Royal Typewriter Gets A Second (or Third) Life

Usually when we are restoring something with a keyboard, it is some kind of old computer or terminal. But [Make it Kozi] wanted an old-fashioned typewriter. The problem is, as he notes, they are nostalgically popular these days, so picking up a working model can be pricey. The answer? Buy a junker and restore it. You can watch the whole process in the video below, too, but nearly the only sound you’ll hear is the clacking of the keys. He doesn’t say a word until around the 14-minute mark. Just warning you if you have it playing in the background!

Of course, even if you can find a $10 typewriter, it probably won’t be the same kind, nor will it have the same problems. However, it is a good bet that any old mechanical typewriter will need many of the same steps.

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If You Thought Sega Only Made Electronic Games, Think Again

Most of us associate the name Sega with their iconic console gaming systems from the 1980s and 1990s, and those of us who maintain an interest in arcade games will be familiar with their many cabinet-based commercial offerings. But the company’s history in its various entities stretches back as far as the 1950s in the world of slot machines and eventually electromechanical arcade games. [Arcade Archive] is starting to tell the take of how one of those games is being restored, it’s a mid-1960s version of Gun Fight, at the Retro Collective museum in Stroud, UK.

The game is a table-style end-to-end machine, with the two players facing each other with a pair of diminutive cowboys over a game field composed of Wild West scenery. The whole thing is very dirty indeed, so a substantial part of the video is devoted to their carefully dismantling and cleaning the various parts.

This is the first video in what will become a series, but it still gives a significant look into the electromechanical underpinnings of the machine. It’s beautifully designed and made, with all parts carefully labelled and laid out with color-coded wiring for easy servicing. For those of us who grew up with electronic versions of Sega Gun Fight, it’s a fascinating glimpse of a previous generation of gaming, which we’re looking forward to seeing more of.

This is a faithful restoration of an important Sega game, but it’s not the first time we’ve featured old Sega arcade hardware.

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Bringing An IBM Butterfly Laptop Back From The Dead

Among all the laptops produced over the last few decades, there is one which rises above the rest and which has retained an appeal long after its meager computing resources became obsolete. It’s the IBM 701c, the famous “Butterfly” laptop, whose fold-out keyboard still gives it star  quality, and [John Graham-Cumming] has documented the restoration of one from the tattered remains of two scrap examples.

The two laptops in question were someone else’s never-started project, and were in a sorry state. The flexible cables were in poor condition, and the 1990s Ni-MH batteries had leaked and damaged both circuits and case. We were unaware that NiMH leakage could damage plastic, but the parts of these machines were significantly damaged.

One had a working mainboard, the other a working modem card. One keyboard was in pretty bad shape, the other was complete. Of the pair there was a double super twisted nematic (DSTN) display and a more contemporary thin film transistor (TFT) panel. Be thankful if you have never had to use a DSTN laptop, as they were truly awful. From this pile of parts a working machine could be made, and with a new CMOS battery, that cable repair, and a repaint, he was ready. Or at least, as he says, ready for 1995.

This isn’t the first 701c restoration we’ve seen, and within reason, it’s even possible to give them a retro processor upgrade.

Restoring A 45 Year Old Video Game

When we say vintage video game, some of you may think of the likes of Lemmings, Mario or maybe even Donkey Kong but the game that [Vintage Apparatus] restored is slightly older and much more minimalist, using an LED matrix and some 7-segment displays rather than this newfangled color CRT thing.

The front and back covers, buttons and screws of the game on the workbench.
The game is disassembled before cleaning.

[Vintage Apparatus] starts by removing the battery and cover from the 1977 Mattel electronics (American) football game, which uses rather uncommon 2mm triangular screws. To his and our surprise, the circuit board and its beautiful array of LEDs seem to be in excellent condition, so he moves on to cleaning the case itself.

The case, on the other hand, is a bit dirty on the outside, so [Vintage Apparatus] takes out the buttons and starts cleaning with the back cover a Q-tip. After a bit of scrubbing and some extra care to avoid removing any stickers, he moves on to the considerably dirtier and somewhat scratched front case. After some wrestling with the creases and speaker grill of the front cover, the outside of the front case looks nice and clean. Finally, he puts back the buttons and circuit board in the front cover before adding closing it all up with the back cover and screwing it back together.

The game, which immediately comes to life and was actually made by the Mattel calculator division, is a sort of evasion game where the player is a bright dot that can move forward, up or down. The player avoids the dimmer dots, the “tacklers”, in order to run as far as possible as fast as possible. When one of the tacklers tackles the player, the amount of downs is increased and the fifth down means game over. After either scoring or getting downed one too many times, the field is flipped and it’s now player 2’s turn.

Video after the break.
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Apple III Slows Down To Smell The Roses

The most collectible items in the realm of vintage computers often weren’t the most popular of their era. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally the more desireable systems were market failures when they first launched, and are now sought out because of a newly-appreciated quirk or simply because the fact that they weren’t widely accepted means there’s fewer of them. One of the retro computers falling into this category is the Apple III, which had fundamental hardware issues upon launch leading to a large recall and its overall commercial failure. [Ted] is trying to bring one of these devices back to life, though, by slowing its clock speed down to a crawl.

The CPU in these machines was a Synertek 6502 running at 1.8 MHz. With a machine that wouldn’t boot, though, [Ted] replaced it with his own MCL65+, a purpose-built accelerator card based on the 600 MHz Teensy 4.1 microcontroller in order to debug the motherboard. The first problem was found in a ROM chip which prevented the computer loading anything from memory, but his solution wouldn’t work at the system’s higher clock speeds. To solve that problem [Ted] disabled the higher clock speed in hardware, restricting the system to 1 MHz and allowing it to finally boot.

So far there haven’t been any issues running the computer at the slower speed, and it also helps keep the computer cooler and hopefully running longer as well, since the system won’t get as hot or unstable. This isn’t [Ted]’s first retrocomputing rodeo, either. His MCL chips have been featured in plenty of other computers like this Apple II which can run at a much faster rate than the original hardware thanks to the help of the modern microcontroller.

Bringing Back The Minitel

If you didn’t live in France in the 80s or 90s, it’s likely you missed out on one of the most successful computer networks in existence prior to the modern Internet. Known as Minitel, it was an online service available over existing phone lines that offered a connected computer terminal for users to do most things we associate with the modern world, such as booking travel, viewing news, looking up phone numbers, and plenty of other useful activities. While a lot of the original system was never archived, there are still some efforts to restore some of its original functionality like this MiniMit.

The build requires either an original or a recreation of a Minitel terminal in all its 80s glory, but pairs an ESP32 to support modern network connectivity. The ESP32 interfaces with the Minitel’s DIN socket and provides it with a translation layer between WiFi and the networking type that it would have originally expected to see from the telephone lines. Two of the original developers of Minitel are working on restoring some of the services that would have been available originally as well, which means that the entire system is being redeveloped and not just the original hardware.

We’ve mentioned that this system was first implemented in the 80s, but the surprising thing is that even well after broadband Internet would have been available to most people in France, the Minitel system still had widespread use, not being fully deactivated until 2012. They remain popular as inspiration for other projects as well, like this one which was brought a little more up-to-date with the help of a modern display and Raspberry Pi.

Using FreeCAD To Replace OEM Parts

As much as we might all like it if manufacturers supported their products indefinitely with software updates or replacement parts, this just isn’t feasible. Companies fail or get traded, technologies evolve, and there’s also an economic argument against creating parts for things that are extremely old or weren’t popular in the first place. So, for something like restoring an old car, you might have to resort to fabricating replacement parts for your build on your own. [MangoJelly] shows us how to build our own replacement parts in FreeCAD in this series of videos.

The build does assume that the original drawings or specifications for the part are still available, but with those in hand FreeCAD is capable of importing them and then the model scaling to match the original specs shown. This video goes about recreating a hinge on an old truck, so with the drawings in hand the part is essentially traced out using the software, eventually expanding it into all three dimensions using all of the tools available in FreeCAD. One of the keys to FreeCAD is the various workbenches available that all have their own sets of tools, and being able to navigate between them is key to a build like this.

FreeCAD itself is an excellent tool for anyone repairing old vehicles like this or those making 3D prints, designing floorplans for houses, or really anything you might need to model in a computer before bringing the idea into reality. It does have a steep learning curve (not unlike other CAD software) so it helps to have a video series like this if you’re only just getting started or looking to further hone your design skills, but the fact that it’s free and open-source make it extremely attractive compared to its competitors.

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