Although the ability to expand a home computer with more RAM, storage and other features has been around for as long as home computers exist, it wasn’t until the IBM PC that the concept of a fully open and modular computer system became mainstream. Instead of being limited to a system configuration provided by the manufacturer and a few add-ons that really didn’t integrate well, the concept of expansion cards opened up whole industries as well as a big hobbyist market.
The first IBM PC had five 8-bit expansion slots that were connected directly to the 8088 CPU. With the IBM PC/AT these expansion slots became 16-bit courtesy of the 80286 CPU it was built around. These slots could be used for anything from graphics cards to networking, expanded memory or custom I/O. Though there was no distinct original name for this card edge interface, around the PC/AT era it got referred to as PC bus, as well as AT bus. The name Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus is a retronym created by PC clone makers.
With such openness came the ability to relatively easy and cheaply make your own cards for the ISA bus, and the subsequent and equally open PCI bus. To this day this openness allows for a vibrant ecosystem, whether one wishes to build a custom ISA or PCI soundcard, or add USB support to a 1981 IBM PC system.
Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys reflect on great hacks of the past few days. Strain relief is something every electronics geek encounters and there’s a spiffy way to make your hot-glue look like a factory connector. There’s something in the air and it seems to be recreating early computers. Did you know astronauts are baking cookies they’re forbidden to eat? And did you hear about the 3D printer that’s being fed oil from the deep fryer?
Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!
Hackaday Superconference is just a week away (precious few tickets remain), a celebration of all things Hackaday, which naturally includes creative projects making the most of their hardware. Every attendee gets a platform for hacking in the form of the conference badge.
To make the most of your badge hacking fun, plan ahead so you will have the extra components and the tools you need. At the most basic, bring along a serial to USB cable and a PIC programmer. These are common and if you don’t own them, ask around and you will likely be able to borrow them. Now is also the time to put in a parts order for any components you want to use but don’t have on hand!
The badge is hackable without any extras, but it’s designed for adding hardware and hacking the firmware. We’re excited to see what you can do with it. We gave an overview of this retro themed pocket computer a few days ago, today we’re inviting you to exploit its potential for your hardware hacks.
During the 80s and 90s it seemed like Japan got all the good stuff when it came to videogames. In the US there were consoles called the NES, the TurboGrafx-16, and the Genesis. While in Japan they had cooler names like: the Famicom, the PC Engine, and the Mega Drive. The latter was incorporated into a plethora of different form factors, including the little known IBM PC/Mega Drive combo known as the Sega Teradrive. Finding a rare Japanese 1990s PC stateside is a feat in and of itself, and thanks to an electronics hobbyist named [Ronnie] there is at least one Teradrive out there still running strong thanks to an upgraded CPU mod.
In theory, the Sega Teradrive was a dream-machine; combining the utility of an IBM PC with the fun of a Sega Mega Drive. The dual functionality extended to the video modes where both VGA and composite video were supported. However, the reality was that the final design was less than desirable. The Teradrive shipped in 1991 with an Intel 80286, 16-bit processor which was already two processor generations behind at the time. The meager 10Mhz clock speed was on the lower end of the performance spectrum which meant that many DOS titles ran poorly…or not at all.
Not satisfied with those specs, [Ronnie] modded his Teradrive with an adapter board containing an Intel 80486 processor clocked at 66Mhz. The upgrade, accompanied with a complete re-cap of the motherboard, brings the IBM PC to 486DX status. This opened up a few new possibilities including the Thundercats Demo in the video below:
If you were an Amiga enthusiast back in the day, the chances are you had an Amiga 500, and lusted after a 2000 or maybe later a 3000. Later still perhaps you had a 600 or a 1200, and your object of desire became the 4000. The amusingly inept Commodore marketing department repackaged what was essentially the same 68000-based Amiga at the bottom end of the range through the platform’s entire lifetime under their ownership, with a few minor hardware upgrades in the form of chipset revisions that added a relatively small number of features.
We’ve probably listed above all the various Amigas you’ll be familiar with, with a few exceptions you either didn’t have or only saw in magazines. The original A1000, the chipset-upgraded A500+, the CDTV multimedia platform, or the CD32 games console as examples. But there’s one we haven’t listed which you may never have seen unless you hail from the United Kingdom, and it’s an Amiga behind which lies a fascinating tale that has been unearthed by [RetroManCave].
In the late 1980s, Commodore sold the A500 all-in-one cased Amiga to consumers with marketing based heavily upon gaming, and the A2000 desktop Amiga to businesses with the promise of productivity software. Both machines had a 16-bit Motorola 68000 running at the same speed, with the A2000 having a lot of extra memory and a hard drive lurking within that case. The price difference between the two was inordinately high, creating a niche for an enterprising British company called Checkmate Computers to fill with their provocatively named A1500, a clever case for an A500 mainboard that gave it an expansion slot and space for that hard drive and memory.
This machine’s existence angered Commodore, to the extent that they vowed to eradicate the upstart by releasing their own UK-only A1500. The result, a comically badly concealed rebadge of an A2000 with two floppies and no hard drive, is something we remember seeing at the time, and dare we admit it, even lusting after. But the full story in the video below is well worth a watch for an engrossing insight into a little-known saga in one corner of the computing world during the 16-bt era. Towards the end it becomes a plug for the Checkmate Computers co-founder’s current Kickstarter project, but if that holds no interest for you then you are at least forewarned.
The hardware badge for the Hackaday Belgrade conference is a Retro Computer that you wear around your neck. I have one in my hands and it’s truly a work of art. It’s beautiful, it’s fun to play with, and it will be an epic platform for a glorious weekend of badge hacking! Check out the first look video, then join me below as I drill down into the details.
Get your ticket now for Hackaday Belgrade, our premier European hardware conference at the end of this month. It’s a day filled with talks, works, food, fun, and of course everyone through the door gets one of these incredible badges. The best part is the community that turns out for this event and that includes the Hacker Village that takes hold in the evening. We’ll be hacking the badges until the wee hours of the morning alongside hardware demos, presentations, lightning talks, and live IDM and DJ sets.
The Trenton Computer Festival (TCF) doesn’t have the name recognition of big technology conferences like DEF CON or HOPE. It’s not even as well known as smaller more localized conferences like DerbyCon, ShmooCon, or the Hackaday Superconference. In fact, there’s a good chance that most readers have never even heard of TCF. But despite not holding a place in the hacker lexicon, TCF has plenty to boast about. Its played host to technology luminaries from Bill Gates to Richard Stallman, and now in its 43rd year, holds the title as the longest continually running technology festival in the world.
When originally conceived in 1976, the show was devoted to the dawning age of the personal computer, but since then has evolved into a celebration of technology as a whole. When TCF kicks off on March 17th, there won’t be a media blitz or huge corporate sponsorship. There won’t be a simultaneous online stream of the event, and the only badges worn by speakers or attendees will be of the paper variety.
What you will find at TCF is a full schedule of talks given by people who are passionate about technology in its varied forms. These run the gamut from quantum computing to lock picking, from Arduino to Space Shuttle avionics.
At the heart of TCF is co-founder and current Chair Dr Allen Katz. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr Katz about the challenges of running a conference of this type, and the secret to keeping relevant in a wildly changing technology landscape.