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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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.