The Greatest Computer Ever Now Gets A New, Injection Molded Clear Case

The Macintosh SE/30 is the greatest computer ever made. It was a powerhouse when it was launched almost exactly thirty years ago today. You could stuff 128 Megabytes of RAM into it, an absolutely ludicrous amount of RAM for 1989. You could put Ethernet in it. You could turn the 1-bit black or white internal display into an 8-bit grayscale display. I think there was a Lisp card for it. These were just the contemporaneous hacks for the SE/30. Now, people are actively developing for this machine and putting Spotify on it. There’s a toolbar extension for Macs of this era that will let you connect to a WiFi network. You’ll be hard pressed to find a computer that still has a fanbase this big thirty years after release.

Now, there’s a project to create new injection molded cases for the Mac SE/30 (and the plain ‘ol SE). These cases will be clear, just like Apple prototypes of the era. It’s also one of the most difficult injection molding projects retrocomputer enthusiasts have ever taken up.

Over the years, we’ve seen some interesting projects in the way of creating new plastic cases for old computers. The most famous is perhaps the remanufacturing of Commodore 64C cases. Instead of a purely community-driven project, this was an accident of history. The story goes that one guy, [Dallas Moore], went to an auction at an injection molding factory. The owner mentioned something about an old computer, and wheels started turning in someone’s head. A Kickstarter later, and everyone who wanted a new C64 case got one. You could get one in translucent plastic to go with the retro aesthetic.

New cases for the Amiga A1200 have also been made thanks to one fan’s Solidworks skills and a Kickstarter campaign. There is, apparently, a market for remanufactured cases for retrocomputers, and it’s just barely large enough to support making new injection molding tooling.

So, about that SE/30. The folks on the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army forums are discussing the possibility of making a new case for the greatest computer Apple will ever make. The hero of this story is [maceffects] who has already modeled the back ‘bucket’ of the SE/30 and printed one out on a filament printer (check out the videos below). This was then printed in clear SLA, and the next step is crowdfunding.

While this isn’t a complete case — a front bezel would be needed to complete the case — it is an amazing example of what the retrocomputing community can do. The total cost to bring this project to fruition would be about $15,000 USD, which is well within what a crowdfunding campaign could take in. Secondary runs could include a translucent Bondi Blue polycarbonate enclosure, but that’s pure speculation from someone who knows what would be the coolest project ever.

Continue reading “The Greatest Computer Ever Now Gets A New, Injection Molded Clear Case”

Is That A Vintage Computer In Your Pocket?

There’s a lot of debate over which of several contenders was the first modern computer. One of those first operating computers was the University of Cambridge’s EDSAC — the brainchild of Dr. Maurice Wilkes. The EDSAC scored a lot of firsts and used a serial data path along with mercury delay line memories. Over on Hackaday.io, [David Boucher] wanted to simulate the EDSAC in a much smaller form factor than the original room full of racks.

As you can see in the video below, he succeeded in that task, using a Teensy and a small LCD display. We’re reminded EDSAC was among the first machines so some of the terms we would employ were not in use yet. An order is an instruction, for example. Initial orders are akin to a bootloader. Continue reading “Is That A Vintage Computer In Your Pocket?”

Star Fox Comes To Arduboy

The original Star Fox for the SNES was a landmark game. With the Super FX chip built into the cartridge, it presented the first 3D accelerated home console experience. The series has spanned several consoles and over two decades. Now, it’s getting an (albeit unofficial) port to the Arduboy, thanks to [Stephane Hockenhull].

Impressively, the game fits in under 28KB, and [Stephane] hasn’t skimped on the development details. The process begun with setting up a basic 3D engine on the Arduboy, followed by some tests of various gameplay ideas. The final implementation bears a strong similarity to the original SNES gameplay. At this point, work moved out of the Arduino IDE into [Stephane]’s custom development environment to speed things along. A PC port was used to save time programming the flash every iteration.

The tricks used to pull this off are many and varied. There are neat hacks used to optimise the storage of the 3D model data, implement lightweight collision detection, and generate random levels. Everything was done in order to make the game fit into the smallest space possible.

Running smooth 3D graphics on a 16MHz 8-bit microcontroller is an impressive feat, and a testament to [Stephane]’s coding abilities. We can’t wait to see more 3D development on the platform. Meanwhile, if the Arduboy doesn’t quite have the look you want, there’s a solution for that too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Star Fox Comes To Arduboy”

35C3: A Deep Dive into DOS Viruses and Pranks

Oh, the hijinks that the early days of the PC revolution allowed. Back in the days when a 20MB hard drive was a big deal and MS-DOS 3.1 ruled over every plain beige PC-clone cobbled together by enthusiasts like myself, it was great fun to “set up” someone else’s machine to do something unexpected. This generally amounted to finding an unattended PC — the rooms of the residence hall where I lived in my undergrad days were a target-rich environment in this regard — and throwing something annoying in the AUTOEXEC.BAT file. Hilarity ensued when the mark next booted the machine and was greeted with something like an inverted display or a faked hard drive formatting. Control-G was good to me too.

So it was with a sense of great nostalgia that I watched [Ben Cartwright-Cox]’s recent 35C3 talk on the anatomy and physiology of viruses from the DOS days. Fair warning to the seasoned reader that a sense of temporal distortion is inevitable while watching someone who was born almost a decade after the last meaningful release of MS-DOS discuss its inner workings with such ease. After a great overview of the DOS API elements that were key to getting anything done back then, malware or regular programs alike, he dives into his efforts to mine an archive of old DOS viruses, the payloads of most of which were harmless pranks. He built some tools to find viruses that triggered based on the system date, and used an x86 emulator he designed to test every day between 1980 and 2005. He found about 10,000 malware samples and explored their payloads, everything from well-wishes for the New Year to a bizarre foreshadowing of the Navy Seal Copypasta meme.

We found [Ben]’s talk a real treat, and it’s good to see someone from the current generation take such a deep dive into the ways many of us cut our teeth in the computing world.

Continue reading “35C3: A Deep Dive into DOS Viruses and Pranks”

A Portal Port Programmed For Platforms Of The Past

If you still have a Commodore 64 and it’s gathering dust, don’t sell it to a collector on eBay just yet. There’s still some homebrew game development happening from a small group of programmers dedicated to this classic system. The latest is a Portal-like game from [Jamie Fuller] which looks like a blast.

The Commodore doesn’t have quite the same specs of a Playstation, but that’s no reason to skip playing this version. It has the same style of puzzles where the player will need to shoot portals and manipulate objects in order to get to the goals. GLaDOS even makes appearances. The graphics by [Del Seymour] and music by [Roy Widding] push the hardware to its limits as well.

If you don’t have a C64 laying around, there are some emulators available such as VICE that can let you play this game without having to find a working computer from the 80s. You can also build your own emulator if you’re really dedicated, or restore one that had been gathering dust. And finally, we know it’s not, strictly speaking, a port of Portal, but some artistic license in headlines can be taken on occasion.

Continue reading “A Portal Port Programmed For Platforms Of The Past”

Apple II Megademo Is Countin’ Cycles and Takin’ Names

The demoscene is an active place to this day, with enthusiasts around the world continuing to push the envelope as far as the capabilities of machines are concerned. [Deater], along with a skilled team, produced this Apple II Megademo which won first place at Demosplash 2018.

The demo starts with an intentional tease, with an emulated C64 BASIC startup screen which splits to reveal the title card. White-on-blue text isn’t the easiest on the Apple II, due to palette limitations, but it’s necessary for the joke to work. The following scenes make heavy use of mode-switching techniques in the middle of drawing the screen. Single screens are made up of various sections in LORES, HIRES, and even text modes. The term “cycle-counting” refers to the fact that the demo is written to operate in a cycle-exact fashion. This is necessary to achieve the mode-switching effects and to make the most of the limited resources of the Apple II.

It’s a demo that, like many others, does the right things in the wrong way to achieve its impressive results, and is a worthy competition winner. [Deater] has kindly provided an FAQ and source code for those who wish to study it further.

If you’ve written a mindblowing demo yourself, be sure to notify the tips line. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Apple II Megademo Is Countin’ Cycles and Takin’ Names”

Retrotechtacular: Before the Internet: MUDPIE

It is easy to forget how disconnected computers used to be. There was a time when sites with similar computers would do a tape rotation where a tape (or whatever media) would arrive in the mail. You’d spend some time looking at what was on it and then add anything interesting that you had to the end of it before sending it on to the next person. Eventually, the tape would come back to you, presumably loaded with more things. Late in 1967, Dr. James Peters started a newsletter called MUDPIE — Museum and University Data Program and Information Exchange. The newsletter would wind up with 26 issues over five years and while it started out with as few as 25 members, it would grow to over 250.

The newsletter was a real hardcopy newsletter, because as Dr. Peters put it:

MUDPIE represents an attempt to keep everyone up to date on the development of time-shared computing in museums and universities engaged in systematic research. Several individuals receiving this first copy had written asking the same questions, and this is a quick way of answering them. There was a tremendous temptation to set it up so that it could be received only through the teletype and computer — but that proved to be a little too advanced for the present!

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Before the Internet: MUDPIE”