Category Archives: Retro computing

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 »

So many adventures, all the same

My first contact with Adventure – or Colossal Cave, if you will – was in 1984. I was working on the launch of a magazine for MSX computer users and, to help things along, our innocent publisher had fixed us up with a Telecom Gold account. Aside from providing us with an email account, this also gave us access to online databases… 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 »

Networking VAX OpenVMS on SIMH & the Raspberry Pi

[Update 10/03/2017: some broken links were fixed] We’ve already had some fun getting a VAX up and running with OpenVMS under SIMH on a Raspberry Pi. And boy, what a mouthful that is. I’m building my installation on my lovely PiDP just because it seems appropriately retro. I mentioned at the time that the next step would be getting networking… Read more »

SIMH on the Raspberry Pi

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Installing the software for the PiDP, Oscar Vermeulen’s re-imagining of the PDP-8/I, couldn’t be easier. But that wasn’t going to stop me making life harder for myself. I mean, why do we play with machines like this? It’s to learn, to explore, to discover, to take things apart and occasionally to break them. I haven’t done that last one yet,… Read more »

Computing the ’60s – Raspberry Pi style

As soon as I heard of the PiDP I knew I would have to have one. Created by Oscar Vermeulen, whose KIM Uno kit I’d previously bought, it’s a brilliant recreation of a PDP-8/I using SIMH running on a Raspberry Pi. What’s more, it has loads of blinkenlights. So why did the kit sit in my office for eight months… Read more »