October 4, 2022
Title card with a classic desktop computer with a lcd screen.

Sony Vaio PVC-120 Retro Computer Thrift Store Find

The Sony Vaio Pvc-120 reminds me of the Mid 90’s era of computers, there’s just something fun about them. During these’s times, things were changing fast and it was exciting. Hardware was getting better so fast by the time you got your computer home, it was obsolete leaving you in the dust. When I was a Kid I would See all this cool new hardware in magazines and it was torture. If only I could convince my parents that a $3000 computer each year was absolutely necessity.

But still, I remember my old family pc from the mid-’90s. An old Micron Millenia with a 200Mhz Pentium, 64MB of Ram. Later upgraded with a voodoo2 Graphics card. It was a great computer, not loaded with bloatware and snappy. But, sadly that computer was lost to time. I would love to still play those’s old games I used to play as a kid on that machine.

A Treasure Was Found

Sony PVC-120 Desktop Computer
Sony Vaio PCV-120 Specs
CPU: Pentium 200Mhz
RAM: 32MB EDO
Graphics: 3D Rage II 2MB
Sound: Yamaha OPL3-SA
Hard Disk: 2GB Quantum Fireball

While shopping at my local thrift store, I found a Good condition Sony Vaio PC! It’s not very often you see one of these, I even found the keyboard and mouse for it too. I was always interested in playing around with one of these computers. For their time they were where very pricey going around for $3000 in 1996, That would be about $5,000 in 2021!

Taking it home and turn it on, It played a little Jingle tune. It’s not very often I hear a PC that has a jingle when it starts, well besides macs. It was surprising that the whole thing works still. No issues with the power supply, No issues with the motherboard, or even the hard drive.

Computers with old hard drives tend to die, so I need to check it out fast if I wanted to explore what’s on the PC. I didn’t discover anything very interesting. The person only use it for basic web browsing and taxes. But it seems like they deleted all their files. That much better than most people, you be surprised what I find on these old computers.

Cleaning It Up

Luckily taking the computer apart wasn’t very hard, but I was being careful when taking it apart. The plastic was old and brittle, plus the case had plenty of sharp edges to get cut on. I do found it strange that the case screwed together instead of using rivets, I don’t see that very often.

Luckily there wasn’t much dust inside the computer. Which tells me it didn’t got much use, or it was at least in a clean environment. There was a little bit of rust on some side panels, but it wasn’t anything Emery cloth can’t solve.

Back To The Past

Once I got everything clean up and put back together, it was time to reinstall the operating system. I knew that there got to be a restore disk somewhere for a Sony Vaio computer. I did try looking for the physical one on eBay but with no luck. Though I’m not surprised since it was a 23-year-old computer. So I tried looking on archive.org for a disk image of it. I did found it but it was a hack version. This allows it to install on any computer besides a Vaio computer. I didn’t want a restore disk that’s been tampered with. So I kept looking and finally found one buried in alongside many other ones.

The restore disk took a few hours to install, and it was pretty neat with a GUI for 1997. Seeing the computer boot up again to the factory install of Windows 95 and that Vaio background was quite nostalgic. It brings back memories of circuit city when I was a kid.

Sony Vaio desktop computer running windows 95

Many applications installed, are definitely from the mid-90s. with many being experimental internet-based applications. But one that was quite interesting to me was the Community Place Browser. Essentially a 3D navigation for the computer in a virtual environment. I never knew this application existed, it was certainly fun to play with. I might write a whole article about this program because it was so cool. This program is kind of like a precursor to PlayStation Home that would come years later.

Sound

The sound on The Yamaha OP3L-SA Is good, I wouldn’t say the best. Midi softsynth doesn’t sound that great to me however, OP2/Adlib sound sounds great like it should. And wave sounds fine too. I had some trouble getting DOS support for sound working. But After updating the drives and modifying the dos start file for windows, I was able to get it working. When it comes to dos it’s best to circumvent windows altogether and use some start-up scripts. This should allow old games to run smoother without the complications of Windows.

The Great Game Hunt

The computer included some cool games one was MechWarrior 2, which is a fun game. But as soon as seen Wipeout on the menu List I wanted to play it. When it comes to Wipeout it’s hard to not think of the PlayStation, and the style of this computer reminds me so much of it! My mind was dead set on playing this game. So the hunt was on!

But I got a big problem in my quest. I needed a special version of the game called Wipeout ATI 3d rage edition. Unfortunately, the disk is required to play the game, and not any average Wipeout disk will work. I needed that version.

Was it easy to find? of course not! This is the rage 3D version, It’s the actual only version that runs on Windows 95 and it’s very rare to find. I must have spent weeks hunting down that disk, Constantly looking everywhere. I try looking on eBay many times, only able to find the DOS version. Then one lucky day looking around, I found a copy on an archive backup! I almost went crazy looking for this game.

start of a race in wipeout on a lcd screen running on a sony PCV-120
Sharper image than a PlayStation

So was it worth all the trouble hunting it down after playing it? Definitely not worth it! The performance was so slow, The only thing the 3d rage graphics was able to do is put me in a rage. The only way I can get the game framerate up was to turn down the view range, but doing so would make it harder to see ahead, which is pretty important in a racing game! Sure it does have higher resolutions than PlayStation but at what cost, I’m just going to stick with the PlayStation version.

Future Upgrades

The graphics definitely needs an upgrade, the ATI rage II chip doesn’t cut it for most games. It’s fine for older games or 2d games, though when it comes to most 3D games it fails. No doubt a voodoo card would be awesome on this computer. I’m going to be sticking to a Hard disk instead of getting an HD-to-SD solution. That way I won’t lose that fun clicking sounds when the drive is reading. Some more Ram would be great too, for those more intense memory programs. And I’ll look for a 4:3 aspect ratio monitor, for better support for older games.

Overall

The Sony Vaio is a great pc for its time, with a futuristic look and quality better than most. If your looking for a great computer for retro pc games in the mid-’90s, this machine is a great choice.

colby

Computer guru with years working with technology. I find it fun to tinker with computer new and old, and make them do my work for me.

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4 thoughts on “Sony Vaio PVC-120 Retro Computer Thrift Store Find

  1. Oh Man, you still have that Vaio? That was my first computer, we bought it brand new with the whole kit at Circuit City for like 5k… Lol

    What i would give to play MechWarrior and Flight Sim again.. Does it have the recovery disks?

    Originally it had an 2.5 Gb Hard Drive, which ultimately filled out, so years later i popped in an WD 30GB, which breathed new life into it….. (You could operate Aol, Napster, and winamp at the same time again without issues… Lol)

    Fun Fact: the 28.8k baud HW based Modem performed better under load while gaming than any of the US Robotics or any brand 56k winmodem did circa that era… Lol

    So good to see this PC live on in relatively good condition it seems.
    Cheers!

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