Retrocomputing, Time To Hang Up The Original Hardware?

For those of us with penchant for older technology, there’s something special about operating with older hardware. Whether it’s a decades-old camera, a vintage keyboard, or a home computer from the 1980s, the modern equivalent just doesn’t quite compare. But working with older parts definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted, as the passage of time has taken its toll on their reliability. Is it time to recognize that the supply of replacement vintage parts is not infinite, and to switch from using original hardware to more modern alternatives? [Retro Recipes] poses this question after a particularly difficult-to-find Amiga fault, and discusses it while evaluating a replacement Amiga made entirely from modern parts.

The new Amiga in question is a recreation of an A1200 with a re-manufactured case and keyboard, and the guts of an A500 Mini retro console taking the place of the Commodore board. He goes through the process of making an Amiga hard drive image on a USB drive using the image from his original drive in his teenage years, and boots it both on the 500 Mini based machine and on the UAE emulator on a Mac laptop. You can follow him in the video below the break.

We can see the logic in treating original hardware as a precious resource that’s not to be run up for fear of breaking it, but by the same token we’re still standing by that first sentence. But should the enjoyment of an older machine be limited only to those who have an original? We think not, so if enjoying an Amiga without an Amiga can be as good as the real thing then we’re all for it.

Of course, for those whose original Amigas have already broken, there are other ways to bring them back.

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BINA-VIEW: A Fascinating Mechanical Interference Display

[Fran Blanche] tears down this fascinating display in a video teardown, embedded below.

These displays can support up to 64 characters of the buyer’s choosing which is controlled by 6 bits, surprisingly only requiring 128 mW per bit to control; pretty power-light for its day and age. Aside from alphanumeric combinations the display also supported “color plates” which we found quite fascinating. The fully decked model would only cost you $1,206 US dollars per unit in today’s money or five rolls of toilet paper at latest street price. And that’s just one digit.

If you dig through the documents linked here, and watch her video you can get an idea of how this display works. There are six solenoids attached to rods at the rear of the device. A lamp shines through a lens onto the back of a plate assembly. Each plate is a strategically perforated grid. When the solenoids activate the selected plates tilt interfering with a stationary grid. This causes the light to be blocked in some regions only.

It seems clear why this never took off. Aligning these seems like a production nightmare compared to things like flip displays and Nixie tubes. Still, the characters have quite a lot of charm to them. We wouldn’t mind seeing a 3D printable/laser cut version of this display type. Get working!

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Going Green, By Not Buying New Stuff


Recycling is great. We’ve seen a pretty hard push in that direction recently. We like the fact that our modifying of hardware is generally saving it from the dump. Keep in mind, that just using old hardware can be advantageous too. We don’t always need the new shiny thing, maybe we’re fine with what we’ve got. That is exactly what is about. You can join their facebook group and even get stickers for your old devices.