Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 6th Nov 2017 15:25 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

There really is no rational reason to restore a late 90s NEC-manufactured Packard Bell computer. Which is exactly why I'm doing it. Join me in getting this unloved machine back to factory fresh condition!

LGR is one of the best and most entertaining technology channels on YouTube, and his latest video from today hits home particularly hard, since these kinds of crappy, low-budget late '90s PCs defined my early teens. Nobody in my family, town, or school had Macs or other types of computers - it was all PC, as cheap as possible, fully embracing the race to the bottom which for many people still defines the PC today.

It's good to see that there are people willing to preserve these otherwise forgettable machines for posterity. They may objectively suck, but they did make computing accessible to an incredibly wide audience, and they served an important role in the history of computing.

Order by: Score:
by henderson101 on Mon 6th Nov 2017 16:51 UTC
Member since:

Thom, we watch too many of the same channels on Youtube. LGR is pretty damn amazing. Also worth looking at:

* EEVBlog
* CuriousMarc
* Computerphile
* The 8-bit guy
* N-O-D-E
* OldTech81
* Patrick Hood-Daniel
* GreatScott!
* Nostalgia Nerd
* Techmoan
* Garage Geek Guy (used go by his name, Lonnie Something-or-another)

There are more, but they are all pretty awesome for various reasons.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Umm...
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 6th Nov 2017 19:14 UTC in reply to "Umm..."
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

Yeah I watch videos from most of those channels, and a bunch more, of course. I've so much inspiration to make similar videos under the OSNews moniker about all the cool and old stuff I've collected over the years, but I need to get over the hump of accepting that the first few videos will be utter garbage, because making good videos takes time and learning.

I've a ton of ideas, and a plan to set it in motion that's being held up by things beyond my control, but assuming that gets solved - expect cool videos about OSNews-y topics like Psion devices and Palm and old UNIX workstations in the future.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Umm...
by Morgan on Tue 7th Nov 2017 00:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Umm..."
Morgan Member since:

I remember when you used to post gameplay videos on Google+, they weren't half bad. I think you could do it.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Umm...
by judgen on Mon 6th Nov 2017 23:12 UTC in reply to "Umm..."
judgen Member since:

And if you like SGI stuff, make sure to check out "dodoid" he has videos on history and demos the machines in his collection.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Umm...
by The123king on Tue 7th Nov 2017 09:48 UTC in reply to "Umm..."
The123king Member since:

The only 3 on that list i'm not subscribed to is N-O-D-E, Patrick Hood-Daniel and Garage Geek Guy.

You also Missed Larry Bundy Jr.

Other honourable mentions:

Pat the NES Punk
The Obsolete Geek
Shango066 (does vintage TV restorations)

Probably mopre but i can't remember...

Reply Score: 3

I wonder...
by PJBonoVox on Mon 6th Nov 2017 21:44 UTC
Member since:

I wonder if we'll ever see an SFF hardware re-implementation of a machine from this era (or a little before that). Like with a Pentium Pro, a 2MB Cirrus Logic video card etc...

I like to play DOS games from time to time, but there's nothing quite like playing it on a piece of hardware from the era.

Seems almost crazy that I've thrown away almost every piece of PC based hardware I've owned since 1995.

Edited 2017-11-06 21:45 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: I wonder...
by The123king on Tue 7th Nov 2017 12:19 UTC in reply to "I wonder..."
The123king Member since:

Funny that, because the only piece of pc hardware i've thrown out was a horribly broken IBM Thinkpad. Thing was a sack-o-crap.

However, now i own more machines made before 1995 than after (probably including white goods and other home appliances). The newest machine i own is probably my release-day PS4...

Edited 2017-11-07 12:20 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: I wonder...
by Morgan on Tue 7th Nov 2017 17:10 UTC in reply to "I wonder..."
Morgan Member since:

That would be a fantastically fun project! I wish I had held on to my old Netpliance iOpener machines; I had converted three of them into Linux based thin clients and a fourth in to a Windows 98 machine; I sold two and gave the other two away. They didn't have a ton of GPU power but they had enough for most RTS and RPG type games, as well as any DOS game of the era.

I can definitely see a market for a Mac mini sized (or smaller) UCFF machine based around the PII or an equivalent CPU, just based on the popularity of "retro" consoles as well as sites like

Reply Score: 2

RE: I wonder...
by zima on Wed 8th Nov 2017 15:11 UTC in reply to "I wonder..."
zima Member since:

a 2MB Cirrus Logic video card

Cirrus Logic? Matrox Millenium II or Number 9 Ticket to Ride! (Beatles names! ;) ) And in the soundcard department, Aureal Vortex SQ2500 - its positional 3D audio is probably still unmatched.

Seems almost crazy that I've thrown away almost every piece of PC based hardware I've owned since 1995.

Not me, I've got a coffer of old PC junk (large part of it broken ;) ...expansion cards typically work, but motherboards can be problematic, and PSUs even more) (oh, there's also my first computer, Commodore 64 ...also broken ;) / but I have no heart to just throw it away); one day I'll get to building a retro PC ...well, moe retro than a dual Pentium2 or an Athlon XP 1700+ (my last stationary PC ...the PSU gave up the ghost 2,5 years ago; and it's on its 4th motherboard)

Reply Score: 4

RE: I wonder...
by Doc Pain on Wed 8th Nov 2017 22:22 UTC in reply to "I wonder..."
Doc Pain Member since:

I like to play DOS games from time to time, but there's nothing quite like playing it on a piece of hardware from the era.

I have a DOS PC exactly for that purpose, initially built in 1994, with a few changes in the following years (better graphics card, better sound card, more RAM). But it's probably safe to say that this particular machine has been in use for approx. 20 years, from time to time, at least once a month. And it's still working. Only one of the hard disks died a few weeks ago and got replaced by another "garbage" disk. Now everything works again. It's impressive how fast this system boots, and using an analog joystick, a parallel port scanner, a laser and a dotmatrix printer, and even networking (!) is easily possible. Direct hardware access to serial magnetic and chip card readers works as flawlessly as directly programming the many different ports it has. One CRT has builtin speakers and an amplifier with volume control and headphone connector, the other CRT is MDA (see "Hercules"). It can read 3.5" and 5.25" floppies as well as CDs (at 16x speed), and TR-1 and QIC-80 tapes. Of course the whole system resides in a big tower so you can easily notice it.

This specific system will still work when the PC I'm writing this text on has been gone for a long time. Even the IBM model M keyboard will live longer than I will... ;-)

Seems almost crazy that I've thrown away almost every piece of PC based hardware I've owned since 1995.

We don't call it a "throw-away society" for nothing, do we? :-)

Reply Score: 2

My first PC
by Munchkinguy on Tue 7th Nov 2017 04:50 UTC
Member since:

Packard Bell was my first PC in 1996! I was able to watch cable TV on my PC long before any of my friends. I also had it connected by MIDI to my electric piano so I could write music and then play around with changing the notes. I could place landline phone calls and send faxes directly from the PC! Great memories.

Edited 2017-11-07 05:00 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Member since:

The unboxing of the IBM AT 5170 was especially riveting.

Reply Score: 4

Deja vu
by maxmalkav on Tue 7th Nov 2017 14:07 UTC
Member since:

I have spent some days doing something kind of similar this late summer: I revived the first computer I owned, a Pentium 166MMX from 1997 (originally with 32MB or RAM). The two main differences with the video: mine was a setup built from OEM parts, not a brand computer, moreover, I decided to actually install modern software.

I managed to upgrade the RAM up to 128MB of EDO RAM (from a stash of memories I got from cleaning a computer lab :-), I also replaced the PSU using a more modern one thanks to a ATX-to-AT adapter.

It happens P3 heatsinks nicely attaches to the old Pentium socket, so I also managed to replace the clumsy original heatsink with a chunk of solid copper I had laying around plus an AMD fan that I regulated by voltage (so, pretty pretty silent).

I got a SATA to IDE adapter and I managed to connect a cheap SSD, but the conversion killed any raw performance gain (but way lower latencies), so I ended using an old 80GB IDE HDD, way less noisy than the original one.

Finally the software. Most mainstream distros have already dropped support for i586 architecture, with a couple of exceptions (i.e. Alpine Linux). I ended up using the latest stable NetBSD release, from this very same summer. It worked really nicely and it had zero problems detecting all the hardware.

Personally, it was very awesome seeing a 20yo computer running a modern Unix system (with obvious limitations).

I documented the process with some pictures and numbers in a small forum from my country, but no fancy and well polished videos though.

Sorry for the long post :-)

Edited 2017-11-07 14:09 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Been done to death....
by brostenen on Tue 7th Nov 2017 16:28 UTC
Member since:

There is nothing special about restoring computers video's. They have been done to death. So why does this specific video make it to osnews?

After all... Packard bell 90 is a low grade entry level PC, and really nothing to talk about in general. LGR made that perfectly clear in the video it self.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Been done to death....
by Morgan on Tue 7th Nov 2017 23:00 UTC in reply to "Been done to death...."
Morgan Member since:

really nothing to talk about in general

...and yet you're talking about it. ;-)

Reply Score: 2

by cjcox on Wed 8th Nov 2017 18:49 UTC
Member since:

Many years ago (7,8,9?) I attempted "resurrection" on a Packard Bell with a 386sx cpu. After populating the very expensive cache memory chips, I was able to upgrade the system to 2MB (the max). Armed with it's Oak graphics at a stellar 800x600 (what was it, like 16 colors?) and with an overclocked CPU, I could barely manage a Mosaic browser (but it was painful)... oh.. and of course I had to add an ISA bus 10Mbit ethernet to the machine as well.

$800+ USD later, it was interesting learning experience (I learned not to do this ever again).

With that said, as a text based Linux host, it was ok, and was ok for text based browsers (like lynx).

Reply Score: 3

RE: 386sx
by Morgan on Thu 9th Nov 2017 12:12 UTC in reply to "386sx"
Morgan Member since:

Some people blow $800 a night at a casino with literally nothing to show for it, but they feel like they had fun.

You blew $800 on a fun project and probably learned enough along the way to judge when to (or not to) take on a project like that again; maybe something with easier to source or cheaper parts, maybe a starting point that doesn't require as much money. Don't beat yourself up about it.

Hell, over the past year I dropped nearly $3000 into restoring my dad's old 4x4 truck because my mom gave it to me after he died. The truck is running and I can drive it daily, but it's only worth maybe half of what I put into it. Still, I can get behind the wheel and fondly remember his joy when he would drive it on the local trails.

Reply Score: 2