So much to do…

At the moment , there is so much going on in my life, what with work and free-time devoted to development of computer systems and programming, that I sometimes simply forget to write or update my blog.

This is a bit strange since writing is one of my hobbies as well. Be that as it may, I thought I would share some of what I am doing at the moment.

Well, as most of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know, at the moment I have three perhaps four projects that I need to finish so I can enjoy them.

These include 2 Raspberry Pi projects, and a larger more expensive build that needs some more ‘spare’ cash to finalize. However, I am getting there and it will soon be feasible to start serious work on this unit.

Let’s start by looking at the circumstances and what leads me to this work… My friends say I have an endless passion for these things, my kids say I’m nuts, while my wife is happy that I devote so much time to things that keep me happy. I will not quibble with any of the views.

I have to point out that many of my projects are done with the intention of teaching or inspiring younger children to take up programming and electronics not only as a hobby, but also as a starting point for a career that is hectic , but very rewarding…

So I actually need to start explaining the situation from the very start. Since changing desks some years back to a more modern (but very basic) type , I have been beset by a number of problems, namely, no drawers… and we all know that drawers are a safe-haven for the electronics enthusiast. This usually meant that my desk (in our TV Room, I might add) is always cluttered to the point of being a mess.

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This summer I decided to take the plunge and build a new system. After trawling around onthe ‘net, I finally took it upon myself to build a ‘pipe desk’. It was to be a basic affair in which water-pipes would replace the structure of the old one. The strength of the pipes would be able to take the weight of people leaning on the side of the old desk, threatening to tear it down, as well as give it a rustic look. For the top, I used the same desk-top I had before.

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A gloss black paint , purposefully hand-applied

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Pipes and Sockets make up the desk

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Using a hacksaw to cut pipes to length

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Hanging the sockets to apply primer spray easily

               As shown below, the finished product is beautifully and simply done. This thing could easily withstand anything thrown at it. Naturally, I underestimated the srength of the pipes. It can easily hold up a truck!

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               However, having such a desk meant that I STILL had no storage or working area, and that is when I decided that it would be a great idea if I had a stand-up type of desk to the left of this one. Naturally, it would be higher as well as being larger. I procured a couple of wardrobe sides (don’t ask) that I screwed together, added side supports (Dixon L-steel) and included a corner pipe support that rested on the pipe-desk.

Two new shelves beneath the newer desk completed the project. But, you might say, you still have no storage available. Well, I decided to do away with traditional drawers, and use motherboard boxes as storage.

Working in IT provides me with endless cardboard boxes to dispose of. Motherboard boxes are sturdy, neat, and colourful. Just what the doctor ordered.

That takes care of the ‘workstation’ part. Keep in mind that this desk is in our TV Room, and while we do not have many visitors (and I really couldn’t give a fig what they would think anyway), I would like to keep the place tidy, even if it is for my sake. I will post a photo when it is done and tidy!

So now that has been taken care of, let’s see what I have in mind.

Going home, I saw somebody throw a box of electronics stuff away. I picked two Commodore64 micros from this skip. Three datasettes, one power supply, one action replay cartridge, and what seems to be a brand new arcade joystick (ebay price 40bucks!) completed the package in the box. WOW! Both C64S micros were faulty, but I soon fixed them. One of the 64s I exchanged with a mate of mine from the Vintage Computer Club.

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               Victor gave me a Spectrum 128k+ that seems to be malfunctioning. The board on this seems well cooked, and i have an idea that I might stick a Pi in it.

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One of the repaired Commodore64s

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The dead Spectrum 128k+

               The membrane on the ZX is shot and the computer itself is not in a far better shape. The case is supremely clean though, and that gives me an idea or two… More perhaps in another post. I still look on this micro as a seminal point in the world of computing in general. I have already become so fond of it that I have no firm direction what to do with it. Repair or salvage the case for other uses? Perhaps an emulator inside would make this indistinguishible from an original… hmmm.

I have also refurbished an Amiga1200 that I also found thrown away. This badly needed cleaning as it seems that a cat (or some other animal) peed in it. The metal shielding was totally rusted, and the floppy drive was clogged.

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I sanded and repainted the metal shielding, now in a pristine light grey coating, and gave a good old wash and brush up to the plastic case. I fixed the floppy drive and added a 500MB hard-drive. The mouse needed new buttons, and the power supply had a 33k startup resistor replaced as well…. tick tick tick , there she goes.

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The Amiga is a beautiful machine that I intend to keep together with the C64S. They represent my childhood, and I loved the games and the old AmigaOS.

Next up is an absolutely excellent condition Oric-1. I have never owned an Oric, or even knew one who did, so this is a stranger to my colection. The motherboard still works perfectly on this computer, so I took a long time to come to a decision on this. There are a number of factors that led me down the road to what will happen with this. This British computer was very popular in Europe during the early 1980s and only cost £100 when it was released. The Oric operated at 1 MHz and had two flavours… 16 or 48 KB of RAM. Something different in this system was that it proved that secure communication lines could be established between systems.

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People take strange stances, and I cannot understand why certain devices are sold more than others. The Oric was far superior to anything designed by Sinclair. Extremely good PCB design, better keyboard, great build quality, better sound, and cheaper. Whatever the reason,but most probably because it was released before, the Spectrum outshone anything in sales. In another post I will detail the final Oric destination. It will be a portable multimedia client for use with our bedroom TV. Wifi will provide the network. The system has been tested and is great for what I need. It will look nice and smart in its pearl-white case too.

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Meanwhile I also have a TI-99/4A that is begging me for repair, as well as for a great build I am planning… The Texas is looking at me everyday… hopefully I can come to a solution that satisfies us both…

’til next time!

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