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 definitely 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

Brighton Bank Holiday Monday

Last Bank holiday Monday Anita, Debbie and myself went to Brighton for the day. We parked at the Marina where the car park is free although you have to walk the mile or so along the beach to get back to the Pier and the town centre.

We arrived early and made our way to the Post & Telegraph Weatherspoons for a full English breakfast.

IMG_0088The Marina car park at Brighton

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Brighton Beach in the glorious sunshine. A long walk ahead.

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Anita and Debbie walking ahead. The Pier is in the distance.

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Debbie trying our Hula Hooping in the Tiger store.

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Cloud Gallery. One of our favourite art gallery’s in Brighton. We usually buy JJ Adams prints from here. Anita decided to sit down and eat the free sweets whilst Debbie and I browsed.

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This is a print we bought from JJ Adams. Love it or Hate it?

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We would never visit Brighton without a quick stop at Choccywoccydoodah

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So much for our diets. Milkshakes. Mine was peanut butter flavoured. Yum!

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We like to visit this Mexican restaurant for lunch. They do a fantastic chocolate Chile brownie. Dos Sombreros.

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Lego 1093 Interface A

This is another project. I purchased this kit from Ebay and it dates around 1986 and would be used with an original BBC Microcomputer to interface it with Lego motors and sensors. The kits are fairly easy to get hold of and Ebay still sells sensors and motors but the kit has no software and/or instructions.

I have a BBC Micro but need to get hold of the software. There are some Lego fan sites with at least one selling the software but for £400+.

I spoke with Lego who cant help me and have just emailed someone at the Centre for Computing History who apparently have a complete kit in storage box 130. I’m hoping they can help me with copies/code examples/instructions etc as it would be nice to get this old kit working again.

Once working with the BBC, I would also like to see if its possible to get it working with something more modern like a raspberry Pi.

Lets see what their response is……

15th September – No email response from the Centre for Computing History but today we attended their annual Retro Computer Festival and chatted with some of the volunteers. One chap managed to locate the software disc I need and is going to copy it and se me a copy in the post. Lets see if it arrives?

Lego Weekend

We didn’t plan for a Lego weekend but none the less, its seems to be a weekend dominated by Lego.

Debbie’s birthday is coming up soon and she has wanted the 70922 Joker’s Manor set for some time now. Just by chance, I noticed that Smyths Toys had a sale on and it was reduced from around £260 to £170 so we bought this as its a fantastic set and price along with a similarly reduced BB8 set.

I also received an email newsletter from Lego promoting their new Tron cycles set and then found buyers on Ebay selling the set from the official London launch signed by the designers. Again, we had to have one of these and after some bids and offers on Lego managed to pick one up for £60. This should arrive early next week and hope its as described?

I also mentioned to Debbie that the Lego store in London has a Mosaic booth which takes your photograph and turns this into an image with all the bricks you need to make your own portrait from Lego. You get the large photographic plan with a box of Lego bricks to make your portrait. We noticed they also have the same at LEGOLAND in Windsor and decided to pop there this morning.

You have to go to the LEGOLAND Hotel reception. There the staff give you one of the security cards that guests normally use so you can access the lift. When you get to the right floor, you are right next to the bar, restaurant and other children’s attractions inside the Hotel. You present your voucher (£99 cost) and the staff help you to use the photo booth. It takes about 10 minutes after which you get your box of 1×1 bricks and your photographic plan for making your own mosaic. The box also includes a large base plate. This will look great when framed.

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Debbie has just gone into the booth.

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Debbie holding her box of 1×1 bricks and base plate for the Mosaic

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The restaurant and Mosaic maker area.

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The animated clock and Dragon at the Hotel entrance who snores and breathes smoke from his nose

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Star Wars – The Saga Continues

Back in September 2017, Lego released their UCS Millennium Falcon 75192 for £649.99 with around 7500 pieces. Within hours they were sold out. Since then they have had a few come into stock but they quickly sell out and we have been unable to purchase one. Debbie was keen to buy one so I bought her Lego gift vouchers to purchase the Falcon when it did come into stock.

This week, I started using the stock informer website again and on a couple of occasions the site showed John Lewis online as having some small stock. I quickly went to the John Lewis website and added one to my basket. I got the payment authorization page to be given a message that the there had been an error. This happened again on at least one more occasion. thankfully as I was off work this week I was able to keep an eye on any further stock. It turns out that John Lewis’s website lets everyone put one of these in their basket and lets you proceed with the order until the payment stage where the first person to pay gets the item – perhaps not he best system?

Finally on another occasion I managed to get one and complete payment. I phone Debbie and she was delighted to know her Falcon was on the way. A couple of hours later I was out shopping and used my Capital One credit card to pay for some goods but it was declined. When I got home short while later I contacted them to be told the John Lewis order had triggered an anti-fraud mechanism and the John Lewis order had been declined. They unblocked the card and said if I tried again the order would go through. I then contacted John Lewis who said because the credit card company had declined the payment, they had cancelled the order and we would not be getting the Falcon. Again I pointed out to John Lewis the folly of their system. Other retailers would simply contact you and ask for alternative payment or try again. John Lewis don’t do this so no Falcon.

Luckily, a little later on, another one came into stock and I managed to purchase the item and finally got an email confirming the order could be collected the next day.

Next day I excitedly drove to John Lewis at High Wycombe and picked up the Falcon. One very happy Debbie has started building the model.

In the mean time, Debbie has contacted Lego to ask for a refund for the vouchers to pay for the Falcon from John Lewis. They seem to have agreed and we are just waiting for the refund to happen – update to follow.

A big thank you again to the stock informer website.

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