Retro Challenge - 2017/04 - Day 22

Wakefield Risc OS Show

Got up early as I was staying at the hotel. Wasn't feeling that hot as I'd stayed up drinking with a few of the BBC crowd that were staying at the hotel for the show.

Setup

Brought the boxes with all of my kit to my stand, unfortunately the lift in the hotel wasn't working so we had to climb 3 flights of stairs with everything. Luckily a very nice porter helped with some of the stuff.

Unpacked the Communicator and set it up with the monitor and put the PABX and modem for connecting to under the table hidden out of sight.

Spent the 2 hours before the show opened ensuring that the software was running, connecting my laptop to the hotel WIFI and pointing the dial up gateway to the server backend that sits on a VM in my Manchester data centre.

Tried various times to dial the modem and nothing was happening, the Communicator would go online but it hadn't dialled correctly. My friend Ryan then managed to find an option in the settings for using Tone dialling, we set the option and the thing dialled the modem correctly.

After a few more attempts we got a response from the server side. Unfortunately something was amiss, we were getting formatting missing on the screen.
I think this may be due to the FTDI cable I was using, I had issues with the USB modems that I previously used. I think there is some issue with the actual parity settings it uses VS the ones I've asked it to use. After a bit more fiddling we managed to connect it to CCL4 (a rather random telnet available ViewData BBS).

Interest

Quite a few people we interested in the machine, its a fairly obscure one that not many people had come across. I had a nice conversation with a guy from the Netherlands who is setting up a show in Holland and was looking for people to show items such as this.

Ian (BeebMaster) came over and spent a while figuring out the workings of the machine. It has an interesting set of applications that can be instanciated with a specific amount of memory and unlike the BBC you can switch between applications and they stay resident in memory. 

After taking a load of photos of the machine he ended up taking it apart so that he could get internal photos of the board etc.
We found some interesting things inside, the machine has 2 batteries (which I need to change) one I presume stores the settings not sure what the other is used for (you an store files in the memory so maybe it does that). There is also a pass through connector for a phone on the side but there is a removable panel that is in place so you can't see it.  

Retro Challenge - 2017/04 - Day 20

Wakefield Show Preparations

Finally managed to find some time to sort the BBC out and ensure everything works before setting off to Wakefield tomorrow.

BBC Power Supply

Sorted out the PSU in the BBC, unsoldered and replaced the 3 capacitors that tend to go bad. Gave the machine a good clean and put back together.
Got the monitor and went to plug in the machine, at this point I noticed that the plug had been damaged and I went off to Tesco (at midnight) to get a new one.
Chopped off the old plug and wired the new one, plugged in the machine and BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP. Something's not right with it.

Checking Prestel Modem

Got out my master and decided that I could use that instead, setup the Prestel adapter and checked it powered on ok. Seems good.
Dialled a number to check its working and nothing, realised that the modem only does pulse dialling, my PABX requires tone. (Swore quite loudly at this point).

As it was getting on for 1am I decided to pack everything up and decided on an alternative plan.

Alternative Equipment

Decided to go to the storage locker on the way home and got my Acorn Communicator out, wasn't sure how I was going to get it to dial as i'd only ever used it plugged into a real phone line. Was worried that the unit only did pulse dialling but had other equipment in the van to hopefully try if this didn't work.

Retro Challenge - 2017/04

2017/04 RetroChallenge...

I'm supposed to be demonstrating a ViewData system at the Wakefield RISC OS show at the end of April where I have a stand booked.

Therefore my Retro Challenge is to sort the stuff I need for the show...

Re-Write BBS Software

I wrote an example BBS system for a previous Retro Challenge (and won :)). I want to re-write the system to make it more expandable and easier to pipeline the components so that they can also be used for generic BBS systems as well as the more specific ViewData one.

Setup Example Pages

Once the system is up and running I need to provide some actual content for people to explore while connected to the system.

ViewData Demonstration Machines

On the last Retro Challenge I wanted to setup a set of 3 demo machines that can be used for connecting to my ViewData BBS. The idea is that I want to have a set of machines setup to show the "Internet" in 1985.
Each setup will consist of a BBC Micro, Cub Monitor and Acorn Prestel adapter.

I have decided that I will concentrate on 1 machine and then do the other 2 if I get time.

Each machine will need...

1) Cleaning
2) RetroBriting
3) Fixing / refurbishing (Probably power caps etc)
4) Configuring

TV

I managed to acquire a nice 80s TV that will sit on the side showing clips and videos from 1980 - 1985.
Originally I wanted to show a mash-up of adverts, cartoons and music videos. After looking into the licencing for this it would require me to find the original copyright holders. Therefore I may look at getting a licence for displaying movies and I think could possibly display the BBCs "Micro Men" and possibly the old Micros Live series using the licence (although I need to verify this).

Phone

A while ago I converted a 746 phone to use tone dialling, I have the parts to do a few more and today just received new cables for them. I would like to therefore setup at least one for the demo.

Phone System

Once everything is setup it needs to be connected together using a PABX. I bought another cheap one and intend to use it exclusively for this task. It will be configured to have several modems connected to the server and the machines connected to the ports to allow dialling into the system. Ideally I want to set it up to ring the next available modem so that I can also connect it to a real external phone line (it has 3 connections so I probably will have 1 real line and 2 voip ones).

Server

I have a small HP Micro server that I want to configure as a portable BBS server, I could however run the system as I do now over a VPN from my server in Manchester. To do this I have a Draytek router that can be configured to use VPN and might be setup as a WIFI client to connect to the wireless on site.

Other Stuff

To make the stand at the show more interesting I need to print out some instructions on how to use the system. Maybe a few movie posters from 1980-1985 and also litter the desk with Prestel guides.

BeebOPL Xmas Tunes

BeebOPL Xmas Demo

A demo of my BBC master using the BeebOPL sound card to play Xmas tunes.

The card is a great little gizmo that basically gives the BBC a Yamaha OPL sound chip like used in the PC sound blaster cards. The system connects to the 1Mhz bus and has a through connector so you can add other devices to the chain.

The sound is pretty tinny as its going through the BBCs internal speaker, you can use external speakers via a 3.5 inch jack socket on the card to get a better sound.

If you are interested in getting one for yourself then see the Stardot Forums for details. The device comes as a kit which requires simple soldering skills.

Retro Challenge - 2016/10 - Day 31

Total Failure To Launch...

Well I managed to do very little on my projects over the month, various things have as usual got in the way.

Got a few bits today for my ViewData project...

PSU Caps

A bunch of caps to sort the "Magic White Smoke" issue out on several of my machines.

RotaTone

Some new RotaTone units to convert the other rotary phones I have to DTMF so that they will work with the PABX.

Will carry on any try to get the machines sorted for an Acorn event in November.

 

Retro Challenge - 2016/10 - Day 28

Failing Slowly...

Have managed to do very little on anything over the last few weeks.

Did however meet up with some of my friends for a weekend of drinking and was given these...

Have spent the evening archiving as many as I can, its slow work but I've now got through about a quarter of the first disk box.

Retro Challenge - 2016/10 - Day 15

Slow start...

Well I've been on holiday for the beginning of the month so have had a slow start. Can't believe we are half way through already and I've barely done anything.

ViewData Demonstration Machines

Have managed to get the machines I'm going to use together, they need cleaning and the caps replacing in the power supplies but all of them work ok.

Ordered the parts for the power supplies and they arrived yesterday, next job is to dismantle the units and replace the caps.

Got another PABX to use so that I can keep the one on my desk and have one specifically for the ViewData BBS setup.

Kryoflux Imaging

Did a run of imaging yesterday, started with a few Archimedes games.

Created a raw copy and a disk image for emulation.
Opened the created disk image on RiscPCEmu.

Retro Challenge - 2016/10

2016/10 RetroChallenge...

I'm going to try fairly simple tasks this time round, the intension is that I actually complete them.

ViewData Demonstration Machines

I want to setup a set of 3 demo machines that can be used for connecting to my ViewData BBS. The idea is that I want to have a set of machines setup to show the "Internet" in 1985.
Each setup will consist of a BBC Micro, Cub Monitor and Acorn Prestel adapter. I also want to get a nice 80s TV that can sit on the side showing clips and videos from 1980 - 1985.

Each machine will need...

1) Cleaning
2) RetroBriting
3) Fixing / refurbishing (Probably power caps etc)
4) Configuring

Kryoflux Imaging

For the last RetroChallenge I setup a PC to do my software imaging using a Kryoflux. I have since sorted the machine and it now has all the software I need to image disks.
I have a large amount of software that needs imaging, I'll start with some of the BBC titles and then continue with the Archimedes software.

Pimped Out Master

I currently have a BBC Master on my desk but I'd like to fully pimp the machine out.
I've also looked at doing a custom black paint job on the machine (I have special Vinyl paints so may give that a go).

So there are my goals, we'll see if I can actually accomplish any of them next month :)

 

 

Dialing A BBS With A Spectrum 48k

Prestel & ViewData Services

In the UK back before the internet arrived there was a system called Prestel that provided various online facilities via a ViewData interface. This was similar to the Minitel system used in France and was closely related to Teletext.

Here is my Minitel terminal all setup to test my dial in gateway and connect to Level 29 BBS.

And here it is logged into Level 29 BBS. Notice the screen size is very restrictive due to the 40 column width compared to most ASCII terminals that have 80.

Micronet 800

As part of the Prestel service large customers could rent pages (known as frames) or the Prestel mainframe could hand off to an external system to provide other services.

One of the most popular services was Micronet 800, it provided chat rooms, multiplayer online games and message boards about various topics.
It was called Micronet 800 due to that being the entry page number provided by Prestel (you entered 800 to get to the main page within Prestel). 

The main problem with connecting to Micronet / Prestel was that you needed a modem, most home users of the time didn't own a machine with a serial port so in an attempt to get more users Micronet provided a package for the Spectrum. As the Spectrum 48k did not come with a serial port and couldn't display the resolutions required to show the ViewData frames this was a problem. Micronet got round this by providing a modem with built in ROM and hardware to update the Spectrum so that it could use the service.

The modem sits nicely under the Spectrum and connected to the bus at the back.

Modem Functions

When you connect the unit to the Spectrum it patches the ROM to load the Micronet code.
This gives you get a nice splash screen when the machine is turned on.

When pressing a key you are returned to the main system menu.

There is a mode for automatically logging onto the service (this remembers your ID number and enters it at the relevant prompt).
You can save frames, store programs and check the mailbox. The system also allows you to drop back out to Basic so that you can use the Spectrum without having to disconnect the unit.

Selecting log on asks for you ID and then gives you this screen.

At this point you have to manually dial the number to connect the modem.
When you hear the tone you flick the switch on the front of the unit to go online.

Problems Connecting

As the unit is designed to connect to a ViewData system at V23 (1200, 75) it does not have the modern modem facilities such as auto-bauding. It expects the other end to be the same. When trying to connect to Level 29 BBS we hit the problem as the modem on the other end is using Bell protocols and we are using the European CITT ones. The main difference being the tone frequencies that they use.

My modern modem has an AT command to switch modes but will usually just figure out the other ends requirements.

As we don't have that option I altered my ViewData system dial in gateway to connect to Level 29 via telnet. This allows me to dial my machine locally and the software then connects to the BBS via telnet does any character translation required and passes the data back to the Micronet modem.

Connected To Level 29 Via The Gateway

When I used this in my office it worked fine, I could type my user name (with a little bit of effort as the keyboard is a bit awkward on the Spectrum) but my monitor wouldn't keep the sync with the Spectrums video output and the image kept rolling. I then moved this downstairs on a very long telephone extension so that I could use the TV.
I think that something was getting messed up as the keyboard was not sending the correct key presses back to the gateway.

Anyway you can see the main login page that we are connected to. The Minitel terminal in the office works perfectly with this so I think I need to sort a shorter telephone extension cable out and try it again.

Retro Challenge - 2016/01 - Day 31

KryoFlux Imaging Machine

So putting one last push to actually get something done.

Got the machine i'm going to use for parts to make my KryoFlux imaging system.
The idea is that I have a single machine for taking images of floppy disks so that I can start on the task of imaging the large quantity of Acorn software that I have in my collection.

The machine will have both 3.5 and 5.25 inch floppy disk drives and will copy all images to my NAS storage or USB.
I will initially RDP to the machine to take images of floppy disks using the KryoFlux software but when I have the time I want to create a remote front end so that all I need to do is insert the disk and it will image and create the appropriately named files.
So that I am keeping the full copy of the disk I will store both the KryoFlux raw data and a image suitable for use with emulators. Any disks that are copy protected can then be re-written using the KryoFlux raw data.

Donor PC

The donor machine is an intel Core 2 duo PC, this used to be my main machine back a long time ago and has now just been in storage doing nothing.
Due to the case being a full tower one I want to move the motherboard to a new desktop case that will fit under my desk out of the way.

The machine had a pretty good graphics card at the time but this is now pretty obsolete compared even to a lot of embedded chipset graphics processors.

Extracted the motherboard.

Assembling The New Machine

To get the board into the new machine I had to remove the extra funnel for the processor fan and take out the filter that is fitted to the new case as the fan goes right out to the case lid.

Had a spare internal SSD with adapter kicking around from another project.

Fitted the KryoFlux into this space, will fit it properly but need some longer floppy drive cables and more power for the 5.25 inch drive.
The KryoFlux needs to be plugged into the USB, I may rob a USB front panel from a case to use internally.

All assembled in the case.

The 2 floppy drives for archiving.

Things To Do

Need to sort out the floppy cable and either make one the correct length or get one of the nice round ones I have in storage. Not sure if I have one with a 5.25 inch drive flat connector.

Currently installing the operating system so that I can actually image disks.

OS is now installed and I can remote desktop to the machine so that I don't need it connected to a monitor to use.

Fix the KryoFlux in properly (I have some PCB stands somewhere) and fit an internal USB to the machine so I can connect the KryoFlux without any external cabling.

This now has an internal USB header on the board which connects to the Kryoflux.

Image all of my disks (this may take a while).

Started this but its going to take a fair bit of time.

Goodbye Retro Challenge...

So this is the end again for another Retro Challenge, as has been common in the last few challenges my 11 month old has got in the way so I've not really got a lot done.
I am happy that I've manage to do some of what I set out to do. Mainly sorting my storage locker so that I can easily access machines and other stuff so that I can start to clean and fix them one at a time.

Enjoyed looking at everyone's blogs and hope to see you all next time.