Vintage Peripheral Hacks Roundup

A few days ago, we featured an Apple ][ USB keyboard mod, and several readers chimed in sharing their own retro conversions in the comments section. We had no idea that many of you had made similar modifications of your own, so here’s a quick roundup of what your fellow Hackaday readers have put together.

Optical Atari STM1 Mouse


[JJ] had a 25-year old Atari STM1 mouse sitting around and was wondering how to get it to work with his new computer. Instead of interfacing the old mouse with his computer via a custom circuit board, he gutted the STM1 and replaced the innards with those of a much newer optical mouse. He did a bit of trimming to get the new PCB to fit, aiming the optical sensor through the now-empty “ball hole”. According to [JJ] it works just as good as it looks.

ZX Spectrum USB keyboard conversion


[Lee] is a sucker for vintage hardware, and with the help of his friend [LanceR], resurrected an old Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer into a working USB keyboard. After replacing the deteriorated membrane, the pair mapped out the keyboard to figure out how the matrix was wired. With that done, they built a prototype USB interface board, which they later replaced with a proper PCB.

BBC Master Compact USB keyboard conversion


A friend of [MoJo’s] had a BBC Master Compact computer from back in the day and wanted to have the keyboard converted to USB in order to use it with certain emulators. [MoJo] gladly took on the project, stripping some of the old motherboard components out to make room for his new circuitry. He built a USB interface board around an ATMega162, and even got the old built-in speaker working properly. From the outside, the keyboard looks like it has never been touched – nice job!

13 thoughts on “Vintage Peripheral Hacks Roundup

  1. I never really understood why people get all butthurt when they see vintage product “X” used in some other project.

    A) It’s their equipment, not yours – it has no effect on you. Much like covering their body in tattoos, it only affects that person. It’s highly unlikely that you would have gotten your hands on THAT particular piece of equipment, so who cares?

    B) The stuff is antiquated. There is very little practical use left in such machines, so why not give them new life on a modern PC? Nostalgia aside, what exactly do you plan to do with an old ZX Spectrum?

    C) This crap was collecting dust/rotting away in their closets/basements. At least they put it to good use rather than throwing it away or leaving it to continue to rot.

    Same goes for the vintage console people. It’s a game console not a classic car. You can replicate the entire Nintendo experience (blowing on cartridges aside) in an emulator. You can’t exactly pretend you are driving around in an old Porsche 356 and even think about getting close to the real experience.

  2. @orly
    ” You can’t exactly pretend you are driving around in an old Porsche 356 and even think about getting close to the real experience.”
    A Porsche 356 is rubbish. It is slower, less reliable, and drives worse than a late model Civic or Miata. But just like old consoles and PCs there is a joy about old older machines.
    But yes if these machines where non functional then I have no problem with this if they where working machines then there was a better way. For the Spectrum you could have used the expansion bus.
    to make a keyboard adaptor.
    The BBC master compact had a ton of ports that could have been used to add a USB adaptor while allowing the BBC system to still be intact.
    The mouse is would have just been an inline dongle with a USB on one end and the Atari interface on the other. Again still usable as the original.
    Again if they where just dead junk that is one thing. If they where working systems and then made no longer functioning without need it is a bit sad. I just looked on Ebay an not a single BBC micro was available for sale. Spectrums are available but are few and far between. These are starting to get rare and ones that work more so.

  3. I’m the [LanceR] who helped out with the Speccy above. Just to be clear here – the Speccy motherboard was removed and replaced with a custom USB keyboard ‘motherboard’. The hack can be reversed easily. So no Speccys were (permanently) hurt in the production of this hack. :)

  4. @lwr20 Now if you could just find just a dead Speccy and use the case you could maybe throw in a custom Beagle board and run an Emulator on it. And make a super retro Linux box at the same time.
    BTW I could not find single Speccy on Ebay and not much in the way of other old 8 biters floating around.
    Kind of sad.

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