2012SC Roundup

Written by admin on August 2, 2012 Categories: Uncategorized Tags: 

So we come to the roundup. I’ve summarised the competition here from my perspective unless specifically mentioning either Dale (Twitter Monkey) or John Linville our guest judge. The summary entries are in the order that contestants entered. John our judge picked out three winners and named two as honourable mentions. I’ve also taken the liberty of marking Dale and my favourites. Everyone who posted anything significant during the month is listed here.

Having read every single blog I can categorically say that this is the best Retrochallenge I’ve had the pleasure of organising and I’m glad I had the time at the end to really get to know each project. The quality of the winners entries, without question, has been superb and I hope these inspire us all to continue with our retrocomputing projects knowing that there is an appreciative audience out there.

I’d like to thank John once again for the judging and a special thanks to Dale who keeps this competition ticking over with his witty blog summaries, kicking me into action as needed and for organising and financing some excellent prizes once again. With Dale on board winners are likely to see prizes in their lifetime as well!

Special mention to Ken Gagne who once again, out of the blue, has kindly and generously donated a prize for the competition. Thanks Ken!

Thanks once again to everyone who entered and I hope to see you all again in the winter challenge.


(by the pool in Portugal. I know, it’s a tough life 😉


Grandstand Astrowars

Unfortunately Lizardb0y didn’t get off the ground with his project this year, but we were treated to some photos of vintage gaming hardware including my personal favourite, AstroWars (which was a handheld replica of Galaxians) on which I spent many an hour playing waiting for the ZX81 to come to market. Looks like he’s introducing these to a new generation which is great. The Commodore 64 turned 30 this year and the BBC wanted to see what primary and secondary school kids thought. Personally my kids have been enjoying Forbidden Forest and International Soccer (my first ever CBM64 game back in the day) lately! Hopefully Lizardb0y will get more time over the winter for his next entry.




Our esteemed twitter monkey is fortunate enough to have his own man cave, filled with retro-goodness. He played a few games on his VIC 20 (including the classic Centipede), then made a MicroKim and a PET talk to each other, a gentleman’s exchange if ever I heard one. He made a PET crash (always fun) and, in true wgoodf style, used brandy to revitalise a Commodore 1520 pen plotter. What a man! I never owned a VIC 20 but had the next best thing, a friend who did. Those crazy keyboard symbols kept me amused for hours!


WINNER! AndrewHazelden

IRIX Basic

Andrew, one of the Winter Warmup 2012 winners once again proves that he has what it’s got to be a Retrochallenge competitor in the best sense. His implementation of basic for IRIX shows every promise of becoming a must have piece of software for any owner of one of SGI’s classic workstations. Clearly building on his experience with SDL from the last retrochallenge Andrew has proved that BASIC on an SGI is a great fit. I personally look forward to cranking up the Indigo 2 when I get back home and giving it a whirl. Well done Andrew.

On winning, Andrew said:

I feel honoured to be one of the winners from the 2012 Summer RetroChallenge! I really appreciate the effort everyone put out to host the event. It seems like July was a hard but exciting month for all of the entrants and hosts.

My favorite part of the RetroChallenge is that it unites a group of people who have a passion for vintage computers and technology to do something creative with gear that would otherwise be left unused or disposed of.



IBM 024 Keypunch

Never one to be out-done, Paleo wins the accolade of the most retro project this year, restoration of a 1953 vintage IBM 024 keypunch. Although his blog didn’t get many updates during the competition he did manage to keep us entertained with posts to the Retrochallenge Facebook page, including a video tour. You know you’re dealing with a real retrochallenge when you see the words Phreak and WD40 (which conincidentally was invented in 1953) mentioned. Best of luck Paleo with the restoration, it woud be a fantastic piece of kit to see operational again!


Mark Vanderwetting

One of Mark's photos

Mark really fell into the didn’t get off the ground category although he gets a mention because in the meantime he’s been doing lots of cool stuff with telescopes, arduinos and model aircraft, so his blog site is still definitely worth a visit. Hopefully he’ll give us more of his time in our next competition.



Mark Benson

An emulated VAX cluster

I had the pleasure of meeting Mark in person at last year’s DEC Legacy Event and have seen his interest in DEC gear and VMS blossom – clearly we had a good effect on him.

With an eye for the old and new Mark set about the unenviable task of marrying the very new Rasperry Pi with Bob Supnik’s excellent SIMH emulator and a fresh copy of VMS with the goal of creating a VAX cluster (a TWT – Truely Wonderful Thing). He showed the doggedness required of a true Retrochallenge entrant in overcoming multiple adversities. Well done Mark!


Carl Attril

Carl's space trading game

Carl has been a very busy boy this month! Grabbing the myserious beast Fignition by the horns he tames it with a PS/2 keyboard interface then for good effect adds a Space Trading Game. David Braben, you have a lot to answer for sir! He then finishes off making the beast sing on demand for him. Clearly Carl has shown good skills at both a hardware and software level and, crucially, has also been excellent at communicating what he’s been upto with regular blog updates.

Thanks for taking part Carl!


Anders Carlsson

Anders continues with the Commodore theme initially, building and debugging interfaces which emulate a 1541 disk drive with an SD card, the MMC2IEC. He then introduced me to a new machine, the Basis 108 (an Apple ][ clone) to which he sucessfully interfaces two dodgy analogue PC joysticks before finding a good’un. Personally I always found analogue joysticks a bit variable. Finally he turns his hand to a bit of power electronics with a capacitor replacement-fest to a ticking Amiga 500 power supply. I hate fixing power supplies. Well done Anders!


Sander Reiche

The Micro PDP-11

Sander throws open the doors to his Micro PDP-11 by providing public access to his 2.11BSD Unix system. I’m not sure whether anyone has taken up his challenge, but achieving 44 registrations on such a venerable machine is, in itself, an awesome achievement. If you have time I encourage you to try and find 2.11BSD on the Unix History Timeline just to prove how venerable this system is.

Well done Sander, I enjoyed playing on your machine for a while. You have made me rethink my attitude that Ultrix is old Unix with this entry. Oh, and I loved the TeX inspired website. Ubercool!


Rob Sayers

Nintendo Super Famicom

Rob plans on getting into his Nintendo Super Famicom and giving it a good clean but is thwarted by special screwdriver requirements. He keeps us in suspense, then runs out of time.

Looks like Rob is also planning on a little Retr0briting which is a great way of giving an old yellowed bit of kit a nice shiny like new look.

Maybe next time Rob!


Ian Strom

Inside Ian's Apple II

Inside Ian’s Apple II

Ian has provided us with some great entertainment. The Apple ][ booted no problems but then he seemed distracted by the Nuclear Power Plant he was looking after! Meltdown doesn’t sound good… His special multi-adapter adapter was only talking one way to a PC. Time to breakout the multimeter I would have thought. I was very impressed with the way in which he fixed a sticky pin or two on his Apple Imagewriter and thankfully he made a video – dot-matrix printers are as much about the sound as the appearance. The re-inking seems to go pretty, well, black.

After talking about the virtues of tantalum capacitors in Powerbooks, Ian then moves on to a Model M, the one true keyboard for a spruce up. Nice and varied Ian, with some successes, well done!


So to twylo. Somewhat like George slaying the Dragon, Seth takes on the unenviable challenge of restoring a monster of a vintage computer, a DEC PDP/11-35 to working order. Now I’m not saying this hasn’t been done before, but what I can say is that I have seen few blogs that go into the level of detail here. In my mind this is very significant as in my experience there are those who know PDP and those who don’t. For us outsiders it seems an insurmountable challenge to take on the dragon. Seth’s blog goes a long way to quell those fears. Technically detailed and practical at the same time, congratulations to twylo for such a comprehensive entry!

One of Dale’s favourites:

top marks to the restoration for perseverance


Vintage Volts

Pi into ZX81

Such a promising project – gutting a ZX81 and replacing the innards with a Raspberry Pi. I’d have liked to seen this done given that I’ve bought one of these crazy little Pi things (although due to Retrochallenge not really had a play yet). Hopefully Jeff – if he doesn’t get it done before the next Retrochallenge – will give it another go.




Rob's attic

Rob’s attic. We say man cave! You’ve gotta love it. His viewdata website is also great. Anyone who lived in the UK in the 80s’-90’s is likely to have used Prestel at some point. It was a landmark system and Rob is right to be saddened by the lack of recognition. His website however is a shining example of how the modern internet can be used as an information access point about retro-systems. Unfortunately Rob’s plans to give the website a spring clean have been thwarted by real life, which is a shame. I hope now that Rob has had an attic tidy up he may be able to complete his Retrochallenge goals next time round.



Epson Acoustic Coupler

Personal friend AlienNerd I know is disappointed that he was unable to persue the Retrochallenge dream this time round due to a family illness.

What he did manage to do in the time available was to get an Epson CX-21 acoustic coupler to give the ‘screetch of success’ connecting to his very own BBS, get that BBS available via telnet (as well as dialup, how right way round is that!) and, as always, take insanely good photos of everything. Three cheers to AlienNerd for maintaining his Nostromo dial-up BBS, and hopefully we’ll see him next time round!


Conceited Jerk

OS/2 Warp

Only making it to week 3, with too many unfortunate real-world intrusions, we have to bid farewell to any chance of success here I fear. Booting an old 486 you’d forgotten about into OS/2 warp is Ubercool, but loosing the hard drive shortly afterwards reminds me of my failures with the Indigo 2 early on.

Sounds like we’ve got a CDTV, Amiga 1200 and 4000 now lined up for a future Retrochallenge. Hope to see you next time round mate.



Triumph of the Nerds

OK, so Togart never really gets off the ground after his hangover, but what he does do is point us to Robert X. Cringley’s Triumph of the Nerds (check it out on YouTube, in three parts).

In the meantime we’ll let him rollover for another year – maybe Winter 2013 will see that brewing program we’ve been promised!


WINNER! Frank Buß

Not content with staring at his newly acquired Intel 4004 Frank goes about creating an emulated set of peripheral chips, including the 4001 ROM, for it to talk to. I have to say I really envy guys like Frank who clearly have a fantastic grasp of both Digital Electronics and Low Level Programming.

There is great educational value in what Frank has achieved and it sounds like his emulator will mearly be the starting point of his journey on this project. We’re glad Retrochallenge could be a part of this. Well done Frank!

On winning Frank said:

the contest was great, I had a lot of fun to make the old 4004 run some program, thanks for organizing it!

Earl Evans

Earl's Reversi

Smooth talking Earl (I mean that in a nice way – please, please take the time to listen to the Retrobits Podcast if you haven’t done so already) clearly has his fingers in so many retro-pies I just feel privileged to have him as part of the competition.

He gets about 1/2 way to his goal of a Commodore 64 version of Reversi – check out the Podcast for supplemental info to his blog. I had checked out CC65 with a ’64 game in mind this time round, but just didn’t have the time for programming. Thanks for taking part!


Paul Hagstrom

Apple ][ Assembler

Paul, or Sam Hoover as he shall now be known, experienced something very rare in Retrochallenge history – an early victory. He started talking to his Apple ][ over a serial link. He also delved into his dim-and-distant modem-driver writing days and made a very nice video which made absolutely no sense to me but looked cool none-the-less. It would be nice to see Paul back for another Retrochallenge when he has more time as there is clearly significant potential there!





David is a true software hacker in the greatest sense of the term. A quick walk through his blog shows that he can turn his hand to most things. What impressed me was his ability to tackle a problem that for the rest of us would involve consulting a forum and asking someone else to solve. Depending on your level of ‘retro’ sometimes this works and sometimes it leaves you at a dead end as no-one is interested in solving such esoteric problems anymore. In these cases David is definitely a man to turn to. Can we call you David ‘McGiver’ Brownlee from now on?


Rob Jarratt


Rob is a fellow DEC enthusiast and decides to join the Retrochallenge party this year by writing a portable DECnet router. The software will provide routing via a number of transport layers, including HECnet of which I’ve been a member for a number of years now. Rob seems to be happy with his implementation and I look forward to being able to use his code. This will be a valuable contribution to allow continued use of venerable DEC machines and the excellence which is DECnet. Cheers Rob!



The 1802 Membership card

Pontus builds an 1802 membership card, which contains a very low power RCA COSMAC 1802 processor. These kind of kits are great fun to build and play with. He completes his task with a nice blog containing plenty of pictures and advice. At the end he has a go at driving it off a steam engine, although isn’t convinced that this has worked. He wins the accolation of ‘weirdest combo’ in this retrochallenge!

Thanks for entering, might get one of these myself!

One of Dale’s favourites, he says:

Top marks for the credit card build due to the colour popping photography. Such nice wood.




David manages to pull off a near perfect Retrochallenge performance from the outset. Unashamedly my personal favourite, given that I’m not the judge and can therefore indulge myself in my own personal interests. I’ve dabbled with console graphic games and it’s no easy feat but I had the benefit of a much more accommodating VAX – David manages to fit this version of Pacman on a PDP/11 using RSTS/E BASIC into a little under 20K. It’s pretty retro all the way, except maybe for a screenshot of it running on a vintage terminal such as a VT100 or VT220. What also impresses is the quality of the descriptions going along with the coding, one of the prerequisites of a class Retrochallenge entry. I’ve learnt a lot from David’s explanations and really enjoyed watching his final video. Well done. Hope to see you back again for the Winter Warmup!


Chase Rayfield

Sun Sparcstation LX

Chase is a fellow competitor using Sun hardware, albeit a more vintage Sparcstation LX. These are great little boxes with a dimunitive form factor. He also experienced the joy of a GCC compilation on retro-hardware, we really are spoilt these days with raw CPU power – build times creap into tens of hours here!

He appears to get bogged down with the nightmare that is source code software dependencies. Hopefully his dependency tree will be fully compiled by the time we hit the next Retrochallenge!



Javascript NRI 832

Paul tasks himself with recreating the NRI 832 which was an early DIY computer implemented entirely in TTL – Paul’s recreation is emulated using an Arduino microprocessor. I was tickled by the ‘fast’ mode of 250 Hz! What I love about this blog, as with John’s, is that it is a very good example of communication and documentation. Topics are introduced gently then in increasing detail. Paul implements an assembler in python then goes on to implement the core of the processor in C targetted on the Arduino, then demostrates this running on an increasingly production-like board. Excellent example of what can be achieved in a month given available time and dedication. Thanks for sharing this with us Paul!



TECO Editor

Legalize falls into the crazy like me category, clearly, with his love of an esoteric programming language. While others might ask the question ‘Why?’ we always ask ‘Why Not?’ He makes a valiant attempt at his quest to implement an HTTP server in TECO and looks like he will succeed with a bit more time with his head down.

What can we say? We absolutely love entries like this. Makes me want to fire up the VT320 and do some APL programming. Hopefully he’ll be back with more zaniness in the Winter.



Doug's setup

Doug gives us a potted history of Pascal implementations for the Apple ][ by jumping ship several times when he, justifiably, wasn’t happy with the current setup. Having a concrete example to try is a great way of testing the benefits and drawbacks of different language implementations. Pascal was my first programming language in college, and while without extensions you tend to end up with one huge listing it certainly focusses the mind on the basics of high-level programming without getting bogged down in too many details. Again, kudos for passing the retro-love down the generations, turtle graphics is still a winner with the kids. Congrats on achieving so much in such a limited time Doug.



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