Category Archives: Retro computing

Making ROMs for the BBC Micro

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Here’s something I’ve only just learned about the BBC Micro: you can burn ROM chips using modern EEPROMs. Who knew?* One of the strengths of the BBC Micro was the way it handled ‘language’ ROMs. The quotes are there because while many of these ROMs were, indeed, programming languages, others were applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, utilities and so… Read more »

Following Ben Eater’s 6502 project – parts 1-3

No, this is not a post about stalking. I’ve been toying with a design for a simple 6502-based homebrew computer for a while now. I’ve built a kit and am in the middle of laying out the schematic for the first board for my own design. So I was thrilled when Ben Eater, one of the best educators on YouTube,… Read more »

Fun with chips: #1 MC1441 bit rate generator

I’m easily pleased. Leave me alone with a breadboard, multimeter, oscilloscope and a previously unencountered IC, and I can amuse myself for hours. Well, minutes anyway. It’s fun to fire up a chip and watch it do its stuff. And even more fun if it’s an old chip. But before we get to the IC itself, let’s fill in some… Read more »

DIY joystick for the BBC Micro – part 1

My recent PC build was undertaken partly to allow me to play Elite: Dangerous. There was no small amount of nostalgia involved in that decision: the original Elite was one of the few games I played back in the 8-bit days. But while I can now play the two incarnations of the game – separated by 30-odd years – side-by-side, there… Read more »

Looking back: reliving the age when computing wasn’t yet retro

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be – it’s a lot better. Once upon a time, examining the past relied heavily on memory – an unreliable witness at best. Maybe you could dredge up a few old magazines and books, some dusty photos and a few other artefacts. But you were mostly dependent on whatever you’d personally kept from the… Read more »

BBC Master power supply – repair or replace?

There are three things that are certain in life – death, taxes and blown capacitors in old electronic equipment. But at least you can do something about the last one. Powering up a 35 year-old computer that has sat in a loft for the past two decades is foolish. But we did it anyway. The BBC Master ran fine for… Read more »

First BBC Basic program: mission creep

It’s always the same. “I’ll just hack out this quick program,” you think. And you get it to the point where it works and does the job you intended it to do. But then: “Maybe it would be nice if it also did this…” And even when you’ve added all the functionality the program will bear, and your wife is… Read more »

A home for my BBC Micro DataCentre

In the last post, I mentioned how I’m using a RetroClinic DataCentre to make it easy to transfer files between the BeebEm emulator on my PC and my real BBC Master 128. A USB memory stick plugged into the DataCentre becomes my main disk drive (*DRIVE 5) for program files. It also holds floppy disk images (single-sided .SSD and double-sided… Read more »

Programming the BBC Micro with ease

No, this isn’t going to be a tutorial on BBC Basic. Nor am I about to offer programming tips and tricks. This is about being comfortable while hacking. In the last post I wrote about recreating the first serious program I ever wrote on the BBC Micro. And I mentioned that I’d written the code using the BeebEm emulator running on… Read more »

First time with BBC Basic

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So what was your first program? You know, the first one that meant anything. My guess is that when you unwrapped your first home computer (mine was a Sinclair Spectrum 48K) the lines of code you typed were little more than snippets – changing some colours on the display, perhaps, or making rude words scroll endlessly down the screen. You… Read more »

Feels like 2001: a fresh Windows XP install

Ah, there’s nothing quite like the feel of a fresh, crisp OS install. It’s just that the OS I’ve just installed is Windows XP. Now that makes no sense… Or does it? As I’m now playing with my BBC Master again, I felt the need for a Windows machine to have alongside it. There’s a bunch of utilities that run… Read more »

The Master is back!

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My BBC Master micro is alive again, thanks to a generous donation. So what was wrong with it before? Buggered if I know. The Beeb suddenly developed a fault a couple of years ago. On powering on, it would show the OS greeting and sometimes the disk filing system greeting but would then hang. I tried a few things but,… Read more »

Epson MX-80 Part 3 – well, this is strange

And so to the next instalment of trying to get my Epson MX-80 F/T III dot matrix printer back up and working. Previously on Epson MX-80… Just over a year ago, lots of smoke came out accompanied by a crackling noise. I’ve removed the main smoothing capacitors from the PCB and tested them. They seem fine. I tested the transformer…. Read more »

Epson MX-80 Part 2 – out damn cap

Time for the next step in my attempt to bring my beloved old EpsonMX-80F/T III dot matrix printer back to life. But first, some pictures of gorgeous old retro components. As we’ll see, they might be all I have left. I do love old resistors. They have so much character. And look how thick the wires are. There’s also a… Read more »

Epson MX-80 Part 1 – resurrecting an old friend

It’s hard to lose an old friend with whom you’ve shared more than a  third of a century’s worth of experiences. I’ll never forget the day it happened. I heard a coughing, spluttering noise, turned around and, sure enough, smoke was pouring out of the printer. And not just any old printer – my trusty Epson MX-80F/T III, the first… Read more »