Category Archives: Projects

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 »

A little bit of an obsession

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So I wrote this Python program to allow me to carry out certain kinds of calculations on binary numbers — you know, AND, OR, XOR and that kind of thing. It’s an absolutely essential tool for anyone who, you know, needs to NAND two 12-bit binary numbers. And happens to own a PiDP PDP-8 replica. Okay, so that’s a very… Read more »

Something useful

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If you’re into retro computing, or building stuff based on SBCs such as the Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone, you’ll be familiar with a certain refrain from your significant other and even those you consider your friends. They’ll look at your latest project — perhaps a restoration of a 1980s home micro, or a simulation of a 1960s mini computer, or something… Read more »

Python on the PiDP

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I’m not really a C kind of person. And so when I finished building my PiDP kit, I immediately started thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to use all these switches and lights from Python?’ Because Python really is my kind of language. You can be properly expressive in it. And there’s not all that nasty business with make files. Fortunately,… Read more »