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).

Communicator

(Photo from BeebMaster.co.uk)

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.

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 :)

 

 

Retro Challenge - 2015/01 - Day 21

Risc OS North West User Group (RONWUG)

Took my kit over to RONWUG to demonstrate how to setup an Econet network.

We started by setting up the MDFS and I explained the workings of the box. I decided to leave the tape unit at home as the thing is pretty heavy so it just has the floppy and hard disk units attached.

We looked at the serial connection and the built in administration menu, then I showed how to change disks using the "Release Discs" button on the front, how to shut down the unit and how the key on the front works.

I had wired up a set of socket boxes to use as a backbone on the network, the socket box below has a machine connected and a terminator as it the end of the network. There is another terminator at the other end.

The socket boxes basically sit on a five core cable that is Krone connected to the box. The cable is basically a bus network with 2 data lines (+/-), 2 clock lines (+/-) and a ground cable.

We then added in the clock between the 2 segments of the network and connected the 2 lines to each side of the network.

The clock should be as central in the network cable as possible.

Once we connected this the red "No Clock" led on the MDFS went out showing it was seeing the network clock.

We then connected a BBC Master and an Archimedes to the socket boxes. On resetting the Master using Break + N the screen shows "Econet Station 194" and then runs the !Boot file from the MDFS.

We then used the *DIR and *CAT commands to view the files on the MDFS. We found a games called IMOGEN and loaded that from the MDFS to show it working.

Upton typing the *STATIONS command we got back a list of machines connected to the network, the Archimedes was in the list showing as station 130.

On the Archimedes we checked out the NETFS filer that allows the system to browse the file shares on the MDFS, you enter your login details and it opens the filer window showing the contents of the MDFS.

I also showed how to upgrade the BBC Master to use Econet. Below shows the installed Econet card in the internal slot.

The Master uses the same card as the Archimedes range and the A3000 and A5000.

All in all we had a good night. The next job is to make the Archimedes bridge to a TCP/IP network so that I can access the MDFS via the network.

Retro Challenge - 2015/01 - Day 12

Sorting Out The BBC Master

After the initial BBC power supply failed I grabbed a BBC Master out of storage and brought it over.
As usual I then found that I couldn't for the life of me find the BBC to SCART cable for the monitor, I was using this a while ago but since then I've been moving house and have boxed up lots of my stuff and put it in storage.

After searching every box in storage I gave up and ordered a new one from the Retro Computer Shack I have had several cables from here an they are very nicely made.
Thankfully it arrived today so I manage to get the Master working ok.
While I was at it I ordered a few repair kits for the BBC power supplies and will at some point try and refurbish the capacitors in them.

After getting the Master working I opened the case up and removed the dead and corroded batteries that had been left inside, luckily they are contained in a plastic wrapper so haven't leaked anywhere.

The machine doesn't have an Econet card installed so my next job is to go off to the storage locker and find some Econet cards and the ANFS roms that are in boxes somewhere in there.

I did manage to find some extra Econet boxes, cables and a set of terminators, these are home made but should hopefully do the job. I also found that I have an SJ split Econet box, this is for putting in the middle of the network and attaching the clock, the normal way to do this is to have 2 segments and attach the clock between the ends of 2 of them. The SJ box allows me to do this without having to use multiple boxes and is much neater.