Reinvented Retro Contest Winners Announced

Good news, everyone! The results of the Reinvented Retro contest are in, and the creators of these three groovy projects have each won a $200 online shopping spree to Digi-Key. We asked you to gaze deeply into your stuff piles and come up with a way to modernize a cool, old piece of hardware, and we left it up to you to decide how cool and how old.

No matter your personal vintage, you have probably used or even built an educational computer like [Michael Wessel]’s next-generation Microtronic. This is a re-creation of an early 1980s West German 4-bit microprocessor trainer called the Busch 2090 Microtronic Computer System. You may have never heard of it, but [Michael] swears it’s one of the best ever made. Years ago, [Michael] made a talking Arduino-based Microtronic emulator and has grown the concept into a prize-winning system that uses an ATMega2560 Pro Mini and a Nokia 5110 display. As a bonus, it doubles as a cassette interface emulator that plugs into the 2090’s expansion port. Take some time to dive into the YouTube videos or go straight for the gerbers and make your own.

Retrocomputing fans will love EBTKS, a project that seeks to circumvent the disintegrating tape drives in HP85A and other early 1980s HP computers by emulating them and delivering 20,000 virtual tapes via SD card. The project began as a solid state replacement using a Teensy and an ESP32, but [Philip] and the team realized they could do a whole lot more than that. The full list of features includes 70 new keywords and both disk and tape drive emulation. Everything is explained in detail on the project’s main documentation site, where you’ll also find a handy user guide.

If you have a soft spot for old Soviet gear, check out [ptrav]’s MK-52 Resurrection. [ptrav] took an early 90s-vintage calculator with a busted vacuum fluorescent display and breathed new life into it with an ESP32 and a 320×240 TFT screen. The point isn’t to merely resurrect the MK-52, but rather to create a phoenix of programmable Soviet calculating power that rises from the ashes and realizes its hardware unleashed potential. As part of the software development path, [ptrav] also built a fully-functional simulator in C# which you can check out on GitHub.

A Most Honorable Mention

It’s always so difficult to pick winners from among all the amazing projects we see. For this contest, we’ve chosen [Michael Gardi]’s WDC-1 — aka the Paperclip Computer — for an honorable mention. And that means more than just a published pat on the back — [Michael] has won a $25 gift card for Tindie. Way to go, [Michael]!

This WDC-1 is a bit of an inverse take on the reinvented retro concept. Instead of new tech in an old box, [Michael] employed modern PCB fabrication and 3D printing to house the upgraded homebrew guts of this 50+ year-old computer design.

Congratulations to all the winners, and a big thank you to all 138 entrants for your faux nostalgia-inspiring builds. Take some time this weekend to check them out, and get your alternate reality on.

7 thoughts on “Reinvented Retro Contest Winners Announced

  1. Although the paperclip computer didn’t win, I’m glad to see it did get an honorable mention. Because that is what it deserves, to be mentioned with honor. What I mean is that projects likes this deserve attention and although winning might be a goal for some, honor is sometimes more important. Anyway, the thing that fascinates me about paperclip computers is the way that it shows computational problems in a different light. Which is important in this time and age of many MHz and the abundance of computational power for the cost of next to none.
    So, going back to the basics can be really refreshing, so thanks for that. It’s not that I do not like the other projects, it’s just that this project stands out in a different way.

    1. Yeah, I can see how it doesn’t necessarily fit the “Reinvented” theme since it’s still pretty firmly retro from the user’s perspective. But definitely an incredible accomplishment.

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