DirectX Then and Now (Part 2)
I meant to write this follow-on-on blog to DirectX Then and Now when I got my new PC, but then work and a giant abscess got the best of me, and so my new gaming PC (and Alienware ALX) has sat unused since it arrived on Monday. As luck would have it, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out this week too, and so with my abscess treated and work done, my cool new machine and my cool new game were ready for a workout last night.
It is amazing - I can turn the Oblivion settings for detail way up, and the game plays beautifully at 2560x1600. My new Alienware Aurora ALX PC kicks ass, and I love, love, LOVE my 30" Dell monitor. Once you have one, you can't go back. Ever since 1998, I would seek out the "high end" monitor, and it always cost about $2000. First it was a couple of iterations of the 21" tube-based dinosaurs, then I moved on to a 21" LCD, then the Samsung 24" widescreen LCD (twice!) , and now the Dell 30" widescreen LCD. In each case, about $2000 bought the state of the art (good god, I don't want to add up how much I've spent on monitors in the past 8 years). I can't wait to see what $2000 buys 8 years from now.
It is remarkable to me how rapidly technology has evolved since I last worked on DirectX. When DirectX 3 shipped in September of 1996 (I didn't finish DirectX 5, I moved on to work on Internet Explorer half way through), the minimum requirements were a 486 66MHz with 8MB RAM, with a recommended Pentium 60MHz with 16MB of RAM, and a 2D/3D card. State of the art when DirectX 3 shipped was the ATI 3D Rage II, that promised 3D acceleration up to resolutions of 1280x1024, and came in 2, 4, and 8MB configurations.
My new Alienware PC seems to stack up OK against the DirectX 3 recommendations. Dual, count'em dual, ATI Radeon X1900 XTX video cards. Each with 512 MB of RAM -a long way from an 8MB max configuration. So check that box, "OK on video". At the heart of my ALX is an AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 dual core processor that whups the ass of the Intel Pentium 4 EE 955 dual core processor. While GHz (forget the sad MHz of 1996) doesn't matter any more as it is all about what can you get done in one clock cycle, not how many clock cycles are available, never-the-less, let's note that the 2.6 GHz processor certainly meets the recommended Pentium 60MHz level for DirectX 3. And of course, dual core is pretty close to 2 processors in 1, so I'm thinking I'm well covered. And the 2GB of uber-fast RAM meets the 16MB minimum recommendation, as well. My Soundblaster X-Fi with 64MB RAM appears to meet the sound card requirement of "sound card from Creative Labs". And while storage is not a DirectX 3 requirement, my ALX has two Western Digital Raptor 74GB SATA 10K RPM drives in a RAID 0 configuration with a 500GB storage drive to boot, so I'm ahead of the game.
I boldly inserted my DirectX 3 CD and ran the samples. My personal favorite is FoxBear (I spent far too many hours working on FoxBear in the day), and amazing - code from 1996 targeted at Windows 95 runs on Windows XP SP2. And good ol' FoxBear runs great at 2560x1600, rate limited at 60 frames per second, the refresh rate of my monitor. Immortal Klowns (our tongue-in-cheek version of Mortal Kombat) worked great, as did RockEM3D, our rock-em, sock-em robots take off. Amazing.
Before these CDs suffered terrible bit-rot, I figured that since they were publicly available in their day, it should be OK for them to be publicly available today. So if you just can't help yourself, I present for your (perverse) enjoyment:
And for the truly bored, the full specs of my Aurora ALX are in the extended section below... things have come a long, long way in the past 10 years.
Processor: AMD Athlon™ 64 FX-60 with HyperTransport and Dual Core Technology
Operating System (Office software not included): Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional with Service Pack 2
Warranty: 3-Year AlienCare Toll-Free 24/7 Phone Support with Onsite Service
Automated Support: AlienAutopsy: Automated Technical Support Request System
Chassis: Alienware® ALX Full-Tower Case - Saucer Silver
Chassis Upgrades: Alienware® Acoustic Dampening with AlienIce™ 2.0 Video Cooling
Thermal Management System: Alienware® ALX Active Liquid Cooling System
Power Supply: Alienware® 650 Watt ATX 2.0 Power Supply
Graphics Processor: Dual 512MB PCI-Express x16 ATI RADEON X1900 - XTX + CrossFire Edition
Video Optimizer: AlienAdrenaline: Video Performance Optimizer
Motherboard: Alienware Approved ATI CrossFire™ Motherboard
Memory: 2GB Low Latency Dual Channel DDR SDRAM at 400MHz - 2 x 1024MB
System Drive: Extreme Performance (RAID 0) - 148GB RAID0 (2 x 74GB Serial ATA 10,000 RPM w/8MB Cache)
Storage Drive: Additional Storage Drive - 500GB Serial ATA-II 3Gb 7,200 RPM w/16MB Cache
AlienRespawn: Alienware® Respawn Recovery Kit
Primary CD ROM/DVD ROM: 16x Dual Layer DVD±R/W Drive w/LightScribe Technology
Secondary CD ROM/DVD ROM: 16x Dual Layer DVD±R/W Drive w/LightScribe Technology
Visual Interface: No Monitor
Sound Card: Alienware® Edition Sound Blaster® X-Fi® High Definition 7.1 Audio with XRAM Technology
Security Software: Norton™ AntiVirus™ 2006
ALX Out Of Box Experience: Exclusive Alienware® ALX Items
Free Alienware T-Shirt: Free Alienware® ALX T-Shirt - Black