Archived news from Retro-Kit

Updated UniBoot available for download

UniBoot, the standardised !Boot structure for RISC OS 3.x has been available online for years but has never really been updated. There are a few versions of Uniboot that various people have created but none of them have concentrated on simply updating the existing UniBoot structure with more up to date libraries and modules, instead either cutting down or souping up the UniBoot structure to add or remove applications that may or may not be needed by users at large.

So now, there is another alternative. I've created a UniBoot archive that is identical to the original in every way apart from the fact that it contains an updated and expanded suite of modules and adds a couple of bug fixes to the !Boot sequence scripts.

You can read all about all of the various versions of UniBoot that exist on the web by taking a look at the Retro Kit Uniboot page.

 

Posted on: 06-Sep-2011@00:14:26, updated on: 16-Jun-2014@10:47:23.

 

VELA Data logger added to the Retrokit collection!

Today I took ownership of a VELA - Versatile Laboratory Aid from The Discovery Academy in Stoke-On-Trent. I'm extremely grateful to Jon Neville-Green of the Science department there who contacted me when he located a VELA that the Academy no longer required.

The VELA - Versatile Laboratory Aid

The VELA is in perfect working order although it is missing quite a bit of kit that originally came with it including software, data cable, manuals and power supply. The data cable and power supply can be sorted quite easily but the manuals and software are much harder to find so if you happen to know of anyone that has a copy of the manuals or VELAAnalysis for the BBC Micro then please do get in touch. You can read all about the VELA and download all of the resources that I currently have for it from my dedicated VELA page.

Posted on: 09-Dec-2011@20:45:19, updated on: 09-Dec-2011@20:45:19.

 

Commodore 64C and Datassette added to the site

I've now added the Commodore 64C and Datassette 1530 C2N that I acquired with the specific purpose of using as a donor for my BeebSID project to the site. The C64 and Datassette are such nice examples, I ended up cleaning them up and sharing the SID chip between the C64C and the BeebSID. I just couldn't kill such a nice computer.

Commodore 64C

Posted on: 25-Nov-2011@23:43:09, updated on: 25-Nov-2011@23:43:09.

 

Building my BeebSID board

The BeebSID board is a soundcard for the BBC Micro computer based on the SID chip that is usually fitted to the Commodore 64 computer. 30 of the revised Mk2.3 boards were fabricated in October 2011 and I managed to get hold of one for my collection.

The completed BeebSID board Mk 2.3

The full story of the BeebSID and the build process can be found on the dedicated BeebSID page.

Posted on: 13-Nov-2011@21:17:43, updated on: 13-Nov-2011@21:17:43.

 

VELA - Versatile Laboratory Aid resources online

In my ongoing quest to find a VELA and software for my own use, I've managed to make contact with several people who have been able to provide me with more information than I could ever have hoped for. Although, sadly I still do not own a VELA of my own.

Using the VELA to monitor Chemistry experiments

With the wealth of information I've received which includes ROM images, Motorola 6802 dis-assemblies, photographs and some scans of manuals, I've been able to place these resources online for the very first time.

It goes without saying that I owe the people that have contributed to my search for information about the VELA a debt of gratitude and hopefully, my efforts in building an online VELA resource do their contributions justice. So with that in mind, I'd like to present to you all the VELA - Versatile Laboratory Aid Resource page.

Posted on: 04-Nov-2011@02:24:23, updated on: 04-Nov-2011@02:24:23.

 

My original Beeb is 28 today!

Around 2 years after the first BBC Microcomputers rolled off the production line, my first BBC Micro flickered into life and passed its quality control checks. With a sticker on the motherboard dating it to the 31st of October 1983, this Beeb has been with me since late November of that very same year and it's still going strong!

So, Happy 28th birthday to my Beeb and wishing for many happy returns of the day!

My BBC Micro at 28 years of age!

You can find out all about this Beeb on its very own page here.

Posted on: 31-Oct-2011@01:02:56, updated on: 31-Oct-2011@01:02:56.

 

Videos added to the Retro-Kit site and YouTube

Updating the site somewhat, I've begun to add videos to several pages that illustrate how the computers in my collection work and are maintained along with some other video's of interest such as the historically important videos of the "Computers for Schools" rolling demo to name just one.

The first (hopefully of many) how-to video was released on the 13th of October and illustrates the procedure of changing the batteries in an A410/1 that provide the battery backup for the CMOS settings in an Archimedes.

You can check out the video on the A410/1 battery maintenance page and check out all my other videos as you browse the site or view them all in one go on the Retro-Kit YouTube channel!

Posted on: 27-Oct-2011@19:20:49, updated on: 27-Oct-2011@19:20:49.

 

Retro-Kit Library catalogue goes on-line

As a side effect of collecting retro hardware, I've steadily built up a reasonable library of books from the same period covering everything from Gaming related items to hardware interfacing projects and reference manuals.

As such, the site now has the beginnings of a catalogue of the books in my Library to browse with links to ISBN searches for users to find out more about the books I have amassed.

Basic ROM User Guide

 

Posted on: 08-Oct-2011@22:11:54, updated on: 08-Oct-2011@22:11:54.

 

Building things again... The Slogger Pegasus 400

The Pegasus 400 disc interface from Slogger represents a major step up in functionality for the Acorn Electron, providing a suitably equipped machine with the capability to run and support both an Acorn DFS and ADFS compatible filing system.

The Pegasus 400 achieved this by using up one of the cartridge slots in an Acorn Plus 1 Expansion, a Slogger Rombox+ or a PRES Advanced Plus 1 Expansion and allowing any self powered floppy drive unit to be connected to it, providing access to a wealth of software available on floppy disc.

Alongside the disc controller, the Pegasus 400 added the option for a second EPROM to be fitted (the first was used for DFS or ADFS) allowing the Electron to be expanded further with other ROM based functions that a user required.

The Slogger Pegasus 400 fitted to my Acorn Electron with Acorn Plus 1 Expansion

This particular Pegasus 400 is a self built version using an original 1980's era circuit board and as such does not have an original cartridge case to house it. I've detailed the construction of the completed controller showing the different stages including adding passive components, checking solder work and finally populating the sockets with chips before finally testing the board by formatting a floppy disc. You can read all about the build on my Slogger Pegasus 400 disc interface page.

 

 

Posted on: 27-Sep-2011@16:59:51, updated on: 27-Sep-2011@16:59:51.

 

UPURS v4.1 - Fast data transfer for the BBC Micro

After being involved with the BETA testing of the UPURS v4.1 suite, I'm pleased to say that the latest version of Martin B's high speed serial transfer system for the BBC Micro is here and ready to go!

It sports several new features and can even recover data from partially damaged, copy protected or discs with out of sequence tracks which can be seen in the video below.

UPURS can be downloaded directly from this site and more information about the release can be read on the Stardot forums.

Posted on: 24-Sep-2011@21:48:00, updated on: 24-Sep-2011@21:48:00.

 

Amiga manual scans added to retro-kit.co.uk

The manuals for the Blizzard 1230 Mk IV Turbo Board accelerator, Pandaal DAATAscan professional and the Technosound Turbo sound sampling and mixing system have now been scanned and added to the site for download.

The scans were originally created at 600dpi and then each page was reduced in size and sharpened up using Adobe Photoshop before they were collated and used to create a single pdf manual for each product.

Posted on: 15-Sep-2011@22:56:15, updated on: 17-Sep-2011@14:04:57.

 

Blizzard SCSI Kit added to the Amiga 1200

Today I installed a Blizzard SCSI Kit into my Amiga by connecting it to my Blizzard 1230 Mk.IV. The Blizzard SCSI Kit is an optional Fast SCSI 2 DMA controller for the Blizzard 1230 MkIV, 1240 and 1260 processor cards and is capable of 7MB/s asynchronous and 10MB/s synchronous transfer speeds. It also provides the ability to add a second 72 pin SIMM into the Amiga, allowing the machine to be expanded to a maximum of 256Mb Fast RAM.

The Blizzard SCSI Kit

You can read more about my Blizzard SCSI Kit expansion card and the Blizzard 1230 Mk IV that it connects to on their dedicated pages.

Posted on: 11-Sep-2011@01:45:36, updated on: 11-Sep-2011@01:45:36.

 

Unofficial mirror of the Acorn FTP site created

At some point in August 2011, the Acorn archive hosted on riscos.com which served as a repository for the Acorn FTP site providing several resources for vintage Acorn computers including the original UniBoot boot structure for RISC OS 3.11 was taken offline.

Screenshot of the Acorn FTP unofficial mirror site

At Retro-kit, I believe that the Acorn FTP site was a valuable historic repository for Acorn enthusiasts and as such, I've managed to re-create 99% 100% of the archive by trawling the net and recovering cached versions of files from several archives including the Wayback MachineThe BBC Lives!Drobe.co.uk and the UK Mirror Service sites together with my own personal copies of some of the useful downloads from the Acorn FTP site.

So today, I'm introducing the world to an unofficial mirror of the site that once resided on acorn.riscos.com and it's now available to view and browse here. In March 2013 I was asked to remove the mirror by the new owners of RISC OS Ltd.

 

Posted on: 05-Sep-2011@13:25:23, updated on: 05-Sep-2011@13:25:23.

 

Fitting Kickstart 3.1 ROMs to an Amiga 1200

Today my Kickstart 3.1 ROMs arrived so I spent half an hour fitting them this evening. You can read all about it on my walkthrough of the upgrade.

The Kickstart 3.1 ROMs fitted to my Amiga 1200

Posted on: 01-Sep-2011@00:01:41, updated on: 01-Sep-2011@00:01:41.

 

Joypads, Joysticks and an Amiga RGB to VGA adapter

I've added a few more Amiga items to the site today including an Amiga Hyperpad and the Konix Navigator (pictured) which is quite possibly the most ergonomic joystick of all time.

The Konix Navigator, an ergonomic digital joystick.

Also added to the site is an Amiga RGB to VGA monitor adapter that allows an AGA chipset based Amiga to display at resolutions of up to 640 by 960 (interlaced) with 256 colours without any additional hardware.

Posted on: 28-Aug-2011@09:36:18, updated on: 28-Aug-2011@09:36:18.

 

Videos added to Acorn Teletext Adapter page

With the enforced obsolescence of the Acorn Teletext Adapter by way of the Digital Switchover coming to my region of the U.K. next month (Sept. 2011), I thought that it was about time that I added some video to the site to document the Teletext adapter working and show how the tuning works and how browsing the CEEFAX pages broadcast by the BBC works.

The Acorn Teletext Adapter is being forced into obsolescence in the UK by the Digital Switchover

The Teletext system was first introduced in 1974 and has served its purpose well over the years. When technologies like the Internet failed (for example on September 11, 2001), Teletext kept on going, providing a vital news and information service because it is a broadcast medium and concerns about load do not apply in the same way. You can find out more about Teletext on my Acorn Teletext Adapter page.

Posted on: 27-Aug-2011@03:01:38, updated on: 27-Aug-2011@03:01:38.

 

Amiga peripherals added to the Retro-kit site

The Amiga was a great little home computer and it had great support from peripheral manufacturers so you could pretty much do anything you could think of with them. As the old tag line went, "Your imagination is the limit".

So the site now sports information on the Technosound Turbo Sound Sampler, the DAATAScan Professional hand scanner and the Trilogic MIDI 2 interface (pictured below).

The Trilogic MIDI2 midi interface

Posted on: 24-Aug-2011@17:09:23, updated on: 24-Aug-2011@17:09:23.

 

Upgrading the Archimedes from ARM2 to ARM3

Today I spent an hour performing brain surgery on my Archimedes A410/1 by replacing the ARM2 CPU with an ARM3 CPU running at 25MHz delivering a speed increase of approximately 260%.

The ARM3 CPU fitted into the ARM socket on the A410/1 motherboard

The fitting process is straightforward with the provided fitting instructions and I've added several photos documenting the ARM3 installation process to the site.

Posted on: 20-Aug-2011@22:26:30, updated on: 20-Aug-2011@22:26:30.

 

Been making things... An Arc serial mouse adapter

One of the quirks of the Acorn Archimedes range of computers is their serial port. Those that have one are pin compatible with the RS-232 serial standard but the RS-423 serial protocol is implemented.

There are other quirks meaning that the DCD, DSR and DTR pins need to be configured in a loop-back setup when connecting a mouse to the Archimedes, otherwise, the mouse will not work. 

Because of the rarity of the original Acorn quadrature mice these days, it's actually easier to find a three button serial mouse so if you're original mouse is dead, it's worth making up a small adapter like the one below and investing in a serial mouse.

The Archimedes serial port to PC Mouse adapter

I've included information on the site so you can build your own adapters on the page dedicated to the Archimedes Serial Mouse adapter.

Posted on: 19-Aug-2011@00:31:07, updated on: 19-Aug-2011@00:31:07.

 

The final BBC Micro in my collection, now on site!

I've finally completed the initial stage of building the Retro-kit website and have added the final BBC Micro in my collection to the site. Sadly, in the process of taking the photo's for the site, the Beeb's power supply unit died and is in need of a few spare parts to repair it.

This particular BBC Micro was a very cheap buy from ebay and was really only ever going to be a spares or repairs donor machine but as I started cleaning it up and figuring out what was wrong with it, the challenge of restoring it to full function grew on me. So now, having served its new purpose as an education in restoration, it forms part of the collection.

Hopefully, within the next week or so, the new PSU parts will arrive and I'll be able to repair the PSU to full functionality again. I'm sure some photo's will follow!

 

 

Posted on: 14-Aug-2011@15:48:21, updated on: 14-Aug-2011@15:48:21.

 

Getting started with the VErsatile Laboratory Aid

The VErsatile Laboratory Aid or VELA for short was a data logging device that connected to a BBC Micro and allowed users to monitor experiments over a period of time.

I used a VELA in my A-Level Chemistry course work to monitor titration experiments running strong acid into alkali to determine the molarity of the alkali. After my experiments resulted in the successful use of the VELA data logger, I was commissioned by the science department to create a quick "Getting Started Guide to VELA" and now, I've OCR'd the original document, tidied it up a bit and made it available for download from this site.

Using the VELA in a chemistry experiment, monitoring the pH level of a liquid through the fermentation process

As the VELA devices appear to be extremely rare, the document is more use as an historic document rather than a getting started guide these days but if anyone ever comes across a VELA, please let me know how you get on with it.

Posted on: 13-Aug-2011@00:26:11, updated on: 13-Aug-2011@00:26:11.

 

Kenneth Kendall is in the Beeb!

The Acorn Speech Synthesiser upgrade provided the BBC Microcomputer with the gift of speech and was a sampled word and part word based system that was more difficult to work with than later speech synthesis applications that synthesised the speech programmatically using phonemes.

Although the sampled word and part word approach to speech synthesis was more difficult to work with, it did produce a much more accurate and human sounding speech output than the pure programmatically generated speech applications of the day.

Because the British Broadcasting Corporation was sponsoring the BBC Micro range of computers, inevitably, they had a say in whose voice would be used to create the sampled word and part word list for the synthesiser and they chose the 9 o'clock news anchor, Kenneth Kendall to lend his voice to the project.

Read more about the Acorn Speech Synthesiser upgrade and hear the synthesised and real Kenneth Kendall.

Posted on: 11-Aug-2011@23:48:43, updated on: 11-Aug-2011@23:48:43.

 

BBC Micro and Viglen Sideways ROM Cartridge System

A new addition to the Retro-Kit website sees another BBC Micro Model B, this time a late issue 4 model that has been fitted with a Viglen Sideways ROM Cartridge System that allows a user to quickly change out different sideways ROMs for the BBC Micro. The BBC Micro also has a disc interface fitted with an Intel 8271 disc controller.

Posted on: 11-Aug-2011@19:35:05, updated on: 11-Aug-2011@19:35:05.

 

Acorn Electron added

My Acorn Electron has been added to the site today detailing the repairs that I've already carried out to the computer since I acquired it. I'll be on the lookout for a better case for it and the rest of any machine I find will be used for spares and repairs to keep this one going.

Posted on: 10-Aug-2011@23:25:32, updated on: 10-Aug-2011@23:25:32.

 

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Acorn Econet

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This month, we're looking at something a little bit different. The Acorn Econet was a network that was originally launched with the Acorn System computers and evolved over the years to provide networking services all the way through to the Acorn A5000.

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Pre-order your Ultra VIDC Enhancer now

I'm opening up a list of pre-orders in anticipation of creating a new batch of Ultra VIDC Enhancers in the new year (2016). Please contact me to enquire about being placed on a pre-order list. No payment is necessary until the Ultra VIDC Enhancers are ready to ship.

A3000 Ultra VIDC kit

The anticipated price should remain the same at £32 each + £4.95 P&P to locations in the UK (other countries may incur greater shipping costs). The package includes the Ultra VIDC Enhancer, all connecting cables, headers and jumpers required for your Archimedes and a 3.5" floppy disc with the software on.

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