19th Century Copy Machine: The Cyclostyle

In the 2020s photocopiers are getting a bit exotic, although they are not gone yet. But these days, you are more likely to simply print multiple copies of a document. However, it wasn’t long ago that making a copy of a document was a tall order. Carbon paper was fine if you were typing and only needed a few copies. But in the late 1800s to early 1900s, several solutions were available, including a beautiful early mimeograph known as the Cyclostyle at [Our Own Devices], examined in the video below.

The Cyclostyle was possibly inspired by a hectograph (something we looked at before). The Cyclostyle was originally a special stylus used to remove wax from a paper stencil. Then, a process similar to screen printing would make copies for you.

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The Hobbes OS/2 Archive Will Shut Down In April

The Hobbes OS/2 Archive is a large collection of OS/2 software that has been publicly available for many years, even as OS/2 itself has mostly faded into obscurity. Yet now it would appear that the entity behind the Hobbes OS/2 Archive, the Information & Communication Technologies department at the New Mexico State University, has decided to call it quits — with the site going permanently offline on April 15th, 2024.

Fortunately, from a cursory glance around the comment sections over at Hacker News and other places, it seems that backup efforts have already been made, and the preservation of the archive’s contents should be secure at this point in time. Regardless, it is always a shame to lose such a central repository, especially since IBM’s OS/2 operating system is still anything but dead. Whether for hobbyist, industrial or commercial use, there is still a vibrant community around today, as we noted in 2019 already in relation to the NYC’s subway system.

Beyond downloaded copies and boxed CDs bought on EBay, you can even get a modernized version of OS/2 called ArcaOS, which even comes with commercial support. Whatever the fate is of the Hobbes OS/2 Archive’s data, we hope it finds a loving new home somewhere.

Pico-Sized Ham Radio

There are plenty of hobbies around with huge price tags, and ham radio can certainly be one of them. Experienced hams might have radios that cost thousands of dollars, with huge, steerable antennas on masts that can be similarly priced. But there’s also a side to the hobby that throws all of this out of the window in favor of the simplest, lowest-cost radios and antennas that still can get the job done. Software-defined radio (SDR) turned this practice up to 11 as well, and this radio module uses almost nothing more than a microcontroller to get on the air.

The design uses the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi Pico to handle almost all of the radio’s capabilities. The RF oscillator is driven by one of the Pico’s programmable I/O (PIO) pins, which takes some load off of the processor. For AM and SSB, where amplitude needs to be controlled as well, a PWM signal is generated on another PIO which is then mixed with the RF oscillator using an analog multiplexer. The design also includes a microphone with a preamplifier which can be fed into a third PIO; alternatively it can receive audio from a computer via the USB interface. More processor resources are needed when generating phase-modulated signals like RF, but the Pico is still quite capable of doing all of these tasks without jitter larger than a clock cycle.

Of course this only outputs a signal with a few milliwatts of power, so for making any useful radio contacts with this circuit an amplifier is almost certainly needed. With the heavy lifting done by the Pico, though, the amplifier doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. While the design is simple and low-cost, it’s not the simplest radio possible. This transmitter sends out radio waves using only a single transistor but you will be limited to Morse code only.

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USB-C Power Supply Pushes Almost 2 KW

When the USB standard was first revealed, a few peripherals here and there adopted it but it was far from the “universal” standard implied by its name. It was slow, had limited ability to power anything, and its plug-and-play capability was spotty at best. The modern USB standard, on the other hand, has everything its predecessors lacked including extremely high data transfer rates and the ability to support sending or receiving a tremendous amount of power. [LeoDJ] is taking that latter capability to the extreme, with this USB-C power supply that can deliver 1.7 kW of power.

The project was inspired by the discovery of an inexpensive USB-PD (power delivery) module which is capable of delivering either 100W or 65W. After extensive testing, to see if the modules were following the USB standard and how they handled heat, [LeoDJ] grabbed 20 of the 65W modules and another four of the 100W modules and assembled them all into an array, held together in a metal chassis that also functions as a heat sink. The modules receive their DC power from two server power supplies wired together in series.

There was some troubleshooting, including soldering difficulty and a short circuit, but with all the kinks ironed out this power supply can deliver nearly 2 kW to an array of USB-capable devices and, according to the amount of thermal testing done, can supply that power nearly indefinitely. It’s an over-the-top power supply with a small niche of uses, but to see it built is satisfying nonetheless. For more information on all of the perks of working with USB-C, check out this tell-all we published last year.

Brand-New PCB Makes Replica TRS-80 Possible

If like us, you missed out on the TRS-80 Model I back when it first came out, relax .With this brand-new PCB that’s a trace-for-trace replica of the original and a bunch of vintage parts, you can build your own from scratch.

Now, obviously, there are easier ways to enjoy the retro goodness that is the 46-year-old machine that in many ways brought the 8-bit hobby computing revolution to the general public’s attention. Sadly, though, original TRS-80s are getting hard to come by, and those that are in decent enough shape to do anything interesting are commanding top dollar. [RetroStack]’s obvious labor of love project provides the foundation upon which to build a brand new TRS-80 as close as possible to the original.

The PCB is revision G and recreates the original in every detail — component layout, connectors, silkscreen, and even trace routing. [RetroStack] even replicated obvious mistakes in the original board, like through-holes that were originally used to fixture the boards for stuffing, and some weird unused vias. There are even wrong components, or at least ones that appear on production assemblies that don’t show up in the schematics. And if you’re going to go through with a build, you’ll want to check out the collection of 3D printable parts that are otherwise unobtainium, such as the bracket for rear panel connectors and miscellaneous keyboard parts.

While we love the devotion to accuracy that [RetroStack] shows with this project, we know that not everyone is of a similar bent. Luckily there are emulators and clones you can build instead. And if you’re wondering why anyone would devote so much effort to half-century-old technology — well, when you know, you know.

Thanks to [Stephen Walters] for the tip.

Feature image: Dave Jones, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Open Source Needs A New Mission: Protecting Users

[Bruce Perens] isn’t very happy with the current state of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), and an article by [Rupert Goodwins] expounds on this to explain Open Source’s need for a new mission in 2024, and beyond. He suggests a focus shift from software, to data.

The internet as we know it and all the services it runs are built on FOSS architecture and infrastructure. None of the big tech companies would be where they are without FOSS, and certainly none could do without it. But FOSS has its share of what can be thought of as loopholes, and in the years during which the internet has exploded in growth and use, large tech companies have found and exploited all of them. A product doesn’t need to disclose a single line of source code if it’s never actually distributed. And Red Hat (which [Perens] asserts is really just IBM) have simply stopped releasing public distributions of CentOS.

In addition, the inherent weak points of FOSS remain largely the same. These include funding distributions, lack of user-focused design, and the fact that users frankly don’t understand what FOSS offers them, why it’s important, or even that it exists at all.

A change is needed, and it’s suggested that the time has come to move away from a focus on software, and shift that focus instead to data. Expand the inherent transparency of FOSS to ensure that people have control and visibility of their own data.

While the ideals of FOSS remain relevant, this isn’t the first time the changing tech landscape has raised questions about how things are done, like the intersection of bug bounties and FOSS.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Not Dead Yet: Microsoft Peripherals Get Licensed To Onward Brands

After Microsoft announced in April of 2023 that they’d cease selling branded peripherals – including keyboards and mice – as part of its refocusing on Surface computers and accessories, there was an internet-wide outcry about this demise. Yet now it would seem that Microsoft has licensed the manufacturing of these peripherals to Incase, who will be selling a range of ‘Designed By Microsoft’ peripherals starting in 2024. Incase itself is a brand owned by Onward Brands, which is the portfolio manager for Incase and other brands.

Although Microsoft has been selling peripherals since the 1980s (with the Microsoft Mouse appearing in 1983), it seems that we now have to rely on this new company that is said to use the same suppliers as Microsoft did. As for what we can expect to see return with Incase, it’s effectively the same assortment of items that Microsoft was selling at the beginning of 2023, so we will likely not see the return of the Natural 4000 or other peripherals that saw their life cut short before this.

If Incase does manage to relaunch these products this year, which items would you be most interested in purchasing, and how many dozens of those did you manage to stock up on in April when the news broke?