Retrochallenge In A Day, Sort Of

I began this day intending to start and finish my Retrochallenge for Winter 2016.  Of course given the on-going saga of my working and then not so much working Epson PF-10 portable floppy disk drive units, it would have fallen to virgin readers only to be amazed by my expeditious achievements.

Honesty however must prevail and this, my latest attempt to breathe reliable, long term life in to my PF-10 follows an infamous litany of countless failed attempts.

Each attempt has however brought me closer to this final crowning glory (spoiler alert.)

It’s the battery stupid.  Yep, NiCd, 30 years plus old, kind of makes sense really, especially to those of you who have completely ruined Retrochallenge by actually knowing what you’re doing, you with your big brained entryism.

A brief re-cap, the PF-10 has two batteries, both NiCd.  The main battery, removable, sits in a tray at the back.  If necessary it can be substituted for four LR14 dry cells.

The second battery resides internally and is intended as a backup for when the main battery runs low.  An LED on the front of the unit will light when the backup battery has been engaged and will flash when it starts to run low.

Initially, imagining that the main battery was probably an ex-battery (despite no leakage, none of my myriad of Epson NiCds have ever leaked) yet armed with the original power supply, duly plugged in, I naively imagined the unit would work, you know, power from the wall socket plugged in, power.







This I had concluded would be my epitaph, given the amount of times over the years I’ve sat staring at this message, often less than clearly displayed on the PX-8’s low contrast display.

To cut a tediously uninteresting story short, the on-board backup battery is required to hold a decent charge for the unit to work, regardless of how much power is being supplied from the main battery or power supply.

The hunt began to find a suitable replacement NiCd battery, no luck, I tried a NiMh, some luck but of course the on-board charging circuit is not suited.

Thus we find ourselves here today with the end looming of Retrochallenge 2016.  I found a NiCd, it has arrived, I have charged and connected it and yes it works.  Does it fit?  No, certainly not in the space inhabited by the original cells.  Not to worry however, surely it will fit the main battery compartment, no, you’d think it would but it’s off by about 4 mm.

So there you have it, I’m a ‘finding the right size battery’ away from success.  But I’m calling it, and that’s all that matters.

Retrochallenge in a day (or plugging in a battery,) beat that you losers.

P.S. I even used old pictures so I shot some shoddy video to show it working:-


@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.

Retrochallenge – Summer 2012

This year’s Retrochallenge will soon be upon us, running for the entire month of July there’s still time to sign up and participate.  Head over to the Retrochallenge Website and register your interest.

This year I’m hoping to hook up my recently acquired Epson acoustic coupler to my PX-8 and with the aid of an old telephone dial in to one of the few remaining dial up services out there, and no doubt my own BBS.

Epson PX-8 Brochure

In my previous blog entry I posted some scans of some promotional literature for the PX-8 and it occurred to me that I’m now in possession of the all the hardware shown in the image opposite.  I thought therefore it might be interesting to try to recreate the shot.

Other options are to create another instalment for my Silent Running text adventure created with Inform.