We love retrocomputing and tiny computers here at Hackaday, so it’s always nice to see projects that combine the two. [Eivind]’s TinyLlama lets you play DOS games on a board that fits in your hand.
Using the 486 SOM from the 86Duino, the TinyLlama adds an integrated Crystal Semiconductor audio chip for AdLib and SoundBlaster support. If you populate the 40 PIN Raspberry Pi connector, you can also use a Pi Zero 2 to give the system MIDI capabilities when coupled with a GY-PCM5102 I²S DAC module.
Audio has been one of the trickier things to get running on these small 486s, so its nice to see a simple, integrated solution available. [Eivind] shows the machine running DOOM (in the video below the break) and starts up Monkey Island at the end. There is a breakout board for serial and PS/2 mouse/keyboard, but he says that USB peripherals work well if you don’t want to drag your Model M out of the closet.
Looking for more projects using the 86Duino? Checkout ISA Sound Cards on 86Duino or Using an 86Duino with a Graphics Card.
Continue reading “TinyLlama Is A 486 In Your Pocket”
Elon Musk has bought Twitter for an eye-watering sum, and his live adventures in chaotic mismanagement of a social media company have become a compelling performance for the rest of us. As we munch on our tasty popcorn and enjoy the show, many Twitter users have jumped ship for the open-source alternative Mastodon. It offers much to the escapee including instances tailored to particular communities, but aside from all that it’s got something Twitter never had. You can now use a Mastodon client on an IBM PC.
Many of you are no doubt looking askance at us, as you have been Tooting for years from behind the keyboard of a PC. But it’s likely that the PC you’re using is a generic modern x86 machine running an up-to-date operating system such as a GNU/Linux flavour or Microsoft Windows, by contrast here we’re referring to the original, the daddy of them all. Because the client we’re talking about is DOStodon, designed to run on a real IBM PC as though it’s the early 1980s again.
Need more Mastodon on unexpected platforms? How about the ESP32?
Header image: Ruben de Rijcke, CC BY-SA 3.0, and Jin Nguyen, AGPL .
As arcades become more and more rare, plenty of pinball enthusiasts are moving these intricate machines to their home collections in basements, garages, and guest rooms. But if you’re not fortunate enough to live in a home that can support a space-intensive hobby like pinball machines, there are some solutions to that problem. This one, for example, fits on the palm of your hand and also happens to run some impressive software for its size.
The machine isn’t a mechanical pinball machine like its larger cousins, though. Its essentially a 3D printed case made to look like a pinball machine with two screens attached. It does have a working plunger for launching the ball and two buttons on the sides for the approximation of authenticity, but it’s actually running Pinball Fantasies — a pinball simulator designed to run on x86 hardware from the 90s. This sports an ESP32 on the inside, which has just enough computing capability to run an x86 emulator that can load these games in DOS.
The game includes haptic feedback and zips along at 60 frames per second, which really brings the pinball experience to its maximum level given the game’s minuscule size. It’s impressive for fitting a lot into a small space, both from physical and software points-of-view. For more full-sized digital pinball builds, take a look at this one which comes exceptionally close to replicating the real thing.
Continue reading “Tiny Pinball Machine Also Runs X86 Code”
Universal Serial Bus has been the de facto standard for sending information to and from computer peripherals for almost two decades, but despite the word “universal” in the name this wasn’t always the case. Plenty of competing standards, including USB, existed in the computing world in the decades before it came to dominance, and if you’re trying to recover data from a computer without USB you might have to get creative with how it’s done.
[Ben] recently came across a 80486 with this problem, so he had to get creative to recover the contents of the drive. He calls it the “lunchbox” computer due to its form factor, and while it doesn’t have USB it does have a tried-and-trusted serial port to communicate with other computers. [Ben] wrote up a piece of software for both the receiving computer and the sending computer in order to copy the drive sectors one by one across a serial link to a standalone computer running Windows XP, and was able to recover the contents of the drive that way instead.
All of the code [Ben] wrote is available on his GitHub page for anyone looking to boot up a 30-year-old computer again. While it might sound uncommon, computers of this vintage are still around running things like CNC machines or old mainframes.
Older Apple computers can often be something of a collector’s item, with the oldest fetching an enormously high price in auctions. The ones from the late ’80s and early ’90s don’t sell for quite as much yet, but it’s possible that museums and collectors of the future will one day be clamoring for those as well. For that reason, it’s generally frowned upon to hack or modify original hardware. Luckily, this replica of an Apple Macintosh didn’t harm any original hardware yet still manages to run software on bare metal.
The computer is built around a single-board computer, but this SBC isn’t like the modern ARM machines that have become so ubiquitous. It’s a 133MHz AMD 486 which means that it can run FreeDOS and all of the classic DOS PC games of that era without emulation. In order to run Apple’s legacy operating system, however, it does require the use of the vMac emulator, but the 486 is quite capable of handling the extra layer of abstraction. The computer also sports a real SoundBlaster ISA sound card, uses a microSD card for its hard drive, and uses an 800×600 LCD screen.
As a replica, this computer is remarkably faithful to the original and even though it doesn’t ship with a Motorola 68000 it’s still fun to find retro PC gamers that are able to run their games on original hardware rather than emulation. It reminds us of another retro 486 that is capable of running old games on new hardware without an emulator as well.
One of the biggest reasons for playing older video games on original hardware is that emulators and modern controllers can’t replicate the exact feel of how those games would have been originally experienced. This is true of old PC games as well, so if you want to use your original Sidewinder steering wheel or antique Logitech joystick, you’ll need something like [Necroware]’s GamePort adapter to get them to communicate with modern hardware.
In a time before USB was the standard, the way to connect controllers to PCs was through the GamePort, typically found on the sound card. This has long since disappeared from modern controllers, so the USB interface [Necroware] built relies on an Arduino to do the translating. Specifically, the adapter is designed as a generic adapter for several different analog joysticks, and a series of DIP switches on the adapter select the appropriate mode. Check it out in the video after the break. The adapter is also capable of automatically calibrating the joysticks, which is necessary as the passive components in the controllers often don’t behave the same way now as they did when they were new.
Plenty of us have joysticks and steering wheels from this era stored away somewhere, so if you want to experience Flight Simulator 5.0 like it would have been experienced in 1993, all it takes is an Arduino. And, if you want to run these programs on bare metal rather than in an emulator, it is actually possible to build a new Intel 486 gaming PC, which operates almost exactly like a PC from the 90s would have.
Continue reading “Retro Gaming With Retro Joysticks”
A common example of the sheer amount of computing power available to almost anyone today is comparing a smartphone to the Apollo guidance computer. This classic computer was the first to use integrated circuits so it’s fairly obvious that most modern technology would be orders of magnitude more powerful, but we don’t need to go back to the 1960s to see this disparity. Simply going back to 1989 and getting a Compaq laptop from that era running again, while using a Raspberry Pi Zero to help it along, illustrates this point well enough.
[befinitiv] was able to get a Raspberry Pi installed inside of the original computer case, and didn’t simply connect the original keyboard and display and then call it a completed build. The original 286 processor is connected to the Pi with a serial link, so both devices can communicate with each other. Booting up the computer into DOS and running a small piece of software allows the computer into a Linux terminal emulator hosted on the Raspberry Pi. The terminal can be exited and the computer will return back to its original DOS setup. This also helps to bypass the floppy disk drive for transferring files to the 286 as well, since files can be retrieved wirelessly on the Pi and then sent to the 286.
This is quite an interesting mashup of new and old technology, and with the Pi being around two orders of magnitude more powerful than the 286 and wedged into vacant space inside the original case, [befinitiv] points out that this amalgamation of computers is “borderline useful”. It’s certainly an upgrade for the Compaq, and for others attempting to get ancient hardware on the internet, don’t forget that you can always use hardware like this to access Hackaday’s retro site.
Continue reading “Installing Linux Like It’s 1989”