PC Legacy

This is going to be an odd sort of post, of the type I used to do here at the Jux Entente back in the internet’s silver age. Whenever I got a new primary computer (or something happened to mine), I would post its specs and name and everything else here on Jux for posterity, and also because I like talking about computer equipment. In the decade since I turned that into my job, however, I haven’t updated Jux at all about such matters. Well, two days ago, I finally pulled the trigger on an upgrade for myself, and I started thinking about the old days. Partially because I’m going back to AMD for the first time in a decade, as well.

Rather than link all of those old feature articles, I decided to start from scratch here, and cover all of my primary computers and a few memories of them from the very first one that I really considered mine, to the one that is still components being shipped to me today. This isn’t going to cover my laundry list of home servers or  laptops (some good, mostly salvaged garbage because I’m not overly fond of laptops) or smartphones and tablets (although both are devices I do a lot of computing on today). Enough preamble, though. Let’s get started!

 

The Gateway (1998 – 2002)

Field Day 2000
Does this count as an action shot?

My gateway into computing was literally a Gateway. 2000. Gateway 2000. Before this we only had an old IBM PC, so my experiences with the internet, gaming, and anything else that wasn’t WordPerfect were all at friend’s houses. This is the computer that changed all of that.

Specifications

  • Intel Pentium II 333MHz (Deschutes)
  • 128MB of RAM
  • 8MB Permedia 2 GPU (AGP)
  • 6.4GB Quantum Fireball 5400RPM hard drive

Memories

  • This was my first computer for everything. IRC, programming, whatever. You name it.
  • This thing was blazing fast when brand new and every game used software rendering. Thanks to the reality of the speed of computing enhancements in the late 90s, however, within two years it felt entirely decrepit. We crossed in the gigahertz barrier in that time span!
  • The Permedia 2 only supported OpenGL games, and then only sometimes. The only game that I could consistently hardware accelerate was Mechwarrior 2. I could run System Shock 2 and Quake 3 so long as I didn’t want textures, though.
  • Built-in 56k modem! Whoo!
  • I have no idea what sound card was in it, although it definitely had one.
  • This thing had ISA slots!

 

Sheba (2002 – 2003)

Sheba
What do you mean it looks like the computer desk of an 18-year-old?

I built this thing myself, and I named it Sheba! For various reasons, split half and half between mistakes and the realities of early 00s computing, this machine was a bit snakebit in its brief life. No other machine I’ve built has required post-built repairs and upgrades like this one did, across all of its generations. By gawd I had fun making it, though, and using it until it was felled by lightning while I was in Italy in 2003.

Despite the lightning strike, and the heat misery memories below, the components that survived the strike lasted almost a full decade in other uses, finally being retired because of age rather than failure.

Specifications

  • AMD Athlon XP 1800+ 1.53 GHz (Palomino)
  • ABIT VIA KT266A motherboard
  • 512MB of RAM (Crucial)
  • Asus 64MB GeForce2 MX400
  • Western Digital 60GB 7200RPM hard drive

Memories

  • Travis built a new PC at the exact same time I did, and it was through him that I first heard of the then-new Newegg.com. He already had the same case I ended up buying and a decent CPU cooler, so he got a GeForce 3 instead of my GeForce 2MX, and upgraded it again later to a GeForce 4. The jerk.
  • Speaking of CPU coolers and Travis, with a stock cooler and the terrible case/cooling designs of the day, the Palomino cores ran HOT. We’re talking 100C at load hot. For the first few months of Sheba’s life I took one of the side panels of the case off when playing intense games because those temperatures were nuts. For my birthday in 2002, Travis got me a Thermaltake Volcano 7, which was the size of a toddler’s head and the loudest thing on earth, but did mean I could leave the side of the case on and “only” hit 70C.
  • Oh, I also had to order a power supply with two fans. See above about heat moving. Most PSUs of the era only had exhaust fans.
  • The last PC I had that:
    • Had a separate sound card installed (Sound Blaster Live! 5.1). Although this sound card would make a special guest appearance later…stay tuned for that.
    • Had a CRT monitor attached to it.
  • I converted myself to an AMD fanboy during the Thunderbird era, and this went on for a decade until Core 2 Duo finally put them into the grave for…well, a decade.
  • Never had a modem in it. Our cable broadband was installed at the same time I ordered the parts for it.
  • I seriously don’t think I can express to you, on the internet, how hot Palomino-cored Athlons ran if you weren’t there to experience it yourself.
  • By the power of Newegg, I can pull up the exact invoice for this computer 16 years later, and tell you it cost me $1,210.84. The most expensive single part was the RAM, at $172.

FitzSheba (2003 – 2005)

FitzSheba
A few more stickers, a new location, and yes that’s how big the first LCD monitors were.

Built from a lightning strike, FitzSheba was certainly a better computer than the original. All of these parts were bought on a payout from homeowner’s insurance after our house was struck by lightning while I was studying in Italy. I came home to find Sheba dead and went straight to Newegg on my laptop to build it back up. I’d learned a lot from my first PC build, and this one never had the heat or design issues that the original Sheba had. Sadly, it did share the short lifespan of its parent.

FitzSheba 64 002
The patient could not be saved.

In March of 2005 I came back from visiting Kenny in Pennsylvania and found my computer dead again. FitzSheba’s motherboard had packed up and gone home while I was out, and despite multiple attempts chronicled on this very website that I won’t bother to link to because the images don’t work in them anymore and I’m not fixing them, it was dead. Once again I was ordering emergency parts from Newegg.

Specifications

  • AMD Athlon XP 2700+ 2.17 GHz (Thoroughbred)
  • Asus nForce2 400 motherboard
  • 512MB of RAM (Crucial) | Upgraded to 1GB in January 2005
  • ATi 128MB Radeon 9600PRO
  • Western Digital 80GB Special Edition 7200RPM hard drive
  • Western Digital 60GB 7200RPM hard drive

Memories

  • This was the only computer where I couldn’t immediately remember why it died. I remembered it dying, and I remembered playing WoW on my iBook while waiting for the new parts to come in, but not exactly what went wrong. I had to look it up in old Jux Entente posts!
  • Related to the above, this is the computer I have the least memories directly associated with. It did its job right up until the end and it was fast enough, but I never planned to build it and it wasn’t the final iteration of this machine. I think the CPU is still in a box at my parent’s place, at least. I should retrieve it so it can join its brothers in the afterlife.
  • I also got my first LCD monitor as part of this, and even though it was tiny and looks tiny in the pictures, it was amazing at the time.
  • Somehow this is the only Radeon I’ve ever owned.
  • I moved the 60GB hard drive over from Sheba even though I got it replaced, because I figured I would use it as a bulk storage drive for things I didn’t care that much about until it finally died, which I thought would be soon. As far as I know it would still spin up today if I could find whatever recycling center it went to when I threw it away in 2013. I don’t do brand loyalty much, but if you look at the specifications on all of these machines, you’ll find some, and it’s earned like this.
  • I used the same Volcano 7 cooler on the Thoroughbred that I’d used on the Palomino, and it ran several thousand RPM slower at idle from day 1. Still loud, though, which eventually lead to my next point.
  • Case fans were barely a thing back then. I’d added a better PSU fan and such to Sheba, but in August of 2004 I decided to jam the case full of fans wherever I could to try and get the high pitched whining noise of that Volcano 7 down even more. I ended up ordering ten fans from Newegg for $9.90, because one fan was $5, two fans were $11, and if you ordered at least ten you got bulk pricing of 99¢ each and free shipping. And that’s the story of why I still have at least seven brand new 80mm case fans in a box somewhere.
  • While I’m at Newegg, pulling up the invoice for the FitzSheba conversion shows a total of $592.98, including $2.99 for rush processing. The next monitor was not purchased at Newegg so it’s not included in that price. The most expensive single component was the Radeon 9600PRO, at $178.

FitzSheba 64 (2005 – 2008)

FitzSheba 64
TiVo remote, iPod Classic, BioShock box…yep this is 2007.

Alas, my true love. Of all of the Sheba generations, this is the one closest to my heart. A large part of that is that during these years I was the poorest I’ve ever been. I bought all of the parts for this upgrade while still living at home, with a good part time job. Soon, though, I was a graduate student living on my own, with all of my money going to rent and failing to stay out of debt. For over a year in the middle of this I didn’t have a job of any kind. There were no more mid-stream upgrades. This thing had to live.

Newegg order history
Dat gap

It didn’t want to live, though. In the middle of July 2007, I had to enact what is both my least favorite and yet most memorable computer “repair” of all time, when I noticed some weird graphical artifacts while playing WoW with Kenny. I checked and saw my GPU temps were through the roof, because the fan had fallen off the card. I was unemployed and had no way of replacing it, so I did the only thing I could.

Quality Engineering
Live, damn you, live!

I put the old Sound Blaster Live! card back into the case (but not the board), put a paper towel on top of it, partially screwed some screws into a spare 80mm case fan so they would act as spacers, and pointed it straight up at the empty heatsink on the graphics card. And dammit, this actually worked. I made sure to never move the case again, though.

Blown capacitors
The end.

Our time together ended a year later, though. The graphics card stabbed FitzSheba 64 in the heart one last time, and it was fatal. I had no money for replacement components or a new computer, about which I wrote several articles on Jux from my laptop. That’s part of the next computer’s story, though.

Old Friends
I got out my actual camera to take this photo. This, I’m keeping forever.

Rest easy, old friend.

Specifications

  • AMD Athlon 64 3200+ 2.0 GHz (Winchester)
  • Chaintech nForce4 Ultra motherboard
  • 1GB of RAM (Corsair)
  • MSI 128MB GeForce 6600GT (PCI-e)
  • Western Digital 80GB Special Edition 7200RPM hard drive
  • Western Digital 60GB 7200RPM hard drive

Memories

  • I told you that Sound Blaster was coming back.
  • Undoubtedly the coolest name. Not even close.
  • To the very end this had the floppy drive I bought when I built Sheba installed in it, for some reason. I can’t remember using it any time after 2003.
  • When it was first built, FitzSheba 64 felt impossibly fast. By the time it died, it still felt fast enough for most things. The computing upgrade treadmill was already slowing down, although it hadn’t ground to a stop yet.
  • Well…fast enough for everything but gaming, anyway. I wrote a whole post about that. I ended up playing through the entirety of BioShock at 14-20 FPS and loving it anyway, if you can believe it. And I really did not have that $40. What a terrible year.
  • None of the pictures work at the moment and I’m not sure if I’ll fix them, but the death of FitzSheba 64 and the building of its successor lead to this article on Jux, which in turn lead to me writing this one when I re-discovered it.
  • This is the only time I’ve ever gone down in clock speed when upgrading.
  • Kenny slipped me a 7600GT when he upgraded graphics cards a few years later, and FitzSheba 64 got to be my first home server for a few more years. It wasn’t the same, though.
  • Remember motherboard fans? This is the last board I’ve ever owned that had one. Other final appearances in my computing life this generation:
    • VGA cables / ports.
    • Floppy drives.
    • Dual optical drives (lol).
  • Weirdly, I also didn’t gain any video memory in this hop either, although the GPU was otherwise much faster.
  • Upgrade invoice: $561.97. Most expensive component: The Athlon 64, at $190.

Königshammer von Sheba (2008 – 2013)

Kinghammer
Inception

I had to ask my parents to pay for this one. That’s the long and short of it. I had no money, and in one of the lower points of my adult life, I asked for help, and they gave it. Justified or not, the shame of this started the internal debate that eventually lead me away from academia and graduate school, and into a professional career. I was burned out. I realized it. I didn’t want to have to ask for money again, for anything. In the midst of the global financial collapse, I got a job, and I paid them back a few months later, in full.

Given the budgetary constraints I had, it’s safe to say I did not set out to make this a monster. My dad told me to buy “whatever I needed”, but I didn’t want to take advantage of that.

Dusty King
Five minutes before retirement.

However, this was at the peak of my interest in home computer builds. After this, when I made technology my job rather than my hobby, a large chunk of my interest in small scale computing was replaced with big iron. Not so here. I min/maxxed the hell out of this thing. Not a single component from FitzSheba 64 was reused, other than the mouse. It was time to start fresh. It was time to do everything right.

Ten Years Later
Webby and Daisy are resting on some of the components for my newest machine.

And if I do say so myself, I did a good job. I can prove it. The picture above was taken yesterday, with the exact components I placed in that case ten years earlier still exactly as they were.

Purring like a kitten
Honestly that’s not even that much dust, for a decade.

Not a single thing needed to be replaced. It looks ten years dusty inside, to be sure, the IDE cable for the DVD-RW drive is a time capsule on its own, and it’s a great argument for why I never again bought a power supply that wasn’t modular, but there it is.

That’s the single best thing I can say about this computer. I built it, I loved it, and it never died. I replaced it because it was time, not because anything had failed. Rest easy, big guy. In a strange way, you changed my life.

9600 GT
Look, a graphics card that LIVED! And still lives!

Specifications

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 2.66 GHz (Conroe)
  • GIGABYTE P35 motherboard (all solid capacitors)
  • 4GB of RAM (HyperX) | Upgraded to 8GB in August 2008
  • EVGA 512MB GeForce 9600GT SC
  • Western Digital Blue 500GB 7200RPM hard drive

Memories

  • A month after I built this computer I was suddenly a professional developer who also had IT duties. This machine was more powerful than any of the servers at my new place of business.
  • The Sheba names ended here. I think I’d reached peak silliness anyway.
  • I’ve always put in more than the common amount of RAM, but this generation is where I took that tendency and ran with it.
  • You’ll find a lot of mentions of PC games in my history before this, but this is the generation where I actually became a PC gamer. Before this most of my gaming had been on consoles, but the combination of cheap Steam sales becoming a thing and the 9600GT being a beast of graphics card changed everything. I didn’t buy another console after this until the Nintendo Switch.
  • In keeping with this being the height of my interest in PC building, this is also the only machine I ever overclocked, and I did it right after I got it. Conroe was known for easy overclocks, and I ran the chip at 3.2GHz until I retired it from active duty and dropped it down to stock clocks so it could enjoy old age.
  • Speaking of that retirement, in keeping with this being the only PC that never died, it’s had a lot of jobs after it was replaced. First, it was my original Plex server. Then when I got an actual home server, it became a dedicated Stepmania machine in the living room. After I had kids and stopped having time for that, I turned it off, and it’s not had much anything to do for the last three years.
  • Moore’s law died this generation. When I replaced it, it was still plenty fast for almost everything. I upgraded it because I had the money, it was five years old, and I wanted to. The day before I built the new computer, I was still playing Skyrim on this machine at medium-high settings and editing CR2 RAWs in Lightroom. This is also a testament to buying quality components to begin with, of course.
  • Okay to be fair storage was getting pretty slow at the end there.
  • Things that ended this generation:
    • Ribbon cables and non-modular PSUs.
    • The last machine I will own, ever, that boots from a spinning platter.
    • This is the last time I bought a case that “seemed okay”. For the next generation, I started with the case I wanted.
  • More proof I was really into PC building at the time: I wrote a whole post on Jux documenting the assembly of the thing. Unfortunately, the images are broken. If I fix them I’ll link it here.
  • This is where Kenny and I accidentally synched up on computing generations. Every time one of us has upgraded since, the other has within a few months, to 90% identical components. In this generation he followed me by a few months and replaced the 9600GT with a 9800.
  • Invoice: $1,183.55. Most expensive component: The monitor. But that’s cheating, so, the Core 2 Duo, at $189.99.

Delight (2013 – 2018)

Delight installing
Yas queen

The longest I’ve ever waited for an upgrade, until the one after this. After five years of doing IT and managing multiple locations with big servers, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to build my own computer this time around. I do that all day at work; why not get something pre-built with a service contract for home?

I finally decided to build my own again for the same reason I used to: money. I could get a lot more for my buck, by building it myself. If I was going to build it myself again, though, I wanted to make it even nicer than the generation before had been. I wanted it to be professional. After all, I was a professional!

I wouldn’t say I spared no expense, and you can see that I didn’t buy everything on the bleeding-edge when you look at the specifications, but budget was not my primary concern. My primary concern was what I wanted. And I got it. And I haven’t made a single change to it in five and a half years.

I’ve asked more of this PC than any I’ve had before. Gaming? Damn right, in spades. Lightroom? I have a Fuji X-T2, do you know what X-Trans RAW files do to a machine? Streaming gaming sessions? Of course! And even now, well over five years later, there’s nothing Delight can’t do. I’m upgrading because I budgeting the money to do so at five years, and this is a hobby of mine, and also Kenny just upgraded again so I need to stay on the same cadence or the whole cycle will be ruined.

Delight
The Black Monolith

This article is a farewell to you, my friend. Tomorrow, or perhaps the next day, you will begin your semi-retirement. I hope you will serve Holly well for another five years, until you can retire for real.

Specifications

  • Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4 GHz / 3.8GHz Turbo (Ivy Bridge)
  • GIGABYTE Z77 motherboard
  • 32GB of RAM (HyperX)
  • EVGA 2GB GeForce GTX 670 FTW
  • Intel 335 Series 240GB solid state drive (Jay Crest)
  • Western Digital Red 2TB 5400RPM hard drive

Memories

  • Don’t let the build picture fool you. This machine has always had two monitors attached to it, sometimes more.
  • There has never been a quality of life improvement in computing as big as SSDs. Ever.
  • Half of this article was written on Delight, past tense be damned.
  • Once again, I can still run games at high or medium-high settings, a full five years plus after building Delight. Computing generations now change over at a glacial pace compared to what they were.
  • This is the only time I’ve entered a full generational change fully intending to use the case from the previous generation. I really love the Fractal Design Define R4, and I’m keeping it, at least for now. The Delight components will be moving into Königshammer’s old case until we get a good space for Holly, then they’ll go back into a Define of their own, probably a Define C.
  • Silent. This thing is silent. I love it.
  • Delight has a truly delicious amount of RAM. I love RAM. RAM is life.
  • The first time I ever bought a graphics card higher than the “6” model certainly helped the longevity of the system.
  • Have you spotted my brand patterns yet? A few streaks are about to break on the Dream build.
  • Kenny and I upgraded at the same time again. This time our components were identical, except I had a lot more storage than he did.
  • Both of my kids have pounded on the keyboard of this computer and tried to move the mouse to make Netflix magically start. Somehow that’s going to make me miss it even more.
  • This has nothing to do with the computer itself, but I got gigabit internet service to the house in 2015, and I want to make note of that like I did when I first got broadband back when I built Sheba.
  • Invoice: $1,827.23. Most expensive component: The GTX 670, at $389.99.

Dream

And here we are at the brand new system. The build starts tomorrow.

I’m sure I’ll take lots of pictures of the process, as I have for the previous two (and a bit of the third).

I’m sure I’ll have lot of exciting things to say about it in the near future. It did, after all, make me want to write this post.

Hopefully by the time I have to update this retrospective again, the boys will be old enough to help me build the next one.

Specifications

  • AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 3.7GHz / 4.3 GHz Boost (Pinnacle Ridge)
  • Asus X470 motherboard
  • 32GB of RAM (G.Skill Trident Z)
  • EVGA 11GB GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC
  • Samsung 970 Evo 1TB solid state drive
  • Western Digital Red 2TB 5400RPM hard drive

Thoughts

  • If cryptocurrency had never been a thing, I would have built this computer almost 6 months ago and put a 1070 Ti in it like Kenny did his. But it was, so I held out until the RTX 20XX was announced. They seem underwhelming to me, but they did cause 1080 Ti prices to drop rapidly, so I snagged one of those, and if I’m wrong about the 2070/2080, I’ll use EVGA’s step up program.
  • Speaking of price gouging, DDR4 prices are still insane. Look at that RAM total. It’s the exact same amount as was in Delight over five years ago. It’s killing me to not have 64GB in this thing. That upgrade will probably happen in months, not years, as soon as prices drop a bit more.
  • That increase in video RAM though. Oh baby.
  • I’m reusing the same monitors for this build, at the moment. 2160P monitors are still extremely expensive, and G-Sync gaming monitors are cheaper but terrible for photography work. That, and the RAM, are the only things I really cut from this build.
  • I plan to put a new bulk data drive in this thing, but the 2TB is only half full of photos right now, so until Holly actually needs to use the system, I’m punting that purchase down the road a bit. That wasn’t really a budget thing so much as a practical thing.
  • Included in the price but not in the specs: I picked up an Oculus Rift as part of this build. The wife and I really liked Beat Saber, what can I say.
  • Look closely and you can see that a lot of favored brands vanished like tears in the rain.
  • Literally the first time I’ve ever used PC Part Picker. The order was split across Newegg and Amazon this time.
  • Invoice total: $2,337.15. Most expensive component: What else, the 1080 Ti at $649.99. Six months ago you couldn’t find one for less than four figures.
Birds
In closing, here’s a bonus picture of FitzSheba 64 from her garage server days.

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