Retro Challenge - 2017/10

2017/10 RetroChallenge...

Well work is probably going to get in the way of this months RetroChallenge, so I''m not aiming too high with my project this time round.

Pimped Out Master

I currently have a BBC Master on my desk but I'd like to fully pimp the machine out.

It uses an external DataCentre at the moment but I bought an internal one which I want to fit properly, I also have various other expansion cards etc that need to be fitted.

Back at the last RetroChallenge I mentioned that I have some nice Vinyl paints that I want to customise the machine with. The intention is to give it a black finish with a white BBC owl logo across the top.

Teletext Inserter

I have recently acquired a teletext inserter and initially managed to get it to output a default page.
Ideally if I have time I'd like to create some software to send pages to the unit so that I can create my own Teletext service.

Acoustic Modem

I've been looking for an acoustic modem for ages and they always seem to be in the USA and fetch silly prices on eBay.

Managed to get this one at a reasonable price (completely untested), so would like to wire it up the BBC and possibly dial some BBSs with it.

Already have a tone dial converted phone suitable for using with it.

Retro Challenge - 2017/04 - Day 30

Bye Bye RetroChallenge...

And to the end of another (pretty dismal) challenge.

Didn't get that far this time, managed to get a few things done but have hopefully laid the groundwork for some more development in a few weeks time at the ABUG meeting in Cambridge.
I intend to spend the entire weekend working on my project to get a decent demonstration system.

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.

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

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 - 2016/01 - Day 23

A Slow Start...

Well its already taken me most of the month to get nowhere but I finally found some time to sort out some of my kit in the storage locker.

There were several things that I needed to do before I could start on sorting machines out, firstly I needed to sort out the stuff that had just been dumped in the lockup.
Once this was done I could move around and access things much easier.

Boxes

A lot of my stuff was moved from my house so that we could prepare it to be rented out.
These boxes contain all sorts from Xmas decorations to various selections of Acorn stuff such as my collection of AcornSoft titles and various other bits that need sorting out over time.


The red boxes below are old boxes I moved from my previous storage locker, they have seen better days and are being replaced by the clear stacking ones instead.
They currently contain stuff like my Sega Saturn collection and various cables etc.
Unfortunately they were blocking the door of the unit so I had to wheel them out of the way.

Building Shelving

I have already bought several  cheap shelf units from IKEA and installed them to hold some of my machines.
After removing the desk that was in the unit I decided that I could fit several more so built 3 more units.

Moving Stuff

Once I had installed the shelves it was time to move some of the hardware that has just been stacked in the middle of the unit.

I spent most of the day moving hardware around, sorting out where everything should go and designating shelves for certain machines.

Risc PCs

Here are most of the general Risc PCs I own, there are a few floating around but most are on the shelf.
I also have several boxed ones in very good condition of which one is mine from university which I recently found the invoice for. It cost me £1118 in 1997.

A7000s

Some of my A7000 and A7000+ machines. The others are currently stripped down due to batteries being removed.

A3000s, A3010s and A3020s

A few A3000s and a mixture of A3010s and A3020s.
I opened these all up back along to remove the batteries, they all need cleaning properly,

A few BBC Masters in here as well, most of my BBC Masters are currently off site where they are having their caps replaced.
There are also a few more in various boxes, these probably need to be moved to their own shelf later on.

Archimedes

Various models of Archimedes. I even have the disk only 305 version, most of these however have hard disks.
I had to put these on the bottom shelf as they are really heavy and I was afraid they were going to make the shelving fall over.

Phoebe & R140

Here are 2 of my rarer items. The first is an empty Risc PC 2 case (unfortunately only 2 exist with prototype boards in them).
The second is the R140 which is one of Acorns Unix machines, these were very expensive and thus pretty rare.

A4000s & A5000s

My selection of A4000 and A5000 machines, some at the bottom are currently stripped down and need rebuilding.

BBCs

Here are some of the BBCs I own, I probably have the same amount again in various boxes etc.
Most of these need cleaning up, that's a job for the future including RetroBriting them all.

One major job I need to do is replace the caps in the power supplies.

Electrons

This is only about half of the Electrons I own, you can see the difference in colour between the one in the middle and the first one.
Another candidate for RetroBrite I think.

The one at the back has a Plus 1 attachment plugged in which give the machine 2 rom cartridge ports.

Master Compacts

Shown are several of the Master Compact base units I have.
The actual machines are currently stored in boxes elsewhere, need to sort them out and put them with the bases.

Network Computers

Some of the NC set top boxes that I have.
These were produced at the end of Acorns life when they changed over to doing "Network Computers" and media on demand.

Monitors

A nice selection of monitors from my Acorn monitor stash.

CUB Monitors

My horde of Microvitec CUB monitors which where the go to monitor for the BBC micro.
Every school had one of these, they are pretty much indestructible.

'

At some point I'm going to get a few more shelves from IKEA and add another row for monitors to the set of shelves below.

Parts Shelf

This currently holds various equipment such as disk drives and machines that need looking at along with items such as disk drives and keyboards etc.
There are currently 6 A7000s above this which have been dismantled so that their batteries could be removed. Some have leakage which needs to be cleaned.

The Good Stuff

Here is a view of the boxed machine section.
This is my main collection which contains boxed systems in good condition. At some point I need to photograph all of this and document what I have.

Other Stuff To Do...

There is a ton of other bits that I need to sort out but at least I can now get in and easily access the machines and shelving.

The next job is to start pulling out a machine at a time and do proper maintenance on each one.

Get other hardware that is stored in boxes and put them on the shelving, stuff like Master Compacts and various BBC cheese wedges (I have a load).

 

RetroChallenge - 2016/01

Well we are at the end of another year. This means several things, opening presents, new years resolutions to be broken and of course Retro Challenge!!

My Challenge...

This time around I'm not committing to too much. I have a week off at the start of the month so want to take as much time as possible doing the following...

Sort Out My Storage Locker

My collection of machines is no longer welcome in our house :)

It therefore lives in a secure lockup location just round the corner from our house.
Due to me moving out of my house and into my fiancées I have moved a lot of my possessions into storage. The problem is that I really need to get things like the shelving built and sort out various boxes etc to organise everything in there. I am currently having to climb over monitors to get to anything.

Update Machine List

I have started to create a list of machines that I own. I want to index all the other equipment etc so that I can decide which to do maintenance on first.
Several need looking at fairly quickly to sort issues such as leaking batteries or other problems that can't be put on hold.

Fix Machines Needing Urgent Attention

Several machines need urgent attention to stop damage to boards etc.

A while back I removed the batteries from most machines as they are the main issue in the Acorn product line. If left to leak they can eat through the board and damage machines beyond repair. A few of the machines I've been given recently are damaged beyond repair due to this problem.

Archive Machine

I bought a KryoFlux unit quite a while ago and want to use it to take archive images of my floppy disks.

I started to build a PC designed to be a standalone machine for this job. The machine has a 5.25 and 3.5 inch disk drives attached to the KryoFlux internally. I just need to finish installing an old motherboard and OS to run the software.

Backup Software

I have a pretty large collection of Acorn software, I started to backup discs a while ago and have a lot of them imaged as standard disk images. I want to use the KryoFlux unit to create archives of each disk. While doing this I intend to take high resolution images of the boxes and disk labels.

Other stuff...

If I manage to get anywhere with all of that then I will probably do some more work on my BBS software, since the Retro Challenge I have moved it to a database driven system and re-written some of the back end.
I really need to start loading pages into the system to create a usable BBS.

Retro Challenge - 2015/07 - Day 31

More Wiring Up

Completed the various wiring bits that needed doing. Made a power board that connects the incoming power connections to the main circuits via a removable umbilical that can be removed to disassemble the machine.

Cut the circuit boards down to size with the Dremel and tied the cabling together with tape.

Glued the main power board into place.

Added in the secondary power board that provides the switching between internal power and external mains.

Connecting wires between the power boards.

VGA Output

Connected the VGA wiring harness to the internal resistors, found the ones I needed from the maintenance manual that has a full circuit diagram of the machine.

Testing the output. Works ok but there seems to be a weird problem with colours not working, the output is correct but everything on the screen seems to be white.

Power Switch

Fitted the power switch that allows me to turn on battery power.

Finished Machine

The machine pretty much completed.

Switched to battery powered mode. Screen is showing MOS command prompt.

Look no wires :)

Outstanding Bits

There are a few issues that I still need to resolve.

Firstly the VGA seems to not be displaying colour, not sure if it was just me or if there is an issue. Need to check the actual output on a real monitor to ensure that we are getting colours.

Battery needs to be fixed internally in some kind of holder so that it doesn't get hot from any chips on the board.

The original brown front has been removed, I want to get a new custom vinyl printed that will also cover the screen boarder. Didn't manage to get time to design and get it printed.

GoSDC is working ok but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong as the patched ADFS and DFS won't seem to load.
Not getting any errors from it but the filing systems I've asked it to load don't appear. Going to try it in the normal master and see if its an issue with the Compact.

All Good Thing Must Come To An End

Well that's me done for this RetroChallenge. Looking forward to reading everyone else's blogs. See you all in the 01/Winter :)