Retro Challenge - 2014 SC - Day 1

Wanting To Start...

Well its gone Midnight and I'd love to be starting on my project but am currently working various things that need doing for customers.
Just got back from holiday yesterday so its going to be a few days before I get started on the project.

Cool Projects This Time Round

Well we have a good number of entries this time round, I've had a good look through and can't wait for the blogs to start updating.


Turtles are cool, I have one of the old ones that looks like a turtle (valiant), needs a little attention but I have the IR interface for the BBC.
Can't wait to see what you come up with. Needs to be programmed using LOGO though Smile


Modula 2, now that brings back memories of my college days.
Looking forward to seeing what you do with the Amiga.


Doom brings back great memories for me, remember setting up a network with multiplayer doom and a custom map of the building we were in.
Would like to see Duke Nukem 3D as well as that was great in multiplayer.


Never heard of the Northstar Horizon so will be looking forward to seeing you resurrect the machine.


Its great to find those old bits of code you started as a kid, looks cool already.
Will be amazing to see it when you finish it off.


Firstly I'm extremely jealous that you have a PDP11 with drives to clean, will be interesting to see what's required to clean them up using DECs procedures.
Creating a ROM monitor sounds cool, why use someone else's when you can make your own especially if you have built the hardware from scratch as well, Nice.


With no Internet to get in the way you will probably get more done, can't wait to see what you get working etc.
Wire the smartphone up to a machine and use as a modem to connect to my BBS Smile


Always nice to have a Mac being restored. There's something great about the old Macs, the new ones are just shiny toy versions.


Not content with one platform he goes all in and is creating for 3.
Will be cool to see the differences between the platforms when you are porting your games.


More cool Apple stuff, a web server running on an old Mac is always a cool sight.


Not content with his current programming languages Michael is creating a new improved version of Basic.
Cool new commands and a new parser, can't wait to see how its done.


Throwing himself in the deep end and keeping it all original by only using the hardware available in the 1980's this looks to be a cool project with lots of challenges.


Can't wait to see the new computer centre once he's moved all his stuff.
I'm currently moving in with my girlfriend and am trying to figure out how to bring the large quantity of retro computing into the house, hopefully might learn some tricks here.


Taking stuff apart is always good, just remember the extra screws aren't really needed when it goes back together.
Will be interesting to see what he manages to play with.


Continuing on his Fahrfall game which already looks great. 
Not happy with distributing his game via tape or disk, seems to be looking at creating cartridges instead, very cool.


Working on the age old problem of data rot, loading up data from old disks and archiving the information is something that we all should do but rarely get round to until its too late.
Lots of added complexity in that the system required is a DEC rainbow.


This is probably my favourite project so far this time round.
Creating an emulator for the WITCH machine is a huge undertaking but the lad is only in the 8th grade, this is exactly what the youth of today should be doing with their time instead of Xbox etc Smile.


Creating anything with LEDs is awesome, can't wait to see the final outcome.


After some cool stuff in the last RetroChallenge he's back trying something that is completely nuts, executing Z80 code in MS-DOS on a DEC rainbow.
I didn't realise that the Rainbow can execute both 8088 and Z80 code, will be closely following out of interest.


VT100 always was let down by the lack of flyi8ng toasters, hopefully that may now be fixed.


If at first you don't succeed cheat, with a cool editor for altering saved games on a RPG called Questron Coronax can do just that.


If successful he'll end up with a whopping 24K of memory available on his Ohio Scientific Challenger 4P, well worth a cool project this time round.


Combining programming and beer, sounds like a winning combination.


A Nintendo in a toaster, don't think I need to describe how awesome this is.


Focusing on the Atari 2600 and hopefully coming up with a new game or hardware device, can't wait.

Good Luck everyone...

Retro Challenge - 2014 Summer Challenge

More ViewData BBS Server

After winning a prize in the last Retro Challenge, I'm intending to continue on with my BBS system and add more functionality and content to it.

Now that the basic ViewData server and BBS system work I intend to do some of the following...

1) Setup a login / signup system and proper welcome page for the BBS.
2) Add some static content and various information pages.
3) Finish the database driven backend so that the pages are served from a database (this will also allow me to run multiple BBS setups with different content).
4) Load pages from archived Prestel data into one of the BBS instances.
5) Create a messaging system (possibly integrate into email).
6) Add a chat area, might have different rooms for conversations.
7) File download area (Possibly using CITT, might also support Xmodem etc).
8) Various feeds providing information such as the news and weather.
9) Gopher client
10) Gateway between BBSs.
11) Some kind of MUD or text adventure.
12) Visitor list and statistics.
13) Message wall for visitors (for WGOODF so that he can show his Dragon was connected :) )

ViewData Terminal Software

I started on a terminal program that provides a ViewData terminal that will connect to the BBS.
It mostly works but needs some polishing. As part of the clean up of the code I want to convert the graphics part so that it works on WPF and Silverlight.
The intention is to then host this on a web page so that you can access the BBS from the web.

Required Items

To start off I need to ensure the following...

1) Ensure that the PC and modems are all setup correctly and ready to go.
2) Re-enable the VOIP lines (I now have several setup so we could expand the BBS to have 4 modems).
3) Solder a set of cables for the BBC to connect to modems. (Had an issue with the connectors I bought, they won't fit in the hole on the modem so need to rethink this.)
4) Try and get terminal server box to accept incoming connections and connect out on modem.

Terminal Hardware

I've already managed to use the following to connect to the BBS...

1) Alcatel TerminalTel 257 VideoTex terminal.
2) Acorn Communicator. 
3) Sinclair Spectrum 48k with Prism VTX 5000 modem.
4) ConnectVX (A windows ViewData client).

Due to cabling issues I didn't manage to get the following connected, the plan is to get the following cabled up and connected...

1) BBC Micro with Acorn Prestel adapter. (Was still waiting for Prestel adapter to arrive during 2014 WW)
2) BBC Micro with Prism modem (1000 & 2000). (Needs cables making, had issues due to size of connector)
3) BBC Micro with Pace Nightingale modem. (Needs rom and cable creating)

I also have the following that I'd like to get connected...

1) Acorn A3000 with old modem.
2) Tatung Einstein + Prism Modem 1000 (Needs comms software)
3) Tandata TD1100 (Needs cleaning up and checking it works)


Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 31

This Is The End...

...for now.

I'm pretty happy with the progress I've made. The foundation stones for the system are all in place but I need to continue with the project for a few months to get everything implemented.

Several things as usual got in the way, Work being the main one.
I'm still waiting for a few items to be delivered, I've got a Prestel ROM for the BBC ordered but its not arrived in time, I thought the Prestel system would work with the CommStar software but it doesn't so I'll give it a go once that arrives.
Also on order are a bunch of domino DIN plugs for the BBC to create various serial leads for the modems, once these arrive I'll spend some time building a few serial cables and wiring up the Prism and Nightingale modems. I've installed CommStar in the BBC already and it works great.

The next step is to finish the terminal emulator and put it on a web page so that everyone can access the BBS via the web. I've got the terminal working pretty well but it needs a bit of polishing and converting to Silverlight to run in a web page.

Anyway Retro Challenge has given me the boost I needed to pull my finger out and actually do something cool so I'm intending to keep working on the project as much as I can so watch this space.

Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 23

Entry Forms

Managed to do a little more on the entry forms for the ViewData system.

The system now navigates from field to field and allows for cursor control and correction of entries in each box.
The user can use the cursor keys to edit the entries and move between fields. Keys such as delete also work correctly and the cursor is constrained within the field area when moving around.

Initially I've implemented a text box, today I added a new field type called password which is based on the textbox but hides the characters entered and changed them to set character.

The demo screen below shows the output from the screen where I have entered a bogus user and password and it has been extracted from the field model and displayed at the bottom in white.

This framework is to be the basis of the applications I want to create within the system. The first thing to implement will be a proper login and signup page at the start.

Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 21

VOIP Issues

The VOIP setup that I was using and tested ok with yesterday is not working, everything is answering but there is noise or bad latency on the connection causing drop outs.

I have moved the second line to a real phone line which is now accessible via...

(01744) 20900

Remember that this is designed to accept connections from old stuff and therefore does not do any error correction or auto negotiation it needs to be set to V23 7E1 and you need to turn off any clever features on your modem.

I'm using the following AT initialization string I'm using on the server side which works with the Terminatel ViewData terminal...

AT &F0 &C1 &D3 &R1 &S1 &K3 &Q6 B0 %C0 %E0 M0 Q1 E0 +MS=V23C,0

After trying this with a modern modem +MS=V23C,0 seems to be required to get it to connect, B0 &Q6 &K3 may all be required on your modem to dial in correctly.

Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 20

Standalone BBS Server

Well the new PC is now functioning as the standalone BBS system, there are currently 2 dial up lines connected via Hayes modems.

To contact the system use a ViewData compatible terminal and connect V23 (1200 / 75, 7E1), to one of the numbers below...

(0845) 0950081
(0845) 0950082
You can also connect via a suitable ViewData terminal via raw sockets on...
Both lines are local rate in the UK only. If anyone outside of the UK is interested then I'll setup a suitable number.

If I can setup the other 2 lines then I'll add them in as I've got another 2 Hayes modems for this task.

Custom Entry Forms

Currently working on making the system implement some kind of data entry form for use in applications. 
I'm trying to get simple text boxes to work but intend to implement several controls such as buttons, check boxes and a password box.

Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 16

Dial In Server

Well had an emergency at work so have ended up working until the early hours.
Did managed to get a few small things sorted..

1) Got a PC setup ready to be the dial in server, this will run the entire system and control the modems. The back end may stay as a VM but I would like to be able to move the entire system eventually so that I can demonstrate it at the Wakefield Acorn show in April.

2) Added Prestel node names to the system. You now get logged into a node with one of the names from the original Prestel system.

3) Wired up the second VOIP line, just need to plug the modem into the new PC and we will have 2 lines incoming.

Retro Challenge - 2014 WW - Day 15

VOIP Setup (Again)

Reconfigured my other firewall that has VOIP built in to sit on one of my Internet facing IPs.

I have configured 4 VOIP lines each with a local rate number (not like the 1980s where it would cost you 10p a minute).
The lines are using the G711A codec which is uncompressed, this uses more bandwidth but should be able to cope with the limited frequencies used by the V23 modem.

So to dial into the system you can contact it on...

(0845) 0950081

Just set your modem to V23 (1200 / 75, 7E1) and use a suitable ViewData / VideoTex terminal.

I will be setting up the other lines next week.

Prism VTX 5000

I managed to get hold of one of these units on ebay the other day, this was the piece of kit that I remember using at a friends house when I first used Prestel.

Below you can see the manual toggle switch for putting the unit online. There are also Rx and Tx modes that let you connect to other modems instead of Micronet.

Tried dialing the server, its very fussy about the line. Managed to get it to connect once but I think it needs to be connected directly to the wall rather than through a long extension lead.