Apr 292012
 

Although I alluded to this earlier, I haven’t gone into detail about one of my other relatively recent acquisitions, a Timex-Sinclair 1000. I got it in the original packaging, although the box is kind of beat up.

Ts1000 box

Revolutionary technology made this computer possible, and the power is within my reach.

Ts1000 box back

The Timex-Sinclair 1000 was marketed as a cheap ($99.95) computer that was accessible to everyone. It’s a tiny little thing, with a membrane keyboard and 2K of memory.

Ts1000 in box

Ts1000 by ipad

The 2K of memory it has built-in can be expanded with the help of a 16K memory pack that you plug into the back. I have this, and actually, it’s pretty much standard equipment with these (though of course buying one took the price well beyond the $99.95 price point).

Ts1016 top

Ts1016 side

It has no disk drive. The only way data gets in and out of this machine is through a cassette recorder. Here are the tapes I got with it.

Ts1000 tapes

But the thing that has stymied me until now from even trying the machine out is that the only way it can display (without doing internal modifications) is through a TV. That was fine back in its day, but now I’d much rather have had a regular composite out. The problem with the signal it sends out is that it is tuned to channel 2 or 3, and so I need a way to find that signal and turn it back into something viewable.

I thought I had a solution with the Power Mac G3 and a set-top DVD recorder. Now that I have the rest of it set up, I tried plugging in the Timex-Sinclair for the first time. First, I set up the DVD recorder to send its output (for now, just the composite video out, though I might later move to S-video instead) into the Wings card at the back of the Power Mac G3. I converted the Timex-Sinclair’s RCA output to a coaxial cable and sent it in the antenna input on the DVD recorder.

Ts1000 into dvdr

I verified that the Power Mac G3 was getting the signal from the DVD recorder by successfully bringing up an image of the DVD menu.

Pmg3 dvdr menu

But, alas, when I tuned the TV to channel 3 (which the Timex-Sinclair was set to) and connected the power to the computer, the best I could get was this noise—and most of the time the screen was just blank.

Pmg3 ts1000 fail

I don’t yet know what this means. It might be that my Timex-Sinclair 1000 actually doesn’t work, which would be sad. But I’m more inclined right now to believe that the video signal just isn’t strong enough to make it through. I still need to test it on a real television (and, in fact, maybe preferably a vintage television) to see if it might work without the signal gating that the DVD recorder and the Wings card are both probably doing. I was kind of hoping I’d be able at least to get to the main prompt, but as far as I can see (and the operative word is “see”), I haven’t. So it goes. I’ll keep trying.

Apr 282012
 

Small update: I installed Mac OS 9.2 on the Power Mac G3, and ran the system diagnostics on it, which all passed.

Pmg3 shelved

I connected it to the ethernet and tried to use the internet for a while. The internet was slow back in the days of the Power Mac G3, and it wasn’t all the internet’s fault. Internet Explorer choked pretty hard on the modern web, but iCab and Classilla both work reasonably well.

Pmg3 twitter icab

I installed the Vine VNC server on it, which enabled me to (go home and) successfully screen share into the Power Mac G3 (here, I’m sharing my iMac’s screen, which is sharing the Power Mac G3’s screen, but it was also possible to just connect to it directly from home).

Pmg3 vnc

I then set up A2SERVER on my modern iMac (which was quite easy), added another share volume for Mac files (by editing /usr/local/etc/netatalk/AppleVolumes.default) and enabled DHCAST128 authentication so I could connect to the share volume on the modern iMac. And I moved a copy of DarkSide over to it, and set it and the Vine VNC server up as a startup items, so that when the machine rebooted it would be protected from screen burn and would allow me to share into it.

Although it mostly worked, and I was able to mount the AppleShare volume, I found that the VNC server was a little bit unreliable. If the Mac got at all busy (particularly if copying over the AppleTalk network), the connection would freeze. Generally it was no problem to re-establish the connection, but I had to do that over and over. Eventually, it was set up.

Then I tried something dorky. I copied over the Apple II emulator Stop The Madness to the Power Mac G3. [Trivia note: Back in 1994, I wrote an accompanying program for STM called SaveTM that allowed disk images to be saved (since STM didn't do that). There were two versions; paradoxically, the newer version of SaveTM (SaveTM 1.02) only works with the older version of STM (0.851r), while the older SaveTM (SaveTM 1.00) works with the newer version of STM (0.881r). SaveTM long ago disappeared from the internet, but the new links in this paragraph do lead to the program now.]

I thought it would make a funny screen shot to be running the Apple II emulator on the Power Mac G3. However, when I launched the program, the G3 froze, and I haven’t been able to communicate with it since. I’m hoping the screen won’t be completely burned in when I get back to the office next. Oh well. There were some downsides to the days of MacOS 9.

Pmg3 stm bomb

Now that A2SERVER is set up, the next thing I’ll try is to connect the IIgs and try to netboot it (I tried to netboot Sweet16 running on the modern iMac, but it couldn’t see the AppleTalk network), then I’ll see if I can do the same thing for the platinum //e. And I don’t think I’ll try to emulate any more Apples II on the Power Mac G3.

Apr 272012
 

For some reason, I was not motivated to take pictures of this, but I’ve now cleaned up the Power Macintosh G3 machine, pictured here “before,” and brought it both up to the office and back to life.

Pmg3 front before

It was really very dirty. I completely disassembled it (and, again, was reminded of how much I really like the “outrigger” cases), washed off all the plastic, scrubbed out the scuff marks, blew out the many dust bunnies, and then put it back together. I also took the opportunity to put in the Wings personality card, which adds more A/V options. I’m pretty sure I also have a USB card that I can add to this machine, somewhere.

Pmg3 wings card

It took a bit of fiddling to get the monitor displaying properly, but I ultimately succeeded in installing MacOS 8.5 on the machine. I think, however, that I will move the machine up to MacOS 9.2 at the next opportunity. The machine seems to work just fine, though. Probably the next thing I’ll do is try to run a full system diagnostic on it.

Once I get the system software up and running, I plan on running this machine mostly remotely, with the assistance of the Vine VNC server (though I may need to get it a dedicated IP address for this purpose), and setting it up to be a LocalTalk-EtherTalk bridge to allow communication (and netbooting) for the IIgs and platinum //e. And then we’ll see what happens. I have a number of things I’d like to get the Wings card involved with, including serving as a display for my Timex Sinclair 1000, which I have yet even to power on for lack of a usable display (it needs to be run into something with a TV tuner, so I’ll probably send it into a set-top DVD burner I have, which should be able to then send S-video to the Wings card). I’m not sure if the video signal will be too degraded by that point or not, though. I’d also like to hook up the audio in/out to the TS1000 for use as a “cassette recorder.” And when the Bell & Howell’s power situation gets resolved, I have a fairly elaborate plan to connect that up here as well. There’s still a fair amount of tinkering left to do here I think. But there’s some progress at least. Though maybe not enough to be worthy of posting this.

Apr 072012
 

On the Bell & Howell front, I have now cleaned it all up, and reassembled it. In the process, I found this stamped under the keyboard, which pretty definitively indicates that I was right about this being an August, 1981, machine. (Further evidence that the “8138” really does mean “38th week of 1981,” corresponding to September 14–18, 1981. So, I guess they built the case on Monday, August 10th, and put it in a pile for five weeks, then built up the motherboard and assembled it.)

Bhiiplus keyboard date

When I plugged it in, frayed cord and all, and hit the power switch, I got nothing. No response. This means one of two things to me: either the power supply in the machine is dead, or I plugged in the leads from the backpack to the power supply wrong (which, I suppose, might also mean that the power supply is now dead as a result). I have not tested the power supply separately, but I did plug in the terrarium power supply to the Bell & Howell and got this:

Bhiiplus side powered

All keys working, power light on, everything at least initially appears A-OK. The video is running on my composite amber monitor, out of the backpack, courtesy of a BNC-RCA adapter I picked up today as well.

Bhiiplus keytest

This also rectifies the oversight from before, as I now have a picture of the game I/O port on my own machine. Here it is close up, for your viewing pleasure.

Bhiiplus gameio

Now I just need to decide what cards go in it, replace the feet with some authentic spares I have coming to me in the mail, replace the power supply (with something authentic I hope), and set up the backpack in some useful way.

My current semi-crazy but interesting plan is this, for the record: I will install a language card (to bring it up to 64K), a Super Serial card (to allow it to connect to other computers), and a Disk ][ card (with one or two drives connected). Here is an "artist's" rendition of that, courtesy of Penultimate on my iPad:

Bhiiplus art slots

And here is my similarly skillful rendition of the AV connections I intend to make with the backpack.

Bhiiplus art av

The features of the diagrams above are as follows:

  • I will bring audio in from one or two nearby machines, to allow them to be mixed by the backpack (just to give the mixing knobs in the backpack something to do, I can't think of any real practical use for this).
  • One video out goes to a monitor atop the machine.
  • The second video out goes to a capture card, probably the Wings personality card in the Power Mac G3. Caveat here: I need to put some kind of surge suppression mechanism in there, because otherwise the power surge over that cable when the Apple is turned on will likely kill the G3. I don't know if I have to build this myself, or if there is something out there that can accomplish this for me.
  • The speaker out also goes to the capture card, right channel.
  • The cassette out goes to the capture card, left channel.
  • The cassette in comes from the G3, left channel.
  • The Power Mac G3 streams the video/audio to the internet for remote consumption.
  • A webcam is also placed facing the Apple so that it can be viewed that way, too, and not just through the straight video out.
  • The Super Serial Card in the Apple will be connected to some Mac capable of communicating with it and with the internet (maybe the Power Mac G3 again, maybe the Performa 6116CD).

What I will have accomplished here is, I think, the following. Presuming that I write the Super Serial Card modification to the modem driver that I discussed in an earlier post, and presuming that the Apple is set to start that up automatically upon power up, I will be able to control the Apple's command line over the internet. I will be able to see what I'm doing both through the webcam stream and through the AV stream. I will be able to send programs not already on the machine through the cassette port, which I can get on the internet. If desired, I can also save data via the cassette port into one channel of the AV stream (though for both loading and saving, I could do this over the serial port if I made a slightly more sophisticated driver). Et voilà. Mostly controllable Apple ][ plus over the internet. Better still, using the backpack for what it adds to the machine, since the "speaker out" function wouldn't have been available in a regular Apple ][ plus, and none of this requires additional line splitting.

Further, if I can get the Apple Cat ][ set up with X10 modules on a different Apple II that I can communicate with over the internet, I can use that to power the Bell & Howell off and on if it ever freezes or gets into a state where it needs local input that I can’t provide.

There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, but if it works, it would be very cool. And it seems like it should be technically feasible.