This Is The End...
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.
Finally got my Acorn Communicator setup and dialed the BBS...
As you can see the Communicator is pretty cool, it is a one-per-desk type system designed to be networked using Econet. It has a word processor and spreadsheet built in, can dial numbers automatically and be used as a terminal with various systems.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
Had a go at setting up my Asterix PBX, decided to upgrade the firmware and now it won't boot.
Going to setup my other router and configure the 2 VOIP ports to allow incoming calls to the PABX, this should then ring all of the modems that are available. I think if I can remember the PABX can be configured to ring one after the other which I think is a better idea. As the PABX has 3 incoming lines I can also add the real telephone line if required.
New BBS Features
Added some new features to my ViewData BBS...
Created a new menu from which to select the new options that I've added to the system.
I've added some static TeleText pages that are stored as files on the server.
They are loaded in a carousel and displayed in sequence.
I can also use this for displaying saved ViewData pages or my own pages for viewing.
External ViewData BBS Access
I wanted to be able to access other ViewData BBSs from the dial up terminal. As most of the surviving ones are only available by Telnet I decided that I would create a gateway from within my BBS.
When you select the option the system creates a telnet session out to the other BBS and passes data through to your terminal.
Once you have finished on the external system and the Telnet connection is terminated the user is returned back to my menu.
Connecting to CCL4 through my BBS...
What's new? Not a lot since 1996 :)
And logging off...
Decided that I would fit the RotaTone module that I bought the other day for my rotary telephone.
It is a small module that converts the phone from pulse to DTMF, as my PABX does not do pulse it is useless and I have to resort to using a normal touch tone phone to dial.
To start with I had to dismantle the phone, the BT 746 has a nice single screw which is spring loaded on the back. You undo this and it pops out but is still attached to the casing.
Now you push down the handset cradle and the top of the dial and the top slides off.
I then undid all of the parts such as the handset and cable to the phone, these are all spade connectors inside the phone so are easy to remove.
The dial is held in place with a screw on the chassis. Once removed I could undo the small screws on the bottom of the dial which connect the cable to the main phone, these were replaced with the once to the RotaTone.
Now removed the main circuit board and soldered the link wire onto the back.
Added the components that came with the RotaTone and adjusted the links on the connectors.
Re-assembled the phone and attached the RotaTone module to the circuit board.
Tested it and its works great.
Put the top back on, there is a great little engineering bit inside the phone which is a small metal catch that holds the cradle down while you put the case back on.
You then just tap the receiver and it pops back as normal.
Now I can dispose of the nasty push button phone and use my nice new retro phone to dial the BBS.