Restoring The Cheapest TRS-80 At The Swap Meet

We don’t know if you’ve looked into it recently, but the prices for vintage computers are through the roof right now. These classic machines are going through something of a renaissance at the moment, with even relatively commonplace computers commanding several hundred dollars if they’re in good condition. For those looking to start a collection without breaking the bank, you may need to accept some specimens that have seen better days.

That’s the situation [Vlado Vince] recently found himself in — he wanted to get his hands on a TRS-80 Model I, but wasn’t willing to spend eBay prices. So he waited until the Vintage Computer Federation’s swap meet in June and was able to snag a “fully functional” example for $95. Unfortunately the seller must have been using some form of that phrase which we were previously unaware of, as it took a considerable amount of work to get it back online.

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DOOM On IPhone OS, On Android

So you want to play some games from the early days of 32-bit iPhone OS that no longer run on recent OS versions? [Hikari-no-yume] wrote a sweet high-level emulator, touchHLE, to do so on modern iOS phones. But maybe you don’t have an iPhone? [Ciciplusplus] has your back. He ported the iPhone OS emulator, written in Rust, to Android, and then ported a version of DOOM that runs on iPhone OS to go with it.

[Ciciplusplus] also made a video (embedded below) where he documented the trials and tribulations of porting Rust code to the Android platform – an intensely Java environment. It doesn’t sound like it was at all trivial. Of course, this couldn’t have been accomplished without [Hikari-no-yume]’s original work on touchHLE, which was made essentially to fulfill [Hikari-no-yume]’s long-time obsession with the game Super Monkey Ball.

So for now, touchHLE can boast the ability to run a few old 32-bit games on Android and desktop operating systems. What other games from the first years of gaming on smart phones (and iPods) do you need to see ported? Get involved in the project if you’ve got an itch you need scratched.

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2023 Hackaday Prize: A Smart Powermeter That You Actually Want

[Jon] wanted to keep track of his home power use, but didn’t want to have to push his data up to some cloud service that’s just going to leave him high and dry in the future. So he went completely DIY.

This simple and sweet build is now in its third revision, and the refinements show. A first prototype was nothing more than an ESP32 with a screen and some current transformer (CT) sensors to read the current flowing in the wires in his breaker box. The next version added a PCB and a color screen, and the most recent version swapped up to eInk and a nice local power supply, all sized to fit a nice clear power box.

What’s really cute about this design is the use of standard phono headphone jacks to plug the CT sensors into, and the overall sweet combination of a local display and interactivity with [Jon]’s ESPHome-based home automation setup. This design isn’t super complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. It has one job, and it does it nicely. What more do you want?

If you’re interested in getting into ESPHome and/or home automation, check out this great ESPHome resource. It’s probably a lot easier than you think, and you can build your system out one module at a time. If you’re like us, once you get started, you’ll find it hard to stop until everything falls under your watchful eyes, if not your control.

Nail, Meet KiCad

You know the old saying. When all you have open is KiCad, everything looks like a PCB. That was certainly true for [Evan], who needed to replace a small part recently and turned to PCBs to get the job done.

The part in question was a sheered apart detent cam from a retractable cord reel. Glue and epoxy might have worked, and [Evan] was worried about how a 3D printed PLA part would have held up. The part is an extruded 2D shape, making PCBs a non-traditional but viable choice. Using the old scanner trick, he traced the outline in KiCad 7 (which adds image references). Then with the five boards stacked up, solid core wire, solder, and a propane torch worth of heat fused it. Ultimately, this machine’s tolerances are generous, so it worked wonderfully.

Was it the “right” tool for the job? Right or wrong, it is hard to argue that in terms of durability and ease per dollar, this doesn’t come out on top. PCB files are on GitHub if you have a 5020TF-4c retractable cord reel that needs a new cam. PCBs have a fun way of adopting different use cases like enclosures, but perhaps the idea of PCBs as a mechanical part could be applied elsewhere.

Text-to-Speech Model Can Do Music, Background Noises, And Sound Effects

Bark is a universal text-to-audio model that can not only create realistic speech, it can incorporate music, background noises, and sound effects. It can even include non-speech sounds like laughter, sighs, throat clearings, and similar elements. But despite the fact that it can deliver such complex results, it’s important to understand some of the peculiarities.

The model takes a prompt and generates the resulting sound from scratch. Results might sometimes be unexpected.

Bark is not a conventional text-to-speech program, and how it works has a lot more in common with large language model AI chatbots. This means that results can deviate from expectations, and outputs aren’t necessarily going to be studio-quality speech. As the project’s README points out, “(generated outputs can) be anything from perfect speech to multiple people arguing at a baseball game recorded with bad microphones.” That being said, there is some support for voice presets as a way to help guide the model with some consistency.

Bark was designed by a company called Suno for research purposes and is available under the MIT License. It can be installed and run locally, and has some demos available as well as an online implementation.

The ability to install and run Bark locally is promising territory for incorporating it into projects. And should you be more interested in speech-to-text instead, don’t forget about this plain C/C++ implementaion of AI-powered speech recognition.

Retro Gadgets: The Real Desktop Computer

People argue about the first use of the computer desktop metaphor. Apple claims it. Xerox probably started it. Yet, when I think of computer desktops, I think of the NOVAL 760. Not a household name, to be sure, but a big ad spread in a June 1977 Byte magazine was proud to introduce it. At $2995, we doubt many were sold, but the selling point was… well… it was built into a “handsome wood desk, designed to compliment any decor.” The desk folded down when you were not using the computer, and the keyboard recessed into a drawer.

The computer itself was no slouch for 1977, but nothing you couldn’t find elsewhere. An 8080, speed unspecified, had 16 kB of RAM and 3 kB of PROM. There was also a display with a few kB of memory hanging around, too. And just in case you were worried, the bottom of the page entitled “The Ultimate in Home Computers” reads, “The NOVAL 760 COMPUTER. A fully-assembled, fully-tested personal computer … not a kit!” Of course, for us, that’s not really a selling point. If you wonder why the computer was memory limited, this is the time that Extensys bragged in an ad: 64 kB for $1495! If you ordered one, you could have it in 15 to 30 days, too!

There were options for more memory, and it wasn’t clear how many of the I/O devices in the ad were actually included in the advertised price. Some of the devices seemed very specialized, so we are guessing the basic system didn’t include some of them.

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CircuitPython Happenings Hack Chat With Adafruit

Join us on Wednesday, July 26 at noon Pacific for the CircuitPython Happenings Hack Chat with The folks from Adafruit!

join-hack-chatIt’s always a party when the good folks from Adafruit stop by the Hack Chat, and we expect no less than that this time around. It’s hard to predict where the conversation will go when [LadyAda], [pt], and [Scott] roll in, but we strongly suspect it’ll center on what’s new in the world of CircuitPython.

We’ve heard that they’ve got some cool stuff going on with CircuitPython on the RP2040, which just might lead to a Python-based fix for the current Bus Pirate supply chain problem. It’ll be a swashbucklingly good time, so make sure you stop by.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, July 26 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have ahandy time zone converter.