Author Topic: Retro computing parts kit  (Read 2715 times)

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Offline niladherbert

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Retro computing parts kit
« on: April 18, 2018, 10:16:41 am »
Could you advise me as to the best tools and parts to start in retrocomputing?
 

Offline Halcyon

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2018, 10:33:51 am »
There isn't an easy answer. There are many "rabbit holes" you can go down, each just as complicated as the next.

I guess you should probably start by working out what platform(s) you are interested in. Personally, most of my collection involves vintage PC's (and PC clones) and Apple Macs (Classic, SE, PowerPC) but I have a few different machines as well including Commodore, Atari, Amstrad and Sharp.

You will also need deep pockets. Proper vintage gear that is in good condition can fetch high prices depending on what you're after. Collecting PC parts and putting them together yourself is probably the cheapest option.

Many people do it for nostalgia, in other words, they try to recreate and put together working machines they had when they were growing up. I know when I was young, I threw away a lot of computer gear which would be valuable today. Thankfully, I've "recovered" most of it over the years (including the exact same model of mini-tower case I had in 1994).
 

Offline Ampera

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2018, 02:51:59 pm »
While it might not be the best idea, as the prices keep shooting up, I started by building a good old 486 PC-Compatible.

As Halcyon said, there are many ways you can get started, each dependent on your skill level.

If you're looking for a good place to get started for little experience in EE, and you just want a machine to toy around with, I would base one off the Slot 1 platform with a Pentium 3. Get a decent card like a GeForce 2mx, or if you want a Cadillac, 1 or 2 Voodoo 2's with a decent AGP 2D card. Something like a cheap AWE64 or Sound Blaster Live! would do for sound. The idea is to get used to building old machines, and managing the software on them.

With this machine you can easily play most DOS and Windows 95/98 game that are not affected by high CPU speeds. Stuff like Doom, Quake, Duke3D, and Half-Life will all run great on a machine like this, and the parts are relatively cheap on eBay.

If you're looking for a solder together, get a neat machine kit, then that's a bit harder. Altair 8800 kits would be my first choice, but they are piss expensive, as well as trying to do something like MTM Scientific's IBM PC 5150 clone. Apple 1 clone boards are a bit on the cheaper and easier side, last I recall, but they don't do a whole lot, having only what is effectively a serial video terminal strapped to the machine, meaning you can't do any sort of graphics, and in terms of games, you better like chess.

For more classic micros, C64s are always easy to pick up, as well as Atari computers, like the 8-bit, and maybe even the ST. If you're in the UK, you can probably find a ZX Spectrum for the pile of lint in your pocket.

If you want further inspiration, I'd check out the machines built by people like LGR and PhilsComputerLab on YouTube. Those two, especially the latter, tend to have very very good reviews and perspectives on the machines they cover and build.

Home computers were a thing from the 1970's to today, and with no real limit to what I can consider vintage, there are a plethora of options.
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Offline TK

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2018, 02:57:46 pm »
If you are going to work at the hardware level, then get a retro logic analyzer (HP from the 80's) and you will have a lot of fun!
 

Offline Ampera

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2018, 04:19:07 pm »
If you are going to work at the hardware level, then get a retro logic analyzer (HP from the 80's) and you will have a lot of fun!

mmmm, if I had the money to piss on something like that, I would pick one up. I am in severe lack of decent hardware, and it would be fun for when my EE skills hopefully improve in the future.
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Offline dexters_lab

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2018, 04:55:23 pm »
depends what area of vintage computing your interested in, there are many 8 and 16 bit machines from the 80s and 90s that are still fairly easy to come by and usually cheap to fix with nothing more than a good soldering iron

vintage PCs are somewhat more rare. 486 and older do command some high prices sometimes but often just work with maybe a RTC replacement

so it depends where your passions are
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Offline Alex Eisenhut

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Offline Lionered

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2018, 06:19:43 am »
There are lots of vintage parts available in ebay and Sell My Retro. You'll find valuable resources there. I might consider these sites too once I have full-blown interest in retro computing.
 

Online Bicurico

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2018, 09:56:51 am »
The question is far too generic!

I would seriously recommend you to start with EMULATORS! All classic computer platforms, with exception to Silicon Graphics, can be successfully and faithfully emulated on modern computers!

There is for example an emulator for the Commodore 64, which not only fully emulates the computer - it also simulates the CRT to a degree of perfection, I can spend hours toggling the many parameters to get the EXACT same display as the real thing (which I own).

Once you are familiar with the different platforms and its emulators, you can decide if you really want to get into hardware level. Here you can chose amongst:

1) The real thing: buy second hand devices from eBay or whatever second hand platform you like. Pros: you get the real hardware! Cons: the real hardware will be worn-off, broken or may break, functionality may not be 100% OK and require repairs: caps, keyboard mats, mechanical parts (floppy disk), etc. There is a whole scene in for the recovery/refurbishing/renewal of classic computer/consoles/arcades with lots of tricks to get that plastic shiny again.
2) Cloned hardware: there are some projects that rebuild a cloned version of he original platform, using the same original ROM's! One such project is alive in this forum for the Commodore PET! Pros: Really interesting! Cons: Expensive and verytime consuming.
3) FPGA: there are clones computer platforms based on FPGA. Most notorious are for Commodore Amiga (MESS) and Sinclair Spectrum (ZXUNO). Both can run different machines, too. Pros: cheaper hardware, which is new. Versatile. Relatively compatible with the real platform. Cons: Not the real platform, does not support adding hardware add-ons like the real platforms.

As I said, emulators have come a long way and if you want to just get to know a given platform, this is the FREE route to give you most success. Most software can be found as disk images by just using Google ("abandonware"?).

If you are a nostalgic person (like myself) and you have lots of room and a forgiving wife, there is nothing that beats the feeling of sitting on a computer you used 30 years ago! But rationally there is NO REASON to do so!

And mind you, many second hand computers of tje 80ies and 90ies are way overpriced.

Regards,
Vitor

Offline TerraHertz

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2018, 12:52:30 am »
If you are going to work at the hardware level, then get a retro logic analyzer (HP from the 80's) and you will have a lot of fun!

mmmm, if I had the money to piss on something like that, I would pick one up. I am in severe lack of decent hardware, and it would be fun for when my EE skills hopefully improve in the future.

Hey, old logic analyzers can be pretty cheap! Some examples:
  https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=hp+1630+logic+analyzer
  https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=Tek+1240+logic+analyzer

Reason they are cheap, is they are useless for modern fast logic families. But fine for old stuff.

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/1961-Wang-Magnetic-Core-Memory-20x20-bits-with-very-large-cores/253011993720?hash=item3ae8b0a478:g:1MYAAOSwjKFZUHC5

https://www.ebay.ca/str/Lawrences-Attic
Good heavens, look at those prices. Hanging on to tubes of old ICs might be a good idea after all.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2018, 01:09:44 am by TerraHertz »
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Offline Ampera

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Re: Retro computing parts kit
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2018, 01:15:25 am »
Thanks for the tip, but 70 dollars is what I consider expensive for a yearly income of 1 German Pfennig.
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