Hackaday retro edition roundup

In case you’ve forgotten about it, we still have a retro edition of Hackaday. It’s our simple, hand-coded HTML site featuring a few random hacks from Hackaday’s 8-year history. There’s also a retro successes page where our readers can log on with their old boxxen and claim their prize as a master of retrocomputing. Here’s a few retro successes that came in over the past month or so:

Our second OS/2 Warp submission comes from [Chris]. He got an HP Omnibook 800CT running OS/2 Warp 4 to load up our retro site.

A few of you may be wondering what the upper bound of what we consider a retro computer is. [Witek] used a Wyse thin client from the year 2000 to pull up our retro edition. These terrible computers used a Compact Flash card plugged directly into an IDE port to load up Windows CE. Yeah, it’s technically a SSD. [Witek] put the GRUB bootloader on one and loaded up our retro edition with Debian Squeeze. We have too many bad memories of these thin clients, and we’ve got to commend [Witek] for putting the effort into doing something useful with one.

[leadacid] is on a roll. He gave us our first OS/2 Warp submission and has since moved onto an IBM RS/6000. Previously, he got a Macintosh 8100 and a Quadra 840AV to pull up the retro site. Nice job.

Those are all the retro submissions for now, but if you have an old computer lying around, try pulling up our retro site and send it in.

Making a gigantic 18 pole 16 throw switch

When you’re building something that hasn’t been done before, sometimes the parts you need just don’t exist.

[Bacteria] over on the Made by Bacteria forum is building a huge all-in-one video game machine, combining hardware from 16 different consoles released through the years. This build requires a way to switch the video output between consoles, so [Bacteria] made a gigantic 18 pole 16 throw switch.

The build began with [Bacteria] sourcing a few 8-pole switches. Of course this switch was too small to toggle between the 16 output lines for each system, so these switches were doubled up and activated by a single button. This system worked, but the results weren’t ideal.

[Bacteria] gave in to the temptation of building his own switch by using spring-loaded metal nuts as the contacts for each part of the switch, allowing him to switch between consoles with a simple sliding contact.

So far, it looks like [Bacteria]’s Project Unity is shaping up nicely. We’ve seen a bit of the controller portion of [Bac]’s build, and already it’s shaping up to be a wonder of retro gaming.

You can check out [Bacteria]’s breakdown of his switch after the break and his Instructable here.

Continue reading “Making a gigantic 18 pole 16 throw switch”

Hackaday Links: June 12, 2012

Amazing 3D rendering in real-time

Ah, the 90s. A much simpler time when the presenters on Bad Influence! were amazed by the 3D rendering capabilities of the SGI Onyx RealityEngine2. This giant machine cost £250,000 back in the day, an amazing sum but then again we’re getting nostalgic for old SGI hardware.

Well, Mega is taken… let’s call it Grande

[John Park] needed to put something together for last month’s Maker Faire. A comically large, fully functional Arduino was the obvious choice. If you didn’t catch the demo last month, you can grab all the files over on Thingiverse.

Is that an atomic clock in your pocket or… oh, I see.

Here’s the world’s smallest atomic clock. It’s made for military hardware, so don’t expect this thing to show up at Sparkfun anytime soon; we can’t even fathom how much this thing actually costs. Still, it’ll be awesome when this technology trickles down to consumers in 10 or 20 years.

Converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB

[Karl] is working on an awesome project – putting a Raspberry Pi inside an old TRS-80. The first part of the project – converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB – is already complete. We can’t wait to see this build finished.

 A DIY Propeller dev board

Last week we complained about the dearth of builds using the Parallax Propeller. A few noble tinkerers answered our call and sent in a few awesome builds using this really unique micro. [Stefan]’s Propeller One is the latest, and looking at the schematics it should be possible to etch a single-sided board for this project. Awesome work and thanks for giving us a weekend project, [Stefan].

One console to rule them all

[Bacteria] retro console modder extraordinaire, is back at it with a rather massive project. “Unity”(originally Dubbed Alpha Omega), this will be a single unit that can play games from 20 different console systems. It will run from one power supply, have one video output, and strangely enough, one controller.

[Chris Downing] was nice enough to tip us off to a video of the Unity controller in action.  The controller isn’t quite as bulky as we would have assumed with the extensive list of consoles it has to support, but that could be, in part, due to the fact that you actually swap out the brains for the controller for each system’s compatibility.

Continue reading “One console to rule them all”

Sassy disco bots of the 80s

Surely, this is a glimpse into the future. No? Ok, its a glimpse into 1983. A small chinese fast-food restaurant in California put two 4.5 foot tall, 180 pound robots to work delivering food. Tanbo R-1 and Tanbo R-2 were their names and delivering food was their game. At least, when there wasn’t radio interference or their batteries were running low.  They were built to deliver food to the tables and be polite to the customers. They also had some interesting quirky behavior, like responding “that’s not my problem” and dancing off to some disco music if they didn’t understand you.  Do yourself a favor and go read some of the stories. We wish we could have seen them in action, they sound fantastically absurd.

Giving old appliances a second life with simple tweaks


Cruising estate sales can be a total crapshoot – sometimes you find a goldmine, other times nothing but junk. [John Ownby] recently found a sleek-looking old blender at such a sale and decided to take it home. The chrome plated base and fluted glass immediately caught his eye, but he didn’t buy the blender so he could make mediocre frozen drinks – he wanted a lamp instead.

The conversion was fairly simple, requiring him to gut the machine of its moving parts including the motor and blades, replacing them with a small incandescent candelabra base. While his modifications themselves are not groundbreaking, taking them a step further would make for some really cool (and functional) retro house fixtures.

Indulge me for a moment, if you will, and imagine swapping out the simple incandescent bulb for some LED strips or even EL wire. Replace the blender’s cap with a small speaker, and you can use several of these together as retro-looking surround satellites.

We can definitely get behind his reuse of the blender, which would have otherwise likely ended up in a landfill. It’s great to see solid, durable appliances given a second life, even in ways which were never intended. Have you rescued anything from the trash heap like [John], or do you have other ideas for your fellow hackers who might come across similar goods? Let us know in the comments.

Retro-gaming wall art; it’s playable!

Here’s a wall hanging for the reception area that let’s your customers play retro games while they wait. To give you some sense of scale, the buttons to the right (labeled Start/Jump but we would call them A and B) are arcade buttons larger than traditional arcade buttons. The screen itself is a Samsung widescreen computer monitor — we’d wager that it’s a 16″ model but we’re just guessing. It’s held in the wooden frame by a piece of angle bracket.

This is the product of a hack we looked at in June where an Arduino was used to control digitized retro LCD games. The same hardware is used, monitoring the buttons with the Arduino and using a Python script to translate them to keypresses on a computer. That means this isn’t a standalone, but needs a computer to run the game and feed the LCD monitor. Still, we love the look of it and hold out hope that this will someday migrate to FPGA control (they have not problem driving LCD screens) with selectable games.