@Retrochallenge – Blog To The Future – Part II

Psion MC 400

Yesterday I added a tiny USB WiFi adapter to my Raspberry Pi and hooked it all up via the serial port to my Psion MC 400.  I’m mindful of the fact that a fair portion of my ‘Retro’ challenge has involved me setting up the Pi but nevertheless that’s the course I have chosen.

Adding the WiFi adapter has dispensed with one cable, I’m now on the hunt for a decent battery pack that will successfully power the Pi and allow me to loose yet another cable.  It also occurred to me that the combination of a battery pack and 3G dongle would allow some truly mobile retro fun/nonsense.


Psion MC 400 & Raspberry Pi

Using the excellent If This Then That (IFTTT) service I created some e-mail triggers that would allow me to blog and Tweet via e-mail.  I also have an account set up with TweetyMail which automatically forwards any tweets mentioning @retrochallenge to my e-mail account.

The Psion has excellent built-in terminal software and I had no difficulties connecting up to TCPser and ‘dialling’ in to my BBS.  Once logged-in I was able to check all the latest @retrochallenge Tweets received by e-mail.


WiFi Adapter Added

I then wrote a quick blog entry and posted it to this blog via e-mail.  Having done that I realised I’d forgotten to include @retrochallenge in the post title so I logged back in and also fired off a Tweet via e-mail, just for good measure.

So checking Twitter, blogging and tweeting with the Psion MC 400, utterly pointless, but strangely satisfying.  I filmed the exercise for those with patience.  A couple of excuses, filming the Psion screen is quite a challenge so in order to avoid strange reflections, moire and other problems it’s all at rather an odd angle.  And yes, one day I’ll remember to wipe the dust off of the screen first!

At around 50 seconds in the eagle-eyed amongst you may spot the @retrochallenge tweets and names such as Urbancamo and Twylo.

@Retrochallenge – Connections


Slightly slow progress this year due to a number of factors, however I managed today to hook up the Sharp PC-7000 to my Raspberry Pi.  I’ve only had the Sharp for a few weeks and it’s a joy to use.  Fully functional and in lovely condition, the Sharp has a backlit screen which was pretty huge for its day and overall the machine is surprisingly light.

_1040981The specifications are:-

  • Processor – 8086 @ 7.37 MHz
  • RAM – Standard 320k Total 704k
  • Screen – LCD 240 mm x 105 mm, 80 characters 25 lines
  • Ports – 1 serial, 1 parallel.
  • FDD – 2 x 5.25″, 500K unformatted
  • Weight – 8.51 kg
  • Dimensions – 410 mm(w) x 160 mm(d) x 215 mm(h)

If I was going to hook up the Raspberry Pi and experiment with TCPser I needed some terminal software.  The machine came with MS-DOS 2.11 but I dug out my 3.30 version disks that came with my IBM 5140 and used those instead.

I had imagined I would be able to use Kermit but it needs at minimum an 8088 based machine.  I tried it anyway but no go.  A quick hunt and I found HiTerm which runs quite happily on the Sharp.  I hooked the Raspberry Pi up with a null modem cable and the USB to serial adapter, booted both units and everything worked first time.

I had a look around for something interesting to Telnet to in order to test the connection and decided on the M.U.D. British Legends, maintained by Viktor Toth.  A simple atdt british-legends.com:27750 and I was connected.  I made a video, yay, and a gallery of images of the Sharp.

Vintage Computer Festival GB, Snibston July 2013


I travelled up to the VCF-GB today at the Silicon Dreams event at Snibston Discovery Museum and took the opportunity to capture a few pictures.  It was pretty quiet being a weekday but I suspect it will be somewhat busier over the weekend.

I arrived pretty early and a number of exhibitors were still setting up.  AmigaKit, Amiga North Thames and A-EON were not present when I was there although I did get to see Morph OS running on a Mac Mini G4, demonstrated by a very helpful and enthusiastic Ravi Abbott.  I happen to have a Mac Mini G4 and will have a play with Morph OS later.

The BBC classroom was all set up and running, a most peculiar experience to see such a set up again.  Had my previous Retrochallenge not revolved around programming the BBC I probably would have taken the opportunity to have a play.

In various rooms around the museum there were rows and rows of computers and consoles set up ready to be played with and I took full advantage.  I felt my age when I witnessed a young lad trying to insert a 3.5″ floppy disk the wrong way round, seemingly completely unfamiliar with the technology.

I spoke at length to Dylan Smith of Spectranet fame who has developed the ZX Spectrum ethernet adapter utilising the WIZnet 5100 chip.  I not only admired the finished product but Dylan’s extraordinary soldering skills on the prototypes.  I also saw a working Harlequin board which was very cool.

I missed the IBM SYSTEM/360 Recreation which was pretty disappointing, not sure if they simply hadn’t set it up but I was really looking forward to that.  I would also liked to have seen more equipment from the 60’s and 70’s.

Here are some pictures and video, as you can see it was very quiet on Friday morning so little opportunity to capture visitors interacting with the exhibits.  If possible I may travel back up on Sunday to see if some of the missing exhibits have appeared.