Monthly Archives: January 2017

Russian memory and British big iron

The Russian core memory I bought on eBay has arrived and I have to say it’s a thing of beauty. In fact, it’s such a fascinating object that the More Significant Other was moved to admit that she’d like it to live, suitably framed, in the living room. There is something strangely hand-crafted about this piece of modern technology. I… Read more »

AVR basics: ATMEGA 88-168-328 cheat sheets

Why is it you can never find the data sheet you need when you’re in a hurry? I’m currently exploring (or as my More Significant Other puts it, ‘twotting about with’) AVR microcontrollers. This is a natural extension of my earlier addiction to Arduinos, which are the gateway drug of the microcontroller world. Sooner or later you start feeling constrained by… Read more »

Vintage stuff: Apple Power Macintosh G3

Writing about the PowerBook 3400c finally gave me the motivation I needed to dig out our other surviving Macintosh from the 1990s – a G3. Yep, this one’s definitely in the beige box category. It’s not a lovely thing to look at, is it? (It also needs a bit of a clean.) But this was the workhorse of our business… Read more »

Vintage stuff: Apple Mac PowerBook 3400c

The Retro Battlestations sub-Reddit recently ran a ‘not X86’ week in which people could show off their vintage computers. It was a reminder that there’s a world beyond Intel and AMD. (I don’t think anyone mentioned ARM). I couldn’t get my act together in time to post a picture, but it did spur me to dig out my beloved old Apple… Read more »

Dreambox: adding play value

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It was an old mate of mine who introduced me to the phrase ‘play value’. It’s used to describe a machine with lots of dials, buttons and switches with which you can amuse yourself. I think we were both staring into the cockpit of an AV-8B Harrier II jet fighter, parked at a US Marine Corps base in North Carolina,… Read more »

Goodbye old friend – the death of a dot matrix printer

It’s one of the curses of getting older. One by one your friends die around you. This time the bell tolled for my beloved old Epson MX-80F/T III dot matrix printer. It’s hard to express how much this delightful old beast means to me. Buying it was a huge step because it was so incredibly expensive (kids who buy printers… Read more »

Constantly refreshing your memory

I’m currently reading a fascinating and hugely entertaining book about human memory. The Memory Illusion by Dr Julia Shaw is about the many ways in which our memories are unreliable. To quote the blurb, Shaw is “one of only a handful of experts in the world who conduct research on complex memory errors related to emotional personal events – so-called… Read more »

HMV1960: nothing succeeds like excess

So I’m finally getting somewhere with my HMV1960, a gutted valve radio that I’m using as a somewhat oversized case for a Raspberry Pi. It looks great with the keyboard I’ve just bought via Massdrop. I’ve replaced the original fabric-covered speaker section with some aluminium sheeting into which I set a display, an LED matrix and two speakers. Because I’m ham-fisted… Read more »

Retro to the core

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There are some things that are hard to get your head around unless you can actually see them. Being a computer history fan I’ve often read of core memory but never quite got to grips with how it works. So one day recently I just thought, ‘the hell with it – I’ll go on eBay and buy some’. Which I… Read more »

Dreambox: Raspberry Pi and Teensy, living in perfect harmony

Okay, so I couldn’t get the headline to scan to fit that godawful song, but here’s the thing: I mentioned before that my Dreambox project – a way of playing music to lull me to sleep – would be driven by a Raspberry Pi but would also involve a Teensy. And you probably want to know why. The answer is:… Read more »

Dreambox: making noise

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For the past few weeks I’ve been lulling myself to sleep with the help of headband-mounted headphones and my iPhone. Now I’m building a bedside device that will play my carefully curated playlist of dream-inducing ambient music at the touch of a button. Unlike the Dream Machine I built for my More Significant Other,  which was based on the fabulous… Read more »