My ‘Ultimate’ 486 Build Revisited


Back in 2014 I began a project to build myself a 486 PC. It proved to be slow going, not just to get the right components, but also spending time troubleshooting. Two years later I finally had it all functioning. Initially the aim was just to have a usable 486 without getting too fussy over the hardware. Maybe wtih a DX/2 66 processor, 8 MB of RAM, an entry-level ESS sound card, and so forth. However, as things accumulated over time it proved to be better than I had imagined. ‘Ultimate’ can be subjective – no doubt some other enthusiast has one with more RAM and thrown in a TNT 3D video card, but my aim was to keep it fairly period correct.

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eBay Purchase #16 – Apple Macintosh LC II

maclc2-1eBay Purchase Price: $200 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Good

It’s been years since owning a beige Macintosh, and I had an itch to own one again. A little while ago I picked up this Macintosh LC II off eBay, from the state of Queensland. Getting a Mac from the LC series wasn’t my first choice, having preferred finding a Quadra or Performa instead. Between price, condition, and the models out there to choose from it’s hard pickings. Nevertheless there was some sentimental value towards this model – it was the model I experienced using a Macintosh for the very first time.

The LC family began with the original Macintosh LC released in October 1990, and the  series continued up until 1997 with the Power Macintosh 5200/75 LC in an all-in-one form factor. The earlier LC models were commonly referred to as pizza boxes, given their slim design, and in hindsight could be seen as the then Mac Mini. I’m not fully certain on officially what the LC represented, whether it was “low cost”, “low cost colour”, or from the name of Project Elsie in which the objective was to build a more affordable Macintosh with a colour screen. Whichever it may be, the LC was aimed for families and the education market as a lower cost alternative to the Macintosh II.

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File Manager Returns

filemanager-largeiconThis isn’t something I’d expect from Microsoft, and it must have been a bit of a flashback for Ian Ellison-Taylor.

File Manager, once the default file management tool during the heyday of Windows 3.x and NT has come back to life for Windows 10. Now available in open source under a MIT license, two variations of the source code have been published on GitHub. The only dependency is for the Visual Studio 2015 C++ runtime to be installed on your PC.

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eBay Purchase #15 – Philips Apple Video Adapter

philips-apple-video-1eBay Purchase Price: $30 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Good

Macintosh computers up until the introduction of the iMac in 1998, were known for having proprietary ports, which at times was inconvenient in a PC-centric world. Fortunately these days it’s more seamless.

I recently picked up an old Mac (which I’ll show in a later post). Everything was included, even down to having the original install disks and manuals, with the exception of the monitor. It was claimed to have been working, but there was a slight problem. None of the older LCD monitors I owned with their VGA and DVI ports was going to just plug in. So since owning it I had left it in the its original box out in the shed.

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Running Obsolete Software on Windows 10

Opinion is divided on what constitutes a satisfactory time-frame concerning the life-cycle of software products. Those more technically inclined see the importance of keeping current, whether it be in the form of a patch, or a major upgrade when their software is soon to be out of support. Others view updates as a hindrance, and are content using eight year old software as long as it runs okay, and does what they need it for. External factors usually dictate when they feel forced to upgrade. Windows XP’s later years were a testament to this. My father for example only upgraded from XP for two reasons; utilise more than 4 GB of RAM, and play newer DirectX 10 and 11 games.

Microsoft and Apple have held different attitudes over the years supporting hardware and software that isn’t so cutting edge any more.

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eBay Purchase #14 – Microsoft Office 4.2.1 for Macintosh

office421mac-1eBay Purchase Price: $48 AUD

Country of Origin: Australia

Condition: Very Good

Microsoft Office for the Macintosh always felt kind of second-rate compared to its Windows counterpart. Microsoft Access never made it, hence no Professional edition available. The exception being with Office 2004 for the inclusion of Virtual PC. The e-mail client changed relatively frequently, whilst Windows users have been using Outlook since Office 97. Within the ‘Office family’ is Publisher, Visio and Project, where the former two didn’t come across to Mac, while the latter was short-lived in the early 1990s.

Interestingly Office’s roots stem from the Macintosh. During the late 1980s Microsoft did well selling individual copies of Word and Excel on the platform, comparative to their PC-based releases. Then in 1989 Microsoft Office 1.0 (originally known as The Microsoft Office) was first distributed, comprising of Word 4.0, Excel 2.2, PowerPoint 2.01, and Mail 1.37 that would run on Apple’s System 6. Five years later would see this version, 4.2, that would generate plenty of resentment amongst Mac users.

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eBay’s Fee Structure – An Unattractive Option for Casual Sellers


On April 30, 2004, I officially joined the growing number of users on eBay. Initially the first few years my account wasn’t particularly active, and it was only to purchase random cheap stuff. At the age of 19, priorities certainly weren’t on purchasing old computer bits and pieces.

This decade though the account has been more active, both for buying and selling. The buying experience has generally been positive, with only the occasional hiccup along the way. There was a time I successfully bid on some enterprise level software, including an early version of Microsoft Exchange for the lowly amount of $1. The software was never received and the seller was not responding – I guess they felt it wasn’t worth it.

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Designing Windows 95’s User Interface

win95uidesignThree years ago I came across an interesting paper written up by a Microsoft employee, Kent Sullivan, on the process and findings of designing the new user interface for Windows 95. The web page has since been taken down – one reason why I’m a bit of a digital hoarder.

It specified some of the common issues experienced from Windows 3.1’s Program Manager shell and looked at the potential of developing a separate shell for ‘beginners’. Admittedly my inclination was that this was possibly inspired by Apple’s At Ease program that was reasonably popular during the System 7 days. I remember At Ease well during my primary school years, so kids couldn’t mess with the hard disk in Finder.

So here’s what Kent had to say verbatim in his paper titled “The Windows 95 User Interface: A Case Study in Usability Engineering” so it’s not lost altogether.

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