Tag Archives: retro

Another random selection of interesting things

It’s just another week at the hackspace, here’s a few thing that were going on last Wednesday.

We recently had a generous donation of some old tech, it included this intriguing Ferranti Laser. Nat had a go switching it on, it seems to do something, we’re just not sure what it’s purpose is. If anyone knows, help us out by letting us know how to use it. (We’re already fairly sure it’s not powerful enough be used to make a laser cutter.)

Another fabulous little relic included in the donation was this this Vest Pocket Kodak. If anyone has any film that will work with it, come along next Wednesday and try taking a picture! We’d love to see the results.

In other news; Dave found something to do with some of the used bottle caps that are awaiting recycling.

And Bob modernised a ZX81 with a composite mod kit. So there’s even more retro projects going on in the space. No luck with the ZX printer as of yet, but perhaps with some tinkering it could rival the other sinclair-computer-printer project by being even more retro.

You can’t have enough retro computers

I’ve noticed that many members of York Hackspace are quite enthusiastic about old computers. As I look around the hackspace right now, I see that the ratio of modern PCs to retro PCs is about one quarter.

Most of these machines are, or have been, repair projects. I thought I’d share a quick roundup of the various machines people are working on. If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to fill a blog post with pictures of retro tech. As if I needed an excuse. This might take more than one post, so this one is mostly what I’ve been working on.



One particular interesting work in progress involves something like a cross between teletext and the world wide web. I am, of course, talking about ‘Viewdata’. In particular, I’m talking about simulating a prestel service on a modern PC and connecting it, via a sound-card-based phone line simulator, to a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This is a project that’s been on the backburner for a while with some other members of the space, but we have two fully working ZX Spectrums and each one has a fully working Prism VTX 5000 prestel modem which allows the spectrum to connect to a prestel service. Watch this space, perhaps soon we will be able to tweet from a speccy. I tried to get a photo of it running, but sadly neither of the two TV screens in the space would cooperate. They both have analog tuners, but neither has a remote and the one with buttons on the screen couldn’t be tuned to the right frequency.

One of the two spectrums is mine (the one in the picture). This is one that I got for free from a friend, along with a cassette recorder. It wasn’t working when I got it, so I had to spend a little money on some replacement parts. There was a RAM chip missing and a blown transistor, no wonder it was free. I also decided to upgrade it from the 16k model to the 48k model. The prestel modem came from ebay along with some other stuff that I sold on for a profit. The whole thing was rather cheap.

Another repair project is this Atari 520st. The power supply needs some things fixing, it can’t quite deliver the current required to run the floppy disk drive at the moment. Even if it did, the drive belt is long gone and so we need a replacement. Would you believe that this was found in a skip, along with the monitor and a whole bunch of disks and documentation?



Now here’s one for the IBM keyboard fans. This is an IBM 5155. The “luggable”. It has a proper buckling spring keyboard. This too needs a little bit of work. One of the floppy disk drives is a little dodgy and makes some nasty noises, but it has two, so the worst case scenario is to just use one. It’s got a copy of IBM PC-DOS and also a 20MB hard-disk. The problem is that the hard-disk doesn’t work. That’s why it’s not installed at the moment. The hard-disk controller seems to work though, so the project here is to build an interface to allow something like a USB flash disk to be plugged in where the hard disk would go.




Last but not least for this post, is Luke’s commodore amiga with colour screen. This is also a bit of a rescue project. I’ll have to post more details about this one next time, but for now here is a sneak peek. He’s even got two joysticks for it, and of course he also has the obligatory “I can’t believe it’s not streetfighter” title. I can’t wait to play it. dsc_5475 dsc_5476 dsc_5477


I hope you found that interesting. If you want to help out with one of these projects or just have a look at some of these machines, feel free to come along to the next open meeting. Perhaps I’ll post some more in-depth details of the projects as they progress, if there is any interest.

We went to Derby Mini Maker faire

We’ve been to lots of maker events. This weekend we went to Derby mini maker faire. This is the third year we’ve been to the event along with spacehack and some other projects from hackspace members. As usual the whole day had a great atmosphere.

Spacehack at Derby

Spacehack has now been to eighteen events and still it keeps going. We have a long list of problems to fix as spacehack slowly takes on the persona of the ageing and barely space-worthy spacecraft is was designed to simulate. We don’t have any events planned for spacehack at the moment, so perhaps we’ll have a chance to fix things before the next event.

Bob also brought some retro computing gear along. He was demoing the RC2014 Z80 Microcomputer he and the PiDP8 recreation of the PDP8 computer powered by a raspberry pi. To add some extra retro-tech into the mix, he was using a psion netbook as a serial terminal for the PiDP8.


John also brought along his tetris table. It’s a table with a grid of LEDs that plays tetris. Many people, including me, were very easily distracted by the tetris table and held up the queue of people wanting to play.


In the four years I have been to the Derby maker faire (as a visitor at first and now an exhibitor) it has always improved each year. We look forward to DMMF 2017 being even better.

I’ll leave you with this video of a dinosaur having a wander around the makerfaire.