Hack A Day Goes Retro In A Computer Museum

vt100_HAD Our friends over at Hack42 in the Netherlands decided to have some fun with their computer museum. So far, they’ve been able to display the Hack a Day retro site on three classic computers — including an Apple Lisa, a DEC GIGI, and a run of the mill DEC VT100. We had the opportunity to visit Hack42 last October during our Hackerspacing in Europe trip — but just as a refresher if you don’t remember, Hack42 is in Arnhem, in the Netherlands — just outside of Germany. The compound was built in 1942 as a German military base, disguised as a bunch of farmhouses. It is now home to Hack42, artist studios, and other random businesses. The neat thing is, its location is still blurred out on Google Maps! Needless to say, their hackerspace has lots of space. Seriously. So much so they have their own computer museum! Which is why they’ve decided to have some fun with them… To get Hack a Day Retro on these old computers they are using an old Debian Compaq machine as the host computer for the DECServer90m. The DECServer90m is a remote serial port server with 8 configurable serial ports. It’s used as a terminal server for VAX, nicorVAX or other similar computers. It connects using coax Ethernet to be configured. The serial ports can be setup for printers, modems, or in this case, dumb terminals like the DEC VT100, or an Apple Lisa.

An Apple Lisa

The Lisa was one of the first systems to use a mouse and a graphical desktop!


 The DEC GIGI VK100 is a strange beast. Even DEC did’t know what to think of it and couldn’t properly market the machine, thinking it was just a dumb terminal with color support and some extra gizmo’s like basic and graphics. It looks like a over-sized Commodore C64 but it has some nice connectors on the back, like a current-loop (for serial connections to even older computers than a VAX like a PDP8 minicomputer and three BNC connectors for component color output.)

They’re currently working on an even more complicated method to get some really old computers to display the page!

17 thoughts on “Hack A Day Goes Retro In A Computer Museum

  1. I call shenanigans!
    The screen of that DEC GIGI looks photoshopped. Either that, or its CRT is deliberately adjusted to leave a 1″ left and right and 1.5″ top and bottom of unused CRT screen around the area scanned by the electron beams.
    Looks more like someone took a simple white on blue LCD image and blended it into the reflections on the CRT.

    I love t he idea of a PC/home computer museum. What hardware would the HaD community like to see in such an installation? I’d like to see the full lines of Atari, Commodore, TRS, Amiga, and any other platform that was even remotely popular anywhere in the first world. Ataris would include the gaming systems, 2600, 5200, 7800, the original 400, 800, as well as all of the XL, XE, ST, and follow ons. Ths Commodores would include the PET and VIC-20 and the last gasp C128. Every model of Amiga next to models of m68k Macs with similar CPUs. The Colleco Adam computer as well as the Colleco-Vision that preceded it. ZX Spectrum and all those great British machines. Anyone remember the Compaq luggables and the clones they spawned?

    1. You left out the KayPros and Osbourne CP/M systems, TRS-80s, Cocos, and TIs home systems. And let us not for get the Heathkit/Zenith systems like the H-8, H-11, and H-100 as well as the Heathkit Hero robots and 6800 micro trainers for education. And you also left out the Apple IIs.
      Honestly a good computer museum even if you just stuck to micros would be large.

    2. I’d love to curate just such a museum.

      Each machine display would actually be, under the hood, an FPGA simulating the original hardware running original software to preserve the hardware from wear and tear. Where appropriate, the LCDs those FPGA simulating ancient computers are outputting to would be built into reproduction CRT housings and made to look as much as possible like an original CRT display. I’m not so certain that reproduction keyboards would be so worthwhile. Still, being able to replace keys and keycaps that visitors wear out would be a good thing, and if that hardware is itself vintage, that replacement would be problematic.

      I’d want it to be as hands-on as possible while preserving the original hardware as much as possible. That’s why the reproductions and simulations. The average museum goer would never know they were interacting with brand new hardware and modern electronics, and the original hardware would be right there, behind glass for them to see from every angle.

  2. A VT100 isn’t technically a computer. It’s a dumb terminal. Yeah, it had card slots and you could get an 11/03 in there, but most of them are just terminals.

    1. It’s a vK100, not a vT100 and it has an early version of MS BASIC in ROM and a graphics instruction set (ReGIS). An advance development version of GIGI, called SmAKY included a 5Meg Disk and ran stand alone, basically a PC.

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