Building a new motherboard for a TRS-80

Trash80

The TRS-80 Model 100 was an amazing piece of kit when it was released. Able to run for a week with just four AA batteries and smaller than some laptops today, this portable version of the TRS-80 saw action with war correspondents covering the Falklands invasion. A pedigree a MacBook Pro will never be able to live up to, it seems.

[Hudson] picked up a non-functioning Model 100 with the express goal of replacing the 30-year-old electronics inside with an updated motherboard – and also pull up our retro site in the process. Armed with a Teensy++, [Hudson] pried open his ancient computer and set to work interfacing the display and keyboard to his AVR dev board.

The LCD display in the Model 100 has a resolution of 240×64, driven by ten Hitachi HD44102 display drivers. Each of these display drivers are responsible for the pixels in a 50×32 rectangle on the screen and are interfaced with a 30-bit wide bus consisting of chip select lines, and 8-bit data bus, and a few other random control lines. [Hudson] plugged this 30 pin header into his Teensy++ and after a bit of ingenuity regarding the strange electrical requirements of the LCD, was able to control every pixel on this 30-year-old display.

The next order of business was interfacing the keyboard with a modern microcontroller. The keyboard is laid out in a normal matrix, but with a few oddities: characters like ~, |, and curly brackets aren’t present on the Model 100. After working these problems out, [Hudson] set to work on a VT100 terminal emulator. This allowed him to run vi and lynx, enabling him to pull up the Hackaday retro site in a wonderful forty-column text mode.

Future improvements to this redesign include designing a proper PCB to replace the current protoboard design. The original Model 100 included a text editor and programming language, and adding a Forth implementation isn’t out of [Hudson]‘s grasp. It’s an awesome build, and an excellent improvement that will allow [Hudson]‘s Trash-80 to see another 30 years of use.

Raspberry Pi finds itself inside a TRS-80 Model 100

This TRS-80 Model 100 is a lot more powerful than you might think. That’s because [Karl Lunt] is using it as an enclosure for his Raspberry Pi board. Since the ARM-powered device comes sans-enclosure it’s fun to see a retro choice like this one. And having had to go out and buy a USB keyboard to use our own RPi, we appreciate [Karl's] solution for using the original keyboard as an input device.

Above you can see that he’s using an LCD tv as the display. For now that connection is made using the composite video output, which explains the fuzzy image. To the right of the TRS-80 a standard wall wart connects to the barrel jack to provide power. [Karl] scrapped a USB cellphone charger in order to connect from the barrel jack to the micro-USB jack on the Pi board. The ribbon cable to the left lets him get at the I/O header without opening the case.

In order to use the keyboard he patched into it with a Teensy board. That connects to the USB port on the RPi, sending HID keyboard commands based on what it received from the user. We like this option as it give you the ability to pre-process keystrokes (ie: you can code your own custom macros that the Teensy will listen for). Right now the Model 100’s LCD screen isn’t hooked up but he may add that in the future.

Controlling robots with a TRS-80

[DJ Sures], mastermind behind the EZ-B Bluetooth Robot controller, sent in a really interesting build where he controls a robot with a 1983 TRS-80 computer.

The robot in question is [DJ Sures]‘ adorable WALL-E we’ve seen before. WALL-E is controlled through a Bluetooth connection to a desktop PC with the EZ-Builder hardware and software package.

To get the Trash-80 talking to WALL-E, [Sures] connected a tiny Bluetooth module to the TX pin of the 6402 UART. It’s a very, very simple modification that adds a Bluetooth serial connection to one of the first notebook computers. After syncing the TRS-80 and WALL-E to the computer running EZ-Builder, it’s a piece of cake to make the robot respond to the clanging of a 30-year-old keyboard.

There’s a video of [DJ Sures] going over his build after the break with a wonderful demo of WALL-E freaking out to a little dubstep. Check that out after the break.

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