The Need For Speed- by Jon Cochran

Hi and welcome to hell. My name is Jon, and I'll be your tour guide...

Seriously though, if you go shopping at this time of year, you find yourself hearing similar to that (or at least you'll hear those voices) from your local salesman. This month I had a nice article all planned out, but then I got a letter from the editor of this fine publication a few weeks ago. It seems a reader felt that by addressing the needs of 486 users looking to squeeze a little more life out of their machines, I was doing a disservice to those people with first generation Pentiums who need to get a little more life out of those machines.

He was right, you know. So this month I'll be talking about precisely what he suggested, which was: getting a little more life out of those first generation Pentium systems.

So that Pentium 60, 66, or 75 doesn't have half the punch it used to? Makes sense, considering clock speeds have doubled in the last short while. So is it useless? No more useless than a good 486-based system. There are a number of things you can do to bring your system up to date.

Before you begin: Memory, Memory, and more Memory. Seriously folks, I can't say it enough. A Pentium 75 with 24MB of memory will whip a Pentium 150 with 8MB of memory when running OS/2. And with prices so cheap, there's no excuse not to upgrade. I think I've mentioned this enough in the past, so I'm not going to harp on the subject. But you know where I stand.

Now, to business.


Upgrading the processor is a good option for these first (and second) generation Pentiums. Since the bus runs at the same speed as today's systems, the performance from an upgrade chip will generally bring your system up to the level of a brand new system (unlike the 486 Pentium upgrades). Depending on your preference and mood towards Intel, there are a number of viable upgrade paths for you.

If you have a....The Intel Upgrade is...Or you could....
Pentium 60/66. The earliest Pentium systems are those most in need of an upgrade. The Pentium 120/133 upgrade. Generally runs about US$250 now, cheaper some places, more expensive in your local superstore.
Pentium 75. A solid second generation pentium chip, in most cases. The Pentium 150 overdrive chip. Generally runs about the same as the 120/33 chip. Evergreen makes an upgrade chip that upgrades the system to a 686/100. Performance will not be in the same ballpark as the Intel overdrive.

At this point, you may be wondering about the Cyrix 6x86 chips. As a general rule, the BIOS in your system has to support the Cyrix chip. If you don't know if your BIOS supports the Cyrix chip, find out. And, if it's a system you bought at a local superstore (Best Buy, Sears, CompUSA, etc.) it's a safe bet that it probably won't take a Cyrix chip. In that case, the Intel chip may be your only alternative.


If you did buy that system at the local superstore (and you know who you are), chances are your system doesn't have the best video subsystem (and if it's a Packard Bell, it definitely doesn't). Not to fret, because your system should have at least one free PCI slot, where you can plug in a new video card.

As for what kind to get, the choices go on and on. If you want a card that's well supported under OS/2, the choices narrow themselves down somewhat (although not as much as they used to).

You should, at this point, look for a card that supports MPEG at the least. On the subject of 3D cards, I can only say that there is very little (if any) OS/2 support for 3D features. That doesn't mean that there won't be in the future, but for now I don't see any reason to shop for a 3D capable card.


Quite a number of these older Pentium systems have a 2X CD-ROM. While adequate for playing music and older games, it just isn't going to be able to keep up with newer games. With prices for a generic IDE 8X CD-ROM hovering around the US$100 mark, it's a good and relatively inexpensive upgrade.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what you could do to your system. My idea here is to keep most of the existing system intact, and just upgrade or replace small parts. While you could go out and buy a Wide/Fast SCSI card and a new hard drive to go with it, that would probably be incredibly difficult (not to mention expensive) for most users.

As always, I'm open to suggestions. Just use the mailto: link below if you have any input or other suggestions. And have a happy holiday.

Jon Cochran is a full time student at Rider University majoring in History/Secondary Education. He hopes (or at least his parents do) to graduate soon.

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