Archived news from Retro-Kit

Acorn Econet Bridge added to the collection

I recently added an Acorn Econet Bridge to my collection of Acorn computers which I'm now running with two Econet clocks to provide a fast and a slow Econet segment for the 32-bit and 8-bit Acorn computers respectively.

Acorn Econet Bridge

Acorn Econet Bridges can be used to connect up to 32,258 Acorn computers together by using a maximum of 127 bridges on a single network. You can find out more about the Acorn Econet Bridge and my Acorn Econet by following the links provided.

Posted on: 29 Sep 2014@21:21:35, updated on: 29 Sep 2014@21:21:35.


More VELA documents and a rare beta model pictured

Recently a VELA was placed on ebay which had with it several interesting sales leaflets and brochures together with the VELA Mk. II Applications Book written by Dr. Ashley Clarke. I've been able to scan and archive the leaflets and brochures at 600dpi and I've made 300dpi versions of them available through the VELA pages on this site.

Most interesting however is the photo of the VELA on one of the sales leaflets. The image of the VELA on the right hand side of the leaflet pictured below appears to have a different construction to all the production VELA's that I've seen.

VELA sales leaflet showing what looks like a pre-release version of the VELA

It seems fascia that the VELA on the right hand side of the leaflet is not made of a single panel as all the VELA production models are and the segmented LED display appears to be recessed without the clear cover that protects it on other versions.

It's likely that the VELA pictured is still in existence as Dr. Clarke has confirmed that he still has several pre-production VELA's that formed part of the design and development process for the VELA.

You can see all the scans of the VELA leaflets on the VELA pages here.

Posted on: 19 Aug 2014@22:03:46, updated on: 19 Aug 2014@22:03:46.


Testing out the RiscPC's x86 card

I recently acquired a CJE Micros 5x86 133MHz 512K PC card for my RiscPC which allows the machine to run Microsoft Windows 95 natively using the RiscPC's hardware for video, audio, hard drive and networking support.

The RiscPC 5x86 PC Card

So to test out how well the RiscPC runs Microsoft Windows 95 and x86 applications, what better way to do it than to dig out my first ever program written using the Delphi (Version 1) RAD programming IDE from my University days.

The program was called VAnts (Virtual Ants) and was the first programming project we were given with the then newly released Delphi programming language. The implementation is actually a variation of Langton's Ant.

The specification for VAnts was that the program would have a full MDI windowing environment, should multi-task responsibly (Windows 3.1 had co-operative rather than pre-emptive multi-tasking) and it should provide all the standard MS Windows facilities such as tiling and stacking windows etc.

The final requirement of the Virtual Ants application was that it should be implemented using a doubly linked list to track the ants and their position within their virtual world.

The world itself had could be any size and contain any number of virtual ants. The rules that the ants had to live by were as follows:

  • If an ant encounters a red pixel, turn it blue and move to the pixel to the left
  • If an ant encounters a blue pixel, turn it red and move to the pixel to the right
  • If an ant encounters a green pixel, randomly turn it red or blue and randomly move to the pixel to the left or right.

Delphi 1 was targetted at creating 16-bit programs for the Windows 3.1 desktop environment but many programs compiled with Delphi 1 will run on any 32-bit version of Windows right up to Windows XP.

So here's a screenshot of my Windows 95 environment running a 1280x1024 desktop with 256 colours running two instances of VAnts with different world environments and different numbers of VAnts in those worlds. All on a RiscPC!

Extra credits were given for double buffering the window output to stop flicker, providing stretchable magnified versions of the virtual world and providing a statistics graph which showed the proportion of red, green and blue pixels and also the number of iterations if they were limited.

VAnts written in 1995 shown to be multi-tasking on Windows 95

Other features of the VAnts application allowed the user to pause, stop and restart the world and also step through the iterations one at a time if required. My version also allowed users to save and re-load their worlds as BMP image files so a world could be persisted when the computer was shut down.

As a side effect of being able to load in BMP files to describe the world, you can configure VAnts to operate in exactly the same way as a Langton ant by loading in a solid red or solid blue background and letting one ant run amok!

VAnts configured to behave like Langton's ant

Here's a pattern produced by a Langton ant after just a few iterations where it is generating a simple symmetric pattern.

Langton's ant after just a few iterations

After 10,000 iterations, though all the chaos, some emergent behaviour becomes apparent. The image below shows the pattern created after 11,000 iterations where the construction of the "highway" is very much underway and matches the images produced for and displayed on the Wikipedia entry for Langton's Ant.

Langton's Ant after 11000 iterations

Posted on: 17 Aug 2014@21:50:37, updated on: 17 Aug 2014@21:50:37.


Network printing from an Acorn Archimedes

I've been wanting to find a good quality, reliable and easy way to print from my Acorn Archimedes that isn't too labour intensive. By labour intensive I mean I want a method of printing that doesn't need me to feed each individual sheet of paper into the printer when I'm printing a large document like the Acorn JP-150 needs me to do.

So how do you connect one of these...

Acorn Archimedes A410/1

to one of these...


Xerox Phaser 8400DP

using some of these...

Ethernet cable

Well, it turns out that it's actually quite easy if you have Uniboot installed and you can find out how I managed to print out this...

Mercedes Formula 1 Car 2014 - Printed from an Acorn Archimedes

by reading my "how to" showing you how you can print over a network from an Acorn Archimedes.

Posted on: 15 Jun 2014@18:12:06, updated on: 15 Jun 2014@18:12:06.


Acorn Archimedes A440/1 added to the collection

At the 2014 Wakefield RISC OS show, I was given an A440/1 by Dave Hitchens which I've now fully serviced and upgraded. It now forms part of the Retro-Kit collection.

The Acorn Archimedes A440/1

The A440/1 is 25 years old this year and it's looking great although it is missing its case cover at the moment. Since I received this machine last week, I've upgraded it with several third party peripherals to give it full network access and IDE hard drive support.

You can find out all about this Archimedes A440/1 on its dedicated page.

Posted on: 5 May 2014@21:51:10, updated on: 5 May 2014@21:51:10.


Finally, I've made a PCMCIA reset fix for my A1200

After years of putting up with having to hot plug my PCMCIA Ethernet adapter into my A1200 when booting up, I finally got around to making the small circuit that fixes the bug in the original hardware from a few spare parts I had kicking around.

The PCMCIA reset fix fitted to the Gayle chip in my A1200

As I had some suitable sockets spare, I decided to make a "solderless" solution that once built would require no soldering to be carried out on the A1200 motherboard itself and is therefore 100% reversible leaving the motherboard in a factory fresh state.

You can find out all about my home made PCMCIA reset fix here.

Posted on: 8 Apr 2014@19:29:06, updated on: 8 Apr 2014@19:29:06.


Is this the ultimate RISC OS retro gaming machine?

The Acorn A3010 was always the least expandable of Acorn's computers with a limited number of expansion ports and the ARM250 "System On a Chip" being fitted that immediately precluded any CPU upgrade path.

The Acorn A3010

For some A3010 owners however, there was hope! The earliest A3010's that were sold didn't contain the ARM250 SOC device, instead they had a mezzanine board carrying the older ARM2 chipset called "Adelaide".

The Acorn A3010 Adelaide board

For years people have talked about replacing the ARM2 processor on the Adelaide board with an ARM3 processor and it would appear that IFEL did once do this for a single customer. So, now you can read about how I carried out this modification to a fellow collectors Adelaide based A3010, fitting an ARM3 processor and IDE podule to build the ultimate RISC OS retro gaming machine!

Posted on: 25 Mar 2014@22:16:36, updated on: 25 Mar 2014@22:16:36.


Completing the Hybrid Music System

Almost two years since I got my Hybrid Music 5000 Synthesiser, this week saw the completion of my Hybrid Music System with the addition of the Hybrid Music 2000 Interface and the Hybrid Music 3000 Expander modules.

 The Hybrid Music 2000 Interface and Music 3000 Expander

The Hybrid Music 2000 adds a MIDI interface to to the Hybrid Music System whilst more voices and channels are added by the Hybrid Music 3000 Expander module. These modules are two of the rarer parts of the Hybrid Music system with only the Hybrid Music 6000 sensor being less common.

Posted on: 26 Jan 2014@00:22:44, updated on: 26 Jan 2014@00:22:44.


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Versatile Laboratory Aid (VELA)

The Versatile Laboratory Aid

The VELA was a device that could be used as a stand alone data logger or used in conjunction with one of many different 8-bit computers of the day for use as a data capture and reporting tool..

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Pre-order your Ultra VIDC Enhancer now

I opened up a list of pre-orders in anticipation of creating a new batch of Ultra VIDC Enhancers in 2016. Due to delays, they're now going to be ready in July 2020. 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 £32.50 each + £6.95 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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