RetroChallenge - 2018/04 - Day 30

Well here we are again at the end of RetroChallenge and as usual I've done very little.
Here are the things I've actually managed to do over the month...

VideoNula

I tried installing the VideoNula board at the last ABUG meeting. Daniel kindly unsoldered the old video chip and added the socket to the board ready for the VideoNula to be installed.
Upon taking it out of its box I found that it was missing a pin. Luckily I managed to see the creator of this great bit of kit at the Wakefield show and managed to get a new one sorted.

Upon installing the VideoNula board I found that my PiTubeDirect overlapped into the space where the new board sat. To sort this I had to order some longer pin extensions which I added to the current pins to raise it above the VideNula board so that I can have both fitted.

Here they are both playing nicely together. The long board with a Pi Zero attached to it is the PiTubeDirect. Underneath that is the VideoNula board replacing the original video ULA chip.

The VideoNula allows for the palette to be selected from 4096 colours and supports hardware scrolling and various other extras.

PiTubeDirect

The PiTubeDirect is a board that connects a Pi Zero to the Acorn tube interface (by running special software on the Pi) and emulates various co-processors that you could get for use with the BBC.
By running a certain command you can change to various different setups.

The co-processors supported are...

65C102 running at 274Mhz (nearly 100 times as fast as the actual hardware co-processor)
65C102 running at 3Mhz (same as the original co-processor for compatibility)
Z80 
80286
6809
ARM2
32016
Native ARM (this runs on the actual Pi at 1Ghz)

By switching these on you can run code on a different platform and the BBC handles all IO.

Ethernet / MultiOS

I re-installed the Ethernet adapter from Sprow. This is a great item that sits in the machines Econet slow and provides modern networking. It provides the LanManFS filing system which lets you use a Windows share as a filesystem on the BBC.

Below the Ethernet card is the MultiOS board. This allows me to select various different OS versions by turning a switch on the back of the machine. I normally run in OS 3.5 but you can run the basic BBC 1.2 OS which allows for maximum compatibility. I need to create some OS images and get them burnt to the ROM so that I can change from the DataCentre (which requires a patched OS) to the BeebSCSI & GoTek floppy emulator (which works with the standard OS).

BeebSCI and VFS Adapter

I've already got a few of the BeebSCSI mini boards that allow the use of an SD card to provide a SCSI file system which is accessible from ADFS.

The DataCentre provides a similar thing but requires a patched version of ADFS to handle IDE drives. BeebSCSI works without needing to change anything on the machine.

As part of this project you can emulate a VFS drive (the laserdisc filing system that the Domesday project used). The final objective is to emulate the entire Domesday system without needing the laserdiscs or SCSI interface. 

Other Stuff

I started working out where the other interfaces I have will live inside the case.

Here are the DataCentre, BeebOPL (music synth) and the BeebSCSI mini. All run from the 1Mhz bus so I need to be able to switch between the DataCentre and the BeebSCSI easily.

I've got all the cables and connections ready just need to find the time to actually measure and make the cables to size.

My other external Co-Pro emulator, this is a different project but related to the PiTubeDirect.
This however uses a CPLD to do the heavy lifting. 

It can emulate the following...

65C102 (at various speeds)
Z80 (at various speeds)
80286
6809
68000
PDP11
ARM 2
32016

I am looking to attach this to the external Tube port so that I can switch between the internal PiTubeDirect and this.

Battery Backed RAM Cartridge

I bought this a while ago and it allows for loading of 2 ROM images which are stored in battery backed RAM so can be re-programmed from the machine. By changing the switches you get 4 different banks of 2 ROM slots. You can also use a real ROM and activate that by changing a switch.

External DataCentre

This is my external DataCentre.

It will be replaced by the internal one on this machine once the cabling is complete.
The unit allows you to load disk images from a USB stick and provides 2 IDE hard disk slots on the back.

Here is the re-assembled machine. Next stop a new paint job.

Anyway that's my (pretty lame) effort this time round.
See you back in the Autumn.

 

RetroChallenge - 2018/04 - Day 21

Wakefield RISC OS Show

Took some of my kit off to the Wakefield RISC OS show as I managed to get a stand there again this year. Here is me with my BBC Master and a somewhat rare Acorn System 1.

(Picture taken by Arcadian (Dave) on StarDot.org.uk)

Had a great time meeting up with all the ABUG crowd, got some nice goodies on the charity stand and a few extra hardware items from various people who I'd ordered different projects from.

Met Rob Coleman who produces the VideoNula and was kind enough to replace mine as it had a missing pin. He also sorted me a load of cool stuff for it such as the "Shadow Of The Beast" scrolling demo and his latest spectrum emulator that uses custom video modes to provide spectrum accurate graphics (shown below). 

(Video by Rob Coleman showing his Spectrum Emulator for the BBC)

RetroChallenge - 2018/04

2018/04 RetroChallenge...

Well I'm already a week in and haven't even managed to have time to actually decide on a project this time round.

Pimped Out Master

I have several new bits of kit to potentially add to the BBC, my intention is to actually get round to doing the mods required and painting the case black.

So things that ideally need to be fitted...

VideoNuLA

This is a nice replacement board for the video ULA that allow the BBC to use and of 4096 colours in its pallet.
The kit also allows for hardware scrolling.

This is pretty straight forward to fit but I had an issue with one of the pins missing on the chip.
I've spoken to the guy who makes them and he's attending the Risc OS show this month so i'll take it along and see if he can sort it.
Apparently he's also added support for a BBC spectrum emulator so that the VideoNuLA can display the screen like the original spectrum.

DataCentre / BeebSCSI

I originally was going to have the DataCentre installed internally (which I may still do) but have recently got a new SCSI emulation card that allows the use of a SD card to be used as a hard disk.
I'm considering combining this with the GoTek floppy emulator which has a custom firmware that is pretty good.
I may connect this externally or perhaps install it inside the Beeb and connect the Wifi SD card / USB to allow remote loading of disk images.

Paint Job

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.

Video Conversion Board

I have a VGA conversion board an would like to mount it inside with the VGA port accessible externally so that the Beeb can be plugged directly into a modern monitor.

Case Clips

As this is my main BBC and it will often require tinkering inside or maintenance then I'd like to put some kind of easy to open catches on the case.
The idea being that I can leave the screws out of the bottom to allow the top of the case to be opened (this is what it normally is like anyway) but be able to clip the top on to carry it.

Retro Challenge - 2017/10 - Day 31

Failure

Well didn't really manage to find the time to do anything on my project this time round. Various issues got in the way.

  • Work - Ended up using every spare moment to work on paid projects :(
  • House - We've only recently moved into a new house so there are loads of things that I need to do before our family arrive at Christmas.
    Things like running ethernet cable and setting up access points for the Wifi.
  • Required Items - As we've moved house most of the stuff I needed for my projects were in storage. Unfortuantly not near the house anymore (used to be just round the corner) so i've not had chance to visit the storage locker to get anything.
  • Power Supply - The power supply on the modem didn't work, i've ordered and received an new one but not had chance to use it.

Resolution

I'm still wanting to sort out my machine once and for all so i'm hopefully going to try and continue with everything and hope that i've finished before the next Retro Challenge in April.

Anyway good to read everyone's blog and see the cool stuff that people have managed to created.

See you all next time in April (hopefully a bit more successful that time around).

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.

Retro Challenge - 2016/10 - Day 31

Total Failure To Launch...

Well I managed to do very little on my projects over the month, various things have as usual got in the way.

Got a few bits today for my ViewData project...

PSU Caps

A bunch of caps to sort the "Magic White Smoke" issue out on several of my machines.

RotaTone

Some new RotaTone units to convert the other rotary phones I have to DTMF so that they will work with the PABX.

Will carry on any try to get the machines sorted for an Acorn event in November.