So we come to another wrap-up for Retrochallenge 2014 Winter Warmup. Firstly,
maybe we need to change the name of the competition to be hemisphere-agnostic
given that we have had entrants from the southern hemisphere this time round.
Secondly I’d like to thank all those who entered and/or contributed to the
competition. Obviously it would be pretty dull without you lot!
I’m going to try my best to provide a brief summary on each of the entrants who
made it past the starting post. That won’t include me because my entry was a
complete washout, but as a token nod to retrocomputing I’m penning this summary in the WPS-PLUS editor within ALLIN1 on one of my VAXstation 4000/90’s using a brand new Cherry G80-1306HAD keyboard, and very nice it is too!
So, without further ado, and in the order that entrants appeared on the entrants list:
Some really nice blogging on this project, I especially liked the photo
of the Mac SE goading the 128K for it’s lack of comms prowess, very good! Great
progress is made on the TCP/IP stack and I think there will be another project
in the pipeline for a subsequent retrochallenge to make use of the stack. Well
An utterly comprehensive blog is the underpinning of Paul’s
project to recreate a long forgotten handheld game. The choice of project puts
Paul in the biking camp – it’s as much about the journey as the destination. I
never knew that you could chop the top off a ROM and generate binary from a
high-resolution image. That is very cool! Paul completes his software emulator
before moving it to real hardware in the form of an arduino and LCD display. He
finishes with an implementation of bomber – my youngest daughter’s favourite
game thanks to an extended session on a Vectrex – and space invaders. Excellent
entry Paul, it would make a great little Arduino project – maybe you could find
the time to put together a parts list and some build instructions.
Adam does a great job of stripping down an Apple ][ including a
1M keypress service of the keyboard, plays Prince of Persia, does some low-level
hacking and installs some cool new hardware. A good mix of skills exhibited by
What can I say? The plucky Scot has a better run than usual and does a
good job progressing through Encounter, a Battle Zone-esk game from Atari. He
then goes all fancy on us with RTTY decoding on a Dragon and even though he
professes total ignorance does a bally good job. Text not being good enough
we’re then treated to some weather fax images (and I remember the boffin at
school who had this setup on a BBC, and it’s still just as cool). Frankly I’m
surprised you didn’t feature in Gravity. Well done sir!
Zipping past the pictures in this post is like having a flashback of
a heap of cool retro tech. The comprehensive summary at the start of the
challenge teases with the details and thankfully we are then treated to a walk
through BBS good times. I think I can say without being questioned that the
Viewdata display format has managed to retain an air of mystery even till this
day. Great blog, some excellent progress and I look forward to trying out the
After Rob’s excellent summer challenge entry he tries his hand at a
home-brew 6502 based breadboard computer and gets close to success. Sounds like
he was suffering from RL intrusion, hopefully we will see more of Rob next time
Retrocosm treats us to some great pictures of the Memotech MTX 512. I remember
seeing adverts for these ‘back in the day’ and thinking they looked extremely
cool. After examining a non-working model we are treated to a video of what
looks like excellent pacman and scramble clones, loaded off an iPhone! It would
be great to see more of this machine in future retrochallenges!
Andrew’s (fully justified) love affair with all things SGI
continues this time round, after a brief detour into Raspberry Pi territory with
a port of his previous competition’s Mini-Sub game and IRIX Basic. His port of
Litecoin mining software, a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, does a good job of
hammering various incarnations of SGI hardware.
Apple /// territory is where computist is at with a very nice setup.
I totally empathise with his need to write some 6502 – I never learnt it
properly back in the day and always wanted to pen something. In my 2009 Summer
Challenge I finally put some demons to bed with a VAX Macro program to generate
fractals. Unfortunately RL got in the way, but we will all be shouting ‘do it,
do it, do it’ next time round mate!
Jim’s passion for all things retro doesn’t get pidgeon holed into
two calendar months a year so it’s great that he does decide to join us
‘part-timers’. The colourful blog is a great advert for 8-bit Tandys and
Dragons. There is some fascinating narrative on a number of unique games and Jim
contributes to the retrocomputing arena with a number of ports.
Some of us might think that Togart’s pledge to use Win95 for a month is
a pure exercise in masochism. Certainly his experience with using early web
browsers with the modern t’internet might have left him hovering over the power
switch. However, as much as I’m not a particular fan of early windows it is
fascinating to see so many programs with roots that stretch back that far. The
internet certainly had a driving force behind increases of memory, storage and
CPU power and sometimes it’s painfully obvious why classes of hardware didn’t
make the transition. Well done!
The impressive Visorphone starts this months adventure with
impressive battery life. The Canadian winter then takes time away in RL and
after spreading a bit of Unix joy a number of retrogoodies are unearthed from a
basement and documented. Would be interesting to see if you can fire up that 386
Xenix in a future challenge. I used Interactive Unix back in the day and still
have fond memories of the first 386 motherboard I saw, and the computing power
A descent into the joy of the Atari 2600 for Osgeld this time round
although this particular one needs a bit of diagnostic and part swapping before
it kicks into life. We are then treated to a mod to produce a much better
picture quality than the standard RF output. The results are extremely
impressive and I may emulate Osgeld’s solution for my recently acquired 2600.
Finally we are treated to a laser-etched custom PC to implement a pause button.
Great stuff here, thank you!
Earl is constantly oozing retro-goodness with his Roundtable podcast
but graces us mere mortals with his presence once again. His long term project
to create a PX-8 disk drive emulator is all but complete, which is great news.
The CBM-64 and Apple ][ chess match was also highly entertaining, if maybe not
fully in realtime!
Anders creates a composite output mod for the Olivetti PC-1
and usefully documents the pinouts for future modders.
Michael sucessfully completes his project to repurpose the
Apple ][ MP3 card for the purposes of transferring disk images between a USB
stick and floppy disk, all using the Apple ][. Great use of the technology, very
A number of obstacles were thrown in the path of creating a TADS
adventure game using a MAC SE – I think the shear number of these finally got
the better of Dana. We’ve all been there at some point, please consider getting
back in the game again next time round!
Mmmm… programming C on a CBM Amiga. Please wait while I stare
wistfully back into my childhood. Good job that Guru Meditation snapped me out
again. The 3D programming took a backseat for a while following a couple of
‘essential’ Amiga upgrades, a scan doubler and CF card. 3D graphics is something
that I haven’t tackled at grass roots, but I can’t think of a finer platform.
The use title of ‘Transcendental defenestration’ definitely should win some kind
of award. What we have here is a good solid project, well documented with a
conclusive demonstration of the work accomplished. Great stuff sir!
Non-smoking Rainbow floppy disks aka the 5.25″ 400K RX50 is the focus of
this entry. There are a couple of great breakout HTML pages with lovely photos
describing both the Rainbow and its’ preferred media (anyone whose keyboard
preference settles on the LK201 is fine in my book as well!) before we get into
the cataloging and transfer process which uses suitably retro technology as
well. I look forward to hopefully seeing you as an entrant in a future
I love the use of the phrase ‘this ridiculous side project’ early on
in this entry – surely this is what makes Retrochallenge so much fun! What we
get for our money however is version control under MSDOS and an excellent
description of some of the design principles based on the limitations of the
target environment. We then get treated to an exploration through GW-BASIC and
the various quirks exhibited by the Rainbow. This results in ‘Bad Robots’ a
graphical game using Sprites that even has a high score table!
Another great entry from John describing a 6800 SBC designed
to demonstrate the power of a Motorola graphics chip. Having sourced an ASCII
keyboard John continues the assembly process. I’m as amazed as he is that you
can still source a great number of parts for old designs like this today. John
then delves into clearing his garbled video output using solid engineering
practices that pointed to an unlikely solution to his problems! The addition of
a PS/2 keyboard and some assembly programming conclude this excellent and well
documented project. Great stuff John!
Some great descriptions of the pain of compiling C software on
older platforms – the diversification of Unix in the 80s and 90s often being
quoted as a reason why it failed again the onslaught of Windows (although of
course Linux is definitely turning the tide again). Hopefully Shelldozer will
continue his porting efforts in the future – netrek is one classic, classic
We get a great first post on the IXO Telecomputer TC-102 (as rare
as the mouthful of a title might indicate) but unfortunately we didn’t get any
further than a comprehensive overview, although there are a couple of great
posts regarding some Apple software and magazines buried there in the middle of
The entry starts with a great tutorial for turning a Raspberry Pi
into a turnkey minicom terminal followed by a trip down floppy-installed linux
memory lane (very appropriate for me personally) but then runs out of steam.
Maybe we can pick up again next time?