The Ritron Classic: A blast from the past.

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by Flamin Joe, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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    For a few years now I've had in the back of my mind of recreating the system I had around 96-98 but the biggest stumbling block was finding an AT case which was similar too or ideally the same as I had. Nothing quite took my fancy and I figured getting the exact same case was a long short especially since my memory of what it looked like exactly was a little fuzzy so it was kept on the back burner.

    And then this came along which instantly caught my eye. It looked very familiar but I wasn't 100% sure, but the more and more I looked at it the more sure I was as the details started came back to me. So I brought it and seeing it up close 100% confirmed for me it was the case! I was stoked!


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    But then another detail bugged me about the case, the Ritron case badge. So familiar but I was coming up blanks. And then the fact it had an Intel 430 VX chipset Motherboard, the same as was originally in my system when we brought it. Could this be the same white box brand we purchased all those years ago? Surely not?


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    Thanks to JidaiGeki's post in the recent acquisitions thread, it is! Purchased from Rod Irving Electronics and as soon as I heard that name saw they had a shop in Adelaide (where I grew up and was living at the time), that was all the confirmation I needed. Holy crap!

    And here it is courtesy of the Way Back Machine....

    [​IMG]

    There's nothing like a classic - like a fine sport car design of the highest calibre..... so is our Ritron Classic System.
    Packed with the highest performance features ever found in a computer system. It will cater for your needs for ages to come!
    Your search is finally over......

    Haha! Love the sell along with the 90's future hot rod! lol :D

    The specs of the PC I now have with what we originally had in brackets. Going off the specs at the time from their website it seems this has had a couple of little upgrades.
    • Intel Pentium 133 MHz (Intel Pentium 100 MHz)
    • Intel 430 VX Chipset motherboard
    • 32 MB EDO RAM (16 MB EDO)
    • 2MB Diamond Stealth 3D Virge Video Card (don't recall but I think it was just a generic 2D card)
    • 52X CD-ROM (12X Speed CD-ROM)
    • 8.4GB HDD (1.6GB HDD)

    A few pics:


    A lot of dust build up but very minimal wear and tear. The only rust I see so far is just on the back of the case where the screws have chipped away the paint on the cover exposing the bare metal. Easy fix.


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    Still boots and has the previous owners Windows 95 installation!


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    Some interesting artwork. :D


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    The Plan

    This weekend I plan on disassembling it, giving it a good clean and installing Windows 98SE. Upgrade wise it's all a bit up in the air at the moment. I originally planned on replacing the board with an FIC VA-503+ / K6-2 400 combo I have which was the same board my PC was originally upgraded to about a year or so later. But since I found out it is practically the original system I had (with a few minor changes) I'm tempted to leave it as is and instead just upgrade the CPU to a 200MMX (also like I did back then).

    Potential/planned upgrades:

    • Upgrade the CPU to a 200 MMX.
    • Replace the CD-ROM with a Creative CD-ROM for now, but eventually looking to get the Creative Encore Dxr2 DVD Kit like I had or something similar. I still have the card but no drive!
    • Replace the S3 Virge with my trusty Diamond Stealth II S220 (Rendition V2100) I kept all these years. Would DEARLY love to find the Creative 3D Blaster PCI (Rendition V1000) which was my very first 3D accelerator but they seem to be as rare as hens teeth. :(
    That's it for now and I will try and update this thread as I go long.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
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  2. adz

    adz Member

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    Looking forward to seeing your progress :thumbup:
     
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  3. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    Super cool! I've had great success with unscrewing the fronts of those old tower cases and giving them a good bath and scrub with a dish-brush in warm, soapy water. Worth the effort I think.
     
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  4. BuuBox

    BuuBox Member

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  5. JidaiGeki

    JidaiGeki Member

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    Super stuff, Flamin' J! Looking forward to updates. On a side note, I had a look at the Google street view of where the store was, though RIE has gone the building looks like it probably hasn't changed in 20 years ;) actually reminded me of the shop I bought my first PC from in Parramatta in 1991, though that's probably been swallowed up by Westfield ...

    That case looks to be in reasonable condition. I always give mine a wash with washing up liquid, and for stubborn marks on plastic, Magic Eraser cubes, I just wet and scrub gently. Only had to get the Domestos out a couple of times for computer gear :D
     
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  6. nimmers

    nimmers Member

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    And here I came into this thread thinking it would be a Kiwi retro system.
     
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  7. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Ditto. That stuff is a great cleaner for old gear. Gets rid of dirt, stains and sticky crap, and isn't harsh on plastics.

    I usually use it direct on really dirty crap, or mix with water for stuff that's just a bit dusty. Wash with a non-scratch sponge, and clean up with a water-dampened chux.
     
  8. OP
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    Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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    First update:

    Got stuck into the cleaning on Saturday and made some good progress. After giving it a good blow with the compressor, I completely dissembled the PC and case for further detailed cleaning.

    One thing I've gotten into the habit of doing whenever working on a vintage/retro PC is checking the PSU for any suss caps or components and replacing when necessary. With vintage gear from the 80's, I tend to err on the side of caution and do a full recap regardless. With this however, considering it's a generic AT power supply which is easily replaced with another or even an ATX PSU with an ATX to AT adapter, I wasn't too concerned as long as everything looked good inside. The main thing was I had suspicion there would be a fair bit of dust inside it as when using the compressor there was a lot of fine dust coming out of the case.

    After a quick blow with the compressor and using a toothbrush to get rid of the stubborn stuff it was like new. Also took the time to lubricate the fan while it was open.

    Before:


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    After: Sweet as bro! :D


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    Also gave the motherboard quick clean which came up surprisingly good with very little effort. Like I mentioned before, there seemed to be a lot of fine dust so it was easily blown away leaving just small traces to take care of with my toothbrush.

    The motherboard is a DFI G586IPV (Rev C). I can't say I'm a big fan of DFI Motherboards, had plenty of bad experiences with their cheap boards when building systems in the early mid-2000's, but it's good that it's not a no name as documentation including the manual is very easy to come by.


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    The chassis and front panel came up very nice indeed. I literally gave both a bath separately and gave them a good clean and scrub in warm water with detergent. After washing the chassis I attacked it with the compressor once again to help remove any water which gets stuck in joints to help it dry. Then I placed it outside in the hot sun to completely dry off before taking care of a little bit of surface rust I found hidden behind the front panel.

    The front panel I let dry in the shade and then got stuck into a few stubborn marks which came off with a little bit of elbow grease. Also discovered the reset switch was getting stuck and after fiddling around with it a bit it's now all good. If you look closely this must of been an issue the original owner had and put up with as you can see some damage where he/she has been jamming something in there to pop it out.


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    If I find time today I might start putting it back together but I won't be able to complete until some parts arrive in the next couple of weeks. I've ordered a Pentium 200 MMX from eBay and also found the Creative DVD2240E DVD Drive which originally came with the Encore Dxr2 DVD kit. I have the decoder card which I picked up a year ago or so with this in mind but I'm just missing the DVD drive so it was pretty useless. Can't wait to get it all running and fire up my copy of the Wing Commander IV Special DVD Edition which I did manage keep all these years. :thumbup:
     
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  9. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    This story makes me happy, please keep it coming :thumbup:
     
  10. OP
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    Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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    Parts arrived! These finally came in from the US and hopefully I should find some time on the weekend to put it all together. ** Fingers crossed **


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    The heatsink on the 200MMX is pretty nifty! It screws into the plastic base and as a result clamps onto the CPU. When unscrewed you just simply slide the CPU out. Not sure if I'll end up using it in the build just brought it because it looked pretty cool and as it turned out was the cheapest.
     
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  11. Dellwood

    Dellwood Member

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    I remember most of those early DVD drives were region locked, or at best allowed a certain number of region changes before they locked in. Coming from overseas it may already be locked in to the wrong region. However most of them could be unlocked with a firmware update, which was fairly easy and permanent.
     
  12. adz

    adz Member

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    I think I have a few extra cache modules floating around somewhere if you're interested?
     
  13. OP
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    Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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    Yes they were and if I recall correctly there was a firmware update for this drive which removed this limitation later. But back then this wasn't an issue for me as at the time I was collecting Region 1 DVD's which I was getting off Amazon.com. I was one of those who got into the paid to surf craze back in the late 90's early 2000's, getting about $20 a month in Amazon gift certificates which I put towards DVD's. By the end of it all I had a stack of a dozen or so Region 1 DVD's!

    Not going to be an issue now either as I don't really plan on playing DVD movies. It's more to have just out of nostalgia/having fun rebuilding the PC I had.

    Thanks for the offer but I'm thinking I may need to change the board. I got everything built up over the weekend and installed the DVD along with the 200 MMX but it refuses to boot at anything but 166 MHz. It's like it completely ignores the 3x multiplier and is similar to what is described here on a thread over at Vogons.


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    So it appears while my motherboard supports the 200 MMX (according to the manual), it's a bit of a half ass implementation by the motherboard manufacturer. Maybe a later BIOS update will fix it but I also discovered that the lowest voltage this board supplies to the CPU is 3.3V, which is quite a bit above the 2.8V the MMX requires. It should be OK so I've been told as you just need to have a better heatsink to handle the excess heat but I'm not keen on it.

    I really don't remember this being a problem back then as I definitely recall it running at 200 MHz, but that could be because the original motherboard I had was different. One thing which this board has which I don't recall having was the option of EDO RAM or SD-RAM. That was something I didn't recall seeing until I upgraded to the FIC VA-503+ the following year as it was one of many reasons I liked that board.

    So it looks like I'll be doing the motherboard upgrade afterall! I'll still stick with the 200 MMX as it's still keeping with the originality of this system as the motherboard upgrade was done first before I eventually went to the K6-2 350. Jumping to the K6-2 now would also mean the Encore Dxr2 decoder becomes obsolete as I moved to software decoding around that time too.

    Some progress pics from the weekend:


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    I got a really strong sense of de ja vu putting it all together. :D
     
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  14. BuuBox

    BuuBox Member

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    What other processors are supported?
     
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    Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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  16. adz

    adz Member

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    K5-100 FTW! Shame the board doesn't want to play nice with the P200MMX, I know the lower multipliers aren't locked (kinda PITA in this case), but have you tried a 1.5x multiplier?
     
  17. BuuBox

    BuuBox Member

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    I don't think the board properly handles MMX processors without dual voltage support.

    What's the fastest single voltage CPU? Maybe a IDT WinChip?
     
  18. JidaiGeki

    JidaiGeki Member

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    Maybe something from the K6 range could work?
     
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    Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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    I tried all the multipliers just for the hell of it. It seemed to ignore the 1.5x multiplier as well because it also clocked it as 166MHz which I thought was strange.

    It would be interesting to try different CPU's, but no. My heart is set on keeping it as original as possible so it either has to be a Pentium 200 MMX or a K6-2 350, both of which now looks like I will have to use the VA-503+ I have instead.

    Voltages aside, it makes me wonder why it won't clock to the correct speed despite the board having support up to 200 MHz? Even good old Rod Irving advertised the system as supporting "200 MHz and MMX"! :D Makes me question whether my memory is faulty, but I'm sure I remember it running at 200 MHz. Was probably a different board as like I said this board has the option of EDO or SDRAM which I don't recall it having until I upgraded later.
     
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    Flamin Joe

    Flamin Joe Member

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    Smallish update, not making much progress unfortunately as I've had a little setback.

    First though I'll introduce the motherboard which I plan on using to replace the Intel VX originally in the system.

    FIC VA-503+


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    I upgraded this system to this motherboard probably late 1998 and it was a motherboard which carried me right through to sometime in 2000 when I moved to a Slot A system.

    It was an awesome board for the time and there were a couple of reasons why I chose this motherboard above all others. First and foremost was performance. I ready reviews back then and it was highly recommended especially because it sported up to 1MB of onboard cache. The other consideration was upgradability and this board had it in spades:

    • The ability to use EDO/FP memory or the newer SD-RAM. This meant I could reuse my EDO RAM and have the option later to move to SD-RAM.
    • ATX and AT power connectors. Slotted straight into the "Ritron Classic" with it's AT power supply but gave me the option of changing case later to a newer ATX.
    • And as all Super Socket 7 boards go, backwards compatibility with the Pentium 200 MMX I was running at the time and support for the K6-2's which I planned to purchase later.
    All a far cry from these days where a change of motherboard often means a change of CPU and RAM as well! It really made upgrading on a budget so easy to do when you were a student. :thumbup:

    Now for the bad...Last time I checked this motherboard was a few years ago when I first brought it off someone on Amibay. It worked fine back then and it was then carefully placed in an anti-static bag and kept in storage. I tried it yesterday, no beep, no POST. I double checked all the settings, tried different RAM/no RAM just to get it to at least beep, tried the CPU it came with, no dice.

    I suspect it's the caps so I plan on replacing them once replacements have arrived. My main reason for suspecting this is that when I received it all those years ago the seller kept a rather heavy copper CPU cooler on the socket which came loose in transit and bounced around. It also wasn't packed very well, something which the seller disputed. :rolleyes:

    Anyway to cut a long story short, the result was the two capacitors just above the CPU sustained what I thought at the time was just cosmetic damage. But after closely inspecting it yesterday there is actually a dint in both of them so it is possible they were damaged internally and only worked for a short time. At least that's what I'm hoping!

    Not having much luck at the moment! :lol:
     
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