See Acorn Archimedes Get Repaired And Refurbished, In Glorious Detail

Want to see a 90s-era Acorn Archimedes A3020 home computer get opened up, refurbished, and taken for a test drive? Don’t miss [drygol]’s great writeup on Retrohax, because it’s got all that, and more!

A modern upgrade allowing the use of a CF card in place of an internal hard drive, via a CF2IDE adapter and 3D-printed fixture.

The Archimedes was a line of ARM-based personal computers by Acorn Computers, released in the late 80s and discontinued in the 90s as Macintosh and IBM PC-compatible machines ultimately dominated. They were capable machines for their time, and [drygol] refurbished an original back into working order while installing a few upgrades at the same time.

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.

Continue reading “See Acorn Archimedes Get Repaired And Refurbished, In Glorious Detail”

No More Cows: Iconic 1990s Download Site Finally Shuttered By Tucows

In the early and mid 1990s there were a host of big players in the nascent public Internet that played their part in guiding the adventurous early Web users on their way. Many of them such as Netscape or Altavista have fallen by the wayside, while players such as Lycos and Yahoo are still in existence but shadows of their former selves. Some other companies broadened their businesses to become profitable and still exist quietly getting on with whatever they do. An example is Tucows, now a major domain name registrar, who have finally announced the closure of their software library that was such an essential destination in those times.

The company name was originally an acronym: “The Ultimate Collection Of Winsock Software”, started in 1993 by a library employee in Flint, Michigan. As its name suggests it was a collection of mostly shareware Windows software, and the “Winsock” refers to Windows Sockets, the API used by Windows versions of the day for accessing network resources. It seems odd to modern eyes, but connecting a 486 PC running Windows 3.1 to the Internet was something of a complex process without any of the built-in software we take for granted today. Meanwhile the fledgling Linux distributions were only for the extremely tech-savvy or adventurous, so the world of open-source software had yet to make a significant impact on consumer-level devices.

The passing of a Windows shareware library would not normally be a story of interest, but it is the part that Tucows played in providing a reliable software source on the early Web  that makes it worthy of note. It’s something of a shock to discover that it had survived into the 2020s, it’s been so long since it was relevant, but if you sat bathed in the glow of a CRT monitor as you waited interminably for your CuteFTP download over your 28.8k modem to finish then you probably have a space for Tucows somewhere in your heart. If you fancy a trip down memory lane, the Internet Archive have a very period-ugly-looking version of the site from 1996.

You may no longer have a 486 on your desk, but if you want to you can still build one.