Apologies for the late posting of this summary. The competition already seems like an age ago, which is definitely not a good thing. Unfortunately RL has played a significant factor in hindering progress in the running of this competition this time around. I am sincerely hoping that I will have more time to contribute to the 2014 Winter Warmup and make up for my lacklustre performance this time around!
I’ve summarized below some of the entries which I particularly enjoyed this year. Having inherited the running of the competition, myself and wgoodf pretty much just continued in the mould set up by the pioneers of the competition. As such we haven’t messed with the formula but part of me always feels particularly uncomfortable with the competition aspect of the challenge, especially where there are clearly several entries which fulfil all the criteria of being a winner. So, as corny as this sounds, I truly believe that this time round we had several winners. As such I’d like to congratulate all who took part and hope that you will all be able to find the time and energy to join us again in January 2014 for the 2014 Winter Warm-up.
Twylo – An adapter to convert a VT100 terminal keyboard for use on a Mac
This project is a great example of how Retrochallenge can focus the mind for a month. What I liked about the approach was the concise specification of the problem, the extent of the research required by Twylo in order to determine a solution and the implementation of his hardware to a point where it was fully operational. There is also a clear element of the right stuff when it comes to a lot of retrochallenge projects – when you find yourself asking the question ‘Why would you want to do this?’ The VT100 keyboard was designed in a world that had yet to fully grasp the concept of designing for usability – anyone who has used one can attest to that. The next generation of their keyboard, the LK201, did address usability issues and I don’t suppose there were too many who harked back to the older generation of kit with any particular longing (expect maybe the ability to sit your coffee atop the VT100 monitor case). The blogging was first class with a nice mix of educational text, pictures and video.
Coronax – Breadboard computer using a 6502 processor
A late starter in Coronax but I felt that the progress made in the second half of the month was of such good quality that it deserved mention in the runners up list. I was impressed with the clear and concise explanation of both the hardware and software which went up to make the solution and felt that, as a project, it had made a valuable contribution to the 6502 scene.
linville – Targeting the dunfield Micro-C Compiler to the Tandy
Once again John manages to achieve his goals within the month of July on another CoCo related project. As always John spends as much time creating useful blog posts including videos of his project as he does tinkering. His recent projects must now put him into the expert category when it comes to knowledge of the TRS-80 and I found myself feeling enriched and educated by his project and believe that he has contributed a useful addition to the tools available for programming the CoCo.
Frank Buss – Write a game for the Vectrex system
Let me start with a question: who doesn’t have a soft spot for the Vectrex? Let me know if you’ve found someone, because so far everyone I’ve talked to goes a little gooey eyed over the portrait player. I’ve always held vector-based hardware in a certain esteem (probably having played too much Battle Zone and Lunar Lander as a kid) so to have a project creating a new game for such a console particularly interested me. What Frank did was to take an idea to successful completion and provided it to a level where several of us downloaded the Vectrex Emulator and played the game he had created. The game, whilst limited in the number of levels, captured my interest and left me feeling like I had ‘back in the day’ and provided concrete proof of Frank’s achievement for the month. I’d really like to see him tackle a bigger game project as clearly there are some very unique challenges when programming for this console.
Michael Thompson – Restoring an 18-bit DEC PDP-9
Clearly the folks at the Rhode Island Computer Museum have their hands full in their restoration of the PDP-9. Having been listening to the project’s progress via Linked in Digital Equipment Corporation Enthusiasts group they clearly have been struggling with reliability issues due to inherent weaknesses in the original hardware. They are to be highly commended for providing detailed technical documentation on their trials and tribulations and I wish them every success on what is a monumental restoration project!
Adam Green – Write a simple 6502 assembler in Applesoft BASIC
An excellent Retrochallenge project from Adam here. I was very impressed with his progress throughout the month and surely any project with one of the primary goals listed as ‘Continue having fun’ must be a worthy contender? I thank Adam for pointing me towards Jordan Mechner’s excellent journal on the Making of the Prince of Persia which I did manage to find time to read over the past couple of weeks (whilst enjoying England’s finest sunshine). I sincerely hope Adam is able to find the time to grace us with his presence in a future retrochallenge.
epooch – Repair the Timex Sinclair 1000
epooch documents his TS1000/ZX81 restoration in a very pleasant manner left me whistful for Sinclar’s fairly cheap and cheerful creation, which happened to be my first home computer. Any project which can may be bleary eyed over what was, in all fairness, a heady mix of computer joy and frustration, deserves an honourable mention. We would also like to thank epooch, as organisers, for his generous offer to donate the ZX81 as a future prize – I’ll contact you nearer the time to see if your mood-ometer is pointing more towards joy or frustration when it comes to making a final decision whether to part with your micro-marvel.
Paul Robson – recreate one or more of the Funtronics Handhelds
Quick mention to Paul – he did make me laugh with his indecision regarding his retrochallenge entry early on. Hey, don’t that that the wrong way, if you’ve got lots of ideas for projects then this is most definitely a good thing. In the end Paul actually made some really significant progress early on then became a victim of RL, so I would love to see Paul back again in the future as with a bit more time I think greatness is there for the taking!
RetroCosm – hook up some of my retro equipment to the Internet
A nice hardware hack from RetroCosm this time round, squeezing a Raspberry Pi into an Epson PX-4 and you have to love the tongue-in-cheek promo video for the new Pi-X4! What I want to know is, where can I buy one?
VintageVolts – Put together a complete TI-99/4A home system
This was a particularly difficult entry to judge as clearly a great deal of effort had been made in putting the videos together and I am in awe of the amazing production quality! This is a valuable, educational contribution to the field retro-computing which is much appreciated.
Rob Sayers – Writing a Kim-1 Simulator
Michael Sternberg – Learn Italian with an Atari 400 and Apple II Nunchuck Interface
Michael shows us a glimpse of the quality of posts that he can provide given more time. I hope Michael will be back in the future!
@oldcomputerclub – Install the TNFS (Spectrum file server) and Assembly development system
Connecting a Spectrum to the internet has to be a fine example of a Retrochallenge Project and Sean gets his hands dirty on both sides of the fence to prove that it is possible. Hopefully he will be able to build on his successes in a future project.
So there we go – many thanks to all who took part and I very much look forward to your company for the RC2014WW in January.