Xerox Alto’s 3 Mb/s Ethernet: Building a gateway with a BeagleBone

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Ken Shirriff documented his experience building a gateway using the BeagleBone single-board computer to communicate with the Alto’s Ethernet we covered previously:

I decided to build a gateway that would allow the Alto to communicate with a modern system. The gateway would communicate with the Alto using its obsolete 3Mb/s Ethernet, but could also communicate with the outside world. This would let us network boot the Alto, transfer files to and from the Alto and backup disks. I expected this project to take a few weeks, but it ended up taking a year.

See the full post at Ken Shirriff’s blog.

FPGA-based disk controller for Apple II

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Steve Chamberlin over at Big Mess o’Wires has been working on an FPGA-based disk controller for Apple II, which he call Yellowstone:

Apple II disk controller cards are weird, there are a crazy number of different types, and many are rare and expensive. Can an FPGA-based solution save the day for retro collectors? You bet! Nearly all the existing disk controllers connect the same 8-bit bus to the same 19-pin disk interface, so a universal clone is merely a question of replacing the vintage 80s guts of the card with a modern reprogrammable FPGA. This hypothetical universal controller card could connect to almost any Apple II disk drive, or a Floppy Emu. Here’s my first attempt.

More details at Big Mess o’ Wires homepage.

Repairing a 1960s mainframe: Fixing the IBM 1401’s core memory and power supply

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Ken Shirriff wrote a great article describing the repair process of  the vintage IBM 1401 mainframe computer:

The problem started when the machine was powered up at the same time someone shut down the main power, apparently causing some sort of destructive power transient. The computer’s core memory completely stopped working, making the computer unusable. To fix this we had to delve into the depths of the computer’s core memory circuitry and the power supplies.

See the full post on his blog.

Vintage MIDI: Roland MT-32, Roland SC-55, HardMPU, and an Xi 8088

Dr. Scott Baker writes:

In this video, I decided to upgrade my home built PC from AdLib sound to MIDI. I tried out a couple different midi modules, the Roland MT-32 and the Roland SC-55. I learned that I’d need an MPU-401 or compatible ISA interface, and I explored the alternatives, eventually settling on the HardMPU by Ab0tj. Using the HardMPU schematic, I built a board, programmed the microcontroller, and tried out Vintage games on my Xi 8088. I also wrote my own Midi player to play .MID files using MPU-401 intelligent mode.

See the full post on his blog.

Bitcoin mining on a vintage Xerox Alto computer

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Ken Shirriff writes:

I’ve been restoring a Xerox Alto minicomputer from the 1970s and figured it would be interesting to see if it could mine bitcoins. I coded up the necessary hash algorithm in BCPL (the old programming language used by the Alto) and found that although the mining algorithm ran, the Alto was so slow that it would take many times the lifetime of the universe to successfully mine bitcoins.
The Alto was a revolutionary computer designed at Xerox PARC in 1973 to investigate personal computing. It introduced high-resolution bitmapped displays, the GUI, Ethernet and laser printers to the world, among other things. In the photo above, the Alto computer is in the lower cabinet. The black box is the 2.5 megabyte disk drive. The Alto’s unusual portrait display and an early optical mouse are on top.

See the full post and more details on his blog, righto.com.

A Solid State QRP Rig from 1955!

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Pete Juliano, N6QW,  built his own vintage 1955 Solid State QRP Transmitter using the Philco SB-100:

Recently my friend Bill, N2CQR posted data on his blog ~ soldersmoke.blogspot.com about a vintage late 1950’s early 1960’s 10 milliwatt 10 Meter transmitter. That was quite a feat!
But given my Italian heritage I could not let that pass without building my own solid state transmitter using a transistor from 1955. My rig operates on 14.060 and produces 0.4 milliwatts with a 3 volt collector supply using a Germanium transistor from Philco. The SB-100 was one of the first RF transistors that could work all the way past the 10 Meter band. The max Pout was 10 milliwatts –so mine is just loafing along.

More details at N6QW Homebrew Radio blog.

Check out the video after the break.

 

Die photos and analysis of the revolutionary 8008 microprocessor, 45 years old

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Ken Shirriff has written an article detailing die photos of the vintage Intel 8008 that reveal the circuitry it used:

Intel’s groundbreaking 8008 microprocessor was first produced 45 years ago.1 This chip, Intel’s first 8-bit microprocessor, is the ancestor of the x86 processor family that you may be using right now. I couldn’t find good die photos of the 8008, so I opened one up and took some detailed photographs. These new die photos are in this article, along with a discussion of the 8008’s internal design.
The photo above shows the tiny silicon die inside the 8008 package. (Click the image for a higher resolution photo.) You can barely see the wires and transistors that make up the chip. The squares around the outside are the 18 pads that are connected to the external pins by tiny bond wires. You can see the text “8008” on the right edge of the chip and “© Intel 1971” on the lower edge. The initials HF appear on the top right for Hal Feeney, who did the chip’s logic design and physical layout. (Other key designers of the 8008 were Ted Hoff, Stan Mazor, and Federico Faggin.)

More details at Ken Shirriff’s blog.