Repairing a Vintage Sharp MemoWriter

As you may know, we’re rather big fans of building things here at Hackaday. But we’re also quite partial to repairing things which might otherwise end up in a landfill. Especially when those things happen to be interesting pieces of vintage hardware. So the work [ekriirke] put in to get this early 1980’s era Sharp MemoWriter EL-7000 back up and running is definitely right up our alley.

There were a number of issues with the MemoWriter that needed addressing before all was said and done, but none more serious than the NiCd batteries popping inside the case. Battery leakage is a failure mode that most of us have probably seen more than a few times, but it never makes it any less painful to see that green corrosion spreading over the internals like a virus. When [ekriirke] cracked open this gadget he was greeted with a particularly bad case, with a large chunk of the PCB traces eaten away.

The corrosion was removed with oxalic acid, which dropped the nastiness factor considerably, but didn’t do much to get the calculator back in working order. For that, [ekriirke] reconnected each damaged trace using a piece of wire; he even followed the original traces as closely as possible so the final result looked a little neater. Once everything was electrically solid again, he covered the whole repair with a layer of nail polish to adhere the wires and add a protective coating. Nail polish might not have been our first choice for a sealer, and likely not that particular shade even if it was, but sometimes you’ve got to use what you have on hand.

After years of disuse the ribbon cartridge was predictably dry, so [ekriirke] rejuvenated it with the fluid from a permanent marker applied to the internal sponge. He also made some modifications to the battery compartment so he could insert rechargeable Ni-MH AA batteries rather than building a dedicated pack. There’s no battery door in the enclosure, so removing the batteries will require opening the calculator up, but at least he has the ability to remove the batteries before putting the device in storage. Should help avoid a repeat of what happened the first time.

If you’re a fan of a good restoration, we’ve got plenty to keep you entertained. From bringing a destroyed Atari back from the dead to giving some cherished children’s toys a new lease on life, fixing old stuff can be just as engrossing as building it from scratch.

Continue reading “Repairing a Vintage Sharp MemoWriter”

The Fine Art of Restoring Matchbox Cars

Did you have anything planned for the next hour or so? No? That’s good because if you’re anything like us, watching even one of the restorations performed on [Marty’s Matchbox Makeovers] is likely to send you down a deep dark rabbit hole that you never knew existed. Even if you can’t tell the difference between Hot Wheels and Matchbox (seriously, that’s a big deal in the community), there’s something absolutely fascinating about seeing all the little tips and tricks used to bring these decades-old toy cars back into like new condition.

Sketching a replacement part to be 3D printed.

You might think that all it takes to restore a Matchbox car is striping the paint off, buffing up the windows, and respraying the thing; and indeed you wouldn’t be too far off the mark in some cases. But you’ve got to remember that these little cars have often been through decades of some of the worst operating conditions imaginable. That is, being the plaything of a human child. While some of the cars that [Marty] rebuilds are in fairly good condition to begin with, many of them look like they’ve just come back from a miniature demolition derby.

The ones which have had the hardest lives are invariably the most interesting. Some of the fixes, like heating up the interior and manually bending the steering wheel back into shape, are fairly simple. But what do you do when a big chunk of the vehicle is simply gone? In those cases, [Marty] will combine cyanoacrylate “super glue” with baking powder to fill in voids; and after filing, sanding, and painting, you’d never know it was ever damaged.

When a car needs more than just paint to finish it off, [Marty] will research the original toy and make new water slide decals to match what it would have looked like originally. If it’s missing accessories, such as the case with trucks which were meant to carry scale cargo, he’ll take careful measurements so he can design and print new parts. With some sanding and a touch of paint, you’d never know they weren’t original.

There’s plenty of arcane knowledge to be gained from folks like [Marty] who have experience with scale models. We don’t often see much of that come our way, but when we do, we’re always impressed at the lengths individuals will go to get that perfect end result. Whether or not you think you’ll find yourself rebuilding a pocket-sized school bus anytime soon, we think there are lessons to be learned from those who might. Continue reading “The Fine Art of Restoring Matchbox Cars”

Rebuilding an Extremely Rare Twin Mustang Fighter

Towards the end of the Second World War, as the United States considered their options for a possible invasion of Japan, there was demand for a new fighter that could escort long range bombers on missions which could see them travel more than 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) without refueling. In response, North American Aviation created the F-82, which essentially took two of their immensely successful P-51 fighters and combined them on the same wing. The resulting plane, of which only 272 were built, ultimately set the world record for longest nonstop flight of a propeller-driven fighter at 8,129 km (5,051 mi) and ended up being the last piston engine fighter ordered by the United States Air Force.

Today, only five of these “Twin Mustangs” are known to exist. One of those, a prototype XP-82 variant, is currently in the final stages of an epic decade-long rebuilding process directed by warbird restoration expert [Tom Reilly]. At the end of this painstaking restoration, which makes use of not only original hardware but many newly produced components built with modern technology such as CNC milling and 3D printing, the vintage fighter will become the only flyable F-82 in the world.

CNC milled replacement brake caliper

The project provides a fascinating look at what it takes to not only return a 70+ year old ultra-rare aircraft to fully functional status, but do it in a responsible and historically accurate way. With only four other intact F-82’s in the world, replacement parts are obviously an exceptional rarity. The original parts used to rebuild this particular aircraft were sourced from literally all over the planet, piece by piece, in a process that started before [Tom] even purchased the plane itself.

In a way, the search for parts was aided by the unusual nature of the F-82, which has the outward appearance of being two standard P-51 fighters, but in fact utilizes a vast number of modified components. [Tom] would keep an eye out for parts being sold on the open market which their owners mysteriously discovered wouldn’t fit on a standard P-51. In some cases these “defective” P-51 parts ended up being intended for the Twin Mustang project, and would get added to the collection of parts that would eventually go into the XP-82 restoration.

For the parts that [Tom] couldn’t find, modern manufacturing techniques were sometimes called in. The twin layout of the aircraft meant the team occasionally had one component but was missing its counterpart. In these cases, the original component could be carefully measured and then recreated with either a CNC mill or 3D printed to be used as a die for pressing the parts out of metal. In this way the team was able to reap the benefits of modern production methods while still maintaining historical accuracy; important on an aircraft where even the colors of the wires used in the original electrical system have been researched and faithfully recreated.

We’ve seen plenty of restorations here at Hackaday, but they tend to be of the vintage computer and occasionally Power Wheels variety. It’s interesting to see that the same sort of techniques we apply to our small scale projects are used by the pros to preserve pieces of history for future generations.

[Thanks to Daniel for the tip.]

Yet Another Restomod Of The Greatest Computer Ever

The best computer ever made is nearly thirty years old. The Macintosh SE/30 was the highest-spec original all-in-one Macs, and it had the power of a workstation. It had expansion slots, and you could hang a color monitor off the back. It ran Unix. As such, it’s become the prize of any vintage computer collector, and [Kris] recently completed a restomod on our beige king. It’s a restored Macintosh SE/30, because yes, we need to see more of these.

The restoration began with the case, which over the last thirty years had turned into an orange bromiated mess. This was fixed with RestOBrite, or Retr0Brite, or whatever we’re calling it now. This was just Oxyclean and an off-the-shelf bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide, left out in the sun for a little bit.

Of course the capacitors had spilled their magic blue smoke over the last three decades, so a few replacements were in order. This is well-trodden territory, but [Kris] also had to replace the SCSI controller chip. Three of the pads for this chip had lifted, but this too is something that can be fixed.

With the restoration work complete, [Kris] turned his attention to doing something with this computer. The spinny hard drive was replaced with a SCSI2SD, currently the best solution to putting SCSI disks into old computers. There are a few more additions, including a Micron Xceed color video adapter, a video card that allows the SE/30 to drive two monitors (internal included) in color.

The current plans are to attach a modem to this SE/30, have it ring into a Raspberry Pi, and surf the web over a very slow connection. There is another option, though: You can get a WiFi adapter for the SE/30, and there’s a System 7 extension to make it work. Yes, we’re living in the future, in the past. It’s awesome.

Restoring An Apollo Guidance Computer

The Apollo Guidance Computer is a remarkably important piece of computing history. It’s the computer that guided the Apollo lander to land on the moon. We’ve seen a few replica builds over the years, but [CuriousMarc] got a closer look at one of the real things. In this video, [Marc] gets a look inside as his colleagues take apart one of the original AGCs and get a closer look at the insides of this piece of computer history.  Continue reading “Restoring An Apollo Guidance Computer”

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.

Continue reading “Ants, Dirt, Rain, And The Commodore 64 That Wouldn’t Quit”

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.

Continue reading “A Switching Power Supply, 1940s-Style”