Retrochallenge 15-01: and we’re off!

Happy New Year!

As it turns out, the parallel port on my Tandy 2800hd is dead.  I opened it up this morning and some of the components have leaked.  I’ll have to clean the motherboard up and see what needs to be replaced, but I think the 2800 is pretty much out of the race this time around.

Not a big deal… I’ll just use Angry Red to do the things I had planned to do with the 2800.

Speaking of Angry Red, I located a copy of Lotus Smartsuite 4 for Windows 3.1 in the Retrochallenge off-season. I’ll need it for one of my projects later this month.  If I have the time, I’ll install it tonight; if not, it’ll have to wait for the weekend.

I also tracked down a copy of Desqview/X last Retrochallenge, hope to get it going this time around.

More to come tomorrow.

Retrochallenge 2015/01: Here we go again!

I can’t leave well enough alone!  I’ve just entered the upcoming Retrochallenge, despite my earlier assertation that I’d be sitting this one out.

I couldn’t help it, I’ve been in a retrocomputing mood for the last few weeks… I may be able to resurrect my beloved Amiga 2000 after several years of it being dead, my 386 portable (Angry Red) still needs a few tweaks, and I’ve just started a new project or two.  Also, wgoodf has a TI-99 to play with, and I’m curious to see what he does with it, as I own one as well!

So, I’ve sent in my entry with the following project description:

“This winter’s project will be the continuation of my summer project (building up my Toshiba T5200 386 portable) as well as trying to get my Tandy 2800HD to mate with my TRS-80 Model 4P (while my TRS-80 Model 100 takes notes).”

It’ll be difficult to keep myself from starting the RC a couple of weeks early…


Retrochallenge ’14: Wrapping up

I’m a little late in posting this, so please forgive me!

I had a bit of trouble with my DOS-based scanner control program… I missed a setting and ended up wiping all the stored frequencies (RTFM)  in my Uniden BC895XLT scanner.  D’oh!

Luckily, I had a backup of sorts on paper and in an OpenOffice spreadsheet, so all was not lost.  I was able to listen in on the HAM bands and hear the weather forecasts for the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bother with the DOS software and tuned the scanner manually.

Didn’t end up using my Ten Tec RX320D software controlled radio either – couldn’t find a suitable power adapter in the pile.

So, That’s it for me.  The last few (extended) days of the Retrochallenge were a non-event , apart from a few rounds of Fire Hawk and Escape From the Planet of the Robot Monsters.  But, if nothing else, I didn’t bow out early this time!

If all goes well, I’ll see you all in the 2015 RC Winter Warmup… in a new house, with a new lab.


Retrochallenge ’14 Day 28: Allo, Allo…

Been a quiet ten days since my last update.

I’ve been on holidays with the family, so I’ve done little more than play Fire Hawk on my 386.

I am looking to do a bit more before the RC ends on Thursday, but nothing too ambitious.  Tonight’s project will be to install the Windows 3.1 software for my Ten Tec RX320D software-controlled radio, and probably (DOS) software to control my Uniden BC895XLT radio scanner as well.  As Angry Red has no sound card, I’ll have to work with either an external speaker or headphones…

If I have the time in the next couple of days, I may try my hand at adapting the BASIC control program for the RX320D (that was given as an example in the RX320D Programmer’s Guide) to either TRS-80 Model 4P or Model 100 BASIC.



Apparently we’ve been given an extension!  The RC will end this coming Sunday instead of Thursday!  With that in mind, I’ll do my radio stuff tomorrow.  Tonight, I’ll spend my time fixing the brakes on my mountain bike.  I plan to commute to work via bicycle from now until the winter and, until I fix my road bike, the mountain bike will be my vehicle of choice.






Retrochallenge ’14 Day 17: Rated X.

(Note to all you watchdogs out there:  There is nothing perverse or pornographic about this post, nor in the tweet that probably led you here.  It’s all about the X Windows system.)


Haven’t had much time for the RC these last couple of days.  Too busy playing with our very active daughter Astrid, who recently turned a year old.

Asti-MSX2Seen here a few months ago, playing with Daddy’s Sony HB-F1XD MSX2.  Hacker training begins when she can read.


The only RC related thing I’ve done since last update involved armored, transforming mecha, which ended with my wife Jillian saying “Will you turn that damned thing off?  The baby is trying to sleep!”  🙂

Well, I shouldn’t say the only thing… I have been thinking about Angry Red and what function it will perform once integrated into my lab environment at the new house (which so far will consist of mostly Sun machines running various versions of Solaris)(The lab, not the house).  I mean, sure, it’ll make a dandy serial terminal and note-taker, but it’s capable of doing much more than that.  All of my machines are.  Everything was State of the Art once.

So, to that end, I felt the best way to integrate many of my old computers would be to add X-Windows functionality to each one.  Over the last few months, I’ve been hoarding different (and period-specific) X solutions for my various machines.  I have MI/X for Windows and classic Mac, AmiWin for my Amigas, MachTen for PPC Macs, eXceed for Windows, DesqView/X for Windows 3.1, and one for OS/2 Warp 4, the name of which escapes me.

Haven’t tried any of them yet, and likely won’t this time around (no Unix machines set up at the moment).  Hopefully we’ll be in a new house by the time the RC Winter Warmup rolls around.  My plan is to set up my old SparcServer 20 to serve X-sessions to the machines.  As I am only one man (gasp!), I’d only be using one or two machines at a time, so the server load should be light.

Apart from a few really old machines, most of my retrocomputers are capable of running Linux, *BSD, or old versions of Unix.  While it might be easier in the long run to operate in a homogenous *nix environment, it wouldn’t be much fun.  This is why I went with the idea of an X-client/server approach.  I could run *nix-type stuff when needed without taking away the uniqueness or strengths/limitations of the individual computers.

So, that’s my Endgame.  I have all the appropriate hardware and software, all I need now are the time and space to put it all together.  The rest of my Retrochallenge will be spent prepping Angry Red for this task, and maybe seeing what other machines I have left in the lab and what I can do with them.



Retrochallenge ’14 Day Whatever: Angry Red Planet!

Now that the World Cup is over and my Germans are rightful World champions, and since the Bundesliga season doesn’t start for another month, I figured I could spend some time on my Retrochallenge… whatever the Hell it is.

Last week’s small victory turned out to be a loss… the floppy drive in my Tandy 1500HD is toast.  Since the hard drive is quite dead as well, I have no simple way of booting the laptop.  This model didn’t have the TANDY EEPROM that many other models had, which usually contained a small MSDOS logical drive with Tandy’s DeskMate software.   So, unless I can fix the floppy drive, it is unusable as a computer.

Speaking of floppies, I found a 10″ x 10″ x 10″ box full of ’em rotting away in a damp corner of the basement.  Probably a good 200 disks easily, most of which were rendered useless by the damp.  No real loss, as they were mostly Amiga MODs and BBS & internet downloads I’d since backed up to CD.  I didn’t lose any original software disks, as they were at the top of the box and therefore spared the damp fate of the disks on the bottom.

Of those originals, 90 percent were late 80s/early 90s PC games… chief among them was Fire Hawk: Thexder II.  One of my favourite games of that era, and the first PC game I ever bought!

So, I fired up Angry Red to see if any of the floppies still worked.  In doing so, I took note of Angry Red’s specs.

AngryRedDOSShown here booting to MS-DOS 5.0

Angry Red is running MS-DOS 5.0/Windows 3.1 and sports a 20MHz 386 w/387 Math coprocessor, 2Mb RAM on board (with 3 empty SIMM-like slots for proprietary RAM modules), 100Mb HD, and two ISA slots, 1 x 8- and 1 x 16-bit.  The slots are currently occupied by a generic 28.8 modem and a 16-bit Adaptec SCSI card, the model of which escapes me for the moment.  I wanted to replace the modem with an 8-bit Sound Blaster card (which would also add a game port), but the card is too long to fit.  Ah well, I think I have an AdLib card or a twin gameport card somewhere in the lab…

As I suspected, Angry Red is saddled with slow-ass 8250 UARTs, which might hamper a future plan involving the serial ports.


AngryRedWindowsWindows 3.1 and the laptop’s namesake


AngryRedFileManagerWindows 3.1 in all its glory

I tooled around in DOS and Windows for a bit, mostly to refamiliarize myself with Windows 3.1.  Using File Manager required a bit of an adjustment on my part.  I’ve been spoiled by later, better file managers… even Windows Explorer looks good in comparison!  Tonight’s project will be to connect a SCSI CDROM to the system so I can go through my old Night Owl CDs (et cetera).  I’m looking specifically for tweaks and user interface options for Windows, perhaps a decent text editor and terminal program (w/zmodem) as well.

I found a program called Rooms which, from what I understand, creates virtual desktops (similar to some Xwindows managers) in Windows 3.1.  I’ll try it out tonight to see if I can make use of it.


The rest of the evening was spent playing Fire Hawk.  The game’s sound and background music sounded passable through the PC Speaker, but certainly not as good as it sounded through my old AdLib.  I’ll have to do something about that…



While I have the original diskettes, I don’t seem to have the manual the game came with… which makes defeating the manual-based copy protection a random endeavour.  Thankfully I had a copy of CopyWrite and Rescue (cracking programs) on one of the floppies I found in the box, so I was able to enjoy my favourite PC game again.  Next up, Star Control!

I’ll report on tonight’s CDROM/Windows tweaking efforts tomorrow morning.

Retrochallenge ’14: Days Nine and Ten

My blog host,, was down again last night, so I wasn’t able to publish anything.

I had a bit of good luck (or saving grace!) last night as I went to toss a few things into the trash.  Just as I was about to toss my non-working Tandy 1500HD laptop into the bin, I noticed a heretofore unnoticed switch on the side of the machine… one that was labeled BACKLIGHT.  One that was set to LOW instead of HI.  Duurrrrrrrr…

I’ve had this machine apart more often than my Amiga 2000, yet I completely missed this switch.  I brought the laptop back into the house, plugged it in, flicked the switch to HI, and powered it on.  Damned if it didn’t work!



This adds a whole new dimension to my Retrochallenge.  The 1500’s (XTA?) hard drive was dead when I bought the machine, but as far as I know, the floppy drive still works.  I’ll test it tonight (Thursday), and will then consider what I want to do with the machine, and how to integrate it into the RC and my lab.

I also tracked down the manual for another piece of hardware in the lab, as well as a program that supports it.  If I have time I’ll test it as well.

Will update tonight after work, assuming is up 😉








Retrochallenge ’14: Day Eight

I found a bit of time in which to work on Angry Red last night, mostly to re-familiarize myself with the machine.

It’s obvious I’d done some work (software-wise) on the system, although I don’t remember what my overall plan was.  Angry Red pre-dated my current project management system by a couple of years, so what few project notes I kept are scattered about on fast food napkins or scribbled on discarded printouts.

I vaguely remember installing Trumpet Winsock a few Retrochallenges ago, so I could dial in to my account at SDF.  I remember being able to connect via PPP, but not getting any internet programs to work (gopher, telnet, browser).  The project was probably shelved when life interfered and I was forced to drop out of that particular Retrochallenge (heh).

Of course, I won’t be able to dial out from my house, as we no longer have a phone line.  But that’s the great thing about having a portable computer, I can dial out from elsewhere if need be.  I might try to do just that later in the week, and troubleshoot the connection.

Speaking of connections, I dug out my old Xircom Parallel Port/Ethernet box from the depths.  I’ve had it for about a decade but never used it. Hell, I don’t even remember why I bought it… probably for use on a computer I no longer have for a purpose long-forgotten. I did manage to find the drivers way back when, even burned them to a CD! Now, once I find that CD I’ll be able to use the unit with Angry Red.

More updates to come throughout the day.

(CJ’s note:  Which didn’t happen, as MOTD was down all day yesterday)