Hunting Huskies

Husky Hunter 2

Tough, rugged, angular, ugly… that’s enough about me, my Husky Hunter 2 has arrived.  I’ve lusted after some military computing hardware ever since I first saw the GRiDCase controlled remote sentinels in Aliens SE.  I’ve yet to come across an affordable GRiDCase but was pleased to catch this Husky instead.

Husky Hunter 2

Husky Hunter 2

Running the CP/M 2.2 compatible Demos this British made machine is physically designed to handle some serious abuse, an Epson PX-8 pimped by Lucius Fox if you like.  Built by Husky Computers of Coventry and introduced in 1984 the unit runs an NSC800-4 Z80 compatible CPU and runs on four AA batteries.

Base RAM specification was 128K althoughup to 726k could be added.  Ports are limited to one DB 25 RS 232.  There’s a circular 4 pin power connector on the back.

Back of Unit

Back of Unit

After inserting four AA batteries I was initially unable to start my Hunter so I had a quick peek inside to check that the backup battery hadn’t leaked and fortunately it was fine, there was also a large pack of silica gel in there for moisture protection.  On reassembly the unit powered up and a quick bit of research online revealed that the backup battery needs to draw some juice from the AAs before the Hunter will power on.

System Menu

System Menu

On boot you’re presented with a splash screen and press any key prompt, doing so takes you to the main screen and command prompt.  There are eight pre-defined keys selected by pressing the CTL/FN button with numbers one to eight.  One and two are the familiar CP/M commands DIR and STAT, three starts BASIC, four allows you change the communication protocols for the RS 232 port.  To set the clock select five, six launches a terminal software, seven the Edit command and finally eight allows you to toggle to another set of options including Inp, Save, Type, Ren and Send.

Secret Warning

Secret Warning

My Hunter has arrived with a rather fetching ‘Secret’ sticker on the back warning that ‘This Winchester has been used for classified material and is to be treated I.A.W. current regulations in BR 4005‘ so there!  Of course any information that may have been held in the RAM disk is long gone, indeed issuing the DIR command would initially crash the Husky every time until I formatted the drive.  I’m aware that ‘Winchester’ became synonymous with any make of fixed disk but I’ve not seen it used to describe a RAM disk before.

There’s a very useful unofficial Husky Hunter 2 wiki here for which I am unable to identify the author but whoever you are I am very grateful for your efforts.  From there I downloaded the HCOM file transfer utility and followed the excellent instructions* provided for installing it on the Hunter.  I ran the DOS client on my Windows XP box and the two machines were soon talking to each other via null modem.

Connecting With HCOM

Connecting With HCOM

I transferred over a copy of the CP/M version of Level 9’s Snowball which ran well, albeit with the need to horizontally scroll backwards and forwards to read the text.

I also took the opportunity to try the built in terminal software to connect to my BBS Nostromo which allows local connections via null modem and this worked without issue.

The built in BASIC interpreter is apparently quite powerful so I may have a dabble with that, meanwhile I’ve added some more images and links to resources below.  Oh and I’ve just realised my model has a backlight, cool, but not very bright.

Battery Compartment & RS 232 Port

Battery Compartment & RS 232 Port

Left Side, Tripod/Strap Socket

Left Side, Tripod/Strap Socket

Serial Number

Serial Number

Husky Hunter

Husky Hunter 2

Keypad

Keypad

Husky Hunter Unofficial Wiki

General Info & Pics

Lots of Hunter Related Info

* This page no longer exists though I have linked to the Internet Archive Copy. I also included below the instructions for installing and using HCom.

HUSKY File Transfer Utility

Description

The HCOM programs allow the Husky Hunter 2 to communicate with the HCOM for Windows or HCOM for MS-DOS program. HCOM is a file transfer utility designed for use with the full range of Husky rugged hand-held computers. It uses an interface similar to File Manager and will operate on MS-DOS and all Windows platforms including Windows 3.1x, Windows 95, Windows NT (3.51 and 4.x) and Windows XP.

Note: Transferring files from the Husky Hunter 2 to the Windows PC does not appear to work when running under Windows XP.

Features

HCOM for Windows offers the following features:

  • Ability to communicate with all Husky hand-held computers.
  • Transmit and receive files using a point and click user interface.
  • Easy file management of connected hand-held computers.
  • Compatible with MS-DOS and Windows 3.1x, 95, NT 3.51 and NT 4.x
  • The use of channels allows multiple file transfers simultaneously.
  • Command-line parameters provide compatibilty with MSDOS version.
  • Synchronisation of hand-held clock with PC calendar.
  • Programmers API available for seamless application integration.

Download

hcomw.zip – HCOM for Windows and MS-DOS

Installing HCOM on the Husky Hunter 2

If the HCOM program is not installed on the Husky Hunter 2, it must be downloaded and installed from the PC running HCOM for Windows/DOS.

  • Connect the Hunter to a serial port on the PC.
  • Open a channel using HCOM for Windows/MS-DOS using the same serial port.
  • Select the Session / Software Download option and choose Hunter from the list of machines.
  • On the Hunter ensure that the communications parameters are set as follows (type COMS at the DEMOS prompt to start the serial port configuration program):

Transmission Parameters
Rate – 2400 Prtcl – none Pty – 8bit
CTS – n DTR – n LF – n Echo – n T/O – n Null – 0

Receiving Parameters
Rate – 2400 Prtcl – none Pty – 8bit
RTS – off DSR – n DCD – n T/O – n Serig – off

  • On the Hunter, type the command ”INP 999 HCOM.COM”. The screen should now display ”Waiting”.
  • On the PC select the OK button to start the transfer. The Hunter screen should now display ”Loading”.
  • When the transfer is complete press ESC (Shift-BRK) on the Hunter to save the software to disk. The Hunter screen should now display ”Aborted”.
  • Run HCOM on the Hunter and select the Reconnect option on the PC. The directory of the Hunters disk should now be displayed.

Using HCOM

Start HCOM on the Husky Hunter 2 by running the HCOM command. The following screen will be displayed:

  :========================================:
:  HUSKY File Transfer Utility   V1.0.1  :
:   (C) Copyright Husky Computers Ltd    :
:========================================:

              press ESC to exit.

You can now connect to the Husky Hunter 2 using HCOM for Windows.

To exit the HCOM program press the ESC key (Shift-BRK).

Nostromo BBS – FTP, Telnet and Dial Up

After several months as a dial-up only BBS I recently opened up access to Nostromo via telnet.  Still running reliably from a SanDisk CompactFlash card installed within a Wyse Terminal the discrete unit sits quietly in the corner of my office happily doing its own thing, the only reminder of its existence the occasional screech of the modem responding to a user connecting via dial-up.

Nostromo runs on the simply superb Synchronet BBS software created by Rob Swindell.  Not only is Synchronet a fantastic piece of software but the available documentation makes using it child’s play, even for an eejit like me.  Rob even helpfully provides a free easy-to-use dynamic hostname service which I have taken advantage of.  You can therefore now reach Nostromo via telnet at nostromo.synchro.net.

Wyse Winterm

Enabling telnet access has unsurprisingly led to more visitors both welcome and unwelcome.  It’s been a pleasure to welcome some new users and somewhat less welcome though admittedly interesting to witness various attempts by spammers to relay mail through the mail server.  None of these attempts have been successful and nor will the be, but they are persistent and I may be naive but I am amazed at the speed with which they descended upon the newly Internet facing box.

It is now also possible to FTP into the file area of Nostromo.  You can do so, if your browser supports it by FTP’ing to nostromo.synchro.net.  I have been and will continue to add an eclectic mix of files that I’ve found useful over the last couple of years whilst tinkering with retro gear.  Thus far I have concentrated on stuff related to the Epson PX-8 and whenever a few spare minutes present themselves I shall continue to add files.

Epson PX-8 With The CX-21

A recent Google search for Epson PX-8 software led me to this page, an archive of a 1997 post to the comp.os.cpm usenet group.  Without much hope (assuming the contact details to be out of date) I fired off an e-mail to its referenced author, Bill Esposito, to enquire if he was still in possession of the files from the PX8 dedicated BBS, PX Dock.

Much to my surprise and delight Bill responded quickly and generously sent me an archive of all the files he had.  I shall therefore be sorting through these and adding them to Nostromo in due course.

Anyway, if like me you get a strange buzz out of the thought of being remotely served files from a CompactFlash card you’re more than welcome to FTP in to Nostromo.

@retrochallenge 2012 – Recreating The Past

I recently discovered an original brochure for the Epson PX-8 system and accessories.  In it is an image of the PX-8, along with the CX-21 acoustic coupler, the PF-10 FDD, and two printers, the P-80 and P-40.  I was pretty sure I had at least one of all these items kicking around in my collection of retro gear.  It occurred to me it would be fun to try to recreate the aforementioned shot given that almost 30 years had elapsed since it was originally taken.

Epson Printer Advertisement

I delved into my many boxes of gear and pulled out everything I needed.  It was then I realised there was one item that didn’t match, what I’d thought was a P-80 is in actual fact a P-80X which varies slightly in appearance.  Its plastic has also yellowed much more than the other peripherals and looks particularly bad when seen alongside what was my ‘new in the box’ PX-8.  I’m now wondering whether I should perhaps consider a session of Retr0brighting, one of those things I’ve always wanted to do but have never taken the dip.

I’ve always had a thing for portable printers and I’m particularly fond of the P-40 and P-80X. Mine are both in fine working order although I’m unable to hook up the P-40 to my Epson gear as it has a parallel interface as opposed to the P-80X which is serial/RS232.

First Test Shot

The P-40 requires thermal paper rolls, the P-80X can apparently print on either thermal or plain paper, I can vouch for the latter.  I’m now wondering whether it would be fun to hook it up to the PX-8 and use it as a kind of Teletype with all output going to the printer.  Anyway I digress.  I arranged all the peripherals as laid out in the original picture and took a quick test shot with which I’m reasonably pleased.

Original Shot

Thus far then not a great deal of challenge on the actual retro front.  Time to think of something fiendishly difficult to fail at.  That beginner’s guide to CP/M assembly in the above shot has caught my eye, I believe it came with my C128D and I’ve never properly looked at it.