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How it was when we were young

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Turning a typewriter into a Linux terminal

Reading time 3 min
Views 8.9K

Hi everyone, a few months ago I got a Brother AX-25, and since then, I've been working on turning it into a computer. It uses an Arduino to scan the custom mechanical keyboard and control the typewriter, and a Raspberry Pi is connected to the Arduino over serial so I can log into it in headless mode.

See how it works
Total votes 10: ↑10 and ↓0 +10
Comments 5

Music on the Commodore PET and the Faulty Robots

Reading time 26 min
Views 2.4K

After completion of the System Beeps, I wasn’t planning to make another stand alone album release with the pseudo polyphonic music, as I felt the topic had been explored enough. This, however, wouldn’t mean I couldn’t apply the experience and skills gained to make more utilitarian stuff, like an actual retro game OST or an old school demoscene project. Such an opportunity arose in Autumn 2020, as David Murray of The 8-bit Guy Youtube channel fame announced his new game to be in development, the Attack of The PETSCII Robots for Commodore PET and some other Commodore 8-bitters. As I previously worked with David on his previous big release, Planet X3 game for MS-DOS, and this was a perfect opportunity to satisfy my interest towards the pre-graphics era PCs as well as apply my vast experience both in the minimalistic computer music and 6502 assembly programming, I offered my services that had been accepted. Besides the sound code I also had hopes to participate as a music composer this time.

Unfortunately, this time the project didn’t went well on my side, and lots of issues of all kinds eventually turned it into a small scale development hell (you can learn more from a series of posts at my Patreon blog)  The end result was that my code and sound effects were only used in the VIC-20 port, and music for other versions has been created by other people. However, I was left with the full working code of the sound system for PET, and a number of music sketches. It would be a pity to file it into the archive, PET projects aren’t a frequent thing these days, so another chance to use the stuff wouldn’t come any time soon. So I got the idea to develop my music sketches into full songs, and release it as an alternative OST, and having David’s approval it has been done and released in the Winter 2021 as Faulty Robots, a small music album for PET that is available as a digital audio release and a runnable program for the actual PET computer.

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Total votes 5: ↑5 and ↓0 +5
Comments 2

Full motion video with digital audio on the classic 8-bit game console

Reading time 13 min
Views 1.2K

Back in 2016 an United States based music composer and performer Sergio Elisondo released an one-man band music album A Winner Is You (know your meme), with multi-instrumental cover versions of tunes from numerous memorable classic NES games. A special feature of this release has been its version released in the NES cartridge format that would run on a classic unmodified console and play digitized audio of the full album, instead of the typical chiptune sound you would expect to come from this humble console. I was involved with the software development part of this project.

This year Sergio makes a return with a brand new music release. This time it is all original music album You Are Error, heavily influenced with the video game music aesthetics. It also comes with a special extra. This time we have raised the stakes, and a new NES cartridge release includes not only the digitized audio, but full motion videos for each song, done in the silhouette cutout style similar to the famous Bad Apple video. Yet again, this project is crowdfunded via Kickstarter. It already got the asked amount in a mere 7 hours, but there is still a little time to jump on the bandwagon and get yourself a copy. In the meantime I would like to share an insight on the technical side of both projects.

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Total votes 4: ↑4 and ↓0 +4
Comments 0

Making a demo for NES — HEOHdemo

Reading time 26 min
Views 4.9K
There is a lengthy history of computer arts festivals, also known as demo parties, held in Russia over the last quarter century. For decades, once in a while people from all over the country gather together to compete in their ingenuity at getting what was once deemed impossible out of the old or new computer hardware and mere bytes of code. A few leading annual events has been established in the early years. One of them, creatively named CAFe (an acronym for Computer Art FEstival), was held in Kazan from 1999 to 2003. It went under the radar since, making the way for the everlasting Chaos Constructions (1999 — now) and DiHalt (2005 — now). After so long hiatus, the last year CAFe made a loud comeback, returning in full glory — at least by the number of prods released, if not in the scale of the event itself. Presentation of the compo entries went far into the night, with the last demos being shown at 6 AM to the popping eyes of the few hardy ones. There was my demo, too, and this is the story of its making.

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Total votes 13: ↑12 and ↓1 +11
Comments 0

Making a demo for an old phone — AONDEMO

Reading time 13 min
Views 3.5K
I wanted to make a demo ever since I saw the classic Polish mega demo Lyra II for first time in 1997. I also wanted to do something for the largest Russian demo party Chaos Constructions for a long while, but have never gotten around that, being occupied with other duties. Finally, in 2018 the time has come, and I fulfilled both desires at once, Van Damm's double impact style — made a demo called AONDEMO that entered ZX Spectrum 640K Demo compo at Chaos Constructions.

I bet the red thing you've just seen does not look much a Spectrum to you. Here's the story.

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Total votes 13: ↑11 and ↓2 +9
Comments 0

A Brief History of Video Conferencing: From the Beginning to Full Commercial Use

Reading time 11 min
Views 8.6K
A Brief History of Video Conferencing

Video conferencing systems, so familiar to us today, have come a long way — more than a hundred years passed from fantastic ideas inspired by belief in unstoppable technical progress to the first mass implementation of video conferencing systems. A lot of dramatic events have come along the way. The way to success wasn’t easy at all.
Total votes 19: ↑15 and ↓4 +11
Comments 4

The Origins of Startup Culture: How the Early Success Stories Shaped the Modern State of the Tech Industry

Reading time 4 min
Views 3.1K
In the late 1930s, two Stanford students, William Hewlett and David Packard, were inspired by their professor’s plea to turn the Bay Area into the national capital of high tech. Operating out of the cheapest property they could find — a garage in suburban Palo Alto, they built their first commercial product, the HP200A oscillator. Now a private museum and a California Historic Landmark, this place is a living monument, commemorating the birth of the Silicon Valley startup culture.

This event preceded the similar and widely publicized success stories of Microsoft and Apple by more than 30 years. But it nonetheless perfectly defines the startup culture as we know it today. How come?

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Total votes 17: ↑16 and ↓1 +15
Comments 0

The IBM 5150. Where the monopoly started

Reading time 10 min
Views 3.8K

Нажмите здесь, чтобы прочитать русскоязычную версию

Every old hardware enthusiast has a fetish. In the eastern Europe it's often a clone of Sinclair ZX Spectrum, as they were extremely popular there, as well as in Britain and Spain though. Unfortunately, ZX Spectrum left very little legacy. IBM PC 5150 is a different beast. Many love this computer for its heritage. For it has eventually became an ultimate PC. The PC. But although the history of this computer is very well known, surprisingly enough not many people know what was under the bonnet of the very first IBM PC.
Total votes 13: ↑13 and ↓0 +13
Comments 0

My Pascal compiler and Polish contemporary art

Reading time 5 min
Views 6.8K


Several years ago I wrote a Pascal compiler. The motivation was simple: as a teenager, I had learnt from my first programming textbooks that a compiler is a very sophisticated thing. This claim eventually became a challenge and required to be tested by experience.


First, a simplistic PL/0 compiler came into being, and later an almost fully-functional Pascal compiler for MS-DOS has grown from it. My source of inspiration was the Compiler Construction book by Niklaus Wirth, the inventor of the Pascal language. I don't care if Wirth's views are now considered obsolete and have no direct connections to the IT mainstream, or if the compiler design fashion has changed. It is enough to know that his techniques are still simple, elegant, and — last but not least — bring much fun, since it is more appealing to parse a program source with a handwritten recursive descent parser and generate the machine code, rather than to call yaccs, bisons and all their descendants.

My compiler's fate was not so trivial. It has lived two lives: the first one in my own hands, and the second in the hands of computer antiquarians from Poland.
Total votes 27: ↑26 and ↓1 +25
Comments 1

PC Speaker To Eleven

Reading time 12 min
Views 34K
Known now as a «motherboard speaker», or just «beeper», PC Speaker has been introduced in 1981 along with the first personal IBM computer. Being a successor of the big serious computers for serious business, it has been designed to produce very basic system beeps, so it never really had a chance to shine bright as a music device in numerous entertainment programs of the emerging home market. Overshadowed by much more advanced sound chips of popular home game systems, quickly replaced with powerful sound cards, it mostly served as a fallback option, playing severely downgraded content of better sound hardware.

«System Beeps» is a music album in shape of an MS-DOS program that features original music composed for PC Speaker using the same basic old techniques like ones found in classic PC games. It follows the usual retro computing demoscene formula — take something rusty and obsolete, and push it to eleven — and attempts to reveal the long hidden potential of this humble little sound device. You can hear it in action and form an opinion on how successful this attempt was at Bandcamp, or in the video below. The following article is an in-depth overview of the original PC Speaker capabilities and making of the project, for those who would like to know more.

Total votes 34: ↑32 and ↓2 +30
Comments 3

Understanding the POCSAG paging protocol

Reading time 8 min
Views 11K
Long time ago, when a mobile phone costed about 2000$ and one minute of voice call was 50 cents, pagers were really popular. Later cellular phones became cheaper, calls and SMS prices became lower, and finally pagers mostly disappeared.

For people, who owned a pager before, and want to know how it works, this article will be useful.
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Total votes 21: ↑20 and ↓1 +19
Comments 0

286 and the network

Reading time 7 min
Views 4.3K
Author of the original post in Russian: old_gamer


I'm a ragman. I have a closet full of old hardware. From Boolean logic microchips in DIP-cases to Voodoo5. Of course, there's no practical value in all of this, but some people enjoy messing with old hardware. If you are one of them, I invite you under the cut, where I will tell you how the computer based on AMD 286 processor worked with a modern network, and what came out of it.
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Total votes 22: ↑22 and ↓0 +22
Comments 1

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