So, I've been working on a project with its origins in 2005 for a while now and, at some point, I started wondering about what kind of systems people were building back then. Then I began playing with a parts list and looking at used parts online, and I was struck by how much cheaper the parts are now. I know, shocking. After getting a little depressed at the thought of my 1080 Ti going for $20 in 13 years, it occurred to me that a lot of folks are having that exact experience if they look at 2005's 7800 GTX used card prices right now.
Well, lemons to lemonade, I started to think how cool it would be to be the guy that gets to buy them for that price. Then I made my first couple of bad assumptions. "It can't be that hard to build a 2005 system. I should take a little break and do that." And with about that amount of deliberation, I decided to build the system I would have built in 2005 on the cheap now (another bad assumption).
I tried my best to make sure that I only used parts that could be bought in 2005. If you see anything that wasn't available by that year, please let me know. I found most of the parts pretty easily. Some hadn't changed since 2005, including the part number so, if there weren't used versions available, I bought parts "new" (the Zalman cooler, for instance). Almost all of them are used. The basic idea, though, is you could have built a system with the same parts in 2005.
The most difficult part of the build was getting it running right with 2005 software. Windows XP is hardly supported at all these days, including by Microsoft itself. Steam is ending support in a couple of months, and they already make it very difficult to run the old games on XP. Also, most used parts don't come with installation disks.
I'll spare you the rest of my usual build ramblings, because the parts are the story here. Speaking of which...
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+. This was the best version of the best available consumer CPU available in 2005, from what I've read. At the time, Intel CPUs were having performance issues and lagging in technology to AMDs. Their dominance of up until the last few years didn't start until late 2006 with the Core Duo. The Athlon 4400+ and 4800+ are actually a bit pricey for old chips, since AMD didn't make many of them due to expensive production costs. They have double the L2 cache. Cost then: $1000. Now: $50 used.
Pricing notes: Please let me know if you think a "Then" price I've listed is wrong. It's very hit and miss searching for them, since vendors don't leave old pricing on the internet. Also, I'm not including tax in any of these prices. And, when you buy used parts, part of the price is leached into the shipping charge to make the listing more attractive, so it's difficult to say what the actual cost of the part was. For that reason, I included the shipping cost in the "Now" prices.
Zalman CPU Cooler w/Blue LED. It took me a while to figure out whether I loved or hated the way this thing looks. It's kind of ugly and cute at the same time, like a pug. Then: $50. Now: $35.
ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe Motherboard (Socket 939). That's some pretty sweet copper cooling for the onboard components. It has a really strange I/O arrangement, with the audio jacks in the middle. I couldn't find the I/O shield anywhere (except European eBay, where they won't sell to Americans - long story), so I had to modify a similar one to make it work. Another strange design feature is the extra onboard RAID controller for a solo internal and eSATA port combination. I guess you could use a port multiplier to make a larger array off the eSATA port? I used an eSATA to SATA cable to connect one of the Maxtors to the outside I/O and create the 2 drive 600GB RAID 0. Then: $250. Now: $30 used.
Kingston DDR 400 4GB. I learned the hard way not to buy any of the "new" modules for this old memory. About all the new stuff is good for is lighting up memtest86 like an ASCII Christmas tree. The used, high quality stuff is much more reliable. Then: $400 Now: $40 used.
Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA HD. Very large HDD for 2005. It's been very solid during countless installations and restarts. Then: $350. Now: $30 used.
(4) Maxtor Maxline III 320GB SATA HD. It's easy to get carried away with storage space on an old build like this. I found these Maxtors for 10 bucks a piece and, when you're in a 2005 mindset about how much is a lot of space, it's hard not to get greedy. I've got one drive in the hot swap drive bay drawer for backup, 2 combined into a 600GB RAID 0 for games and data access intensive tasks, and one as an extra drive just because I could do it for $10. Then: Couldn't find it. Guessing $600 for 4? Now: $40 for 4 used.
(2) XFX GeForce 7800GTX. Both cards are used and working great in SLI. These things are hardy. One arrived so moldy I wore a particle mask and gloves to clean it (see pic if you have the stomach). But what a great feeling to resurrect these two to their former selves! Running Doom 3 and Call of Duty 2 from RAID 0 with these things makes for some smooth gaming at high settings. Then: $1100 for 2. Now: $50 for 2 used.
AeroCool ExtremEngine 3T ATX Mid Tower Case. I can't verify that this case was available in 2005, as the earliest date I could find was in January of 2006. The Google search is very fickle, though, and I have a hard time imagining it wasn't out by Christmas 2005. Just look at this thing! 250mm fan mounted in the side. Blue LEDs. A jet engine motif that already looked 20 years out of date in 2005. This is not a high-end case. The plastic front doors are bound to get broken off at some point. The look just seemed to say to me, "We belong together." My main complaint is that the hard drive cage is set toward the center too far and the mounting holes force the HDDs over the motherboard. Then: $100. Now: $50 used.
AeroCool Lightwave 120mm PC Computer Case Fan. Blue LED fan matching the case. Noctua is not shaking in its boots. Then: Guessing $10. Now: $15.
OCZ PowerStream 520 Watt Power Supply. Awesome looking and working. It powers this component heavy rig with no problems. I decided not to add sheathing to the cables. I actually like the multicolored wire look. In fact, I may still remove the sheathing OCZ put on the ATX and CPU cables. Then: $150. Now: $60 used.
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS PCI Card. I haven't played around with this card much. I just gathered that it was a requirement for gamers in 2005. It does the basics fine. Then: $100. Now: $15 used.
Logisys 12" Cold Cathode Case Lights. The 250mm fan has no LEDs, and these complement the dated look nicely, I think. Then: Guessing $10. Now: $10
What happened to packing your drive bays with semi-useful fluff? I know, the motherboard and other internal components do everything and software utilities display it right on your big monitors. And yes, it's very cool how small you can make computers now, but I used to drive a 25' long 1966 Cadillac El Dorado Coupe, and I say go large or go home.
StarTech 3.5" SATA Hard Drive 5.25" Mobile Rack Drawer. The old 2005 version I got of this mobile rack is built like a tank and comes with a key! If I could just find a little steering wheel attachment for the front, I'd pretty much have an old car dashboard on this thing. Then: $50? Now: $50.
Thermaltake Xray A2021. While I don't condone smoking and no one should smoke, I do think it's rude to not be able to light a consenting adult's cigarette off the front of your computer tower. It was also very thoughtful of Thermaltake to put a fuse in the Molex line "to safe system." Seriously, is there anything that isn't wrong about this? Do you really want to put a beverage in an opening to your multi thousand-dollar computer system? But on a case that would have only looked modern in the 1970s? Required. Then: Priceless ($20?). Now: Priceless ($50).
V.L. Systems L.I.S. LCD Indicator Display Matrix. When you shut it down, by default it displays "Good-bye, Master!" Enough said. Then: $100. Now: $80.
Plextor PX-716SA DV/CD R/RW SATA. Everything I read said that Plextors were the best for write speeds and error free burning in 2005, but I've had nothing but trouble with this little dickens. The software is great, though. Then: $130. Now: $50 used.
Dell LCD Monitor 24" 405 FPW UltraSharp 1920x1200 DVI/USB/VGA. This old LCD monitor has held up well and looks good at its native resolution. Since I got it for $50, it was a great deal even by today's standards. You'd pay a lot more than this for a new 24" HD monitor. Of course, you may feel differently if you paid the $1200 for it in 2005. Then: $1200. Now: $50.
Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard. Then: $100. Now: $50 used.
Logitech G5 Gaming Mouse. Then: $70. Now: $30 used.
SteelSeries - Arctis 3 Headset. The sound is overloaded across the frequencies, but this is supposed to be a good gaming system. Then: Guessing $100. Now: $50 used.
Then (approx.): $6000 Now: $850
Well, I'll be happy to quit doing custom date range part searches in Google for a while. I see 1/1/2005 - 12/31/2005 when I close my eyes right now. I hope posting this build was helpful or at least entertaining for you. Obviously, you could make a monster 2005 system for less than this, if you had a bit more self-control than I do when it comes to buying parts. I work fast, but this still took a few months to put together. And it was a lot of work. Work is the wrong word--this was a blast.