Over the years I’ve had some nice hardware accumulate in my collection that I’ve had no immediate use for, and the time has come to make something of it. The nucleus of this build is a Voodoo 3 3500, bought from this eBay seller who seems to have an unlimited supply. Drivers for this card can be found here – I had success with the “3dfx Voodoo3 V1.07.00” driver. There is a ‘3500 TV’ specific driver too, but the generic drivers are recommended by falconfly for stability and performance. The virtues of the Voodoo 3 are well documented here by everyone’s favourite retro hardware blogger, but I’d never tried one myself; up until this point my Glide machine has been my existing PIII, which has been saddled with a barbaric SLI Voodoo 2 and pass-through setup for far too long. So far the Voodoo 3 experience hasn’t disappointed; the image quality is significantly improved over dual Voodoo 2’s – Quake II has never looked so good – and it’s been rock solid in both performance and stability. The (S)VGA compatibility and output quality have also lived up to the hype - all told it’s a very useful card. The other technology I wanted to explore with this new machine is the Vortex 2 chipset, which – being a Creative boy – I’ve never tried. Some people rave about it so I’d like to see for myself how it stacks up against the Live!. The specific card I’m using is a TechWorks Power Vortex 2 SuperQuad, the installation of which was a snap using the provided driver disk, and first impressions are very good. The included demos hint at what the A3D can do and in the games I’ve tried so far - Dues Ex, Quake II, Half-life, etc – it’s performed very well. Whether it’s better than the Live! or not is a question for the ages – I like both. The AU8830’s DOS compatibility was also a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting much from a PCI sound card but the Windows 98 installation process added the relevant lines to my AUTOEXEC.BAT (a SET BLASTER and a call to AU30DOS.COM which initialises the card - a 25k TSR but can be loaded high), and it’s worked flawlessly so far. The FM emulation blows chunks as you’d expect from this era card, but the working wavetable header more than makes up for that. The SB Pro support seems solid and sounds great; the only issue I’ve identified is that there was no mixer software provided, and the default levels were way too loud. Vogons to the rescue – vortmix, which works OK (ish). To test the wavetable header I added a 2MB Diamond daughterboard (pictured next to an NEC XR385 to show how tiny it is) and it too sounds surprisingly good – I think I’ll leave it on. Initially I was thinking Super Socket 7 for this build but it turned out that I’d given the relevant motherboard away some time ago. The next candidate was a Socket 370, 667MHz PIII, but that motherboard turned out to be stone cold dead. I finally settled on an MSI MS6199VA - a slot 1 board I’d picked up somewhere along the way. The thought of using Slot 1 has always left me cold for some reason but this is a nice looking board that has 2 lovely ISA slots, and came with an 800MHz Coppermine and 256MB RAM already installed. I was surprised to see a Packard Bell splash screen appear on powering it up, but flashing to the latest BIOS sorted that out. The PIII 800EB with both the thermal paste and fan replaced. These cost $851 at introduction apparently! Oh my. I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this ‘air conditioner’ and I found it in this build, because the Voodoo3 gets extremely hot. I could of course just strap a fan to Voodoo but that strikes me as inelegant, and this unit efficiently and quietly expels the heat out the back of the case instead of just dispersing it inside. Without the air-con parked next to it, the Voodoo3 was too hot to touch when idle. With it, I can comfortably leave my hand on the heatsink with the card under full load. For a HDD I ended up going with a Seagate Medalist 6422, which at 6.4GB is a little on the small side but fine for my purposes. I always enjoy rummaging through my stock of IDE HDD’s – they’re all pulled from the various machines I’ve rescued over the years so I never know what I’m going to find. More often than not there’s a working OS, some games, and the previous owner’s documents to peruse. Nothing much of interest this time unfortunately, but I did discover a drive that was on death’s door, and at this point I was starting to wonder how much of my hardware stockpile is actually useable. All of this hot hardware is housed in a stylishly unstylish AOpen KF45. I picked this case up for a 10er years ago with a dull-as-dishwater P4 Celeron setup inside - which I promptly removed - and it’s been sitting idle ever since. The CD-ROM and floppy drive are both replacements, the originals having proven themselves unreliable during the Windows 98 installation process. As painful as this project was at times thanks to all the dead or dying hardware I met along the way, I’m happy with the result. I did plan on filling one or both of those nice ISA slots with sound cards but the Vortex 2 seems to handle DOS sound duties well enough for now – I won’t be able to leave them empty forever though. Also on my to-do list is replace the PSU with something more substantial than the Thermal Master I’m using currently, but otherwise I’m calling this bad boy done.