Centre for computing history Retro Computer Festival 2018

We visited this festival again for the third year in a row, I think it is.

Held at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge. It’s tucked away in a little industrial estate with limited car parking.

Once through the inconspicuous doors that hide a gem of nerdiness, you are met with a little reception desk and small shop area with an array of computer related gadgets and niknaks.

There is s small hatch which serves drinks and some limited snacks, tables to sit and eat and a huge working microprocessor simulator occupies a couple of the walls.

This weekend they break out all the arcade machines, consoles, handhelds, computers, mainframes and associated hardware and software. You can interact with many of the most influential computers in silicon history. I love this festival because there’s also a large number of enthusiasts and experts to tell you about the systems and I love the stories they tell that help to bring them to life.

If you were s child of the 70’s and 80’s particularly then you will love this.

In a side room is a mockup of a 70’s/80’s office and in another room were some enthusiasts displaying their personal collections.

I went over to talk to a man who sells the RC2014 z80 kit. I bought one last year and haven’t been able to get it fully working yet. He was able to test most of the PCB’s and confirm they were working. It could still be the CPU PCB or the TTL connector kit. I bought one of his Raspberry Pi expansion PCB’s so I can connect it to a Raspberry pi for video output and bypass the need for the USB serial TTL connection. I now need to get home and check all my solder joints on the CPU assembly.

Debbie and I played games on a few of the consoles including the original pong on a TV console. Obviously I won as can be seen on the video:

About a year ago I purchased a Lego 1093 Interface A set which came with the electronics but no software. I have tried searching online,in forums and even Lego but could not get hold of the required software to use this. I recently found that the Museum had a copy somewhere. On Saturday there was a volunteer demonstrating some similar PC controlled Lego kits and I mentioned this all to him. He was kind enough to locate the software and spoke to a colleague who is going to make a copy and send it out to me. Looking forward to that.

Another exhibitor at the event was the ex managing director of Commodore, David Pleasance, who has just released a new book about his days running Commodore. He has also released an accompanying Blu-ray with interviews and a music CD. He has a musical history as well as looking after one of the most iconic computer companies of the 80’s. We bought his book for £30 and Blu-ray for £20 and he threw in the CD. After some problems taking electronic payments, he signed both and allowed a photo opportunity. Looking forward to reading the inside story of Commodore.

 

One of the things I always enjoy about this event is seeing the enthusiasts and volunteers who continue to maintain old systems and in some cases develop new hardware and software to keep these systems alive and popular as ever. Retro is dvefinitely in.

One of the volunteers was showing off his Altair 8080 emulator. A hardware version of the classic computer that is fully working with an authentic looking control panel.

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Some of the great systems to see and play!

 

 

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Day trip to Brighton Burn Up

Sunday the 9th September was the Ace Café Burn Up Event for motorcycles and my brother and family decided to visit. He has a motorcycle and wanted to go to see all the other bikes.

We parked at the Marina, where car parking is free for the whole day. When we got there, level 9 is used for a car boot sale on Sunday’s so we had a little walk around and bought a couple of lego bits. They have quite a nice collection of sellers selling some quirky items and antiques. Quite a different vibe to our local car boot sale in Slough.

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After a short while at the car boot, we headed to the Harvester for an all you can eat breakfast! Its a good deal for about £8 including continental and drinks. Beware the cold beans though. The chef seemed to struggle with providing hot beans!

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We then started the long walk from the Marina to the town centre past the nudist beach and the motorcycles already doing some stunts.

Once we got to town we headed to our favourite art shop, Cloud Gallery. I saw three prints I liked from my favourite pop culture artist, JJ Adams, although Debbie was not so impressed:

I cant believe I managed to resist buying one on the spot. Maybe a Christmas present?

We did some window shopping in the lanes and bought one more item ready for our annual Halloween party. It’s a hand made chest we thought might look good:

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After some brief rest, we headed for our 2.30 appointment on the British Airways i360 experience. A 450 foot tall ride in a doughnut shaped metal/glass 360 degree panoramic view elevator. I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But once inside and its climbing slowly, its very smooth and spacious and you have the choice of sitting down on seats, buying a drink at the bar or walking to the glass windows and taking in the views over Brighton on a glorious sunny afternoon.

Once at the bottom, you exit through the shop and we purchased the souvenir photo book with keyring. An eye watering £20!.

Outside there was a colourful and somewhat noisy Hare Krishna procession and we just caught the end of this including some of the crowd pulling a large wooden contraption.

 

On the way back to the Marina and the car we used the Volks Electric railway to save our feet and had an ice cream by the beach. I’m disappointed that the staff at the station were very unhelpful with my Mum who wanted to take her mobility scooter ono the train. They made no effort at all even though when folded it takes up no more room than a pushchair that they did put with the driver. She had to drive it back to the Marina as they wouldn’t help her get it on the train – Bad staff!

Looking for somewhere to have lunch/dinner

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We ended up in a Weatherspoons. Here’s mum and Michael looking happy?IMG_1358

This is their idea of keeping important IT equipment safe by leaving it on the floor by my feetIMG_1359

Next time I must try out this Mexican restaurant we saw on the road leaving Brighton for the A23/M23. Brilliant weather, brilliant day with the family  and as always we love Brighton. Cant wait to get back next weekend for the Chilli festival!IMG_1360

Scuba Dive No 2 Wraysbury Dive Centre

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Tuesday night was my second dive at the wraysbury Dive centre. I took advantage of their new diver package (£50 including equipment hire) to continue my diving practice.

I used my own BCD, regs, boots and this time my own weight belt with 12Kg. Felt more trim in the water than the last dive. Only used the dive centres wetsuit, mask and fins.

Met a very helpful diver, Les, who took me on a tour of the lake. Water temperature was about 20 degress and visibility was about 3 metres. Les assures me that at other times of the year/different weather the visibility is very good. Max depth was 6.7M according to my Suunto Vyper Dive computer. Used quite alot of air. Went from 220 PSi to about 75 in a short time but put this down to a little anxiety, the poor visibility and some poor finning.

Next step, may be some more practice dives at Wraysbury and then the advanced open water course including a deep dive.

BBQ Summer 2018

The end of another summer holiday from teaching and it was time for the annual gettogether. BBQ in our garden.

It took a while to get ready. New turf as the old grass was ruined. Take down old shed and build new one. Repairs to decking etc etc, clean pond and count fish (60).

We don’t have a huge garden so it was a bit of a squeeze at times. It was great to spend some time with family, friends and work colleagues. Two of them are the leaving the country shortly and so it will be a while before I see them again.

 

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Mindy having a little lie down before the BBQ begins

 

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The quiet before the storm. Setting up the BBQ

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The spirits are delicately balanced on the end of the log flume.IMG_1271IMG_1272

George and Ruth with their Pavlova. Yummy!

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Anita showing her manners -wonder if her parents see these pictures?

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I’m still alive!

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Its been a couple of weeksnow since I’ve done any real activities during the school holidays. Did some Kayaking on Wednesday but nothing else after I injured myself playing squash. Still got some knee, neck and arm pain.

I haven’t been SCUBA diving for quite a few years now and decided this summer was time to get back in the water again or I probably never would. Today was the day. I had some concerns:

Would my recent injuries prevent me from diving? No.

Would they have a wetsuit big enough for me as I’ve put on a lot of weight since my last dive? Yes thankfully and bigger!

Could I still use my own equipment, bought a while ago, but hardly ever used? Yes, but need to get some kit serviced.

Would I bottle it entirely? No, but I nearly turned the car around and went home.

Would I make a complete twat of myself? Not quite although I certainly need lots more practice in the water.

Arrived at Wraysbury Dive Centre at about 9.30 and was met with a couple of younger guys called Andrew and Jimmy who would be my instructors for the morning. Throughout the morning they helped to put me at ease and were very patient with me. They quickly found me a wetsuit that fitted fine. I tried my gear on. The BCD just fits me. Any more weight and it wont! We used a mix of my equipment and theirs. In total, I was there for about 3 hours during which they demonstrated and then tested my ability to practice basic SCUBA skills such as buoyancy control, mask clear, buddy breathing, regulator retrieval, assembly of gear etc. After this they gave me short tour of part of the lake to practice my diving and then back to dry land. Really enjoyed it. Wasn’t particularly graceful in the water and need lots of practice to get comfortable again. Not sure if I’ve got my weights properly sorted/balance yet just for me.

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Dive time was about 32 minutes and it was nice to get a recent entry in my dive log book. The lake is quite murky with visibility of 5-6M. There are some sunken vehicles to explore at various points, fish and American red crayfish everywhere. The instructor tried to get me to hold one of them. I managed to touch its shell but had no intention of getting up close and personal with anything that has more legs than me and pincers to boot.

The guys were very patient with me. I had one to one attention and no else was diving at the time so made me a little less self conscious than I might have been otherwise. Have left my Suunto dive computer with them for a service and booked a new diver package for the 21st for some more practice with a buddy for hire (cost £50).

One of the problems for me to dive is that you need a buddy and all my family and friends cant dive, are not interested in diving and/or cant swim and don’t like water. Hopefully I can find a more permanent buddy at Wraysbury and continue diving through the year. I would also like to take one of my underwater cameras with me and try to get some footage next time perhaps?

The SCUBA review cost £65 and for 3 hours of tuition, equipment and patience, I think this is great value for money. Looking forward to the 21st now and some more practice.

Nintendo SNES Classic Mini

This is my SNES mini that I picked up from Game in Bracknell for £79.99 late last year when they were difficult to get hold of. They were released in September and like many newly released Nintendo products quickly sold out and you had to keep an eye online for available stock.

It comes preinstalled with 21 built in games:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • EarthBound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!!
  • Yoshi’s Island

In the box is an HDMI cable as they connect to your TV via HDMI, two controllers and a Micro USB cable to connect to a 5V power source. They are tiny compared to the original SNES, very light, have a power and reset button but the cartridge slot is for show only and does not function. They also have additional features and such as the ability to rewind games.

For the nerds, the SNES mini uses the  Allwinner R16 system on a chip with four ARM Cortex A7 central processing units and an ARM Mali 400 MP2 graphics processing unit. It includes 512 MB of flash storage and 256 MB of DDR3 memory. I haven’t tried yet but apparently it is hackable and runs the Linux operating system.