The ZX Spectrum Takes To The Airwaves Again

A perk of writing for Hackaday comes in the vast breadth of experience represented by our fellow writers. Through our colleague [Voja Antonić] for example we’ve gained an unparalleled insight into the cutting edge of 8-bit computing in 1980s Yugoslavia, of his Galaksija home computer, and of software being broadcast over [Zoran Modli]’s Ventilator 202 radio show.

We’re strongly reminded of this by hearing of the Slovenian Radio Študent broadcasting the classic Slovenian ZX Spectrum text adventure game Kontrabant 2, at the behest of the  Slovenian Computer History Museum. It’s been four decades and a lot of turbulent history, but once again 8-bit code will be heard on FM in Europe.

Some of our younger readers may never have experienced the joy of loading software from cassette, but in those days it represented a slow alternative to the eye-wateringly expensive floppy drives of the day. The software was represented as a serial bitstream translated into tones and recorded on a standard cassette recorder which was standard consumer electronics back then, and when played back through a speaker it was an ear-splitting sound with something in common with that of a modem handshake from a decade or more later. This could easily be transmitted over a radio station, and a few broadcasters tried experimental technology shows doing just that.

We haven’t heard from any listeners who managed to catch the game and run it on their Spectrum, but we hope that Slovenia’s retrocomputing community were out in force even if Audacity and a n emulator replaced the original hardware. Given that more than one hacker camp in our community has sported radio stations whether legal or not, it would be nice to hear the dulcet tones of 8-bit software on the airwaves again.

Meanwhile if cassettes are too cheap for you, feast your eyes on Sir Clive’s budget storage solution.

Thanks [Stephen Walters].

A Very 21st Century Receiver For A Very 20th Century Band

The FM broadcast band has been with us since the middle of the 20th century, and despite many tries to unseat it, remains a decent quality way to pick up your local stations. It used to be that building an FM broadcast receiver required a bit of RF know-how, but the arrival of all-in-one receiver chips has made that part a simple enough case of including a part. That’s not to say that building a good quality FM broadcast receiver in 2024 doesn’t involve some kind of challenge though, and it’s one that [Stefan Wagner] has risen to admirably with his little unit.

Doing the RF part is an RDA5807MP single chip radio, but we’d say the center of this is the CH32V003 RISC-V microcontroller and its software. Twiddling the dial is a thing of the past, with a color display and all the computerized features you’d expect. Rounding it off in the 3D printed case is a small speaker and a Li-Po pouch cell with associated circuitry. This really is the equal of any commercially produced portable radio, and better than many.

Even with the all-in-one chips, there’s still fun in experimenting with FM the old way.

An Epic Tale Of Pirate Radio In Its Golden Age

With music consumption having long ago moved to a streaming model in many parts of the world, it sometimes feels as though, just like the rotary telephone dial, kids might not even know what a radio was, let alone own one. But there was a time when broadcasting pop music over the airwaves was a deeply subversive activity for Europeans at least, as the lumbering state monopoly broadcasters were challenged by illegal pirate stations carrying the cutting edge music they had failed to provide. [Ringway Manchester] has the story of one such pirate station which broadcast across the city for a few years in the 1970s, and it’s a fascinating tale indeed.

It takes the form of a series of six videos, the first of which we’ve embedded below the break. The next installment is placed as an embedded link at the end of each video, and it’s worth sitting down for the full set.

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