RCWW14: Homespun Archaeology

Imagine my surprise when I found the following in a box in my basement:


Excelan1 Excelan2 Excelan3 Excelan4 Excelan5 Excelan6

Excelan LAN Workplace was a TCP/IP stack for early versions of Xenix 386.   I have both this opened box and another sealed box in my possession (which I may sell sometime in the near future).

Unexpected finds like this are what I live for!  Whenever I feel as though my computer hobby is stagnating, I come across something like this that will rekindle the fire!

Finding floppy images for SCO Xenix 386 wasn’t a difficult task.  I have version 2.3.1 downloaded, but I think that includes TCP/IP capabilities.  If so, I’ll hunt for an even older release of Xenix so I can play around with LWP.

After which, I’ll have to look through the lab to see if I have a 386 on which to install Xenix.

Unfortunately, I won’t have time to play with this stuff during the Retrochallenge Winter Warmup, so consider this my entry into the 2014 Summer Retrochallenge!



RCWW14: Shifting gears


I discovered a few interesting things while packing up my basement lab this evening… a few more boxes of Unix stuff I got when I bought out a failed dotcom’s equipment back in 2002.  Two versions of AIX, a version of HP-UX, a bunch of developers’ tools, manuals for things I don’t have, and one other thing that I’ll reveal tomorrow.

I am most excited about this last thing, as I’m going to plan my summer Retrochallenge around it.


RCWW14: Checking in

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around the Wheeler household.  Our SUV ended up dying again (main seals were leaking like a sieve), but with a little help we got it fixed.

Haven’t had any time for my entries, as is usually the case.  I’m looking forward to working on my PC-1500 on Sunday.  First thing I plan to do is figure out how to generate true random numbers (usually accomplished by using the value of the timer to seed the random number generator), after that my challenge will really begin.

My Visor and Visorphone combo is still going strong,  although I do miss having all the (comparitive) bells and whistles of my Palm Treo 650 (my usual cellphone).  I miss my iPhone 3G too, but that doesn’t see as much use as the Treo at the best of times.

In other news, I gave one of my unused PCs to my wife’s friend (an amateur graphics designer).  Her eMac had been showing its age, and she wanted something a lot faster, but couldn’t afford to pay much.  So, I grabbed the aforementioned PC and threw the latest Debian Linux on it, loaded it with graphics apps, and gave her a quick lesson in Linux.  She absolutely loved it!

Another successful convert!


RCWW14: Warming Up!

It’s comparatively balmy out today!


As it turns out, the block heater on our SUV was fine.  The battery, however, had frozen solid.  The sides were bulging out so much, it was hard to pull it out of its holder, let alone loosen the clamps holding it in place.

I had to delve into my secret retro-fund for a new battery, but once installed, the car started as if it were a summer day!  Guess my MSX flash cart (or replica Altair) can wait a few more weeks.

I’ll have a bit of free time this evening, and I’m looking forward to starting my PC-1500 projects tonight!



RCWW14: Frozen Solid

To say it’s cold here in Winnipeg this morning would be an understatement:


It was SO cold, our car wouldn’t start.  The cord for the block heater (which warms the engine oil) is broken (I forgot to unplug it before driving away a few months ago), and the battery couldn’t supply enough juice to turn the cold engine over… thus I get to spend my evening in the garage while they fix my block heater.

So, that’s another day lost for me. Hopefully I’m back in the groove tomorrow!

While we wait patiently for tomorrow, here’s something that came across my Twitter feed earlier that might interest retro Unix enthusiasts:  The long-lost Dell Unix has been found and virtualized!  I’m going to try this out myself in the next couple of months.


RCWW14: Winter Wonderland

The Visorphone finally ran out of juice at 6am today!

48 hours between charges… not bad!  It’s currently being charged (no pun intended) and will be for the next several hours.  Thankfully it won’t be seeing much use today, as the missus and I are doing our week’s shopping and such.  But first, we’ll have to dig our way out, as Winnipeg was hit by a winter storm yesterday and we’ve been blanketed in snow.

That said, I probably won’t be doing much in the way of retrocomputing today.

RCWW14: Keeps On Ticking

I have to say, I am impressed with this Visorphone.

Its 14-year old battery still shows a 55% charge after 24+ hours of use! That’s 8 phone calls and several hundred text messages between Jill and I.   That’s a tad better than my Palm Treo 650, which is also on its original (2004) battery and needs to be charged every 24 hours or so under moderate use (and worlds better than my iPhone 3g, which needs to be charged every 8 hours under light use).



This just proves what us retro-enthusiasts already know: they don’t make ’em like they used to!

Regarding my other project, I still can’t find my CCR-81 cassette recorder for my PC-1500 project.  I’ll have to intensify my search.  If I don’t find it within the next couple of days, I may try using a PC-1500 emulator until the recorder is found.

 **EDIT 9:20AM**


My PocketType keyboard just stopped working.  As I didn’t bring my Stowaway folding keyboard, it looks as though I’ll be handwriting any texts to my wife today…




RCWW14: Going All-in!

I’ve been thinking (!) about the Retrochallenge over the last few nights, and have decided to go all-in this time around.

To that end, in addition to my PC-1500 project, I’ve put my iPhone 3g, Blackberry Bold, and Palm Treo 650 in a drawer for the month of January.  In their stead, I will be using a device which is probably my favourite bit of obscure and obsolete technology.

I’m speaking of my Visorphone.

visorphone1visorphone2  visorphone3 visorphone4 visorphone5 visorphone6

Shown here is the Crown Jewel of my Springboard modules.  I bought it for a song on eBay back in late 2010, when I’d made the decision to buy my first cellphone.  Being especially enamoured of obscure retro-technology (as most of you are) and a Palm Pilot/Handspring Visor enthusiast, I opted to hunt for a Visorphone, something I knew of only in legend.

The battery still holds a charge (it’s been 3 hours now), although I don’t know how long it’ll last.  I’ll have to leave my Visor’s charger at work in case I need to charge the thing throughout the day.

The Visorphone doesn’t have much in the way of capabilities: no web browsing, no Bluetooth, no MMS, etc.  It sounds like crap (uses the Visor’s built-in microhone), although using a wired headset improves the sound quality dramatically.

Texting can be a chore if you’re not used to the Palm OS Graffiti handwriting input method, but thankfully, there are options.  I use two different external keyboards:  a Kensington PocketType (pictured) and a Targus Stowaway full-sized folding keyboard.

I’ve already had a couple of calls on the thing, and it does feel a bit ungainly.  Texting is a bit awkward due to the size of the combined units, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.  It’s the next best thing to using nothing!

Let’s see how this month plays out.


The Countdown’s on!

One more day until the Winter Warmup starts!

I’m making my final preparations and, in doing so, came upon a wealth of information pertaining to my Sharp PC-1500.  I’ve downloaded the technical reference manual and user’s manual from the site, and hope either one has a good breakdown of the BASIC commands for the unit.

Still haven’t found my CCR-81 cassette recorder, lab’s pretty cluttered.  I’m hoping to find it soon.