Build Your Own Retrocomputer with Modern Chips

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If you’ve ever wanted to get started in retrocomputing, or maybe the Commodore 64 you’ve been using since the 80s just gave up the ghost, [Rick] aka [Mindrobots] has just the thing for you: a retrocomputer based on a PIC microcontroller and a Parallax Propeller.

The two chips at the heart of the computer are both open source. The Propeller is the perfect board to take care of the I/O, video, and audio outputs because it was purpose-built to be a multitasking machine. The microcontroller is either a PIC32MX150 or a PIC32MX170 and is loaded with a BASIC interpreter, 19 I/O pins, a full-screen editor, and a number of communications protocols. In short, everything you would ever want out of a retro-style minicomputer.

The whole computer can be assembled on a PCB with all the outputs you can imagine (VGA, PS/2, etc) and, once complete, can be programmed to run any program imaginable including games. And, of course, it can act as a link to any physical devices with all of its I/O because its heart is a microcontroller.

Retrocomputing is quite an active arena for hackers, with some being made from FPGAs and other barebones computers being made on only three chips. It’s good to see another great computer in the lineup, especially one that uses open chips like the Propeller and the PIC.

Raspberry Pi Turns a Novelty Radio Into a Real Computer

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[Strider19] remembers the 90’s, and a great little novelty radio he had back then. Shaped like a computer, the radio was a typical AM/FM affair, with the monitor serving as a speaker. His original radio was long gone, but [Strider19] was able to find a replacement on everyone’s favorite auction site. With the replacement radio in hand, he set his plan in motion: Turning it into an epic Raspberry Pi Case.

The Raspberry Pi fit great, but [Strider19's] 3.5″ composite monitor didn’t quite make it. Following in [Ben Heck's] footsteps, [Strider19] cut the LCD’s control PCB down to fit the case. A piece of clear polycarbonate protects the fragile LCD from poking fingers. The monitor’s button board, two USB ports, and an external composite input mounted nicely inside the former battery compartment at the rear of the CRT. There’s even enough room back there to hide a USB WiFi adapter.

The Raspi itself fit perfectly into the base of the radio, along with a DC to DC converter, USB hub, real-time clock module, and a whole bunch of wires used to extend the connectors.

The final result is awesome! Thanks to a request on [Strider19's] Reddit thread, we have pictures of Doom running on a (former) radio.  Even Windows 3.1 runs under DosBox, though it took a bit of tweaking to get the display settings just right. Now [Strider19] just needs to figure out how to turn that tiny keyboard into a working model. We think some old school cell phone keyboard hacking may be in order!

 

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