Sorted by Squirrels.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

It's gone all doubley-spaced!

(edit)
The listings are back!

Apologies about the listings, esteemed reader, they appear to have lost their formatting and become double-spaced. I'm looking into it but in the mean time, please bear with me!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Atom Power!



She's arrived! After many years of fussing and prevaricating I've finally taken the plunge and bought myself an Atom. The prices were rocketing in the bay of E, and I reckoned on the time being nigh. This one was advertised as having a broken key and otherwise with little hope of receiving a working box I decided on taking a punt and fixing it up if necessary. I've always loved this machine. I owned one as a boy although it was only a half-populated board without a case. It still did the business though!

I must admit to being a little saddened when I opened the wrapping. It was grubby and half of the keys appeared to be smashed in, sitting a good 6-7mm lower than their neighbours. The 1st thing was to open it up and check the power supply status. The Atom was infamous for overheating and many owners bypassed the internal regulators in favour of feeding it a regulated 5v diet. As was indeed the case with this one. It had received some tweaks in its time, but I was really happy to see the work was all of a high standard. These were all what I call 'magazine hacks' - the electronic equivalent of a one-liner joke. Single wire patches for enabling an eighth bit on the printer port, joining some lines to an external socket for wiring a joystick, nothing major. I was chuffed to see that it was fully expanded memory and support-chip wise. 12K RAM & 12K ROM plus a utility kit that I'm still having trouble finding any info about. I'll have to resort to a disassembler I think. No colour board but then I wouldn't ever have even contemplated that. Too rare.

The mother and key boards were in a real state. I think it had been stored on top of kitchen cupboards at some point in its life and it had received a good layering of yellow grease and fibres. Some keys were sticking and this was the main reason. I've since scrubbed it with a toothbrush and plenty of warm soapy water and now you'd never know! I was shy of putting it in the dishwasher as some people recommend, this may be ok for generic PC keyboards but rare vintage '80s hardware...

At some point in its history the three keys in the lower left had been replaced. They were replaced with high quality keyswitches, which - well I never - made the keycaps sit higher. What had happened was that the previous owner had raised the original keycaps with superglue to match the height of the replacements. The original mechanism is a cheap spring-based creation which I've only ever seen in Atoms ... and a keypad that I was given recently! That was handy, wasn't it! So I hacked the keypad and replaced the switches with something contemporary and far more suitable. And the same height! The caps all came off and were cleaned and repaired where necessary.

The machine is now clean and tidy, ready for work.

One tough trick was finding a plug to fit the odd power socket dimensions. It's some olde fashioned imperial jack size. Eventually located with the assistance of an Atom owning colleague I was able to juice the old girl. To my immense surprise it eventually reset and presented me with the very comforting words:

ACORN ATOM
>

Joy!

A computer's no good without software, right? Like all good '80s machines this one needs some square-wave goodness. I couldn't locate any software to generate the required signals that worked on a modern PC, so being handy with a compiler I got to work. I'm pleased I did all the work on ACE - the techniques transferred instantly and I had a program to translate raw program dumps into WAVS. And text files into raw dumps. And vice versa.

I'll be happy to pass these on to anyone that wants them. The source can be found here. It's vanilla C++. I'll be happy to help with porting, compiling or whatever.

There looks to be a new site emerging that could eventually be a must-see for any Atom fans. I'm speaking in the future tense as it's not there yet but I've spoken with the masters and they're promising big things. Watch this space.

If you're an Atom fan, get in touch.

This is how we do it

MMC (9) acorn atom (7) zx81 (7) arduino (5) Atari 800 (3) c128 (3) sd card (3) sd2iec (3) sio2sd (3) tatung einstein (3) 6502 (2) Chuckie egg (2) M5 (2) Max6956 (2) QL (2) RCM (2) Sord (2) assembler (2) avr (2) c64 (2) cadsoft eagle (2) eeprom (2) einSDein (2) mmbeeb (2) multi-cart (2) spi (2) system 80 (2) ufat2 (2) vic20 (2) video genie (2) 6502 second processor (1) 6522 (1) 8255 (1) Acorn BBC Micro (1) Apple 2e (1) Apple ][ 2 two (1) BBC 6502 second processor (1) BBC micro (1) DevicePrint (1) Double Choc Chip Muffins (1) FAT (1) IO (1) Jupiter Ace (1) LED (1) Master 128 (1) PCB (1) PIC (1) POV (1) PROGMEM (1) ST (1) Spectrum 128 (1) antex (1) arcade spinner (1) arduino shield (1) atari (1) atmel (1) bakewell tart (1) beer (1) bird's nest (1) bitbucket (1) brokenated XC special (1) cake (1) cassette (1) cassette interface (1) compact flash (1) convert (1) dac (1) de-yellowing (1) eaca (1) efficient (1) einsdein. z80 (1) eye strain (1) failosophy (1) filesystem (1) finally (1) fram (1) french polishing (1) fuse (1) fuses (1) gaming (1) github (1) glue (1) google chrome (1) heroic failure (1) high voltage programming (1) hot irons (1) if (1) jiffydos (1) joey beltram (1) lego robot (1) library (1) lying (1) machine code (1) matron (1) microcode (1) mmc interface (1) mmc2iec (1) mmm (1) mouse guts (1) multicart (1) oscilloscopes (1) pcm (1) pic32mx (1) porn (1) proto shield (1) purple (1) repo (1) retro computer museum (1) retro hard-on (1) rom box (1) sd (1) sd2mmc (1) seadragon (1) silliness (1) small (1) software master (1) soldering (1) sord m5 (1) spi software master (1) stray capacitance (1) string (1) techadventure (1) test equipment porn (1) ts1000 (1) turtle cheesecake (1) tweaking (1) vc20 (1) video head (1) video ram replacement (1) weewee (1) wingasm (1) wire library (1) wodges of IO (1) xilinx cpld (1) yellowing (1) zx spectrum (1) zxpander (1)

About Sir Morris

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Loves: Old computers, Old Techno, Old ladies. Cake.
Hates: New computers.

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