Press Play On Tape For Your Fignition

[Julian Skidmore] has been busy improving the Fignition, a tiny AVR-powered educational computer, to support loading programs from a cassette tape.

We first saw the Fignition after the BBC decided to cover an old-school hacker dedicated to improving computer education with a simple ‘bare-metal’ computer. [Julian]’s Fignition harkens back to the days of very simple computers like the BBC Micro and the TRS-80, and encourages students to work with PEEKs and POKEs instead of the decades of cruft that have accumulated on our laptops and desktops.

Because the Fignition is designed to hacker and student-friendly, it’s entirely possible to build a keyboard, or even build a Fignition on stripboard. Now, these students have much improved hardware that allows for saving and loading programs to tape (or any audio recorder) , and even a graphic video mode with 160×160 resolution.

We know it seems a little weird, but kids graduating High School this year were born in 1994, and in all probability have never laid their eyes on a Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum, or the other 1980s microcomputers an entire generation learned on. The Fignition is an attempt to stem the tide of ignorant masses unaware of how far the computer has progressed in the last 30 years, and we love it for that.

13 thoughts on “Press Play On Tape For Your Fignition

  1. I wonder if the new generation will remember today’s computers as fondly as the old timers who cut their teeth on the 8-bit machines? Good times, and working with MCUs brings back a warm fuzzy feeling.

    But Forth and cassette tapes? No happy memories there, better off left behind in my opinion.

  2. I remember saving/loading data on a cassette tape many years ago on a TRS-80 computer. I wonder if I still have that cassette still? It has a seriously funky beat.

    1. Ditto here.. I couldn’t afford the dual disk drives at $300, but the tape recorder at $30 was a pretty good compromise. Before that I’d spend all day typing in programs, finally get them to work… and then have to shut it off.

    1. I know that feel bro.

      Growing up I didn’t have too many hackers I knew that were my own age. I’m 24 now and most of my hacker friends are in their mid to late 30s and are just about wizards now.

  3. It’s not that hard to implement these days. I did this for a commercial product not long ago. It only has an audio input, but occasionally it has firmware updates released. So I re-purposed some 1200 baud Bell 202 demodulator code I’d already written (a few hundred bytes in all) and the updates are distributed as .wav files.

    Most users just hook it straight up to the PC’s speaker output, or an MP3 player, or burn it to CD, but it’d work just as well on a cassette.

    1. I think you can get one online, there are a few adopters in the US, one guy in America has made some pretty decent Turtle graphics and put them on youtube as it is also optimised for NTSC video output.

      Nice to see the Keyboard has made a reprise too ;)

    2. I’m one of the folks that purchased it from Julz. Don’t worry, it arrives quickly and the NTSC code was stable, even though he warned me that it was beta quality. It worked fine on our 42″ Samsung LCD TV and also on a couple of other CRT types that I tried it on. He packages everything well and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy more of them.

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