Ants, Dirt, Rain, And The Commodore 64 That Wouldn’t Quit

Some electronics gear is built for the roughest conditions. With rugged steel cases, weatherproof gaskets, and cables passing through sealed glands, these machines are built to take the worst that Mother Nature can throw at them, shrugging off dust, mud, rain, and ice. Consumer-grade computers from the start of the home PC era, however, are decidedly not such machines.

Built to a price point and liable to succumb to a spilled Mountain Dew, few machines from that era that received any kind of abuse lived to tell the tale. Not so this plucky Commodore 64C, which survived decades exposed to the elements. As [Adrian Black] relates in the video below, this machine was on a scrap heap in an Oregon field, piled there along with other goodies by one of those “pickers” that reality TV loves so much. The machine was a disaster. It hadn’t been soaked in oil, but it was loaded with pine needles and an ant colony. The worst part, though, was the rust. The RF shielding had corroded into powder in some places, leaving reddish rust stains all over the place. Undeterred, [Adrian] gave the machine a good bath, first in water, then in isopropanol. Liberal applications of Deoxit helped with header connections, enough to see that the machine miraculously booted. It took some finagling, especially with the 6526 I/O controller, but [Adrian] was eventually able to get everything on the motherboard working, even the sound chip.

Whether this machine survived due to good engineering or good luck is debatable, but it’s a treat to see it come back to life. We hope a full restoration is in the works, not least as a way to make up for the decades of neglect.

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A Switching Power Supply, 1940s-Style

“They don’t build ’em like they used to.” There’s plenty of truth to that old saw, especially when a switch-mode power supply from the 1940s still works with its original parts. But when said power supply is about the size of a smallish toddler and twice as heavy, building them like the old days isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

The power supply that [Ken Shirriff] dives into comes from an ongoing restoration of a vintage teletype we covered recently. In that post we noted the “mysterious blue glow” of the tubes in the power supply, which [Ken] decided to look into further. The tubes are Thyratrons, which can’t really be classified as vacuum tubes since they’re filled with various gasses. Thyratrons are tubes that use ionized gas – mercury vapor in this case – to conduct large currents. In this circuit, the Thyratrons are used as half-wave rectifiers that can be rapidly switched on and off by a feedback circuit. That keeps the output voltage fixed at the nominal 140V DC required by the teletype, with a surprisingly small amount of ripple. The video below is from a series on the entire restoration; this one is cued to where the power supply is powered up for the first time. It’s interesting to see the Thyratrons being switched at about 120 Hz when the supply is under load.

Cheers to [Ken] and his retrocomputing colleagues for keeping the old iron running. Whether the target of his ministrations is a 1974 scientific calculator or core memory from an IBM 1401, we always enjoy watching him work.

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Restoring A 100 Year Old Vice To Pristine Condition

We love our vices. They hold pipes for us to saw away at, wood while we carve, and circuit boards so that we can solder on components. So we keep them in shape by cleaning and greasing them every now and then, [MakeEverything] went even further. He found a 100-year-old vice that was in very rough shape and which was going to be thrown out and did a beautiful restoration job on it.

It was actually worse than in rough shape. At some point, one of the jaws had been replaced by welding on a piece of rebar where the jaw would normally go. So he made entirely new jaws from solid brass as well as the pins to hold them firmly in place. We applaud his attention to detail. After removing all the old paint and corrosion, he painted it with a “hammered” spray paint to give it a nice hammered look. Though when he made the raised letters stand out by applying gold paint to them using an oil-based paint marker, we felt that was just showing off. The result is almost too gorgeous to use, but he assures us he will use it. You can see his process, as well as have a good look at the newly revived vice in the video below.

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Ancient Teletype Revived in Labor of Retrocomputing Love

Readers with not too many years under their belts may recall a time when the classic background sound effect for radio and television news programs included a staccato mechanical beat, presumably made by the bank of teletype machines somewhere in the studio, clattering out breaking stories onto rolls of yellow paper. It was certainly true that teletypes were an important part of the many communications networks that were strung together over the 20th century, but these noisy, greasy beasts had their day and are now largely museum pieces.

Which is exactly where the ancient Model 19 Teletype machine that [CuriousMarc] and company are restoring is destined. Their ongoing video series, six parts long as of this writing, documents in painstaking detail how this unit worked and how they are bringing it back to its 1930s glory. Teletypes were made to work over telephone lines with very limited bandwidth, and the hacks that went into transmitting text messages with a simple 5-bit encoding scheme are fascinating. The series covers the physical restoration of the machine, obviously well-loved during its long service with the US Navy. Of particular interest is the massive power supply with its Thyratron tubes and their mysterious blue glow.

The whole series is worth a watch if you’re even slightly interested in retrocomputing. We’re particularly taken with the mechanical aspects of these machines, though, which have a lot in common with mechanical calculators. [Al Williams] recently covered the non-replacement of the power supply caps for this unit, which is an interesting detour to this restoration.

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A Stereo Tube Amp For Less Than $5

Many of us have aspirations of owning a tube amp. Regardless of the debate on whether or not tube audio is nicer to listen to, or even if you can hear the difference at all, they’re gorgeous to look at. However, the price of buying one to find out if it floats your boat is often too high to justify a purchase.

A motor transformer

[The Post Apocalyptic Inventor] has built a stereo tube amplifier in the style of the Fallout video games. The idea came when he realised that the TK 125 tape recorder manufactured by Grundig was still using tube audio in the late 60s. What’s more, they frequently sell on eBay for 1-10€ in Germany. [TPAI] was able to salvage the main power amplifier from one of these models, and restore it so that it could be re-purposed and see use once more.

The teardown of the original cassette recorder yields some interesting parts. Firstly, an integrated motor transformer — an induction motor whose stator acts as the magnetic core of the transformer responsible for the tube electronics. There’s also an integrated capacitor which contains three separate electrolytics. The video after the break is well worth a watch (we always find [TPAI]’s videos entertaining).

A new chassis is created out of a steel base plate and aluminium angle, and some neat frames for the motor transformers are made from scrap copper wire bent and soldered together. It looks great, though there’s always the option to use a cake tin instead.

If you’re interested in the design of tube amps, we’ve covered heaps of cool builds: from this low-voltage design to this tiny guitar amp, or even ones using tubes which are flat.

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Amiga Repairs Put One Tough Little Machine Back in Service

Returning a piece of retro hardware to factory condition is generally a labor of love for the restorationist. A repair, on the other hand, is more about getting a piece of equipment back into service. But the line between repair and restoration is sometimes a fine one, with the goals of one bleeding over into the other, like in this effort to save an otherwise like-new Amiga 2000 with a leaky backup battery.

Having previously effected emergency repairs to staunch the flow of electrolyte from the old batteries and prevent further damage, [Retromat] entered the restoration phase of the project. The creeping ooze claimed several caps and the CPU socket as it spread across the PCB, but the main damage was to the solder resist film itself. In the video below you can clearly see flaky, bubbly areas in the mask where the schmoo did its damage.

Using a fiberglass eraser, some isopropyl alcohol, and far more patience than we have, [Retromat] was able to remove the damaged resist to reveal the true extent of the damage below. Thankfully, most of the traces were still intact; only a pair of lines under the CPU socket peeled off as he was removing it. After replacing them with fine pieces of wire, replacing the corroded caps and socket, and adding a coin-cell battery holder to replace the old battery, the exposed traces were coated with a varnish to protect them and the machine was almost as good as new.

Amigas were great machines in their day and launched more than one business. They’ve proved their staying power too, some even in mission-critical roles.

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Incredible Atari 800XL Case Restoration

If you’ve been hanging around Hackaday for a while, you know that a large portion of the stuff we publish goes above and beyond what most people would consider a reasonable level of time and effort. One could argue that’s sort of the point: the easy way out is rarely the most exciting and interesting route you can take. We, and by extension our readers, are drawn to the projects that someone has really put their heart and soul into. If the person who created the thing wasn’t passionate about it, why should we be?

That being said, on occasion, even we are left in awe about the lengths some people will go to. A perfect example of this is the absolutely insane amount of time and effort [Drygol] has put into restoring an Atari 800XL that looked like it was run over by a truck. Through trial, error, and a bunch of polyester resin, he’s recreated whole sections of the Atari’s case that were missing.

To start the process, [Drygol] used metal rods to bridge the areas where the plastic was completely gone. By heating the rods with a torch and pushing them into the Atari’s case, he was able to create a firm base to work from. Additional rods were then soldered to these and bent, recreating the shape of the original case. With the “skeleton” of the repair in palce, the next step was filling it in.

[Drygol] borrowed an intact Atari 800XL case from a friend, and used that to create a mold of the missing sections from his own case. Most of his rear panel was missing, so it took some experimentation to create such a large mold. In the end he used silicone and a custom built tray that the case could sit in vertically, but he does mention that he never quite solved the problem of degassing the silicone. The mold still worked, but bubbles caused imperfections which needed to be filled in manually during the finishing process.

Using his silicone mold and the same tray, he was then able to pour polyester resin over the wire frame. This got him most of the way to rebuilding the case, but there was still plenty of filler and sanding required before the surface finish started to look half-way decent. When he got towards the very end of the finishing process, he used a mold he created of the case surface texture to roughen up the smooth areas left over from the filling process. Add a bit of custom spray paint, and the end result looks absolutely phenomenal considering the condition it was in originally.

We were already impressed by the work he put in during the first stages of the restoration, but this case repair is really on a whole new level. Between this and the incredible instructional videos [Eric Strebel] has been putting out, we’re really gaining a whole new respect for the power of polyester.

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