Hackaday Links: May 7, 2017

The International Journal of PoC||GTFO is the hacker quarterly we all deserve. It’s Pastor Manul Laphroaig’s publication featuring crazy exploits and builds and neat woodcut illustrations. It’s going to be a freakin’ dead tree book published by No Starch Press. The word on the street is this is a literal bible. No, really. No Starch found a place that publishes (manufactures?) bibles, and they sent over the PDFs. There will probably be a Hackaday review of this book, but since all the content is freely available online, this review will literally only be judging a book by its cover.

Hoverboards are more innovative than a selfie stick. The snuggie is an innovative product. The iPhone came before greek yogurt. These are the findings of an online consumer research poll being held by CB Insights. As of this writing (and it might be updated by the time this is published), the bracket for the ‘Most Innovative Consumer Product Since The iPhone’ is down to two competitors — the Tesla Model S and the Raspberry Pi. That’s more opinion than anything, but check out the bracket. The Amazon Echo is more innovative than the ‘desktop 3D printer’, which as we all know was invented by MakerBot. The Dollar Shave Club — otherwise known as giving away the razor and selling subscriptions for the blades — is innovative. Taco Bell didn’t make it past the first round. What the hell is going on here?

This robot plays tiddlywinks. What’s tiddlywinks? It’s that game where you put your hand down on a table and stab a knife between your fingers. It’s a test of fine motor skills and courage, or in this case, programming. This robot also plays tiddlywinks.

This is a Kickstarter for an FPGA’d ZX Spectrum. With the blessing of Sky UK — the owner of the Amstrad brand — this team is cloning the ZX Spectrum, adding HDMI and SD card storage, creating a new enclosure, and calling this project the Spectrum Next. It’s fully compatible with the original and future proofs the Speccy for another few decades.

The Internet of Things comes to alcohol. This vodka comes with a wrap-around LED display that apparently has Bluetooth and is programmable with an iPhone or Android device. Why does this exist? Because it’ll sell. [Bryan Williams] bought one of these bottles and sent this in on the tip line. He’s currently waiting for the batteries to die so he can bust out the Dremel. If anyone else out there wants to check this out, it’s $11 at Sam’s Club.

Need a Z80 C compiler? Here you go.

Clickspring, the guy who has put far, far too much effort into building a clock is now working on the Antikythera Mechanism. His latest video demonstrates how the main plates of the Antikythera mechanism come together. There’s some interesting stuff here, but we’re really waiting for the main gears.

YouTube is well known for the technical astuteness of its community and the fair and level-headed comment section. This, for a short time, was one of the top trending videos on YouTube. It’s ‘free energy’ from two power strips. All you need to do is coil the leads of the power strips around each other. Free intermittent energy for life!

Z80 Fuzix Is Like Old Fashioned Unix

Classic Z80 computers tend to run CP/M. If you’re a purist you’ll be happy with that because that’s certainly what most serious Z80 computers ran back in the day. However, for actual use, CP/M does feel dated these days. Linux is more comfortable but isn’t likely to run on a Z80. Or is it? Linux borrows from Unix and back in the 1980s [Doug Braun] wrote a Unix-like OS for the Z80 called UZI. There have been lots of forks of it over the years, and a project called FuzixOS aims to make a useful Z80 Unix-like OS.

Of course, 1980 Unix was a lot different from modern-day Linux, but it is still closer to a modern system than CP/M. Fuzix also adds several modern features like 30 character file names and up-to-date APIs. The kernel isn’t just for the Z80, by the way. It can target a variety of older processors including the 6502, the 6809, the 8086, and others. As you might expect, the system can fit in a pretty small system.

The video below shows [Scott Baker’s] RC2014 computer running Fuzix. You’ll see it looks a lot like a Linux system, although that analogy only goes so far.

Continue reading “Z80 Fuzix Is Like Old Fashioned Unix”

CP/M 8266

Hands up if you’ve ever used a machine running CP/M. That’s likely these days to only produce an answer from owners of retrocomputers. What was once one of the premier microcomputer operating systems is now an esoteric OS, a piece of abandonware released as open source by the successor company of its developer.

In the 1970s you’d have seen CP/M on a high-end office wordprocessor, and in the 1980s some of the better-specified home computers could run it. And now? Aside from those retrocomputers, how about running CP/M on an ESP8266? From multi-thousand-dollar business system to two-dollar module in four decades, that’s technological progress.

[Matseng] has CP/M 2.2 running in a Z80 emulator on an ESP8266. It gives CP/M 64K of RAM, a generous collection of fifteen 250K floppy drives, and a serial port for communication. Unfortunately it doesn’t have space for the ESP’s party piece: wireless networking, but he’s working on that one too. If you don’t mind only 36K of RAM and one less floppy, that is. All the code can be found on a GitHub repository, so if you fancy a 1970s business desktop computer the size of a postage stamp, you can have a go too.

There’s something gloriously barmy about running a 1970s OS on a two-dollar microcontroller, but if you have to ask why then maybe you just don’t understand. You don’t have to have an ESP8266 though, if you want you can run a bare-metal CP/M on a Raspberry Pi.

MotorMouth For Future Artificial Humans

When our new computer overlord arrives it’ll likely give orders using an electromagnetic speaker (or more likely, by texting instead of talking). But for a merely artificial human being, shouldn’t we use an artificial mouth with vocal cords chords, nasal cavity, tongue,  teeth and lips? Work on such a thing is scarce these days, but [Martin Riches] developed a delightful one called MotorMouth between 1996 and 1999.

It’s delightful for its use of a Z80 processor and assembly language, things many of us remember fondly, as well as its transparent side panel, allowing us to see the workings in action. As you’ll see and hear in the video below, it works quite well given the extreme difficulty of the task.

Continue reading “MotorMouth For Future Artificial Humans”

The Impressive Z80 Computer With The Unfortunate Name

We’ve seen a lot of retro builds around the Z80. Not many are as neatly done or as well-documented as [dekeNukem’s] FAP80 project. Before you rush to the comments to make the obvious joke, we’ll tell you that everyone has already made up their own variation of the same joke. We’ll also tell you the name is a cross between an old design from [Steve Ciarcia] called the ZAP80 and a reference to the FPGA used in this device.

[dekeNukem] says his goal was to create a Z80 computer without all the baggage of using period-correct support chips. You can argue about the relative merits of that approach versus a more purist build, but the FAP80 has a 5 slot backplane, VGA output, a PS/2 keyboard port and more. You can see one of many videos showing the machine below.

Continue reading “The Impressive Z80 Computer With The Unfortunate Name”

An Intel 8085 Microprocessor Trainer

The Intel 8085 microprocessor was introduced 40 years back, and along with its contemporaries — the Z80 and the 6502 — is pretty much a dinosaur in terms of microprocessor history. But that doesn’t stop it from still being included in the syllabus for computer engineering students in many parts of the world. The reason why a 40 year old microprocessor is still covered in computer architecture text books instead of computer history is a bit convoluted. But there’s a whole industry that thrives on the requirements of college laboratories and students requiring “8085 Microprocessor Training Kits”. [TisteAndii] just finished college in Nigeria, where these kits are not locally built and need to be imported, usually costing well over a 100 dollars.

Which is why his final year project was a low cost Intel 8085 Microprocessor Trainer. It’s a minimalist design with some basic read/write memory, program execution and register inspection, with no provision for single stepping or interrupts yet. The monitor program isn’t loaded in an EEPROM. Instead, a PIC18 is used and connected to the 8085 address, data and control pins. This makes it easier to write a monitor program in C instead of assembly. And allows use of a 1.8″ LCD with SPI interface instead of the more usual 7-segment displays used for these kind of kits. [TisteAndii] built a 6×4 keyboard for input, but couldn’t solve debounce issues and finally settled on a 5×4 membrane keypad.

Being a rookie, he ended up with a major flaw in his board layout — he missed connecting the SRAM and the PPI devices to the data bus. A bunch of jumper links seemed to solve the issue, but it wasn’t perfect. This, and a few other problems gave him a lot of grief, but towards the end, it all worked, almost. Most importantly, his BoM cost of about $35 makes it significantly cheaper compared to the commercial units available in Nigeria.

While some hackers may consider this a trivial project, it solves a local problem and we hope the next iteration of the design improves the kit and makes it more accessible.

A Thoroughly Modern Sinclair ZX80

At the end of the 1970s, the 8-bit home computer market had been under way for several years. Companies like Apple and Commodore had produced machines that retain a cult following to this day, and there was plenty for the computer enthusiast to get to grips with. As always though with a new technology, the trouble was that an Apple II or a Commodore Pet wasn’t cheap. If you didn’t have much cash, or you were a young person with uncomprehending or impoverished parents, they were out of reach. You could build a computer from a kit if you were brave or technically competent enough, but otherwise you were out of luck.

As you might imagine, the manufacturers understood that there was an untapped market for cheaper hardware, so as we entered the new decade a range of budget machines that appeared to satisfy that demand. Gone were internal expansion slots, dedicated monitors and mass storage, for cheap keyboards, domestic TV monitors, and home cassette recorders. 1980s teenagers would have computers of their own, their parents safe in the knowledge they were educational while the kids themselves were more interested in the games. Continue reading “A Thoroughly Modern Sinclair ZX80”