If you follow retrocomputing — or you are simply old enough to remember those days — you hear the same names over and over. Commodore, Apple, Radio Shack, and Sinclair, for example. But what about the Lambda 8300? Most people haven’t heard of these but [Mike] has and he has quite a few of them. The computer is similar to a Sinclair ZX81, but not an exact clone. All of his machines need some repairs (he’s promised repair videos are on their way), but for the video below he wired a monitor directly to the PCB to get steady output, so apparently the RF modulator is the failing subsystem in this case.
Once the video cleared up, you can see a walkthrough of running a simple BASIC program. As was common in those days, the computer used an audio cassette recorder for data storage. [Mike] picked up some dedicated recorders meant for computer use, but neither were in working shape. However, a consumer player works fine.
[Plasmode] has created several Z80-compatible board designs, at least four of them using the oddball Z280. The Z280 was a special variant of a Z80 that could bootstrap itself with no external PROM, making it ideal for anyone trying to build a system on a breadboard. According to his post, the cost to build the board is about $35.
Although the 8080 CPU got a lot of glory, it was much harder to use than the Zilog Z80. The Z80 only required a single clock and power supply, so it was much easier to build a system, even on a breadboard. On top of that, the bus wasn’t multiplexed and it could refresh DRAM memory by itself. Maybe that’s why you can still get Z80-derived chips readily. There was one thing, though, you needed an EPROM or some other way to run some initial code to bootstrap your system. Zilog knew this was a problem. In those days, you had to use a special tool to burn a PROM and, unless it was erasable and you had the special UV light to erase it, any mistakes cost you a chip.
One of the humbling things about writing for Hackaday is the breadth of experience among our colleagues, despite one’s own skills or achievements there is probably for all of us a level of impostor syndrome when we look at their work. This week provided a reminder of this, while taking a closer look at the crowdfunder for a documentary about the Galaksija, the Yugoslavian 8-bit computer from the 1980s designed by our colleague [Voja Antonić]. Not only will the documentary be produced, but also they are recreating the Galaksija as a kit, so you can experiment with this historic computer for yourself. The campaign has reached passed its goal a couple times over but still has a few days left, so jump in if you are interested.
With the advantage of being able to reach out to [Voja] as a colleague, it was time to secure the straight dope on the project. Though he’s not spearheading it, aside from appearing in the documentary he’s also produced the new Galaksija PCB to take advantage of double-sided manufacture and remove the wire links that were a feature of the original.
In that sense this isn’t so much a clone of the original as an updated version from the same designer, with only a few other updates such as key switches and connectors where the exact original component could no longer be sourced. A particularly fascinating side-tale comes from a reprint of the first Galaksija magazine. Photo-reproductions of the original printed pictures did not yield good results, so [Voja] built from scratch an entirely original Galaksija, carefully recreating the framing of each step shown in those original photos.
This project has faced its fair share of obstacles before launching on Crowd Supply, so it’s very good indeed to see it receive its funding with time to spare. We look forward to seeing the results, meanwhile you can see a promo video in Serbian with Youtube’s English subtitling below the break. You can read [Voja]’s writing on the machine in Hackaday articles past, but don’t miss the opportunity to meet him at a live event — he’s the mastermind behind a number of hardware badges at Hackaday events.
If you want to run an old CP/M program — maybe you want to run WordStar or play StarTrek — you have several options. One is to acquire some classic hardware. You can also build a new computer using a Z80 or some other processor that will emulate a Z80. Finally, you can emulate old hardware on your current computer. The iz-cpm project from [ivanizag] takes this last approach. Unlike some emulators, iz-cpm doesn’t try to emulate everything in one simulated environment. Instead, it directly accesses your file system so it allows CP/M executables to run more as though they were a native program.
You can think of it as Wine for CP/M. The code is portable to Linux, Windows, or MacOS. The author mentions, though, that it won’t run on CP/M itself! The program can run an executable standalone which means you could set .COM files up to execute automatically if you wanted to.
Many of us will have at some point encountered a Z80 microprocessor, whether we’ve bare-metal programmed for it, or simply had a go at blasting some invaders on a game system using one. Like all the processors of its era, it’s got a relatively simple and accessible internal block diagram, so there’s a good chance that readers well even know how it works, too. But do any of know how it really works, down to the gate, transistor, and net level? [Goran] does, because he’s written a Z80 netlist simulator that allows the running of code alongside the examination of the chip and its signals. It’s not particularly fast, achieving a modest 2.3kHz clock speed when run of a fairly high-end PC, but we’re guessing readers needing to run Z80 code for anything other than learning would use the real thing anyway.
There’s a video of the software in operation which we’ve placed below the break, and we can see it will be a fascinating tool even to people who aren’t dedicated reverse engineers. To be able to bring up a logic analyzer view of the internals of a processor while it is in operation is truly astounding if you are used to it as a black box, and to have logic diagrams at your fingertips rather than puzzling out individual transistors really gives a window into what is going on.
The Z80 is one of those old CPUs that is both obtainable and easy to work with — at least in some versions. [Doctor Volt] put together what may be the simplest possible setups to get a working Z80 system. He has the processor, of course. But everything else — clock, memory, and power — are from an Arduino Mega 2560. You could argue that’s two chips, but the board actually has several chips on it. On the other hand, you could probably pull off the same stunt with a bare ATMega 2560.
We’ve seen this done before, but usually with a few more support chips. If you are a purist, [Doctor Volt] also has some Z80 and CP/M experiments where the Arduino only acts as a disk drive for the computer and there are only two support chips. There are three videos for both projects that you can see below.
[Leaded Solder] found some ColecoVision game cartridges at a flea market, and like most of us would, thought, “I’ll build a ColecoVision console from scratch to play them!” Well, maybe most of us would think of that, but not actually do it. He did and you can read about the results in great detail since he wrote up two posts, one covering the design and one covering the construction.
The ColecoVision was a game console that famously could be expanded into a nice — for its day — personal computer. It even had a daisy wheel printer in that configuration. However, in either configuration, the game console was the brains of the operation. According to [Leaded Solder] the price of a unit in working order is high even though over 2 million were made because of several design problems that make them less likely to survive the decades. Rather than repair and modify an original unit, it was cheaper and much more educational to build new.