Retro Ramblings

Crikey, nearly 3 weeks since my last post. Apologies if you’ve been waiting on part 3 of The Arduino Academy, but I’ve got slightly sidetracked lately with several things.

Firstly, there is a new Hackspace starting up in Maidstone and I’ve been getting involved with that. Currently, we have about 10 members and no space. We’ve been meeting up either at a local pub or at the Business Terrace in Maidstone as the council have kindly lent us a room. At the moment, we’re looking out for a space and have been setting the group up with a bank account and sorting out if we are to become a club, a charity, etc. Take a look at our website and join the Google Group for a chat.

Also, things at Medway Makers have been hotting up. We’ve been discussing lately what projects we can do. After some discussion, it was decided the project will be an autonomous aircraft. Tom from Medway Makers is purchasing the airframe (an X8 flying wing) and the electronics and this weekend we will start working on the avionics. The aircraft will serve several purposes, one is to simply have a bit of fun and learn about avionics along the way, secondly the aircraft will be used in Tom’s Science Faction role playing game business. It will act as a ‘drone’ to ‘spy’ on the participants. Finally, we will also look into using it for a more serious purpose and that is for agricultural or archeological purposes for landscape surveying using wide spectrum cameras. The aircraft will be fitted with self-stabilisation circuitry and GPS to allow for navigation waypoints, etc. At some point it will also be fitted with cameras for surveying and FPV.

Finally, I’ve been having a bit of a retro moment lately as I took down from the attic my old Sinclair ZX81, ZX Spectrum +3, a Dragon 32 and an Amiga A500. The ZX81 had a broken keyboard as the flimsy ribbon connectors had become fragile and started to crumble with age. Luckily, you can purchase brand new keyboard membranes believe it or not so one was ordered and the ZX81 is back to full working order. Next I am going to do the composite video modification on it as the picture over RF is terrible.

The Spectrum works fine apart from the 3″ disc drive which seems to have died. I am researching making some kind of SD Card or Compact Flash adaptor for loading programs into it.

I wanted to get the Dragon 32 up and running but can’t for the life of me find the PSU or the video cable. The Amiga has a fault and won’t boot up. The power led simply flashes continuously. This is a project for a later date.

So, with all of this retro madness I also started looking into building my own computer circuit board from scratch and have gone and purchased some Z80B CPU’s from the USA to build a retro computer. The aim is to get something that will run Microsoft Basic. It will be 2-3 weeks no doubt before they arrive as they are coming by the slow turtle that is the USPS. In the meantime, I will have to do some research into what other IC’s I will need to complete the circuit. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. I have no clue how to do it so will have to learn as I go along. The project will be a nice autumn challenge.

I will, of course, blog about the Autonomous Aircraft and the Z80 projects as I/we work on them. I also promise to get part 3 of the Arduino Academy video’s done within the next few weeks.



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