Thursday, August 29, 2019

Huge Progress in the Shed!

Over the last two weeks (I'm on Annual Leave), I have been taking the time to tidy up my shed. Its been a bit of a disaster and I have been too stuck to do much about it.

I listened to a back episode of the RCR Podcast about Hoard vs Private Collection vs Museum. I always wanted the latter, but it sometimes resembled the former.

I have struggled since 1997 to not just collect everything. While that has actually benefited my collection, I have gotten rid of many systems.

I have essentially cut down to -
- Commodore 8 bit line (really all NON Amiga Commodores)
- Atari 8 bit line
- Apple everything
- IBM Everything up to the AT
- Random assortment of odds and sods like DEC Rainbow, Professional 350, VAXMate, couple of MicroVaxes 
- All consoles up to PS2

And while that sounds like a cut down, I have still a large collection. I have removed a heap of equipment and manuals from my collection that were just simply being hoarded. I had no intention of reading them - they were just taking up space. A couple of machines and parts have been sold and a few more are about to go.

Whats great is it gives you such relief when you can actually use the workbenches and things are not on the floor. The main section of my shed now looks like this - no obstacles on the floor - generally tidy and workable.

My "office" and repair area is much more organised - I have installed shelving and tidied up the area - there is still work to do as I am still removing things from the shed but it give you an idea of where I am heading.

My dreaded back table is now just an enormous pile of disks that need to be categorised - and it already has had a quick first chop and 25% has already been sorted and removed from this area.

So I have been giving myself a break and doing some of the stuff I have wanted to do for a long time. Namely - get my PETs working and backup all my PET software. To do this I have been using ZoomFloppy on a Windows 10 PC using OpenCBM and CBM Transfer software. This works OK, but backing up a 8050 or 8250 disk takes around 45 minutes. So I have plenty of time to do other things while that is happening.

I have also been solving my PET problems using the wonderful PET Diagnostics by Tynemouth Software. This thing is fabulous - identifying what is right and wrong with my PETs. Makes it real simple to figure out what needs to be done.

This PET has ROMs installed. I guess they are dead!

This 8296D tests OK but has a boot problem. As the PET Diagnostics chip is a 6502 replacement, I'll have to try testing with a known working 6502.

So yes - I have been having a bit of fun. Lots of work to do but plenty of challenges.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New Aquisitions

It was brought to my attention that a seller in Narre Warren was offering some fairly unique pieces of equipment via Facebook Marketplace (thanks Ian). In the peculiar post it showed a number of interesting items in unknown condition -

- Apple IIc
- Apple IIc Monitor with its electronics removed
- Apple /// with no motherboard
- Monitor ///
- Profile Hard Drive
- Macintosh 512k

I made him an offer, he countered, we struck a deal. I picked up the kit yesterday.

Today, I started up the Profile first - this is why I bid on this bundle. Initially, it flashed its light at me and sat there making no noise. I have experienced this before with other MFM drives before so I opened up the unit and hand spun the disks. Then when powered up, it pulsed and made all the right noises that a profile does! It then started spewing the acrid smoke that the lovely filter capacitors make when tired. (RIFA PME 271M 610 0.1uF) Replaced.

I then wondered what was on this! Plugged it into my Lisa... and its not a Lisa formatted drive! I'll get it setup on my Apple /// in a few days and see what it is!

Quickly tested the other gear - Mac 512k works but disk drive is misaligned with the case so can't load software until fixed. Apple //c works perfectly with the exception of some stuck keys and general untidy condition. Monitor /// works well.

A good pickup!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Weird Dick Smith VZ-200 Mess

I am going to try to work on that pile of debris at the back of the shed piece by piece, and today I decided to grab this thing and have a look - identify what it is and whether it works.

On inspection, I assumed it was a product marketed by Dick Smith Electronics, the broken disk drive cable reminded me of either a VZ-200/300 or an Apple II - and it wasn't the latter.

I connected the power cable, removed the IO cards (so it boots "natively"), connected an RCA to the motherboard (the outer cable is a coax connection) and powered up the unit.

A great clue that this is the VZ range of computers (also known as the VTech Laser 200). I plugged in the IO boards and booted up to see what we had.

This was a HAM radio operators computer - and this board is a Radio Teletype board. Neat!

Unfortunately as my collection is busting at the seams, I'll be cleaning this unit up and moving it along. It does not fit in the criteria I defined and I don't consider the VZ-200 to be interesting - especially in this shape.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Bit Corporation Bit-90

The Bit Corporation Bit-90!

There is unfortunately not very much information about the Bit90. I received an email from Mark from Traralgon who offered me this machine. When he contacted me, I had never heard of this machine so I was pretty excited to learn all about it.

What I did learn that the machine was some kind of Z80 machine that was based on the Colecovision hardware.The other reference had a bit more information but it was quite sparse. This made it even more interesting a find.

The box was interesting. You can see the Bit 90 machine in the corner with what appears to be Atari 2600 cartridges, however the graphics on the screen are way more advanced than the 2600 offers, which made me consider the Colecovision as factual.

Unfortunately, the machine came with NO MANUAL and the box does not provide any insight into the machines capabilities.

This particular machine is in pretty good condition - better than I would have expected. It does have a few interesting modifications which at the time of this writing are for functions unknown. However I will show what has been done.
The unit has two ColecoVision compatible joystick ports on the right hand side. I have proved this later in the blog.

The rear has a power switch, power supply connector, what I would describe as a multi-purpose connector (it has composite out, audio out and tape interface all in one cable), an unknown switch (interestingly the case has a professionally milled out hole so something was here prior to this switch) and an edge connector on the rear for some kind of expansion.

On the left side the system has a cartridge port which is definitely ColecoVision.

The bottom has the usual fixing screws, however 2 were missing as is typical for a unit that has been worked on or modified.

When you remove the back cover, I was surprised to find the system board is retained by the top half. It is held to the top of the case with two screws.

This then reveals the interesting condition that this unit is in. The switch appears to switch the ROM to a different mode or fires up an additional ROM. I have been unsuccessful in identifying what it does at this stage as the switch makes no change on power up OR while on.

As you can see, the ROMs next to each other do not look original. The HM6116P static ram chip has also had its legs mangled and soldered to this additional circuit. 

This birds nest of wiring contains a couple of resistors and some joins, held poorly together in some ancient tape wad. 

This little unknown circuit board is attached near the power supply and nicely wrapped in gaffa or duct tape.

This power supply has also had a hard life. Not quite sure why, but there is some additional cables peeled back and covered with tape, and the power supply unit has been opened for some reason but all appears well inside.

Here is the "multifunction" cable of video, audio and tape control.
Ok. Lets set thing thing up and turn it on. Without any cartridges and plugged into RCA, initially you get this for around 5-10 seconds.
Then comes the BASIC prompt.

I was curious to see what keys worked on the keyboard so I typed the Alphabet then typed the numbers on the keyboard. As you can see, I will have to clean this keyboard internally and possibly regraphite the keys.
The system beeps when typing.
So I then decided to see what ColecoVision compatibility we had. I grabbed the closest cart to the unit, which happened to be Steamroller.

Amazingly, after a few seconds - the game looks like it should!
I grabbed my ColecoVision controller, plugged it in. I was able to follow the instructions and play the game!

The whole setup was very painless. That wraps up my initial play with the Bit 90 but I will no doubt delve deeper once I get the keyboard working. What a great find! If anyone knows the whereabouts of a manual that I can read, it would be most appreciated.

New items!

Today I met with Mark who parted with 3 little gems -

Firstly - the Bit-90. I don’t know much about this, but hope to soon. Allegedly it plays Colecovision carts - well will find out!

Next his Amstrad CPC 6128 setup with piles of software, an RS232 interface, TV tuner, monitor and manuals!

And finally a little MC10 with a 16k RAM expansion, plotter and Assembly manual.

Looking forward to playing with them soon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wow! After 17 years, I have made an update!

Hello all -

Quick introduction. My name is Anthony and I have been collecting for a while. I started in 1997 and went crazy. I ended up with a lot of stuff as you can see but I certainly started in the golden age of Vintage Computer collecting as I have many many gems.

My website hasn't been updated in quite some time. There is a combination of reasons for this.
  1. Laziness
  2. I haven't had a lot of time
  3. HTML is a pain in the butt and I don't know how I had the time to do it
So. I am going to try to use a blog, insert photos and update this way. Since my last post in February 2002, a lot has happened.

I moved, I had to get rid of stuff because I had way too many machines and I wasn't paying certain lines any attention - eg Amigas, Microbees, Tandys, Amstrads, Coleco Adam, Xerox 820s, Spectrums and lots of obscurities. I decided to rationalise my collection along the following lines -

  • Commodore 8-bits and a small range of other interesting Commodore devices
  • Atari 8-Bits (bye bye Falcon, TT and STs)
  • Apple everything
  • IBM PCs (but not clones, bye Compaq portables and other obscurities)
  • Game Consoles are IN!
  • Whatever I want that doesn't fit in this criteria but I like.

So. Here I am in 2019 with a shed still full of all sorts of stuff.

Here is what it looks like today.

Roll A Door Top View

The Lovely Pets (5 of 11)

PC Side - note the software up top is all CBM

Alternative view of PC side

View of Stack and down Apple Side

PC Side to Pets - note drives and tape drives for CBM

Some of my Apples

Console area (machines below bench)

More C64s than you can poke a stick at

The scary debris field

I have deliberately hidden the back area which needs a lot of work. My vision is to have my key equipment on benches in operational condition with their drives available to use while on the upper level - maximising bench space and maximising display rather than being on shelves.

I have also created an area where I can blog, work, do demonstrations of some of my interesting stuff - the IBM JX with 10 MB Hard Disk will likely be my first video demonstration. I will avoid doing videos of equipment that has already been done to death, but some of my unique kit would be worth showing. I have enough accessories, add ons and tools to make the videos interesting. 

I also have a nice work bench area with repair and software transferring tools - so I can get all the demonstration stuff working, back the software up and get any software required that I don't already have. I have recently bought the SuperCard Pro and will be putting that through its paces to back up some unusual software that I have in here.

Anyway, I hope to regularly contribute about what I am doing and what my progress is on projects - so... hello! Feel free to comment!

Huge Progress in the Shed!

Over the last two weeks (I'm on Annual Leave), I have been taking the time to tidy up my shed. Its been a bit of a disaster and I have b...