Dial Into The Internet Like It’s 1999

Restoring classic hardware of any sort is a great hobby to have, whether it’s restoring vintage cars, tools, or even antique Apple or Commodore computers. Understanding older equipment can help improve one’s understanding of the typically more complicated modern equivalents, plus it’s just plain fun to get something old up and running again. Certainly we see more retro computing restorations around here, but one thing that we don’t typically see much of is the networking equipment that would have gotten those older computers onto the early Internet. [Retrocet] has a strong interest in that area, and his latest dial-up server really makes us feel like we’re back in the 90s.

This home networking lab is built around a Cobalt Qube 2 that was restored after it was gifted to him as a wedding present. The Qube had a cutting edge 250 MHz 64-bit processor with up to 256 MB of RAM, and shipped with a customized Linux distribution as an operating system. The latest upgrade to this build sped up the modems to work at their full 56k rates which involved the addition of a DIVA T/A ISDN terminal and some additional hardware which ensures that incoming calls to the modems are digital. Keeping the connections digital instead of analog keeps the modems from lowering their speed to 33k to handle the conversions.

Until recently, [Retrocet] was running some of the software needed for this setup in a custom virtual machine, but thanks to the full restoration of the Qube and some tweaking of the Red Hat Linux install to improve the Point-to-Point Protocol capabilities of the older system, everything is now running on the antique hardware. If you are like [Retrocet] and have a bunch of this older hardware sitting around, there are still some ISPs available that can provide you with some service.

Qube, Not An Arduino Clone

What allows the everyday user to tinker with microcontrollers, IO, interrupts, serial communication, and even analog readings? How about individual modules that add the ability to communicate over bluetooth or add LCD support? If you were thinking Arduino, you would be wrong. It’s actually [Nilok’s] Qube, which at first seems like another Arduino clone however the Qube is based on PIC – not AVR. Another difference is the sweet black anodized case the Qube is planned to be put in.

While all this seems amazing at first, there is of course a catch – it looks like the first models are pre-order only for staunching price of $70! Sorry, but Arduino wins at half the cost.

Regardless, [Nilok] has documented the entire process and it’s amazing to read through; he even includes some guides on solder paste and bootloading USB. And who knows, maybe he’ll release open source. His site seems a little slow, we recommend the Google Cache.