Category Archives: Retro computing

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 »

Ghost in the machine: a BBC Micro on an FPGA

The BBC Micro was the machine that really got me hooked. The Sinclair Spectrum was the gateway micro, but it was the Beeb that got programming into my veins. So much so, indeed, that not long ago I finally gave into temptation and bought a BBC Master Turbo on eBay. It didn’t last long. Although fully refurbished, any machine of that… 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Beeb down…

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Alas, the reconditioned BBC Master Turbo I bought towards the beginning of last year is now sickly. What was a stroll down memory lane has become a project. When I switch on the machine, I get the Acorn MOS message and (usually) the DFS one, but then only a flashing underline cursor. Once or twice I’ve seen more (‘not a… Read more »

Dumpster diving

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It’s amazing what people throw away. This morning, the More Significant Other and I stopped off at the local dump to drop some things into the charity collection point. And my eye was caught by a bin full of computer monitors. Sitting on top of the Nineties-era Dell and Acer CRTs was something a little more retro-looking. I knew what… Read more »

Simulating days gone by

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The Apple II was never my machine. My 6502-based microcomputer of choice was the BBC Micro. And, to be honest, I think the Apple II was always more of a US phenomenon than a UK one. And yet one can’t escape the fact that it was a hugely significant product in microcomputer history. It made Apple wealthy and famous. It brought… Read more »