Retro to the core

      4 Comments on Retro to the core

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 »

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

      No Comments on Dreambox: making noise

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

      2 Comments on Zolatron: 6502 address decoding

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

      No Comments on Zolatron 64: starting point

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 »

AVR basics: interrupts

      No Comments on AVR basics: interrupts

I confess I’m really enjoying delving into the secrets of AVR microprocessors. Having used Arduinos for some time now – as well as other AVR-based boards such as the mighty and wonderful Teensy – I came to the conclusion that I’m a master at µcontroller hacking. Working with ‘raw’ AVR processors quickly disabused me of that notion. The Arduino ecosphere shields you from a… 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 »

Beeb down…

      No Comments on Beeb down…

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

      No Comments on Dumpster diving

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

      No Comments on Simulating days gone by

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 »