Archive for the ‘vintage’ Category

Repairing the card reader for a 1960s mainframe: cams, relays and a clutch

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Ken Shirriff writes: I recently helped repair the card reader for the Computer History Museum's vintage IBM 1401 mainframe. In the process, I learned a lot about the archaic but interesting electromechanical systems used in the card reader. Most of the card reader is mechanical, with belts, gears, and clutches...

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Yellowstone: Cloning the Apple II Liron

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Steve writes: FPGA-based disk control for Apple II is finally working! Six months ago, I began designing a universal disk controller card for the Apple II family. Apple made a bewildering number of different disk controller cards in the 1970s and 80s, and my hope was to replace the IWM...

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Yellowstone JTAG debugging

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

A follow-up to the FPGA-based disk controller for Apple II post, Steve writes: After a month of inactivity, I finally returned to my unfinished Yellowstone disk controller project to investigate the JTAG programming problems. Yellowstone is an FPGA-based disk controller card for the Apple II family, that aims to emulate a Liron...

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Xerox Alto’s 3 Mb/s Ethernet: Building a gateway with a BeagleBone

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Ken Shirriff documented his experience building a gateway using the BeagleBone single-board computer to communicate with the Alto's Ethernet we covered previously: I decided to build a gateway that would allow the Alto to communicate with a modern system. The gateway would communicate with the Alto using its obsolete 3Mb/s Ethernet,...

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IBM mainframe tube module part II: Powering up and using a 1950s key debouncer

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Here’s an interesting two-part series of posts by Ken Shirriff detailing the IBM mainframe tube module. Part 1 discuss the tube modules and describe the IBM 705 that used this module. Part 2 covers powering up the module and getting it to work. Read the full post at Ken Shirriff' blog.

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FPGA-based disk controller for Apple II

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Steve Chamberlin over at Big Mess o’Wires has been working on an FPGA-based disk controller for Apple II, which he call Yellowstone: Apple II disk controller cards are weird, there are a crazy number of different types, and many are rare and expensive. Can an FPGA-based solution save the day for...

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Repairing a 1960s mainframe: Fixing the IBM 1401’s core memory and power supply

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Ken Shirriff wrote a great article describing the repair process of  the vintage IBM 1401 mainframe computer: The problem started when the machine was powered up at the same time someone shut down the main power, apparently causing some sort of destructive power transient. The computer's core memory completely stopped...

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Vintage MIDI: Roland MT-32, Roland SC-55, HardMPU, and an Xi 8088

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 Dr. Scott Baker writes: In this video, I decided to upgrade my home built PC from AdLib sound to MIDI. I tried out a couple different midi modules, the Roland MT-32 and the Roland SC-55. I learned that I'd need an MPU-401 or compatible ISA interface, and I explored...

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Bitcoin mining on a vintage Xerox Alto computer

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Ken Shirriff writes: I've been restoring a Xerox Alto minicomputer from the 1970s and figured it would be interesting to see if it could mine bitcoins. I coded up the necessary hash algorithm in BCPL (the old programming language used by the Alto) and found that although the mining algorithm...

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KiCad design files for the LH5801 Sharp Microprocessor

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Kai Bader writes, "I’m currently working on a custom development board, based on a quarter of a century old microprocessor, the Sharp LH5801. This microprocessor is the heart of the Sharp PC-1500(A) Pocket Computer, also known as Tandy TRS-80 Model II." More details at Kai Bader's blog.

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A Solid State QRP Rig from 1955!

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Pete Juliano, N6QW,  built his own vintage 1955 Solid State QRP Transmitter using the Philco SB-100: Recently my friend Bill, N2CQR posted data on his blog ~ about a vintage late 1950's early 1960's 10 milliwatt 10 Meter transmitter. That was quite a feat! But given my Italian heritage...

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TI’s Little Professor

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

A teardown of TI's Little Professor vintage calculator from KuzyaTech: This thing was sold for parts and repair since the seller did not think it was working. As it turned out, everything worked just fine, but not in an expected way. This is not your typical calculator, but rather a teaching one....

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Die photos and analysis of the revolutionary 8008 microprocessor, 45 years old

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Ken Shirriff has written an article detailing die photos of the vintage Intel 8008 that reveal the circuitry it used: Intel's groundbreaking 8008 microprocessor was first produced 45 years ago.1 This chip, Intel's first 8-bit microprocessor, is the ancestor of the x86 processor family that you may be using right...

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Inside card sorters: 1920s data processing with punched cards and relays

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Ken Shirriff did an in-depth write-up of the punched card sorter: Punched card sorters were a key part of data processing from 1890 until the 1970s, used for accounting, inventory, payroll and many other tasks. This article looks inside sorters, showing the fascinating electromechanical and vacuum tube circuits used for...

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C64/SX64 RAM Cartridge (SD2IEC part)

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Sjaak designed and built a C64 RAM/ROM cartridge, which has a 6264 SRAM chip and an Atmel 644.  He did program an Atmega with a Bus Pirate: Today came in the Atmega644P’s in TQFP package I scored on eBay. Today I’m focusing on the SD2IEC part of the RAM cartridge. I was...

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Video: Retrocomputing and machines that made the Net

Friday, July 4th, 2014

CircleCitycon 2014 was held in Indianapolis, Indiana in June, 2014. Pete Friedman gave this presentation on the Unix and Unix-like systems that formed the early internet, and how they can provide interesting historical and technical perspectives for the modern hacker.

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Arduino + NES controller = USB keyboard

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Grouflon has written up a unique project using an Arduino and an NES controller. "This week I worked on little script/manipulation that turns an Arduino and a NES controller into a USB Keyboard. Maybe it can be of use to some of you, so feel free to grab the code...

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Posted in Arduino, code, hacks, USB, vintage | 1 Comment »

Apple II DOS source code available

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Could you write a Disk Operating System in 7 weeks? That was the time frame in which the Apple II DOS was developed! According to the Computer History Museum, "On April 10, 1978 Bob Shepardson and Steve Jobs signed a $13,000 one-page contract for a file manager, a BASIC interface,...

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STM32F429 discovery board running Sega master system emulator

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Fabrice Muller writes informing of this recent efforts using the STM32F429 Discovery Board to run a Sega emulator: Yesterday I made this adaptation from the Alessandro Rocchegiani sega master system emulator. You can seen the original work here. After trying to adapt this emulator to my smt32 VGA output board...

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Posted in dev boards, hacks, Videos, vintage | 4 Comments »

VT100 BeagleBone Mod

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Brendan Powers writes, "I've recently finished my DEC VT100 BeagleBone mod project. You can find the details, including schematic and board files here." He's designed an STP add-on board for the VT100 series terminals that allows the use of an internal BeageBone instead of an external serial connected computer. Via...

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Posted in hacks, open source, vintage | 3 Comments »

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Recent Comments

  • Drone: The LM7171 used in this very simple design can be simulated in LTspice with reasonable results at 10MHz using the non-encrypted PSPICE model from TI...
  • Jon Jackson: I would be interested in 1 or 2 of your circuit boards. Jon
  • Max: An actual Saturday "detector" built with the same hardware would use the precisely timed slightly varying length of the day (and some built-in astronomy data)...
  • KH: In the old days, these things remained on paper forever as whimsical scrawls. Today, they are brandished about on blogs for the entire world to...
  • KH: So he doesn't really know what he's doing. Yawn. It's sensor-controlled. It's not an oscillator. A leaf covers the window, you're toast. TLV3702? Overkill. The...