit of help from third-party addons, because the VM I'm thinking of was a Win95 one I set up specifically so I could play FIFA98 again...

  8. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

    Windows ME

    Or to give it its full proper name, Windows Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Windows ME

      I prefer Windows Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and I can pronounce it too.

  9. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I needed a new "console" for my shop's CCTV system, and I had an old laptop somebody had given me, so I spent a couple of hours installing the open licence Windows XP reviewed here a few weeks ago on it. Works perfectly and brings back to life some otherwise unusable hardware, as well as bringing back memories of the install process. :)

  10. Blackjack Silver badge

    So far I have found the best way to run Windows 98 SE on a modern computer is to use DOSBox-X.

  11. FIA Silver badge

    Not once... but twice.... ;)

    and a tool that emulates Nvidia's ancient Glide drivers.


    itself a port of Nvidia's Glide 3D graphics API, on which The Reg reported when it went FOSS back in the 20th century.

    NVidia's?? I mean the link even has 3dfx in the URL... ;)

    I get Nvidia bought their assets but to call it Nvidia's API when it was open sourced before then is just a kick in the teeth1 to a memory of a once great 3D company.

    I will never forget the day I saw GL quake for the first time, it was one of those 'woah' moments in computing for me.

    1 memories have teeth... who knew!

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Not once... but twice.... ;)

      [Author here]

      Oops, you're absolutely right.

      Sorry... I never was a video gamer. Not my field.

  12. the Kris

    A DB9 connector? I guess they mean a DE-9 connector...

  13. karlkarl Silver badge

    Very cool.

    My entire PhD thesis was looking at ways of passing out graphical calls from the VM onto the host and injecting the raster image back:

    If a modern "old" GPU was available to just to the right thing on older hardware, I would have just used that haha!

  14. Neill Mitchell

    PCem is fab

    After spending hours mucking about trying to get Win98SE working with VMWare, VitrualBox and DOSBox, I then heard about PCem. It fully emulates a large number of old CPUs, motherboards, disk interfaces and video cards. It's also cross platform. I've got it running Win98SE emulating a Pentium MMX 233, Soundblaster 16 and Voodoo2 with full acceleration. Works perfectly.

    You can also choose specific models of PC like the IBM XT, AT, Amstrad 1640 etc. A serious nostalgia trip!

  15. Mark Malley
    Thumb Up

    Even PS/2 computers are getting love.

    There are even new Micro Channel IDE controllers and sound cards being made!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About the alleged need for DOS.....

    Quote: " can't boot DOS on a UEFI computer, and that also means you can't run any of the DOS-based versions of Windows on them either..."

    This quote may be true....but I do know that Windows 3.11 applications run without any unnatural acts on my Linux (Fedora 38) machines. (Fedora 38, Intel N5000, UEFI, Linux 6.4.15)

    One example: a 1993 application built using MS Multimedia Viewer and Win3.11 runs fine on Wine 8.14 (note: running from the original 1993 CD!). Wine seems to be OK with this DOS/Win3.11 application.

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