Retro Challenge: A New Beginning

The Office of Doom.

It has been a busy new year here in the 8 Bit household. I had my two sons with me up until this week, and I have my youngest with me permanently, so I don't have a lot of time for things Retro anymore. Step one in my plan has been to tidy the Vintage 8 Bit Office of Doom. Believe it or not I've already started - the area around (and on) the workbench is already much tidier than it was!

In the last pictyure, you can see the faulty Macintosh SE/30 I plan to perform a capacitor replacement upon.


The RetroChallenge 2013 Winter Warmup (In Summer) Is Open!

Registrations have opened for the Retro Challenge 2013 Winter Warmup which, of course, happens right in the middle of the hottest part of summer.

Normally this January event is the Retro Challenge I can really get stuck into, being off work for a couple of weeks, but this year I find myself a recently single full-time Dad, so time will be much harder to come by. As a result I'm not planning to bite of more than a small chunk at a time.

Current plans include:

  1. Tidy the Vintage 8 Bit Office of Doom,
  2. Perform a capacitor replacement on a mac SE/30 experiencing Simasimac symptoms, (See previous notes)
  3. Do something retro'ey with one of my Raspberry Pis, and possibly some leftover ZX Spectrum parts,
  4. Or something else unexpected!

Good luck to all the other participants this year, may your retro stuff happen and your distracting stuff not!


Vintage Computer Friday: Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum Series

By the end of 1980 the Sinclair ZX80 was clearly a success by the terms of the market of the day. It had sold over 20,000 units, a massive 16K RAM expansion had been released, and with no effective competitors in its price bracket continued success was almost assured. It was in this position of dominance that Clive Sinclair heard that the BBC - Britains huge state-run broadcaster - intended not only to produce an educational television series about computer programming, but to promote a BBC branded personal computer to go with it. To Sinclair’s horror, he learned that the BBC intended to launch the Newbury NewBrain, a computer that had been designed by Sinclair but sold to Newbury Electronics.

The Newbrain was a design concept from 1978 that Sinclair had believed too costly to develop and sold to the government controlled National Enterprise Board (NEB) along with other Sinclair assets. The NEB had handed the design to Newbury electronics to complete, but Sinclair knew that none had been built and it was expected that production wouldn’t begin until late 1981. With the BBC planning to begin broadcasting their new series in October 1981, Sinclair saw an opportunity to lobby.

Sinclair immediately wrote to the BBC questioning their choice of the NewBrain and pointing out the many advantages he saw should the BBC select a Sinclair computer instead. Chris Curry, former trusted Sinclair employee and now head of competitor Acorn Computers, was also lobbying the BBC hoping they’d choose to partner with his company. The lobbying worked, and soon before Christmas 1980 the BBC announced its plans and invited British computer manufacturers to submit proposals for the “BBC Microcomputer.”

Retro Challenge: In Which One Finds One's Towel.

The middle of the year is always a bad time for me entering the Retro Challenge. Between work, tax end-of-year, school holidays and (this year) an overseas conference, little time is left for Retro hacking.  As a result, it has taken me almost two weeks before actually getting anything done. Heck, I hadn't even selected my challenge.

A few weeks ago I bought a bunch of second hand retro gadgets from Trade Me, our local alternative to eBay. These turned up in a big box a week or so ago.

I went though the box, testing each of the units with a fresh set of batteries:

All but the Scrabble Sensor failed to power up at all, or exhibited faults.