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Nostalgic memories of the first time I built a PC in 2002 (from reddit)

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I am late to the party but your question brings back some nostalgic memories I would like to share:

I first built a PC in 2002 so only twenty years ago and not twenty five. In 2002 building your own PC was not as common as today but enough people were doing it that guides were readily available and specialised retailers sold components.

The actual steps of the build itself were not too different but they probably took a bit longer especially installing windows and drivers. The main components were still CPU, GPU and RAM and you still had multiple choices: Intel or AMD for CPU, Nvidia, ATI and a few few others for GPU. There were a lot more ancillary parts however. You needed a sound card, you needed a hard disk, a floppy disk and a CD/DVD drive. You also needed a dial up modem to get 56kbit ! internet. You needed a wired keyboard and a wired mouse. This was probably an old fashioned ball mouse so a mouse mat was essential. You also needed a big CRT monitor which was probably a 17" 60 or 75Hz 1024x768 CRT. My memory is that CPUs and GPUs were cheaper but everything else cost a lot more so the overall PC cost was about the same as today.

Everything went in big steel box just like now although cases were less fancy and there were no glass panels and no rgb. Cable management was a nightmare partly because there were more cables, partly because disk drives used awkward ribbon cables and partly because the cases had no provision for hiding cables behind the motherboard. Also the PSU sat at the top of your tower case rather than the bottom. Cooling was less of a concern so most people just used the stock heatsink that came with their CPU.

The process of choosing and buying parts was a bit different. There was no PCPartpicker back then so you had to do your own homework on compatibility and then look for the best price and availability. YouTube didn't exist but there were several enthusiasts sites with guides and reviews. Toms Hardware and Anandtech were two of the biggest that are still around. Actual paper magazines were a thing and often gave more in depth information than the websites. Amazon didn't sell computer parts back then and there was no EBAY but there were several online retailers who offered a range of PC parts just like today. I also used to buy and sell second had parts on specialised forums which I still do today.

Installing software was a complete pain. You installed Windows from a CD and then you had to manually install a bunch of drivers from floppy disks. Then you had to reinstall any software you use including applications, utilities and games from CDs. Downloading full packages from the internet wasn't really a thing because the 56k modem was so slow. You did have to download patches from the internet however. The whole process took days and inevitably incompatibilities would show up requiring hours of trouble shooting.

There was no cloud back then so transferring your personal files (documents and save games for example) from an old computer to a new one took some ingenuity. If you had the two machines side by side it was possible to hook them up with a makeshift network but most of the time you had to depend on 1.5Mb floppy disks or write once CDs to do the transfer. Another approach was to physically remove the hard disk from the old machine and install it in the new machine.

As a final note one thing that hasn't changed at all even though it should have is the stupid motherboard front panel connector. They weren't standardised back then and they aren't standardised today so you still have to squint at the tiny writing as you individually connect the pins.


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