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.


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).


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


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).


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).


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.