This is the first piece of gear to be used to expand my vintage computer hobby into a new direction.
Archive for the ‘Vintage Computing’ Category
Just sharing some experience from the Dover Mini Maker Faire which was Saturday. I had Micro – Chess going on the Mimeo and Dave Ahl’s HI-LO in tiny SCELBAL (integer BASIC) on the SCELBI. It was busy almost the whole day, just a few fairly brief periods between visitors. It seemed a bit busier than Saturday at VCF.
HI-LO was the perfect text game for casual visitors of all ages – simple to teach and quick and easy to play – I was impressed by the number of small kids that immediately proceeded to use a binary search algorythm to find the number.
A lot of people tried a few moves on chess, but the user interface is so awful on the Apple 1 port of micro-chess – I had to train almost everyone – even though I had instructions posted.
I met an original Mark-8 owner(still has his system). That guy added a digital group video card to his Mark-8 and made some improvements to it, which were used by later generation Digital Group video cards. Another person who was into SWTPCs in the day. Another person that was once vice president of the Boston Computer Society. And finally, another guy who worked with Draper Labs on the Apollo guidance system computer.
There was a wide variety of exhibits from art and crafts to a young man who was building a neutron generator. If you have a mini-maker faire in your area, I’d say it would be worthwhile to show off your gear – you might meet some interesting people.
I plan to reproduce all the SCELBI PCBs. There are 16 types of boards in all. The 1106-1108 8B boards are practically ready to be made. I’ll probably tell the PCB factory to start on them this week. This will mean that in a few weeks I’ll have 10 of the the 16 boards done. The really good news is that most of the remaining cards are only single width, so reproducing them should go much faster than the double width system cards.
Here is the complete list of the PCBs that SCELBI Computer Consulting made and my reproduction status. The peripheral cards are listed in my most likely order of reproducing them
Main System Cards
1100 CPU – 8H/8B
1101 Data bus buffer – 8H/8B
1102 Input – 8H/8B
1103 Backplane – 8H
1104 Front Panel – 8H/8B
1105 1K SRAM – 8H
1106 Memory Expansion – 8B
1107 4K SRAM – 8B
1108 Backplane – 8B
1109 PROM – 8B
Peripheral Cards –
2104 Teletype interface*
2100 Oscilloscope digital**
2101 Oscilloscope analog
2102 Audio Tape output
2103 Audio Tape read
* not as high as normal vector boards
** double width vector board
There are a couple of original Apple 1′s that were put in briefcases.
One is owned by the “Main Personal Comptuer Museum” and is depicted on my registry page.
The one of interest for purposes of this blog entry is shown in an image shown on a webpage put up by the Silicium Museum organization. I don’t believe that the briefcase unit is the actual Apple 1 owned by the silicium organization. In fact, since I don’t have good documented images of their unit, I am just a bit skeptical about whether Silicium actually has an Apple 1. My standards for posting original Apple 1 information has risen since I added the Silicium unit, and if I recieved a similar report today, I might not have added their unit to the registry, at least until I recieved a good image.
However, it is interesting that I just got another historic look at this same briefcase Apple 1. It was shown on the program Computer Chronicles, which has it’s shows archived at the site archive.org. It can be seen at the beginning of a show entitled“Apple II Forever”.
I may have to add this unit to the registry, as a missing historic unit. There is a reference in the show to it being a museum piece. Since the show might have been taped in California, maybe it’s still sitting in some museum vault in the Bay Area.
By the way, there is no better way to understand the history of personal computers than to read vintage publications and view vintage videos. The archive of “Computer Chronicles” show is priceless. Check out Bill Gates participating in the Computer Bowl II.
Hi SCELBI fans,
Based on scarcity of reports, it may not seem like it, but I am still actively working on the SCELBI 8B card set. It is pretty tedious work, and reporting every new set of tweaks to the layout is not very exciting, so I haven’t been reporting ongoing progress.
To be honest, I prefer exploring new projects, rather than revisiting old ones. Though the SCELBI 8B is “new”, it leverages so much of the 8H design, that it really seems more like revisiting the 8H, than doing something new.
At this moment, I am going through final design checks of the SCELBI 8B backplane, memory expansion, and 4K SRAM PCB layouts. I already have quotes and have done DFM checks with my PCB supplier. I think I will probably build up an very basic 8B system without I/O in a temporary chassis in order to get these cards checked out. This is so I can offer the PCBs for sale for those of you who can’t wait for the whole package. Based on what I know at the moment, I might be ordering PCBs in as little as a week or two from now.
The chassis sheet metal and the EPROM card will come a little later as follow on efforts.
After that, my next efforts will probably be the SCELBI keyboard and oscilloscope interfaces. Those will be “new” to me, so will be a lot more fun to do than the 8B has been. The O-scope interface poses some interesting challenges, as we don’t have any original software for it. We will have to craft some drivers using only the hardware implementation as a reference.
For a while I’ve had an interest in vintage typefaces. This interest stems from my efforts to reproduce vintage literature and the logos.
When I made my SCELBI front panels, one of the challenges I had, was to match the font for the SCELBI logo. Here is an image of the overall front panel.
and a close up of the logo.
Even though this is a variant of the omnipresent Helvetica, finding a digital font to match was harder than you think. After searching through dozens of variations of Helvetica and derivative fonts, in the end, I choose to use the very similar Helvetica Black. In some cases in the past, I have used Adobe Illustrator to manually recreate logos and such, but recreating characters accurately is extremely difficult and it is vastly easier to use off the shelf fonts.
It’s a pretty close match, but in reality the original logo’s characters are just a bit wider, so it’s not perfect.
I’ve known for a while that the single largest source of typefaces for printers and advertising people back in those days was Letraset brand rub on transfers. Back in the day, anyone that had anything to do with the printed word, would have had a Letraset reference manual, which contains hundreds of fonts and other visual goodies. Vintage Letraset manuals are available from used book sellers and even on ebay. Recently I picked up a 1981 edition.
One the first things I did when I got this guide was to determine if I could find an exact match for the SCELBI front panel logo. Here is what I found on the page with bold type Helvetica fonts.
If you ask me, plain old Letraset Helvetica Bold is an exact match and was the source for the lettering on the original panels. Now I’m just going to have to figure out the best way to digitize and scale the example letters found in the Letraset guide for my next batch of front panels.
Here is a popouri of parallel keyboard projects that I have been involved with designing.
At top is:
At bottom, from left to right…
Not shown are a number of projects that I have started, but not completed (yet)
And then there are the projects that never got past investigation stage.
It’s really hard to imagine that I have spent so much time mucking with simple parallel ASCII keyboard technology.
I helped with the PCB layout for this cute little dongle. It has a clear screen switch, which isn’t normally available on an Apple II keyboard and does the rewiring necessary to connect a stock Apple II keyboard to an Apple 1, Mimeo or other clone. These are not needed for replica 1s, which has the keyboard pinout necessary to work with Apple II keyboards.
Here is one in action, hooked up between the keyboard and the Mimeo.
They are being sold by seller vintagemicros on eBay: ebay listing
One word of caution – be sure to connect pin 1 of cables to pin 1 on PCBs. If you reverse them, you will probably blow the 7404 on the keyboard’s encoder board.
One last thing, I connected pin 4 of the keyboard socket to the clear screen input on the Apple 1. Pin 4 is normally not connected on an Apple II keyboard, but if you make the keyboard encoder mod to use the repeat switch as clear screen input as described on Wendell Sander’s site, it will work without any further wiring changes.
Here is a composite image showing the great progress that has been made on the 4 boards that need to be done for the SCELBI 8B.
Still a ton of tweaking and fine tuning needs to happen, but you can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. I also need to find some time to figure out what I’m going to do for the custom chassis.
The backplane layout is for all intents and purposes done. The memory expansion card is next closest to complete. I haven’t done much with the PROM card, but I’ll do a complete review of it. The curved traces promise to require a lot of effort to match up to the original. The 4KSRAM cards need a lot of work and since the original has curved traces, it will take an extra effort to finish.