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 »

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 »

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 »

Sending an email in 1984

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A friend posted this video on Facebook and my immediate reaction was, “I had that modem!”. On closer inspection it seems I was wrong. The modem in the video is the WS1000 whereas I had the Miracle Technology WS2000, capable of a scorching 1200 baud (half-duplex), as well as 600 and 300 baud full duplex and 1200/75 — the last being… Read more »

Presenting the Univac

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Nothing much changes, does it? With the famous Univac, the poor old programmer — even though he’s described as the most skilled member of the team (far more so, obviously, than a mere ‘Unitypist’) — still looks like a soulless drudge. There are moments in this video when you have to recalibrate. “Here’s the brain,” the narrator says, the (admittedly… Read more »

The dream machine

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My More Significant Other (MSO) sometimes has trouble sleeping. She’ll wake in the night and can’t drift off again. So she bought a hypnotherapy recording and a headband/blindfold thing with built-in headphones. And she played the recording on her iPod Nano that some fantastically thoughtful husband once bought her. There was a problem with that set-up, though. Getting the iPod… 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 »