SCELBI 8B update

July 4th, 2014

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.

Composite Image of 8B Boards

Composite Image of 8B Boards

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.

More on the Sightseeing Sixth Division in World War I

July 1st, 2014

In a previous post, I noted how my Grandfather was a member of the Sightseeing Sixth Infantry Division in World War 1. I found a history of the Sixth Infantry in World War 1, written at the end of the war. The history can be downloaded from this site

Using this history and Google Maps, I created a rough map of where my Grandfather might have travelled. The routes from place to place are not exact, but the general areas where the Sixth travelled up to the end of the war are taken from the history. Travel from the LeHarve to the training facilities around Chateau Villain would have been by the famous 40 men or 8 horse box cars.

The Sightseeing Sixth Division in France in the Fall of 1918

The Sightseeing Sixth Division in France in the Fall of 1918

The other interesting thing that I learned was the extreme lack of transportation that troubled the Sixth Infantry’s movements. Horses were poor cast offs from the French army. Often the men hauled their equipment themselves, instead of relying upon horses or trucks. Once at the front, most travel was on foot. It is interesting that my Grandfather was a truck driver for a unit that apparently had very few trucks. The only mention of type of truck, was a brief mention of usage of some “liberty trucks”.

I’ll be at the MakerFaire in Dover, NH Aug, 23rd

July 1st, 2014

I’ll have a Mimeo (Apple 1 clone) and a SCELBI 8H clone up and running and if you come, you’ll be able to see and operate them.

MakerFaire Dover Flyer

I hope to see you there.

Brain Board Manual Errata

July 1st, 2014

I have a mistake in my Brain Board Manual versions 5.3 (current version) and lower. On page BB:12, the last switch settings are incorrect.

Dual Bank Mode – Either high bank of Brain Board or low bank of Brain Board is selected

should be:

1-ON
3-OFF
4-ON

5-ON
6-OFF
7-ON
8-OFF

Switch 3 and 4 settings are backwards in the manual. When I get a chance I’ll update the PDF that is on my Brain Board web page. I already printed manuals for the remaining inventory of Brain Boards, so will hand edit those manuals.

2nd “annual” bike to work day was yesterday

June 26th, 2014

My last “annual” ride to work day was four years ago.

Here is how yesterday’s annual event went.

The sun woke me up at 4:40 AM. – those who don’t live in Eastern New England probably don’t realize that in the summer the sun rises early here. Since I was up, I decided I might as well use the time and take my bike to work. I packed some work clothes, shoes, a towel and my laptop in my panniers. I reviewed my route using google maps, printed directions and headed out the door a little past 5:30AM. I didn’t get lost, even thought the directions are 3 pages long and include something like 40 steps on this years improved 27 mile route. By the time I reached the hills of Littleton and Boxborough, fatigue was starting to set in a little bit. However, I arrived a little after 8:00AM without too much difficulty. Due to the early hour, traffic was light and the weather not a problem.

During my work day, I checked the weather a few times and saw the temperature reaching over ninety. I figured I’d melt on the way home.

I left for home around 5:00 PM. Only one wrong turn this time, and I only went about 100 feet before realizing the mistake. While waiting to cross a road, a jogger mentioned that due to the heat, that it was heart attack weather. He was happy to take the break while waiting for the walk light. Though it was in the 80s, the humidity wasn’t too high, so the temperature wasn’t unbearable to me. Also, a tailwind helped me over most of the route. Unlike last time, I didn’t completely bonk. However fatigue was definately a factor for the last few miles. I reached home around 7:30.

5 hours on the bike and 54 miles is a lot for me in one day. However it is a lot more interesting than a hour on the freeway in the car. Who knows, maybe I’ll get in another “annual” ride to work in, before the summer is over.

Grandfather Willegal’s Experience in World War 1

June 20th, 2014

My Grandfather was a World War 1 veteran. I only talked to him once about his war experiences. He was a truck driver and told me how he used to get those old trucks up to a speed of 60 miles an hour. I also remember him saying that the army in World War 1 was the last good army or something to that effect. I’m not exactly sure why he held that opinion, but he wasn’t bashful about making the claim. My Grandfather also showed me some trench art that he had made out of some cartridge cases. I wish I knew where that trench art was. Hopefully someone in the family got a hold of it, after he passed away.

Grandpa Willegal - circa 1960

Grandpa Willegal – circa 1960

I learned a little bit about my grandfather from my dad. He once told me that Grandfather mentioned that when they were being shelled by the German artillery, that they would take cover in the ditches by the side of the road. I was once visiting Circus World Museum with my dad, and he mentioned that the trucks in the circus train display would be similar to those trucks my Grandfather drove in World War 1. I think the Circus World trucks are Mack AC’s, which were indeed, used in World War 1 by the British and Americans. I don’t know for sure that this is the type of truck he drove, but it’s possible. The Mack AC’s have a rated speed of 18 miles per hour. Another army truck of the time, the famous Liberty Truck, was only supposed to reach 15 miles per hour. I wonder what my Grandfather was doing to get up to 60 miles per hour.

My sister did some online searches and found a few records, including this certificate of service which she found at the Wisconsin’s Veteran’s Office.

grandpa Willegal's Certificate of Service

grandpa Willegal’s Certificate of Service

It turns out that he was a member of the Sixth Infantry Division. The medal depicted at the top of the certificate is the World War 1 victory medal. He is given credit for participating in Vosges Sector (Aug 31, 1918 – Oct 18, 1918) and the Meuse-Argonne Defensive Sector (November 2-6, 1918). The other interesting thing is how quickly he was moved into the combat zone. He joined the army on May 4th, 1918 and was overseas by July 14, 1918. By August 31st, the 6th Division was on the front lines.

There is some information on the Sixth Infantry Division in World War 1 at this site. The Sixth Infantry Division site focuses on the World War II, but there are a few tidbits about the Division’s activities in World War 1. The interesting thing is that this brief history mentions how the division was involved in marches that were subject to German artillery fire, just like my grandfather told my father.

My research on the Sixth Infantry shows that they did a lot of marching, during which time, they picked up the nickname, “The Sightseeing Sixth”. Like most new American divisions, after training they were moved to the relatively quiet Vosges Sector in order to become adapted to actual combat conditions. Here is website with some information about the Vosges Sector. They were in reserve at the end of the war. Apparently they were about to be committed to the Meuse-Argonne offensive, when, rather unexpectedly, the war ended.

The Meuse-Argonne offensive was a very bloody affair. Who knows, I may not be here, if the war had lasted much longer and the Sixth Infantry ended up being committed to that fight. I plan upon putting together a blog entry comparing the Meuse-Argonne offensive of World War 1, with the biggest American battle of World War II.

SCELBI 8B Backplane Progress Being Made

June 10th, 2014

Lately. I’ve been making some good progress on the 8B backplane. Hopefully in a few more weeks and I’ll have it in good enough shape in order to declare it finished. I’ll probably just go ahead and get it made when it’s ready, even though I have a lot of work to do on the other 8B specific cards.

There is quite a bit involved in building an 8B chassis and 8B builders can start on the chassis while I finish the rest of the cards. Anyway the CPU can be checked out by jamming in instructions, without memory being present. The front panel, CPU, DBB, and input boards are completely identical to the 8H design and I still have some of those PCBs in stock.

One thing I’m going to have to think about a bit, is whether to make a batch of SCELBI custom sized chassis or not. A BUD AC413 can be made to work, as it is nearly the correct size, just a 1/2″ short, other dimensions being right on.

Status of the other 8B specific cards are:

  • memory expansion – I haven’t started on this one, but it is the most basic of the 8B specific cards, so should take the least amount of time to do
  • 4K SRAM- designed to accept 2102 static ram – this card is pretty far along, maybe half done.
  • EPROM – designed to accept 1702 EPROMs – I have a tested, working layout for this card done by someone else. The original layout artist did a good job, but there are a few things I want to change. I will completely go through it to make the layout details match the original as much as possible.
  • So Who Wrote that Anti-Bellum (Pre Civil War) Love Letter?

    June 3rd, 2014

    It was U. S. Grant, future leader of the Union Armies during the Civil War and President.

    So what kind of man was Grant.

    As you might guess, all accounts indicate his family life had an almost storybook quality about it, always being faithful to his wife, Julia, and being a loving father.

    Grant was a no-nonsense type man. As a general during the war, he formed strong opinions of the people around him and whenever possible, acted upon these opinions, putting those he trusted in positions of authority, and casting aside those he didn’t trust. He was extremely demanding, and had high expectations of those under him. I believe his success as overall leader of the Union armies was largely due to his ability to find and promote people of great ability to execute his plans.

    Though known as a poor president, his politics were those of a radical republican, and his administration was challenged by the extreme difficulty of reconstructing a shattered nation. Though the Confederate soldiers put down their weapons, most of them never changed their political views. His liberal views toward the freedman, and strong will, rubbed many people the wrong way. Though he was extremely popular in his time, once the “lost cause” movement gained a toehold, his generalship and politics were roundly criticized. Recent scholars have been more kind to him.

    Remembering Original D&D, TSR and FITS

    May 30th, 2014
    D&D Reprint

    D&D Reprint

    I recently picked a reprint of the original version of TSR’s Dungeon’s and Dragon’s. It’s a reprint of what many people call the white box version of D&D. Actually the first few printings of D&D came in wood grain cardboard boxes. After a few printings they changed to a white box.

    D&D 3rd printing

    D&D 3rd printing


    This image is a third printing that I sold for $1600 a few years ago. My first copy was a first printing that I bought from Brian Blume. This was right after spending a Sunday afternoon in Gary Gygax’s basement exploring Greyhawk, his fantasy land. At that time, they sold the game by inviting people to play it. I believe that Brian told us at the time that they spent several thousand dollars printing that first 1000 copies. I think I learned later that Brian’s father financed the early TSR projects. I don’t know what happened to that 1st printing copy of D&D. I’m sure it was pretty well worn out, as we played the game quite a bit, back in the day. The 3rd printing copy I sold for so much, was a replacement for a worn out first printing that I picked up directly from Gary Gygax who often manned the TSR booth at GENCON.

    Batwing - D&D circa 1975 & 2014

    Batwing – D&D circa 1975 & 2014


    My kids and their friends have recently enjoyed a few trips down into my old dungeon, which is called “Batwing”. Amazing that this old game still can capture the imagination of young people. Maybe more amazing that I held onto that binder for all these years.

    FITS Box Cover

    FITS Box Cover


    Now if I could only convince them to give “Fight in the Skies” a try. “Fight in the Skies” is a World War 1 air combat game that has an element of role playing. FITS is said to be the one game has been played every single year at GENCON. Back in the day, I know I played FITS more than once at GENCON with Mike Carr, the author of the game.

    Speaking of FITS, GENCON, Brian Blume and Mike Carr, I’ll never forget the first GENCON South in Jacksonville, Florida in 1978. At this time I was friends with a number of the TSR staff, but living far away in South Florida. Mike Carr and Brian Blume made the trip to Jacksonville to represent TSR. Some friends and I drove up to Jacksonville from South Florida. We ended up going out to diner with Mike and Brian. At one point, I told them that computer gaming wasn’t likely to take off, as the interactive social element wasn’t as strong in computer games as other forms of gaming. Most computer games in 1978 pitted you against the computer, or required multiple players to take turns at the controls. Boy, was my vision wrong. I hope I didn’t affect their business plans too much with my bad advice.

    FITS Rules Book and Pilot Cards

    FITS Rules Book and Pilot Cards


    Speaking of FITS. I still have my pilot cards. My two best pilots are a German Albatros DIII pilot with 21 missions/1 kill and a Brittish Sopwith Camel pilot with 14 missions and 3 kills. By the way, during one of the reprints TSR or Wizard’s of the Coast renamed the game, “Dawn Patrol”. There appears to be an active group of people still playing it.

    Model Railroad Foundation/Benchwork

    May 25th, 2014

    Here is my first attempt at building a benchwork foundation for the first section of the City Point layout. Main motivation is light weight while maintaining maximum rigidity in order to allow for portability. My last layout used an L-Girder design. While the L-Girder design was very suitable for a stationary layout, because of space considerations, I need to make this layout movable. A L-girder design would be hard to make portable.

    Benchwork

    Benchwork-Foundation

    It is made of plywood underlayment. It is cut into 3 & 1/2″ strips and notched to interlock on 16″ intervals.

    notch in plywood

    notch in plywood

    While it is light, I’m hoping that when fastened to the bottom of the plywood layout that it becomes rigid enough that I don’t have problems with damage to the track work and scenery during moves.