Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 2

And its all go for the 2014 - Winter Warm Up Retro Challenge...

... except I've done nothing so far and it looks like it will be at least the weekend before the issue that has had me staying late at a customers for the last week is sorted.
Intend to actually do something over the weekend as I've managed to completely write off the Christmas period and will have to return properly to work on Monday (not that I've not been continuously working for the last week) so if I don't get started then its not going to be looking good for completing anything in time.

Anyway did manage to look at some of the other entries and have to say there are some amazing projects lined up.
Will be looking forward to seeing what everyone manages to complete at the end of the month.

Retro Challenge - 2014 Winter Warmup

ViewData BBS Server

After failing miserably on the last Retro Challenge, I'm intending to actually get something done this time.
I've been playing around with ViewData and want to create a new BBS system that will run on a modern server and be able to take telnet or dialup connections.

So as part of the challenge I intend to implement as much of the following as possible...

1) Create basic ViewData BBS system that allows telnet access.
2) Implement a dial up server that forwards traffic to the BBS.
3) Create a ViewData terminal that allows the BBS to be accessed without a real machine (possibly implement this in Silverlight and host it on a web page).
4) Add ability to load pages into BBS and navigate through simple page tree (like original Prestel).
5) Add ability to create forms and entry validation etc.
6) Create gateway from BBS to other online telnet enabled systems (this will allow me to "dial up" telnet only BBSs such as CCL4).
7) Implement email service in BBS.
8) Implement search engine (google / bing).
9) Implement twitter feed.
10) Implement online game (shades etc). (Have looked at shades and it is still available, problem is it expects a 80 x 40 text based screen).
11) Create some kind of API for creating gateways between BBSs.
12) Detect non ViewData terminal and create ASCII representations of ViewData screens. (Might create a new gateway to do this).
13) Implement a demo of old Prestel screens.
14) Implement some real content for my new BBS.
15) Create system for doing downloads. (Have some examples of the way this was done via multiple pages in sequence).
16) Implement facebook feed.

Probably a bunch of other stuff.

Required Items

To test this setup I'll need to implement the following...

1) Setup PC to run BBS.
2) Install modems for dial in access (I have 4 Hayes modems which I have managed to get connected correctly, I also have 4 USB modems which work but are sending gibberish to the ViewData terminal, think this is some issue with stop bits or parity).
3) Wire modems into PBX.
4) Wire PBX to external line.
5) Look at possibility of using a set of VOIP lines (Think they should be ok with compression off as the speed is low enough).
6) Solder a set of cables for the BBC to connect to modems.
7) Try and get terminal server box to accept incoming connections and connect out on modem.

Terminal Hardware

Once the connectivity is setup I'll be testing using the following...

1) Alcatel TerminalTel 257 VideoTex terminal.
2) BBC Micro with Acorn Prestel adapter.
3) BBC Micro with Prism modem (1000 & 2000).
4) BBC Micro with Pace Nightingale modem.
5) Sinclair Spectrum 48k with Prism VTX 5000 modem.
6) Acorn A3000 with old modem (not sure of make).
7) Acorn Communicator. 
8) My new terminal program (which I need to write).
9) ConnectVX (A windows ViewData client).

So the intention is to have a working BBS that can be contacted by other users via dialup and telnet at the end of the challenge.

Retro Challenge - SC 2013 - Day 17

Initial Setup

Tried to get everything ready on Tuesday and ensure that the machines were working etc.
I was going to take 2 A3000s and have them connected to the Risc PC via Ethernet and use Acorn Access to share the Risc PCs hard disk, this would allow me to play some of the older games that only work on the original Archimedes range.

I found several of my A3000s and found that only one had the serial chips fitted (this was an extra purchase and had a set of chips installed into sockets inside the machine) as I wanted to run some multi-player serial connected games.

So instead I decided to take 2 A3010s which are the same format as the A3000 but of a newer design. They also have dual joystick ports and serial built in. I found 2 and got them fired up, dug out a few mice and a joystick and they were working ok.

One was already fitted with an Ethernet card so I had a look to see if I could get that to work with the Risc PCs shared disks, after cabling them up I found that the card is an older one without Acorn Access built into the ROM. Luckily I found another card which I have had working with my A3000 before and has Access built in. After swapping out the cards I tried again, nothing, the system can see that the cable is connected but will not create a link with the switch, I tried another old 10mb switch, still no joy. Don't know why its not working any more, will have a proper look some other time.

So checked that the Risc PC had all of my games loaded onto the hard disk, at which point the machine crashed nastily, it then did this several times in a row. Thinking this might be loose memory I took the machine apart and instantly found the problem. The battery had leaked onto the board and caused track damage, I've removed all of the other batteries from every Risc PC I have due to this problem. This one was ok last time I looked but has leaked since and damaged the machine.

So grabbed another from the cupboard and swapped out the cards etc to get another working machine.

RONWUG Meeting

On the Wednesday met everyone for RONWUG (Risc OS North West User Group) so that we could play with a few of the older games for the Archimedes range of Acorn computers.

We set up the 2 A3010s on a table with 2 of my monitors and were able to use the large plasma TV on the wall if required.

The Risc PC sat on the floor and shared the plasma or a monitor when needed.

Due to networking not working I took a large box of floppy disks along to use, a few were starting to get to the point where they won't read, luckily I'm in the middle of creating a disk archive of all of them.
I does show though how floppies that are now 20+ years old are starting to oxidise and die, no matter how well you try to keep them.

So we tried out a few of the classic Acorn games such as Chocks Away (which was quite amusing to watch everyone trying to land without crashing), Conqueror, SWIV, Black Angel, Lotus Turbo Challenge, Dune 2, Stunt Racer 2000 and of course Granny's Garden :)

On the left Black Angel and too the right is SWIV.

Note the graphics are squashed due to the use of newer monitors, would like to have taken my older monitors which work great with old games but they are bulky and awkward to transport so I opted for these instead.

We also dug out Granny's Garden (Archimedes version) for a giggle.

Retro Challenge - SC 2013 - Day 14

Not really been able to do much this week but got the new keyboard for my old laptop through from ebay so spent a few minutes swapping the old one out and getting the machine running.

Firstly removed the old keyboard, its luckily only held in with three spring loaded clips at the top so had it removed in a few seconds.

The new keyboard.

Attaching keyboard ribbon cable.

Completed machine.

Testing the keys all work in Notepad.

Should be getting the Acorn machines wired up tomorrow and Tuesday ready for RONWUG (Risc OS North West User Group) on Wednesday where we are trying out some of the old and new games for the Acorn platform.

Retro Challenge - 2013 SC - Day 7

Finally got some time to actually do something for my RC.

Tried to get my USB modem to work with my Windows 8 machine but the drivers are pretty much useless and it isn't detected automatically.
Finally decided to break out my old XP laptop, problem is that the keyboard doesn't work so found a USB one and got it up and running.

While I was at it found a replacement one on ebay so may get round to sorting it out before the end of the month.

Connected up the modem to the C-Tel analogue PABX that I bought a while ago for the purpose of providing old school dialing between machines and possibly the internet.

To test the PABX was working and everything should be ok before I start on the older machines I grabbed my old Acorn Pocket Book 2 and Psion 3 Fax Modem and wired them in.


Using the comms software on the Pocket Book and a copy of Putty on the PC I tried dialing the PC.

At this point the Psion modem started with the usual warbling but the PC wasn't happy at all.
I tried dialing the other way round, the USB modem was not having any of it.

I then remembered the laptop had a built in modem and after a few minutes finding the driver online all was good.

Found my Psion 8mb SSD with the internet suite installed and tried dialing the PC using the built in dial in settings, the PC responded but the error in the log indicates that the Psion didn't authenticate correctly.

So at least I have the two machines dialing each other, next step is to setup some kind of dialup server or BBS, have looked at Synchronet and may have a play with that before trying one of the other machines.

Retro Challenge - 2013 Summer Challenge

A little late to the table but this time I'm trying to do something for the Retro Challenge.

I had planned to do something a bit more interesting but due to other commitments I've had to tone down my intentions.

So I intend to try to do some of the following...

1) Setup my Acorn collection to dial up via my PBX and connect to the internet (this may include my reasonably rare Acorn communicator).

2) Wire up some serial cables and setup several machines for the Risc OS North West meeting so we can play retro games via serial linkup.

3) Configure a machine (probably and A5000) to use as an Econet to Ethernet (and possibly dialup) gateway and file server.

4) Archive (disk image and photograph) some of the large amount of Acorn documentation, disks and other stuff that I have.

5) Work on some other secret Acorn related projects (these were my original ideas for the RC so may be kept for next year).

The intention is to at least manage to setup the dialup and configure several machines for RONWUG, the other tasks are currently ongoing so will be time fillers if I manage to complete the first items.