Category Archives: Projects

Dreambox: change of plan

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Okay, so here’s a tip for anyone who, like me, prefers to make up their electronics projects as they go along – who simply doesn’t have time for all that planning and designing nonsense. Buy yourself a desoldering station. Seriously – buy it before you even buy a soldering iron, just to be safe. A quick recap: I decided that… Read more »

Dreambox: switching to plan A

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Planning is a good thing. Having your project mapped out before you start saves time and avoids wasteful detours and last-minute kludges. I should definitely do that some day. My approach to electronics is the same as my approach to writing software: just get started – it’ll all work out somehow. Luckily, I don’t write code or build electronic devices… Read more »

Building a 6502 computer – a place to start

We all have to start somewhere. Almost as soon as I’d decided I would build a 6502-based micro I realised that the learning curve is steep. It’s not like embarking on a new programming language where you can write a ‘Hello world’ program and go from there. When building a computer, there are many pieces that have to come together and… Read more »

Zolatron: logo upgraded

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Yeah, I know what you’re thinking … he really should get on with building the damn computer. But I have a thing about fonts, so sue me. I was rather pleased with the original Zolatron 64 logo. I chose a font called Eurostyle because it was the most 1970s-looking one on my machine. Then I read about the history of… 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 »

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 »

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 »

HMV 1960 valve radio Raspberry Pi case

So I was looking around for a case for a Raspberry Pi and I noticed this old radio gathering dust in the cupboard. And it all just got out of hand from there. The HMV Model 1376 valve radio dates from 1960. When I bought it in a junk shop for a few quid it was working. When I took it… Read more »

Zolatron: 6502 address decoding

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This was something I’d always wondered. When you have data on a bus, how do you ensure it’s read by the device that needs it, and only that device? And when you read data from a device into the microprocessor, how does the processor read data only from that device? What we’re about to embark on here is address decoding…. Read more »

Zolatron 64: starting point

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Having decided to build a 6502 microcomputer, I was immediately successful in overcoming the first hurdle – and possibly one of the most critical stages in the whole project – by coming up with a name for it. It’s the Zolatron – or the Zolatron 64 to be precise, because it will have a total of 64K addressable memory. However, that… Read more »

Building an 8-bit 6502 computer

So I’ve decided to build an 8-bit computer based on the 6502 microprocessor. Because nothing screams ‘success!’ like creating something that was obsolete 30 years ago. The truth is that I got into retro-computing partly because I wanted to understand computers better. Yes, I can code well enough for my needs in Python, Objective-C and Swift using sophisticated frameworks, and… Read more »

Next project: drifting off to sleep…

So after I built my wife her dream machine, I got jealous. I too would like to ease my way into sleep. After all, I’ve already built a machine to wake us up gently. So I decided to build my own dream machine. And at first, my plan was to simply make a replica of Trish’s, but loading music rather… Read more »