Pippin in My Orchard
One of my white whales finally came up for a price that I could justify. Let’s see just how wounded it is, and then welcome it home with a little bit of help from some smart friends.
Mastering the BASICs
Hitachi made a bunch of computers, none of which seemed to have that much penetration in the Western market. Perhaps their most popular series was the Basic Master. This very late model of BASIC Master has floated into my life.
How Test Suite It Is
You can always tell when it’s the holidays. The days are getting shorter, I’m always going out to shovel snow off the sidewalk, and I have a hankering to build a Famicom cartridge. Or, more specifically, a blog friend asked me to put one together, so I’m using my Tengen Tetris piracy skills… for good?
Becoming Mr.PC's Type
Like the Sharp X1turbo, the Mr.PC is also not very usable without a keyboard. It’s yet another way in which NEC copied Sharp.
You Might Have To Tomy Twice
I always wanted to try out a Tomy Tutor, and so I assumed that the Pyuuta was an identical computer. After all, it looks the same! This was one of those machines that I bought without knowing the details. All I knew is that Mandarake wanted an absolute fortune for any boxed Pyuuta games they had on the shelf, and that a good number of the retro-y Japanese Twitter folks seemed to have fond memories of the purple wedge. Let’s find out why.
Columns Me Maybe
I love Columns. I love its creepy music, I love its chunky gameplay, and I love the way that it invariably hands me my own ass within a few minutes of playing. I also love using it to test suspicious Genesis consoles. Is it possible that one could acquire the power of Columns in a more inconvenient format?
The Soggy-1000 turns a page
For version 3 of the Soggy-1000 SG-1000 clone, I wanted to make it more useful as a general-purpose computer. Building a new keyboard is going to cost a fortune in parts, so it’s fiscally prudent to find more reasons to use said keyboard. There are only so many SG-1000 games out there, the SC-3000 software library is kind of small, and I was using only 2k of the 32k of RAM that I had on the board. These are all problems that can be solved with a suitably large application of hubris.
The Floppy Flops (Travelling to Tokio, Part 2)
In the previous part of my adventure with the 386-based NEC PC-9801RA2, we covered the existence of Artdink’s game Tokio, talked briefly about clone PC-98s, bought two computers, and built a replacement power supply PCB for one of them. That was a lot of work! So now we finally get to play the game, right? Right?!
Amped Up For Artdink (Travelling to Tokio, Part 1)
Despite not being able to understand more than preschool-level written Japanese, I decided to get in on the “importing games from Japan” craze. Of course, I jumped in at the deep end and decided to pick up an Artdink-made city simulator with lots of cultural and regional in-jokes. Also, the city is in space. Did I mention that my PC-9821Ap2 can’t run it?
I don't know you from Adam
No self-respecting Coleco owner’s collection is complete without the machine that was their ultimate undoing: the Coleco Adam. Adam’s a game console. Adam’s a computer. Adam’s a bizarre hash of over-engineering and under-manufacturing. It’s all of those things, and more, which would make it perfect for this blog even if I wasn’t knee-deep in ColecoVision construction.
Soaking it in with the SK-1100 Keyboard
If you’ve been following the Soggy-1000, my clone of the Sega SG-1000, then you know what it needs most of all is a keyboard. The original Sega SK-1100 keyboard is hard to find, but I still managed to luck out and get one at auction. Let’s plug it in and find out if it still works.
A Mini5 Hello World
Yes, it is finally time to sit down with the mini5HA again. My goal was to figure out how to make a working program for CP/M using its built-in assembler, and I wasn’t going to give up until I had at least a “hello world.”
Roll the Tape
The NEC Bungo mini5 PWP-5SX Japanese word processor that I’ve been working on this month came with an instructional VHS tape explaining how to use its near-infinite multitude of features. Here’s how I captured that tape.
NEC's Tetris Processor
Tetris is a classic time-waster, both in and outside of the office. What good is any computing device if it can’t play this game? Tokyo System House certainly thought so, and ported it to the NEC mini5 line of CP/M-based word processors. Let’s preserve it for future generations and then see what it’s like!
The Case of the Dead Mini5SX
In order to get a copy of Tetris for the NEC mini5 series of word processors, I had to buy it along with a whole word processor set from the previous owner. This LCD-based mini5SX is sleek, attractive, surprisingly heavy, and broken. Very, very broken. Let’s see if we can fix up this grey beast, and dump its ROMs.
Mini5 Word Crusher
Used Japanese word processors have been a tempting siren for me for years, but I’ve avoided them so far due to the huge shipping weight and my general illiteracy in the language. What if those word processors could run CP/M and had a CRT? Ah, now that’s a different story.
Bad video RAM had Sanyo seeing red
My PC-incompatible Sanyo MBC-555 is now working, although it still looks like it fell out of a garbage disposal. Beyond its nasty exterior appearance, the video output isn’t particularly good either. There’s red garbage all over the screen. I decided to tackle this problem first, before getting my hands, face, cat, and desk sticky with epoxy.
Call In The PROs To See Things Clearly (X68000 PRO Part 4)
A small update on the X68000 PRO that was saved from an inglorious death over the course of the last three articles. It’s gotten a video configuration that works properly. I know, that’s way cooler than painting the case, right?
An SG-1000 II gets a second chance
As we’ve covered before during the clone saga, the Sega SG-1000 was an unfortunate casualty of the Nintendo juggernaut. But surely the redesigned SG-1000 II would do better, right? No.
Sanyo Triple Five
Even though I seem to have terrible luck with x86-based computers, that doesn’t mean I have to take it lying down. I can go out there and cause even worse things to happen to me. Like, for instance, buying a broken super-budget PC-incompatible from 1982.
Another try at fixing the Magic Smoke SE
A few years ago, I got the “Magic Smoke” Macintosh SE. It was a pretty rusty machine, but otherwise looked okay inside. However, when I plugged it in after a (very) cursory inspection, it made ugly noises, failed to start, and then spat out a little bit of magic smoke – hence the name. Ever since then, it’s been a really small piece of furniture. I’m going to rip it apart and fix it.
A Supergun for All Seasons
Playing arcade games at home. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Maybe get a little Columns action on the desk you usually use to do taxes? Perhaps you can even make a little test bench, get a bit of board fixing going? Yeah, that’d be really cool. Too bad nothing like that exists, and especially not well-tested and open-source. Wait, it does? And it is? Well, then, we’re just gonna have to build one.
Once I got the Soggy-1000 playing SG-1000 cartridges, the next thing to do was to extend it. In this phase of the project, we’ll take that leap from “interesting” to “slightly ridiculous,” by adding the feature I’m most excited about – at least until I get excited about a different one – the SK-1100 keyboard connector.
SG-1000 Ways To Leave Your Original
The SG-1000, being Sega’s first home console, has appreciated quite a bit over the years. Its price is now faintly ridiculous, especially when you consider its successor, the relatively inexpensive Mark III. Luckily for us, this console is made out of off-the-shelf components, virtually all of which are also found in the ColecoVision. If only we knew someone who’d cloned the ColecoVision…
More Memories of Pictures
Back when I did the recap, power supply recap, and trace repairs on the Bad ADB Mac LC, there was something missing. Even after all that work, I was only left with a measly 16 colours at 640x480 resolution. That’s not enough colours at all, but luckily it’s pretty easy to fix.
Bluer than velvet were her SCSIs
If you need a SCSI hard drive for your old computer, there are a lot of great options becoming available for a solid-state substitute. A great one of those options is the BlueSCSI, and I’m not just saying that because I won a free one. It’s because I won a free kit, so I got to put it together myself.
Call In The PROs When You Can't Flop (X68000 PRO Part 3)
With a new power supply and the entire insect population of Honshu removed from its case, the swamp-bogged X68000 PRO can finally start up, but can it boot floppy disks? In this exciting conclusion to the series, we’ll jump through a frankly ridiculous number of hoops – many of them ultimately proving to be unnecessary – in order to make some disks and find out.
Go Back to GBS
There are a lot of people buying fancy upscalers these days. And who can blame them? Old videogames are great, but new monitors are lazy and inept. What, the signal is too slow for you? Clearly all these great old arcade boards, computers, and game consoles are just not a big enough challenge for the input logic in modern LCDs, who prefer to spend their considerable brainpower decoding much higher-frequency syncs. To solve this problem, I’ll spend not very much money.
Call In The PROs When You Need Power (X68000 PRO Part 2)
Now that I had a reasonably clean X68000 PRO to work from, I set about restoring power. Rather than doing things the cheap way and strapping up my Meanwell four-voltage test supply, I decided to go whole hog and lay out a brand-new power supply PCB.
Set Sails For Piracy!
Have you ever wondered how it’s feasible for AliExpress sellers to produce knock-off Sega Genesis cartridges for under five bucks? I sure was, so I bought one and then tore it apart for your edification. You can thank me later.
Call In The PROs When It Gets Dirty (X68000 PRO Part 1)
What happens when you bid on a Sharp X68000 PRO without looking too closely at the photos? For one thing, you win the auction. What also happens is that the computer spends a while in your garage, waiting for all of its little tenants to be vacuumed out.
Raising the PC-8801MH
Hirofumi Iwasaki’s book on PC-8801FH/MH repair says that the head loading solenoid is so loud that you should be careful using the computer in an apartment at night, lest the neighbours complain. I am not hearing that, or any other noises from the floppy drives. Let’s investigate.
Tengen-trifying the Neighbourhood
Years ago, I was offered a copy of the Tengen version of Tetris for the NES, and passed it up because $60 was way too much for a boxed NES game. I regret that. Let’s make one.
A Timex-Sinclair 1000 learns to love again
The fellow who sold me the Macintosh LC520 back in 2018 had another listing, a $10 Timex-Sinclair 1000 that needed some work. I decided I’d pop out and go grab it, and see if I can make the machine more reliable than Sir Clive did.
Radio Shack worked hard to get their machines into every possible price tier of the home computer market, so what happened when they went super-budget? Nothing good. Thanks to hard-working community members, this unloved 6803-based computer has gone from doorstop to delight, so it’s high time that I picked one up. Of course, by law, any computer I pick up has to be at least a little broken.
What if I told you that you can still buy a Z80-based computer from the 80s for only twenty bucks? It has a full keyboard, a pretty solid BASIC interpreter, and there’s even an expansion bus of sorts. And it runs off batteries!
Make Your Own ColecoVision At Home (Bonus Episode - The Real Thing)
Through the more-than-generous offer of a ColecoVision, I now have a real machine to use as a basis for comparison. Just what is the real machine like inside, and could it possibly be better?
Make Your Own ColecoVision At Home (Part 4 - Quadrature Controllers)
We got conventional ColecoVision “hand” controllers working well in the last entry. I’ve never used any of the ColecoVision’s more exotic controllers before; will they work properly on my clone machine, even though I didn’t really understand them?
Make Your Own ColecoVision At Home (Part 3 - Joystick Fix)
In the last entry, I was left with a working ColecoVision-compatible board, albeit one with a very stuttery controller that would only work when connected to what I thought was the second controller port. Let’s fix that, and then enjoy the cheapo ColecoVision games that I spent all this effort building this thing for in the first place.
Do you want to come for a ride in my Jaaaaaaaag?
One of the most unloved machines in my
hoardcollection is the Atari Jaguar. It’s not because I don’t have good games for it, or because it’s not working. No, it’s because the Jaguar came used with only the RF adapter, and I hated setting it up with a TV. After testing it out, and collecting a few games for it, it ended up getting boxed away for a move about a decade ago and hasn’t come out since. And that’s a crying shame.
Can't keep The Most Useless MSX down
Even after I got it to boot by replacing the video chip, the Casio PV-7 MSX1 still had a bunch of problems. Top of mind were the broken keyboard and the corroded power jack. Let’s fix these issues too, so we can get back to enjoying this el-cheapo computer and the free programs on offer in the manual.
TI-83 Plus One More
Although it may not be considered an “old” computer, a TI-83+ from the futuristic year of 1999 has a lot of appeal. It’s got a Z80, it runs a BASIC interpreter with machine-language program support, and lots of fun homemade games were built for it over the years. There’s also the small matter of me wanting a desk calculator with which to do binary/hex conversions, so I picked up this broken one to attempt to nurse it back to health. Will my efforts add up to a working calculator?
Look, mom! X1's on TV!
One of the coolest selling points of the Sharp X1turbo is the built-in “telopper” board. With this board, you can superimpose computer graphics on live TV, and smear dithered-colour games across my tiny Sony CRT. Guess which of the two I’m planning on using it for?
Revenge of the Famicom composite video mod
When we last read about the Famicom composite mod, there were a bunch of changes I wanted to make, but left tragically undone in the name of getting in some Mario time over the holidays. Now I’m going to make a solid effort at producing a more production-ready version of the modification.
That name again is Mr.PC
Get ready to step into the cyberpunk future of the mid-late 1980s, and don’t forget to bring your boxed wine. NEC pulled out all the stops on this, their final PC-6001 computer. I have to pull out even more stops to get the disk drive to work.
Mega Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road
You wouldn’t think it’s hard or expensive to find a Model 2 Genesis, but apparently in Japan it is both. I’d been looking for one of these for a while, and finally got just the right (cheap) console. Let’s explore some Japanese Mega Drive games with it.
Modding a PlayStation (Eventually)
I’m a little late to the whole PlayStation ownership game, but what better way to start than by attempting a modchip install? This one had some twists and turns, but ultimately ends up with me being able to play A-Train in blurry composite video.
In Need of Adult Supervision
If you read a lot of gaming magazines in the early 90s, you might remember being confused about some crude ads for this handheld game system. For everyone else, there’s a pretty decent repair in this one.
All A-Keyboard for the Sharp X1turbo
Even though the X1turbo is working again, it’s not enormously useful right now. Sure, the boot screen is pretty, but there’s so much more to the entire experience. In order to take another step along the road to it becoming a functional computer, I’ll build a keyboard adapter.
The X1turbo can see again
Now that the Sharp X1turbo has been convinced to start up again, it’s time to get some video out of it by constructing a cable so it can talk to a more modern monitor. Yeah, that’s right. No ugly dongle PCB this time!
Sharp invites you to enter the Turbo Zone
Before the X68000, Sharp had a Z80-based 8-bit personal computer that tried valiantly to compete with the PC-88 and MSX. Actually, they had a couple, but the one that I’m most interested in is the Sharp X1. It combines flash VCR-esque styling, sturdy construction, decent graphics capabilities, and AY-3-8910 sound. What more could you want? Well, you could put the word “turbo” on the front.
Unleashing the Power of the X68000 ACE
You might recall that I own a Sharp X68000 ACE, the world-beating, sprite-spitting computer of everyone’s dreams. So far, though, the ownership experience hasn’t been the most fun I’ve ever had. Repairing the battery damage in mine has been challenging, as the damage goes deeper than I first thought, but I have accomplished one thing so far: installing a more reliable power supply.
Adding composite video to a Famicom
Since I’ve been reading I Am Error, I’ve been getting more and more interested in the technical aspects of the Famicom. Turns out all you really need to get me interested in your console is prose explanations of how a pattern table works. Also, I get to drip some molten lead into it so I can use a modern TV! Everyone wins.
Mark III To The Future
On my latest jaunt to the wild world of Japanese auctions, I found this Sega Mark III that nobody else seemed to love as I got it for only ¥1100. Once it arrived at my home, I realized why. A Sega that can’t play games is too sad for words, so let’s get the thing up and running again.
Let's visit Portopia
In order to get to the bottom of a mystery, I had to put a lot of other mysteries in my way first. And then also build some hardware. At the end of this entry, I’ll have actually used old hardware to play a videogame. I’m scared too.
Make Your Own ColecoVision At Home (Part 2 - Assembly)
The boards for the homemade ColecoVision clone project have arrived. It’s been a long haul of finger-burning fun to get the console assembled, but will it ever be able to play a cartridge?
Recapping a Sequel
With all this discussion of budget Japanese computers and video game consoles lately, it’s easy to forget that I still like old Macs. This Classic II was picked up years ago, and it’s been on the shelf ever since I got it home and spotted the telltale sign of Simasimac. Now that I actually know how to fix it, let’s try to fix it.
Reviving a Game Gear
With the recent success of the PC-9801NS/T capacitor replacement, I had chip-electrolytic capacitors on the brain. And like I said in this article, the easiest place to find more of those leaky little rectangles in my house was in the Game Gear I hadn’t bothered to repair for years.
The Most Useless MSX
One of the more unloved MSX1s is the Casio PV-7. This poor little 8-bit computer was saddled with a crappy keyboard, only 8kB of RAM, no printer port, no built-in tape interface, and only a single cartridge slot. And that cartridge slot doesn’t even follow the MSX standard!
Ms. PC-9801 if you're NS/T
I got ahold of a PC-98 laptop. Unfortunately, it has a lot of battery leakage and won’t power on. Come hang out and smell the vinegar with me for a little while.
Space Walking with Gemini
While a ColecoVision is sometimes pricey and hard to find in my area, the much more rare Coleco Gemini fell into my lap while looking through my favourite flea-market junk bin. Because the machine came without cables, a power adapter, or joysticks, it had been relegated to the sad little corner where unloved consoles go, right next to a stripped-for-parts Intellivision II and a battered-looking 2600 Jr. Let’s see if it can be coerced to once again play Combat.
The Sega SC-3000 goes to a key party
I fixed up my SC-3000’s cartridge slot almost a year ago, but I haven’t been using the computer. Why not? Because the keyboard is super unusable. It’s time to fix it now, though, because I just paid a king’s ransom for a copy of Flicky.
Raising the iQue of my home
When Nintendo wanted to enter the burgeoning Chinese market in 2003, they did so with a neat redesigned Nintendo 64 in a single joypad. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell a lot of them (eight to twelve thousand units, depending who you ask). This makes it an interesting and uncommon artifact from Nintendo history. I won one on YouTube. Here it is! Let’s play some games.
Make Your Own ColecoVision At Home (Part 1 - Design)
When I found some cheap ColecoVision cartridges in the junk bin at the flea market, I knew I had to save them from whatever fate awaited them after the junk bin. How would I play them? Today’s old-ColecoVision prices are ridiculous, so I started building one instead.
Attempting CoCo 'brane surgery
Without a working keyboard, the CoCo that I’ve been working on over the past few months might as well be a fancy desk ornament. When I took a look at the keyboard last time, the membrane had some pretty serious damage to its carbon conductive traces. Before spending money to replace the keyboard, I’m first going to try and fix those traces with the conductive paint I already paid for.
Get the Tandy 102 (batteries out)!
Sometime last summer, I spotted a local classifieds listing where someone was selling a “Tandy laptop.” After some interrogation, I determined that it was probably a Model 102. Another Kyocera sibling to join my NEC PC-8300?
Hearing the PC-6001 out
When I first set up the PC-6001, I had to bring it back to life by replacing the shorted tantalum capacitors on the motherboard’s power rails. It’s such a great little machine! After some more testing, however, it became obvious that I was getting no sound out of the poor little thing.
Fixing the Bad ADB Mac LC's power supply
Now that I know that the computer wasn’t horribly killed by my recap job and repair of all those broken traces in the ADB input system, let’s take a brief moment to recap that original Astec power supply from the “bad” LC. And fix the video!
Recapping a Macintosh LC TDK power supply
While I was working on the bad ADB Mac LC, I tested it by using the “good” power supply from my childhood Mac LC. How good was that “good” power supply, though? Well, it smelled a little fishy.
Cleaning the keyboard on the PC-6001
When I first fixed the PC-6001, there were a few sticky keys on the keyboard. “H,” Left Shift, and - most importantly - Return were all bad to a certain extent. I could limp along with Ctrl-M for a little while to replace Return, but it was pretty awkward. How hard can it be to clean the keyboard?
Not conducting myself appropriately - a CoCo keyboard inspection
When I got the CoCo up and running in the previous entry, I noticed that the keyboard wasn’t working particularly well. I found myself with some spare time to dismantle the keyboard, and unfortunately it has not yet been fixed. That doesn’t mean we can’t still learn a thing or two.
A "Practice" Mac LC
My first real computer was a Macintosh LC. They’re not held in especially high esteem, and they haven’t been redeemed by history, either. It’s not hard to see why: a pitifully low RAM limit (10MB) introduced alongside a more RAM-hungry System 7, generally poor performance across the board, and cheap components. I still have mine, but this isn’t it.
A literal Trash-80
The internet is both really good and really, really bad for my hobby. On the one hand, it lets me buy cheap broken computers and shows me how other people fix them. On the other hand, sometimes people offer me machines and then I take them.
The PC-8801MH's gross keyboard gets cleaned
I finally got a keyboard for my PC-8801MH (I was on the verge of making one myself), and had to settle for a very dirty one as prices are just a hair shy of ridiculous. Even though I was primed by the pictures, I was shocked by just how disgusting the keyboard for the MH was when it arrived.
PC-6001mkII, or, sometimes the sequel is better
My PC-6001 came cheap because it was untested (and it did end up needing capacitor replacement), but the PC-6001mkII seems like it has always changed hands for a lot of money in Japanese collector circles, at least for as long as I’ve been paying attention to the prices. When I landed one for a great deal, I figured that there must be something wrong with it.
A headache from a Sega Nomad
The Sega Nomad. A tiny Genesis you can take on the go, and have access to Phantasy Star IV and Gunstar Heroes on the bus. While that may not seem impressive now, in this age of smartphones that can cure cancer and cause depression, I desperately wanted one when it was new. Ten years ago, I was finally able to get mine. Unfortunately, because I am really cheap, I picked one that was, as the French say, “a little bit broken.”
The PC-8801MH gets its battery removed just in time
I’ve had the PC-8801MH for awhile, but haven’t even bothered to get it open. It was only this morning, when I looked over my pickle jar full of removed clock batteries, that I realized I probably hadn’t removed the clock battery from it - and hadn’t done the SR either. No time like the present!
I get the ol' Rusty WonderSwans
Pop quiz: what do you get for 221 yen? If you answered “nothing but problems,” you’re correct. What kind of problems? Two WonderSwans, at the same time? Now how can that be a problem?
A surprising new friend for the 1000SX
Apparently, trying to get old computers is a lot like waiting for a bus. You spend months looking at the internet for Tandys, buy a bad one, and then two more nice ones come as soon as you get on. Maybe it’s not entirely like a bus, because that metaphor assumes I can get on all three at the same time. Also this one has a 286, so it’s like a really fast bus.
Repairing the power button on a WonderSwan Colour
When I made a trip to Japan recently, one of the things I was looking for was a Bandai WonderSwan Color. I’d had a black and white one previously, but the colour version can run so many more games. Games I can’t understand, but it’s most of the way there.
Another try at the whole Tandy thing
Clearly, I haven’t suffered enough pain from the Tandy 1000SX, so I made a choice to re-enlist. This time, it’s a completely untested 1000EX that I found as part of an auction.
Foiled again by the Tandy 1000SX
We fixed the 1000SX’s power supply, and tested the motherboard for shorts. There’s nothing left to do but put the computer back together again and see if it works. And take it apart again. And to wish I had a fully-operational chip fab and precision schematics of every custom IC. Yeah, this one is gonna take a little more time.
A Game Boy Macro
There are a lot of broken Nintendo DS consoles out there. A shattered screen there, a broken flip hinge here: it would be nice if someone could do something to save some of those wounded machines. Someone did do something!
Making my SC-3000 become a useful member of society
I was disappointed to find out that my “not working” Sega SC-3000 was in fact not working. However, I had a hunch that it was a common flaw: cold solder joints on the cartridge slot. It also has a more subtle flaw: it smells kind of bad.
The circle of life - an NEC PC-6001 arrives, breaks, is fixed
Sure, I’ve got NEC PC-88s, I’ve got NEC PC-98s, but didn’t NEC make anything that was a little friendlier to the home user? By now, you should know better than to doubt our friends at the Electric Company. The NEC PC-6001 has a thriving homebrew scene around it in Japan to this very day, and is still fondly remembered. Let’s rip one open and stuff it with hot molten lead.
Tandy 1000SX power supply is back from the dead
When we last encountered the Tandy 1000SX, it decided to bravely blow itself up rather than face us in battle. With a lot of elbow grease and a little bit of solder-slinging, this testament to 80s shopping-mall computing will live again.
Mini updates 4 - X68000 battery removal, PC-98 window accelerator, PC-8801MH keyboard arrives
I removed the clock battery from my X68000 ACE, sped up my PC-98’s video, and got a keyboard for my PC-8801MH. Come enjoy this bite-sized collection of what’s going on with my machines.
Will It Short? A Tandy 1000SX motherboard inspection
Last time on the Tandy 1000SX show, I blew a hole in a power-supply capacitor without even getting the machine to boot. Talk about ungrateful! At least it gives me an excuse to buy more tools.
Tandy 1000SX power supply has an oops
I picked up a Tandy 1000SX recently. My plan is to use it for experimenting with Tandy graphics and sound, and maybe even port a few hobbyist games to the platform. As per usual with my pick-ups, this one needs a little bit of work before it can be usable.
More Japanese exchange students arrived
Another postie-threatening crate arrived on my porch this week. There’s a lot of projects in this one; I’m not even sure a single one is “usable” as-is. This one sort of got away from me, but those are the fun kind!
VA2 "for parts" Genesis fixed
The more questionable of the three “for parts” Sega Genesises I traded for in the previous entry is now fixed. It didn’t take too much effort - just some attention to detail, a few games of Columns, one cheap spare part, and a soldering iron.
Rounding up some "parts" Sega Genesises
As part of a project to repair a badly-hurt JVC X’Eye, I’ve been looking for “parts” Genesis IIs to harvest a 315-5660 VDP chip from. Unfortunately, the Genesis II seems to be quite the tough customer. I keep fixing the parts machines before they can be sacrificed.
NEC PC-8300 pickup
When I was much younger, one of the first portable computers I was exposed to was a Tandy TRS-80 Model 100. It was a surprisingly useful 80s portable machine. A real mechanical keyboard, modem capability, real ports, an okay screen, 20 hours of battery life on a set of AAs: it had everything. As a result, they were really popular with journalists (upload your story from a payphone!), scientists (take readings of your instruments at the site!), and industrial use (what’s wrong with this plane?)
Mini updates 3 - PC98 A-Train III, Atari ST keyboard fix, FM-7 video adapter
Some more mini updates for things that weren’t big enough to merit a full update on their own. In this entry, we’ll finally get A-Train III running on my PC98, fix an Atari ST keyboard, and ship new hardware for a whole new brand of Japanese 8-bit computer.
Fixing the HB-101's keyboard
When I first got the HB-101, its combination of small RAM and lack of any way to get software on it was a problem, sure. There was a bigger problem waiting, though: the grim spectre of an inconsistent keyboard.
Dual Goteks in the PC-8801mkIISR at last
In my previous entry, I found out that my old IBM PC “DOS” floppy adapter was not sufficient when trying to read from two drives at once. Somehow, they confused the floppy controller enough that nothing could be read from the second drive.
Guest Project - a Model M refresh
A few years ago, my friend Grant completed a refresh of one of his Model M keyboards (I know, right?) Here’s his writeup on the process.
Atari 1040STF mouse repair
I popped open my “good” Atari ST today. As you might remember, I have two 1040STFs: a very battered one I got from a flea market, and a nice-condition one that was owned by a guy who really cared about it, but had passed away. The only thing that was really wrong with this machine is that the mouse didn’t work.
Attempting dual Goteks in the PC-8801mkIISR
I got another couple of Gotek floppy emulators from China, and now the SR has dual floppy drives. Unfortunately, I can’t use them both at the same time.
PC-8801mkIISR opening and Gotek setup
I’ve been wanting to get back to the SR for quite some time. I figured the Gotek adapter PCB and the HxC-flashed Gotek would be a direct drop-in to the new machine, and I was right.
Sony HB-101 and NEC PC-8801mkIISR pickup
Japanese Santa dropped by my house earlier this week and left behind a back-shredding 40lb box of microcomputer goodness. Let’s investigate.
Mini-updates 2 - A501 battery, PC-98 Gotek update, SparcStation 1+ debugging
I’ve been up to a bunch of little projects while waiting on parts and time for the big jobs, so here is another mini-update on three of those projects.
The last ride of PC88 colour video
After a respin of the PC88 colour video board, the PC8801mkII now has excellent digital colour video out.
Apple IIe keyboard repair attempt
I’ve had my Apple IIe for a few months now, and it’s been great. One of the things that’s kept it from getting more use has been the spotty “I” key, which the seller warned me about.
The PC98 can remember lots of things
Just as I was beginning to lose hope that the hard drive I had ordered back in August from Yahoo Auctions Japan would ever arrive, my doorbell rang. Inside a beat-up but functional Suruga-ya box sat the hard drive, done with its international journey.
Exploring the PC98 software catalogue
Now that the PC98 can load software off of a USB stick instead of floppies, I decided to explore the software catalogue a bit.
A mystical journey to PC8801mkII colour video
I’ve been using the monochrome video cable on my PC88 ever since I built it. Colour video was a little more complicated, so I ended up designing a bunch of adapters to try and get it to work. I’m happy to announce that one of those adapters has finally worked!
PC98 - New floppy board, sound 'fixed,' more testing
Now that the PC98 can load a game off a flash drive, there’s a lot more parts of it I can test. Today, I spent a few minutes putting together a new revision of the floppy board and inspecting the computer.
Floppy adapter board works for the PC98!
After I designed the first version of my PC88 floppy board, I thought it would be fun to put one together for the PC98 as well. Why do I need an adapter for a computer that already has 3.5” floppy drives? The PC9821AP2 I own has a 26-pin floppy drive connector, like a mid-90s laptop, and most standard IBM PC style floppy drives have 34.
Revenge of the PC-8801mkII floppy adapter board
In the last entry, I found myself with a working adapter board to allow a 3.5” floppy drive (like a Gotek) to work with the NEC PC8801mkII. This liberated me from having to source, organize and maintain 5.25” floppy disks, and opens a large library of software for this computer without having to hunt through the used market. However, like all good things, there were a lot of bugs with the old adapter.
PC-8801mkII floppy adapter board
I wanted to get a Gotek working on my PC88, and after seeing that there were a lot of Japanese hobbyists who had managed to get an HxC floppy emulator working, decided it must be possible - even if not simple.
SGI Octane runs again
Many years ago, I grabbed an SGI Octane off eBay from a junk dealer. They didn’t pack it well, so the machine arrived beat up and stuffed full of styrofoam fragments from the packing material it had shredded on the way. After a few attempts to lug the machine around in the small condo I had at the time, I gave up and just let it slowly be re-absorbed into the pile of non-working computers.
PC-8801mkII battery removal
I delved into the depths of my trusty Showa-era NEC to remove its leaking (leaked?) battery. Here’s what I found.
Mini-updates - PC-8801, PC-9821, Macintosh LC520
Going to try a new format for this entry; there are some small updates to keep a record of, but nothing deserving of a full entry on their own.
PC-8801mkII monochrome video works
In the last entry, we left our intrepid hero with no video out. After a quick consultation of the Japanese internet, and a not-so-quick cable soldering job later, we now have black and white video and can use N88 BASIC (at least in theory).
The PC8801mkII gets inspected
While the PC9821 has horsepower and 90s clone styling for days, the real reason I spent all this effort and money was to get personal with the PC8801 platform. This humble little NEC home computer platform launched an indie game development revolution - well, or at least it did after this one was made. In fact, this 8801mkII, having been released immediately before the gaming-friendly 8801mkIISR, is only really useful to someone super weird who wants to learn about its guts on the cheap. I don’t know anyone like that around here, so I might as well do it. You’re welcome, future historians.
PC-9821AP2/U8W - day two
I only had a short amount of time to play with the computer today, but thanks to a very knowledgable friend, I got a known-good DOS 6.2 image with some disk utilities written to a floppy and booted.
PC-9821AP2/U8W - day one
Months ago, I won a PC-8801mkII and a PC-9821AP2/U8W off Yahoo Auctions. They arrived, but life got busy, and so the blog hasn’t been updated in quite some time. What better way to bring it back than a deep-dive into a computer whose language I literally do not speak or understand in even the slightest way?
The Magic Smoke SE
Fresh off the success of the trace-repaired Genesis, I decided that I was an electronics god and could fix anything. That’s why I ordered this untested Mac SE from a place in Texas, where it was listed as being good to make a movie prop out of.
SparcStation 1+ - still no booting
The SparcStation 1+ is still pulling its weird “Illegal Instruction” error, but at least now we know the keyboard works.
SparcStation 1+ - have video, will error
The slow accumulation of an entire collection of vintage Sun hardware continues, with the 1+ now being able to show video. The question is, what else will it take to boot?
Removing the battery from a Macintosh TV
The Mac TV is a machine that I’ve had for awhile. It’s a much better TV than a computer (the board is unusually limited, even for a Performa, and has almost no possible upgrades beyond what the computer already has), so it has been in storage for quite some time.
Master System update
I finally got the chance to test the Master System with a Genesis controller. Early indications are that it worked great with the built-in games, as well as those in the cartridge slot. The choice of button mapping is a little weird (the “C” button accelerates in Hang-On, and of course there is no Start button).
C64 keyboard fixed
The replacement keys for my battered C64 arrived from Retroleum. It took a bit longer than I expected, but then again the postage was ridiculously cheap and it wasn’t like I was biting my nails waiting to play with the C64 I’ve had on the pile for a few weeks now. I’ll definitely be back to get more parts from them.
Sega Master System pickup
Sometimes the best finds are in your own backyard. I was coming back from breakfast when I saw a garage sale sign. After following it for awhile, I took a wrong turn - and ended up at an even better garage sale, with no sign.
Atari ST with broken keyboard inspection
I’ve decided to start working on the “bad” Atari ST, with a non-functional keyboard and floppy drive, before I tear into the “good” 1040ST I just picked up.
Reassembling the Amiga 2500, Part 3 - 5.25" Bay
Today was a good step forward. I finally got the case back onto the Amiga 2500, but there are still a lot of tasks left until the machine is really “ready” to be tucked away on my desk.
Reassembling the Amiga 2500, Part 2 - flickerFixer
Now that work space is once again at a premium in my workshop, I find myself having to reassemble the diaspora of parts that were removed from my Amiga 2500 when it was dismantled to replace the 68000 socket.
Atari ST pickup
Many years ago, I got ahold of an Atari 1040STF for really cheap. However, I didn’t have any monitor to use it with, so it has sat in storage for quite some time.
SparcStation 1+ - have keyboard, will error
In a previous installment of the SparcStation 1+ saga, I got the machine to present a serial console to one of my other old computers, but couldn’t get any video out of the video card or boot to an actual operating system.
Super Famicom Repair-O-Rama!
I bought a large lot of Super Famicoms off of Japanese auction for cheap, and set about trying to repair them. Almost all of them had problems.
The C64 is alive!
A power supply arrived from Ray Carlsen, and it works great. I spent the time while I was waiting by soldering a really bad video cable. I only managed to melt one DIN plug in the process!
Building a keyboard adapter for the early PC8801. (Part 1 - Research)
If all goes well, I will soon be the owner of an NEC PC-8801mkII “Model 30.” The platform is famous in Japan, as later models of the PC88 featured a ton of independent games, including many from developers who would go on to create games that were popular worldwide (Thexder, Snatcher and Ys all got their start on this platform). It also has a lot of trash, but neither of these things are interesting to me right now. I’d be happier just getting the computer to work (not least, because as a non-SR mkII, there are very few games I can enjoy on it anyway).
Reassembling the Amiga 2500, Part 1 - Hard Card
Things are starting to get hectic again with real life, but there was still some time recently to work on the Amiga 2500. My objective was simple: get the machine back together into a working box again so it is no longer spread all over my workbench.
Commodore A501 memory expansion battery removal
When I first got my Amiga 500, it wouldn’t boot. Suspecting something was wrong with the A501 512K memory expansion, I pulled the card, at which point it did boot. It didn’t take me long to realize that battery corrosion had killed it.
SparcStation 1+ - setup
My streak of actually trying computers that are in my pile continues with this SparcStation 1+. While it has been a very loyal and very handsome monitor/keyboard stand for the last few years, it would probably be more interesting as a functioning computer.
Commodore 64 pickup
I picked up a Commodore 64 off the local classifieds. It came with a 1541 floppy drive, a bag full of blank floppies and tapes, the C64 itself, the infamous black finned power supplies that kill C64s, a Rixon modem, and a Nortel multi-line keyset from the 90s.
Amiga 2500 keyboard refurb
The keyboard I got with my Amiga 2500 had:
- A broken right alt key,
- A spotty (at best) return key,
- And a numpad enter key that wouldn’t stay up, but did work,
Gotek with FlashFloppy on the Amiga 2500
I recently flashed an eBay Gotek floppy emulator for use in my Amiga 2500 with the FlashFloppy firmware (based on the phenomenal work of HxC).
The Amiga 2500 lives! (on its original 68K)
I just got my A2500’s badly corroded CPU socket replaced with the help of my buddy and his employer’s substantial rework gear.
Neo-Geo MVS battery removal
I’ve had a Neo-Geo MVS cabinet in my house for about three years now. Ever since I’ve had it, it has complained of lost calendar data and generally acted up. For this entire time, I’ve ignored the fact that I have basically a ticking time bomb of battery acid in my machine.
Sega Genesis - corroded RAM trace
A Model 2 VA1.8 Sega Genesis purchased off eBay as non-working presented as non-working. After several days of diagnosis, tracing and research into the system, I finally figured out that the problem was the corroded trace I identified right off the bat.
The Forklift Mac
Many years ago, I ordered a surprisingly cheap Power Macintosh 9500/132 off eBay. When it arrived, the box was completely obliterated, with a hole in the middle that looked suspiciously like a forklift tine. Naturally, the Spindler plastics were nothing but dust. The seller sent me a replacement machine, and life went on, at least until I had to clean out that room and found the box of broken parts.
Experiments in booting the A2500
Threw a few more hours at the A2000 today, cleaning up here and there. I popped out the 68000, cleaned up the pins, and checked the socket. The socket wipers are immaculate, not a speck of corrosion or acid on them (I checked with a magnifying glass). The pins for the socket on the underside of the board are still nice and shiny, so I’m willing to say the socket is alright.
Battery removal from the Amiga 2500
I’ve had this Amiga 2000 for several years, but it was only recently that I put in the effort to fix it. The big problem with these machines long-term is that the Varta clock batteries explode and corrode all the traces and sockets. Mine has a leaky battery for sure, so I hope I can save it.
Starting on the Amiga 2500
A couple years ago, I traded some car parts to a friend for his dad’s old Amiga A3000 and A2500. I knew that clock batteries were going to be a threat on both of those, so I nobly waited a year to take apart and desolder the battery from the A3000. That was back in 2014.
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