Spacing Out: Favorite Classic Hardware
Over on Quarter to Three (a forum on which I hang often), user rei asked what’s your favorite legacy hardware? I thought this was a great question, so I’m stealing it to use here. Over the last thirty-plus years, I’ve used a ton of hardware for my various PCs (and only PCs for me, sadly). In thinking on it, I realized there were a lot of pieces of old hardware I used to love, and still love. These include:
No Longer Own:
1. Sound Blaster AWE32 Sound Card (above) – This sound card took me through TIE Fighter and many other games, and also barely fit in my case at the time. It was massive, and amazing. It actually had a ton of sounds on it that made the MIDI sound even more orchestral than it was previously with my old Adlib card. The iMuse MIDI from TIE Fighter especially sounded AMAZING with this card. Not all games supported this card specifically, so many games thought it was a less-capable Sound Blaster 16, but even then it sounded great. If I ever rebuild a legacy gaming system, this is gonna be an integral part of it.
2. Sierra Screamin’ 3D Card
Rendition, bitches! This was my first 3D accelerator, and it came with some great games. The card itself was based on the Rendition Verite V1000 chipset, which was one of the first, if not the first, consumer-grade 3D accelerator on the market. This was the infancy of 3D acceleration, when there wasn’t a standard and everyone was trying to make their chipset and API be “the one.” The only game it came with that I REALLY cared about was Silent Thunder: A-10 Tank Killer II, but I’ll tell y’all, that demo of Quake II was freaking mindblowing.
3. CH Fighter Stick Pro
Man, I used this stick so much with X-Wing, Privateer and TIE Fighter that it eventually broke. I still remember the day I got it too. My grandmother drove me an hour north of my home town of Springfield, PA to the CompUSA next to the massive Franklin Mills Mall. As soon as I got the box I held onto it for the rest of the day until I got home in order to plug it in. I was blown away, as it had its own throttle AND a hat switch! This design was so amazing, comfortable and versatile that CH still sells the thing today, albeit a USB version.
4. Diamond Monster 3D II Voodoo2 Cards
While I went with Canopus’ amazing Pure 3D card for my first Voodoo card, Diamond wowed me with their Voodoo2 cards, which were some of the best on the market at the time. I had two of these in SLI mode, and at the time, with a solid 2D card like the Rendition above, I could play ANYTHING on the market that required 3D acceleration. From Freespace 2 to Longbow 2 and everything in-between, these cards were the pinnacle of my gaming hardware during what was some of PC gaming’s finest moments. I plan on getting these again once I’ve room to build a legacy gaming PC.
1. Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 Joystick
I’ve waxed and waned on these before, but they’re still at the top of my list for all-time favorite hardware that I currently own. I never had one of these when they were new since I was very happy with my Saitek HOTAS at the time, but now? I own four of them, three as backups, because they’re so fucking amazing. Built like a tank, with an amazing feel and fabulous accuracy, it’s the best joystick I have ever owned. I’ve played it now in everything from TIE Fighter to Wing Commander to Freespace to to Elite: Dangerous and it handles ALL of them beautifully. I really can’t gush enough about this amazing piece of kit.
2. IBM Model M Keyboard
I’ve had this keyboard through four at least PCs by now, and it’s still kicking. It’s a 1991 keyboard, so not one of the original 1984 models, but one of my backups is an original 1984 model (I have two backups of these). Sure, it doesn’t have a Windows key or any of the other more fanciful things keyboards these days have, but who cares? None of those more modern keyboards feel as GOOD to type on as these old buckling-spring based monsters. You can nowadays get newer models made by the original folks, or, if you want, shell out for the original models.
So what about you, my friends? What are some of your favorite pieces of classic hardware?