Around these parts, we most often associate [Drygol] with his incredible ability to bring damaged or even destroyed vintage computers back to life with a seemingly endless bag of repair and restoration techniques. But this time around, at the request of fellow retro aficionado [MrTrinsic], he was given a special assignment — to not only build a new Amiga 2000 from scratch, but to pack it with so many mods that just physically fitting them into the case would be a challenge in itself.
The final product, dubbed Tesseract, took two and a half years to complete and has been documented over the course of six blog posts. The first step was to get a brand new motherboard, in this case a modern recreation designed by Floppie209, and start populating it with components. With some modifications, the new board slipped neatly into a slick metal case. Unfortunately it quickly became clear some of the mods the duo wanted to install wouldn’t work with the reverse-engineered motherboard. This was around Spring of 2021, which is the last time we checked in on the project. Continue reading “Scratch Built Amiga 2000 Stacks Up The Mods”→
The MouSTer is a device that enables modern USB HID mice to be used on various retro computers. The project has been through its ups and downs over years, but [drygol] is here to say one thing: rumors of the MouSTers demise have been greatly exaggerated. Now, the project is back and better than ever!
The team has been hard at work on quashing bugs and bringing new features to bear. The headline is that the MouSTer project will now offer mouse wheel support for Amiga users. This is quite the coup, as mouse wheels were incredibly obscure until the late 90s. Now, users of Commodore’s finest machines will be able to scroll with abandon with modern HID mice.
While the progress is grand, much is still left to be done. Despite the name, the MouSTer was never intended to solely serve Atari users. Future goals involve adding support for ADB mice for retro Macs, DB9 mouse support for even-older Apple machines, and DB9 mouse support for older PCs. The team is eager for there to be one MouSTer to rule them all, so to speak, and hopes to make the ultimate retro computer mouse adapter to serve as many purposes as possible.
We first looked at the MouSTer back in 2020, and it’s great to see how far it’s come.
Yes, instead of designing replacement pieces, printing them, and hiding the layered evidence with paint or an acetone blur, [Doidão] called upon a broken sound system whose chassis bore a relief in the corners similar to that of the amplifier.
After cutting out two matched pieces of donated plastic, [Doidão] taped them together and welded ’em with a soldering iron outfitted with a curved-but-flattened spade tip that looks ideal for this purpose. Although the donor enclosure provided much-needed relief, one corner was lacking in this aesthetic, so [Doidão] cast a little bit of molten plastic using the relief as a mold.
Once the pieces were tacked together, [Doidão] filed them down, sanded them, polished them to a nice shine, and installed them on the amplifier. They look great, and no one will be the wiser. But if we were in [Doidão]’s shoes, we’d tell everyone what we’d done. Be sure to check it out after the break.
No, the case didn’t have to get pieced back together by hand, and the board didn’t need to have half of its traces recreated. But the outer plastic was certainly in need of a good retrobright treatment, the keyboard was overdue for a cleaning, and the capacitors in the PSU were predictably due for retirement. After [Drygol] got through with it, the machine was back in like-new condition. But then, we can do a little better than that…
So into the refreshed computer went several community-developed modifications, including a M3SE expander that adds Compact Flash and Ethernet support to the TRS-80 and a high-resolution Grafyx video board. In classic [Drygol] style, every effort was made to integrate these upgrades as seamlessly as possible. After struggling for a bit to find a 5.25″ drive that would write a disk the TRS-80 would actually read, all the necessary files to get the upgrades working were transferred over, and the system was booting into TRSDOS.
If you’re of a certain vintage and have ever done any technical drawing, chances are good that you used a r0tring of some kind, be it pencil or pen. Well, r0tring makes more than writing implements. They also made electronic scribers — a small plotter that pens ISO lettering on technical drawings based on typed input. This was a huge time saver over doing it freehand or stenciling each letter. The CS-50 is designed to hold the top-of-the-line r0tring drawing pen, which turned out to be the most expensive part of this restoration aside from the time spent sniffing out issues.
[Atkelar] likes to open things up and give them a visual inspection before powering them on. We think this is good practice, even if the suspense kills you. But really, [Atkelar] did so much more than that. He started by replacing the likely late-80s-era coin cell even though it registered north of 3 V. Then he swapped out all the electrolytic caps and one tantalum, cleaned the rubber dome keyboard parts with a cheap electric toothbrush, (another great idea), and completely disassembled the x-y mechanism to clean and re-oil it.
The 1984 Timex Computer 2048 that [Drygol] recently got his hands on was in pretty poor shape. Not only did it have the mangled exterior that comes from several decades of hard use and furious typing, but the internals appeared to be shot as well, with the machine showing nothing but vertical lines when powered up. Thankfully, this retro computer virtuoso was more than up to the challenge of bringing it back from the brink.
After a good cleaning and the installation of a reproduction front panel, the Timex was already looking much better. Unfortunately [Drygol] says he doesn’t currently have the equipment necessary to touch up the graphics and lettering on the key caps, but the fact that he had to qualify that statement with “currently” has us all sorts of excited to see what he’s planning down the line.
Of course beauty is only skin deep, and this particular TC-2048 was still bad to the bone. [Drygol] had a hunch its Z80 processor was dead, but after swapping it and its socket out, the machine still wouldn’t start. Though he did note that the garbled graphics shown on the screen had changed, which made him think he was on the right track. He then replaced all the RAM on the board, but that didn’t seem to change anything.
There isn’t a whole lot else to go wrong on these old machines, so the final step was to try and replace the ROM. Sure enough, after installing a new Winbond W27C512 chip with the appropriate software burned onto it, the nearly 40 year old computer sprang back to life.
The first order of business was to open the machine up and inspect the internals. Visible corrosion gets cleaned up with oxalic acid, old electrolytic capacitors are replaced as a matter of course, and any corroded traces get careful repair. Removing corrosion from sockets requires desoldering the part for cleaning then re-soldering, so this whole process can be a lot of work. Fortunately, vintage hardware was often designed with hand-assembly in mind, so parts tend to be accessible for servicing with decent visibility in the process. The keyboard was entirely disassembled and de-yellowed, yielding an eye-poppingly attractive result.
Once the computer itself was working properly, it was time for a few modern upgrades. One was to give the machine an adapter to use a CF card in place of an internal IDE hard drive, and [drygol] did a great job of using a 3D-printed piece to make the CF2IDE adapter look like a factory offering. The internal floppy drive was also replaced with a GOTEK floppy emulator (also with a 3D-printed adapter) for another modern upgrade.
The fully refurbished and upgraded machine looks slick, so watch the Acorn Archimedes A3020 show off what it can do in the video (embedded below), and maybe feel a bit of nostalgia.